Shih Ming-teh's Ad and the DPP's Strange ResponseUnited Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 12, 2010
Shih Ming-teh has posted a full page ad in four newspapers. The ad, entitled "Emergency Warning," warns that Article XVI of ECFA, also known as the "termination clause," is a "clause that will destroy Taiwan," and urges its deletion.
Shih said that Article XVI allows either side to nullify ECFA merely by giving six months notice. Either Taipei or Beijing can issue a "letter of notification," and ECFA will automatically expire after six months. He said it was in effect "a time bomb that could explode at any moment." He said that if Beijing were to trigger the termination clause, "businesses would exert pressure on the government," and provoke a political crisis on Taiwan. He said "This would be more destructive to Taiwan than the explosion of 10,000 missiles." Meanwhile, he said, "political struggles [on Taiwan] have almost reached the point of disregard for national survival." If politicians on Taiwan were to trigger the termination clause, it would be more destructive than halting construction on 10,000 Number Four Nuclear Plants. Shih Ming-teh also reminded everyone that the construction halt on the Number Four Nuclear Plant happened without warning, without consultation. It was implemented via an executive order.
Would Article XVI be, as Shih Ming-teh said, "an appendix that can easily become inflammed?" This concerns many on Taiwan. As they see it, Article XVI is a noose around Taiwan's neck. Tighten it, and death will follow.
Shih Ming-teh pointed out the danger Article XVI poses for Taiwan as a whole. But in fact the DPP is the party most likely to be affected. This newspaper posted an editorial on July 14, entitled "The Termination Clause: The Paradoxical Nature of Article XVI." We pointed out that another change in ruling parties could see the DPP back in power. Beijing might trigger the termination clause to contain Taiwan independence. Conversely, the DPP might trigger the termination clause along with a declaration of Taiwan independence. Either side could trigger the termination clause. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of Article XVI. If the DPP is afraid to nullify ECFA, de jure Independence will be impossible. If on the other hand, the DPP moves toward Taiwan independence, Beijing just might nullify ECFA. In other words, given the political implications of Article XVI, the "termination clause" may as well be termed the "Taiwan independence termination clause."
This is nothing less than a noose around the neck of the DPP. Therefore when Shih Ming-teh cried "Delete Article XVI," he assumed that the DPP would jump on the bandwagon. He assumed it would advocate the deletion of this "clause to destroy Taiwan," and find a way to remove the noose from around its neck. He assumed the DPP would reproach Ma Ying-jeou for sticking Taiwan's neck into Beijing's noose. What a simple matter that would be. But to his surprise, the DPP's response to Shih Ming-teh's clarion call was unusually low-keyed.
Not one word from the party's central leadership. Unnamed "high-ranking officials" said "no comment." Legislative Whip Kuan Bi-ling's response was the most surprising. She said "The DPP will absolutely defend the termination clause." She even accused Shih Ming-teh of being a dupe, and asked "Who is behind Shih Ming-teh? Who is demanding ECFA Forever?"
This sums up the DPP's dilemma. It clearly realizes that the termination clause is effectively a "Taiwan independence termination clause." Yet it insists that it will "absolutely defend the termination clause." Why? For two reasons. One. The termination clause was something the DPP demanded in the first place. Now that it has become a tar baby, it is too late for the DPP to change its tune. Two. If the DPP demands that the termination clause be deleted, it could be accused of advocating "ECFA Forever!" Therefore it has no choice but to swallow the blood in its mouth and "absolutely defend the termination clause" even though Article XVI is for all intents and purposes a "Taiwan independence termination clause."
Why did the DPP oppose ECFA in the first place? Wasn't it for the sake of Taiwan independence? So why is it "absolutely defending" Article XVI, the "Taiwan independence termination clause?" Does it intend to oppose ECFA even if it means the "termination of Taiwan independence?" Or is Taiwan independence a phony issue? Is opposition to ECFA merely a case of riding a tiger and finding it impossible to dismount?
Shih Ming-teh knows that ECFA contains humiliating features. But he approves of ECFA nonetheless. In his manifesto, he clearly outlines his desire to "March towards an Island of Freedom." He concludes with "the pursuit of sustainable development." He says "Only an ECFA without the Article XVI termination clause will allow the two sides to pursue sustainable development under conditions that are mutually beneficial and mutually respectful."
No one can completely shake off suspicions that Article XVI is "an appendix that can easily become inflammed." Appendicitis may be difficult to guard against. But successfully preventing the two sides from arbitrarily triggering the termination clause is doable. Moreover, once ECFA and other FTAs gradually form a framework, cross-Straits relations will be inseparable from international interests within the global marketplace. This will make it less likely that the termination clause might be triggered for political motives. As President Ma noted, ECFA is a broad-based, cross-Strait confidence-building measure.
The riskiest scenario would be one in which the DPP returns to power as a Taiwan independence party with a determinedly Sinophobic policy. The DPP continues to insist that it will "absolutely defend the termination clause." It has stuck its neck further inside the noose. It is telling itself that the noose is a silk scarf, one that will instill a "sense of honor" and a "feeling of joy."
2010.08.12 03:17 am