Non-Partisan Perspective on Major Policy Issues
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 7, 2012
Summary: Amidst intense controversy, the Sean Chen cabinet has set forth four conditions for U.S. beef imports. If we examine these conditions, we find they are not that different from the conditions set forth by the Chen administration when it allowed US beef imports in mid-2007. Basically it follows Japan's dual track approach. The difference today is that the roles of the two parties have been reversed. The Ma administration has gone from being the opposition party, to being the ruling party responsible for making policy. The DPP has gone from advocating US beef imports to opposing them.
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Amidst intense controversy, the Sean Chen cabinet has set forth four conditions for U.S. beef imports. If we examine these conditions, we find they are not that different from the conditions set forth by the Chen administration when it allowed US beef imports in mid-2007. Basically it follows Japan's dual track approach. The difference today is that the roles of the two parties have been reversed. The Ma administration has gone from being the opposition party, to being the ruling party responsible for making policy. The DPP has gone from advocating US beef imports to opposing them.
Such a change in policy positions may be informed by the two parties' status as ruling and opposition parties. But it also reveals the shallowness of partisan politics on Taiwan, It leads to chronic missteps in political debate and decision making. In theory, the ruling party must consider the larger interests of the nation. When faced with incompatible alternatives it must weigh the pros and cons and make difficult choices. Opposition parties do not bear this burden, They can dig in their heels on any issue they choose. As long as they can embarrass the ruling party, they can score points. But when faced with major national issues, the ruling and opposition parties must find an alternative to gridlock.
Take the clenbuterol and ractopamine controversy, If the issue were only national health and national dignity, then of course, we should not compromise. But the United States has linked U.S. beef imports to the US-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). If we fail to resolve the clenbuterol and ractopamine controversy, far-reaching bilateral economic and trade agreements will be put on indefinite hold. This is the point at which the ruling and opposition parties must modify their position. They must agree not to undermine national health, then find a way to ensure the safety of US beef imports. That must be their priority. Japan and Korea have provided us with excellent examples of how to handle the U.S. beef imports controversy.
Five years ago the Blue Camp opposed the import of clenbuterol and ractopamine treated US beef. This led to the Ma administration's current dilemma. This offers us a profound lesson. Now take the DPP. When it was the ruling party it insisted that ractopamine was "safe." It went so far as to secretly discontinue inspections. Today the shoe is on the other foot. The DPP is now blasting the Ma administration for selling out the nation's health. The DPP was initially respectful, but later obdurate. It was also self-contradictory. Worse still, the Ma administration allowed the import of US beef containing clenbuterol and ractopamine out of concern for the nation's larger economic and trade interests. The Chen administration discontinued inspections of U.S. beef containing clenbuterol and ractopamine in exchange for allowing Chen Shui-bian to transit the United States. The motives in the two cases were hardly comparable.
Nor was U.S. beef imports the only issue. In recent years, political parties have flip-flopped repeatedly, They have contradicted themselves endlessly. Among them, the DPP has been the worst. The most notorious examples are the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant project, the Kuo Kuang Petrochemical Plant project, and subsidies for elderly farmers. In every one of these cases the Green Camp said one thing while in power, and another thing when it was out. It repudiated everything it said before. It disregarded the immense price paid by the nation and by society.
The DPP finds it easy to indulge in these inconsistencies. The main reason is its incorrect understanding of the role of an opposition party. During its early years the DPP opposed anything and everything the government did. Doing so enabled it to break the KMT's monopoly on power. As a result it concluded, incorrectly, that the raison d'etre of an opposition party is obstructionism. The DPP concluded, incorrectly, that only by singing a different tune can it check and balance the power of the ruling KMT. Such reasoning betrays an immature and irrational political consciousness. When carried to the extreme, it is often harmful to the national interest. Moreover, the DPP was the ruling party for eight years. It made who knows how many decisions. Now it finds itself in the opposition. If it now persists in irrational obstructionism, in utter disregard of the larger national interest. it merely exposes its own capriciousness, its lack of enduring convictions, its lack of guiding principles.
Advanced democracies long ago arrived at non-partisan/bipartisan means of compromise in order to solve major national controversies. When ruling party change becomes the norm. opportunities that arise while one in the opposition, become obstacles when one is in power. That is why political parties must begin by considering the national interest. That is why they must adhere to their core values. On U.S. beef imports in particular, the ruling and opposition parties must be on the same page. They must ensure food import safety. They must implement TIFA, This is the real "Taiwan consensus." They must not engage in bloody internecine conflict. Otherwise the ruling and opposition parties will each go their own way, provoking public anxiety. In the end, the government will still be forced to open the doors to U.S. beef imports. The opposition might get some small pleasure out of drawing blood. But would it be in the nation's interest?
Party interests must not trump the national interest. This is the basic premise behind non-partisan consultation. This is how the ruling and opposition parties must begin to think about national affairs. In 2007 COA chairman Su Chia-chuan spoke out on the U.S. beef imports controversy. He said that medical experts have proven that clenbuterol and ractopamine are beneficial to the livestock industry. Therefore banning clenbuterol and ractopanine is unreasonable. At the time Ma Ying-jeou, who was running for president, vowed to protect the public health, He opposed the double standard for clenbuterol and ractopamine, which banned pork but not beef. Today the two sides have switched places, They may wish to rethink their positions before and after. Consider this a lesson for both the ruling and opposition parties, one that hopefully will teach them the value of transcending partisanship.
2012.03.07 01:56 am