Ma/Su Meeting Will Birth a Dialogue Mechanism
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 8, 2012
Summary: A poll conducted by this newspaper recently revealed that 66% of the public wants a Ma/Su meeting. The public feels that years of Blue vs. Green partisan bickering has exhausted the nation's strength and undermined its international competitiveness. Political parties must of course compete for political power. People want healthy competition. But they do not want endless infighting. The ruling and opposition party leaders must respond to these expectations.
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A poll conducted by this newspaper recently revealed that 66% of the public wants a Ma/Su meeting. The public feels that years of Blue vs. Green partisan bickering has exhausted the nation's strength and undermined its international competitiveness. Political parties must of course compete for political power. People want healthy competition. But they do not want endless infighting. The ruling and opposition party leaders must respond to these expectations.
Party politics is one of the foundations of a democratic society. Checks and balances between political parties are a safety mechanism to avoid excessive concentrations of power, and deviations from national policy. But the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China is different from other countries. The Blue and Green political parties on Taiwan clash over national identity. Their conflicts revolve around the definition of the nation and whether people are "loyal to Taiwan." The conflicts are too fierce and the stakes are too high. Compromise is nearly impossible. This leads to deeper social divisions and undermines national unity.
Over the years, arguments have raged over "who loves Taiwan," "who is selling out Taiwan," "who is defending Taiwan," and "who is harming Taiwan." This unnecessary and pointless infighting has made progress on Taiwan impossible. By contrast, look at the other Asian Tigers, at South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Every one of them is progressing by leaps and bounds. They have all left Taiwan in the dust. International competition is fierce. The global economic outlook is bleak. Can Taiwan really afford to engage in such internal squabbling?
Political struggle is often a zero-sum game. No wonder politicians are often reluctant to set the ball and allow someone else to spike it. Ruling and opposition party interactions are inevitably the result of careful political calculation about whether they will win points for their side. Which party is putting the public good ahead of the party's good? Which party is worrying only about its own interests? Which party is ignoring whether the nation survives or perishes? The people are watching. They will decide. The Blue and Green political parties on Taiwan stand in fierce opposition to each other. They lack dialogue. They ignore right and wrong. They oppose each other blindly. They remain locked in a vicious and mutually destructive struggle. Whoever wins office will have a hard time getting anything done.
In fact, the ruling and opposition parties do not really need to oppose each other so fiercely. We are all in the same boat. There is no need to sink it out of mutual spite. The leaders of the two major parties should sit down and exchange views. This would help ease ruling vs opposition party tensions.
When Chen Shui-bian was president, he and Ma Ying-jeou held two Chen/Ma meetings. The first time was on April 3, 2006. KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou visited the United States, returned, then requested a meeting with Chen Shui-bian, to offer him some suggestions on cross-Strait policy. The second time was on April 1, 2008. Ma Ying-jeou was then president-elect. During these two meetings, Chen and Ma clashed over whether or not there was a 1992 consensus. Sparks flew. But after the first Chen/Ma meeting, then Premier Su Tseng-chang expressed his approval. He encouraged the ruling and opposition parties to dialogue often, "because we all want the best for Taiwan."
When Ma Ying-jeou became president, the dialogue between the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties stopped. The Presidential Office repeatedly expressed its willingness to talk with DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen. But Tsai repeatedly refused. The Two Yings finally met during the presidential campaign, when they debated ECFA. But the debate was televised. It came across as a warm-up match to the presidential election. Each side spoke its peace. Each side appealed to its own constituents. Neither side listened to what the other had to say or sought common ground.
During the presidential campaign Ma Ying-jeou promised that if re-elected, he would issue an invitation to opposition party leaders every six months, to discuss the affairs of state. When Su Tseng-chang was elected DPP Chairman, President Ma phoned him, congratulating him on his victory. President Ma invited Su to meet with him to talk. Su Tseng-chang did not turn him down. Su even said "The KMT and DPP should talk about how to increase the general welfare. If a Ma/Su meeting can achieve this goal, there is no reason to refuse." He apparently favored a Ma/Su meeting. The public would welcome a face to face meeting between the ruling and opposition party leaders
No one is naive enough to think that the chairmen of the KMT and DPP can meet and melt away their differences with a smile. No one is naive enough to think that the opposition party will no longer denounce the ruling party in the Legislative Yuan. But the ruling and opposition parties are important assets to the politics of democracy. Each has considerable public support. If the leaders are willing to meet and communicate, that expresses respect for their rivals. It also expresses respect for the public. They will not be able to reach a consensus on many issues. But it will not hurt to listen to each others thoughts, and to admit that we all share a common goal - Taiwan's survival, growth, and dignity. Our goals are the same. Therefore we should communicate more about policy. The administration wants to promote reforms. It should speak to the opposition parties. It should listen to what they have to say.
Taiwan is our common destiny. We have no internal enemies. Political parties must compete. But they must not engage in vicious infighting. Ruling and opposition party leaders should consider the expectations of the public. They should consider the future of the nation. They should seek mechanisms that enable political parties to move forward, together.