End Blue vs. Green Enmity: Taiwan Needs Unity
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 1, 2012
Summary: At a recent forum, National Federation of Industries Chairman Rock Hsu said Taiwan's economy is drowning. What he meant was that people on Taiwan are like drowning men clutching at each other. The result is they drag each other down, and society as a whole sinks to the bottom even faster. Recently, two Blue Camp mayors shook hands, saying they hold no grudges, they merely want unity. What Taiwan needs is unity even if one still holds a grudge. On the world stage there must be no Blue or Green, there must only be Taiwan.
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At a recent forum, National Federation of Industries Chairman Rock Hsu said Taiwan's economy is drowning. What he meant was that people on Taiwan are like drowning men clutching at each other. The result is they drag each other down, and society as a whole sinks to the bottom even faster.
Rock Hsu said when he was younger, he almost drowned. A classmate jumped in the water to save him. But in his panic, Hsu desperately grabbed onto his classmate for dear life. As a result, they both sank and almost drowned. Hsu cited his own experience as a metaphor for Taiwan. His remark may strike a chord in many people. But to be honest, the situation on Taiwan is worse than what Rock Hsu described. A drowning man will frantically grab whoever is next to him out of blind desperation. But on Taiwan the motive is often different. On Taiwan, it is often a desire to take others down, to exploit them. It is less a desire to seek escape than a desire to drag others down, trip others up, and hold others back. This pattern of behavior merely ensures that everyone drowns and no one survives.
A drowning man does not deliberately drag someone else down with him. His is a reflex action. But Blue vs. Green infighting, ruling vs. opposition party infighting, and partisan infighting are "cost be damned" efforts to destroy each other. Unfortunately, the cost is often borne by the public. It often sacrifices the nation's prosperity and the peoples' well-being. Taiwan's situation could be likened to the Russo-Japanese War. Between 1904 and 1905, the Japanese Empire and the Russian Empire fought each other in Manchu-ruled China. The Qing government specially designated a war zone. The Japanese won. But statistics show that the Russo-Japanese War caused 20,000 Chinese civilian casualties, and property damage equivalent to 69 million catties of silver. The local Manchus could not help but lament, "The victorious Japanese rejoiced. The defeated Russians celebrated."
There is a popular expression in the Minan dialect, "Others eat rice noodles. I shout burn!" It means that there is no point in getting excited over things that have nothing to do with you. The Russo-Japanese War was a case of "Others eat rice noodles. I shout burn!" The "I" in Blue vs. Green confrontation on Taiwan today, is you, me, and him. Taiwan was once first among the Four Asian Tigers. Now it is the last. Taiwan once walked with its head up. Now it walks with its head down. Taiwan was once the "Taiwan Economic Miracle." Now it is the "Taiwan Joke." Taiwan was once the "Avenger Union." Now it is the "Voyage to Paradise." Who has been injured, traumatized, victimized, if not everyone on Taiwan?
Together we have experienced dramatic changes over the past two decades. These two decades are lost to us forever. During these two decades, the world turned upside down. On Taiwan, fundamental internal and external changes took place, simultaneously. Starting salaries for university graduates remained unchanged for two decades. In other words, during all that time, there was zero growth. But how did this happen? Andy Grove, former Intel CEO, said businesses inevitably undergo a period during which suddenly the situation is different, and things have changed. This is usually when a company is facing a strategic turning point. Grove said, "There is at least one point in the history of any company when you have to change dramatically to rise to the next level of performance. Miss that moment - and you start to decline." Grove pointed out that businesses encounter four strategic inflection points. One. Senior management experiences cognitive dissonance because the company has stopped growing but has no idea why. Two. Entrepreneurs smugly assume they are doing certain things. In fact they are unwittingly doing something else entirely. Three. Chaos pervades the company. Employees cling to their jobs. Disputes rage without end. Four. Faced with such circumstances, middle and upper management are utterly impotent and utterly clueless.
This is the situation on Taiwan today. Grove was not saying that when these phenomena appear the company is doomed. He was merely reminding entrepreneurs that when a company detects these signals it means that the old tricks, the old strategies, and the old choices are no longer viable. Therefore they must be rethought. Therefore a new strategy is needed. Every business, every country faces different challenges at different stages. The important point is that amidst panic entrepreneurs must detect the strategic turning points, and negotiate the turns.
Taiwan's problems require more than the wisdom of its businessmen. Its political leadership needs wisdom as well. The habit of internal bickering leads to results even worse than those experienced by a drowning man. Polarization has permeated political views, social class, party affiliation, even individual lifestyles. An obvious example is widespread anti-business sentiment and hatred for the rich. Many people have unconsciously adopted an attitude of "Schadenfreude" toward others.
Recently, two Blue Camp mayors shook hands, saying they hold no grudges, they merely want unity. What Taiwan needs is unity even if one still holds a grudge. On the world stage there must be no Blue or Green, there must only be Taiwan.