Government and Opposition Require Strategic Overview
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 8, 2012
Summary: Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish. It requires both close attention and strategic vision. Taiwan has already wasted too much time. Vicious infighting persists between the ruling and opposition parties. Shouldn't we think long and hard about what we are doing?
Full Text below:
Frank Hsieh will end his "trail blazing journey" and return to Taiwan today. Will his visit encourage the DPP to adopt a more broad-minded cross-Strait policy? That remains to be seen. But cross-Strait relations definitely offer new opportunities for interaction.
The Mainland is about to convene its 18th Party Congress. It is counting down to its generational transfer of power. The era of fifth-generation leader Xi Jinping is now dawning. Xi Jinping is the first Mainland leader born after the founding of the PRC government. He is inheriting a political authority increasingly alienated from those whom it governs. Society is fractured. The people's misery index is high. But the Mainland is also an emerging power with strength and resources beyond the reach of past leaders. When Hu Jintao took over as General Secretary during the 16th National Congress, the Mainland's economic output was less than one-third of Japan's, with its medium sized economy. It was a high risk regime undergoing its first peaceful transfer of power. The 18th Party Congress is coming up. The international media is wondering whether China will replace the United States as the world's largest economy.
Xi Jinping commands vast political and economic resources. He will adopt a more proactive policy, predicated upon "Sovereignty and power is ours, control of the economy and trade can be shared." The Mainland has made massive and rapid investments. It now boasts considerable basic infrastructure. The "ten two five" plan will use social welfare to alleviate social anxiety.
A new strategic scenario is emerging. Yet leaders on Taiwan continue to dwell on near term issues. Does Xi Jinping understand Taiwan? Is he friendly toward Taiwan? What are the differences between "two sides, one country" and " two sides, one China?" Are ECFA follow-up negotiations proceeding smoothly? How many Mainland tourists will be allowed free and independent travel? The rise of Mainland China has brought about a new international political and economic order. In particular it has impacted the East Asian regional order. Leaders on Taiwan clearly lack the necessary macro level perspective.
Mainland China is on the rise. Since the mid 90s leaders on Taiwan have begun exhibiting negative reactions. They have had difficulty adapting. Their strategic plans have been upset. The government has gradually lost the ability to formulate strategy and engage in original thinking. It has long bee either passive or reactive. It has failed to actively engage in long-term planning. It has failed to anticipate. Its strategic responses in cross-Strait relations have become increasingly chaotic and confused. They have ranged from former President Lee Teng-hui's "Exodus: Flight from Egypt," to former President Chen Shui-bian's "new nation and new constitution." President Ma made cross-Strait strategy congruent with international strategy. Over the past four years, cross-Strait relations have benefitted from the resulting synergy. But what does the future hold? What are our strategic goals? What are the Mainland's long range prospects? How should Taiwan respond? These are issues of strategic importance. Leaders on Taiwan still lack an overall plan. They have not researched these issues. The Ma administration's cross-Strait policy has provided a legal foundation for close exchanges. But it nevertheless lacks a roadmap for future development.
Structurally and functionally, the Mainland Affairs Council is not suited for the role of cross-Strait strategy formulation. It must rely on higher level national security entities. The problem is that Ma administration officials are wound too tight. They are too immersed in their daily affairs. Policy planning is limited to the next round of negotiations. One issue that often preoccupies them is how to respond to erroneous media reporting on cross-Strait symposia. Political appointees lack strategic vision.
Inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms are non-existent. They are a major cause of poor strategy. Electoral politics is rife with "love for Taiwan" demagoguery. Taiwan has gradually reverted to a view of history held before the central government retreated to Taiwan. President Ma has occasionally underscored the historic relationship with Mainland Chinese culture. But details have been lacking. He has proposed cultural exchanges with the Mainland, but lacks any strategy for doing so.
What was Taiwan's relation with Mainland Chinese culture prior to 1949? That question involves more than history or culture. It involves strategic issues of sovereignty. There is a disconnect between cultural strategy and cross-Strait economic and trade policy. This makes simple problems concerning national dignity extremely complicated. Take sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Leaders on Taiwan ought to be able to cite powerful evidence drawn from our historical archives. Yet the Executive Yuan Secretary-General said that Diaoyutai was incorporated into Yilan County in 1971! A limited understanding of history has limited our understanding of our sovereignty. Leaders on Taiwan have forfeited their right to speak out on the history of the Republic of China prior to 1949. The Republic of China cannot limit its historical memory to events following the transfer of the national capital to Taipei. If it does, how can it distinguish its sovereignty from that of the Mainland regime's? What legal basis can we cite?
The Mainland is a rising power. Taiwan cannot remain passive and inattentive. Our sovereignty has been curtailed and our strategic thinking has been muddled. The main reason for this is the DPP's difficult transformation. This has bound Taiwan hand and foot. The DPP is a major party that has the opportunity to rule again. It has the opportunity occupy a position of power, to formulate policy, to cross the Strait to create economic opportunities, and to eliminate political risk. Is this not its duty? Cross-Strait relations are a Gordian Knot. In an increasingly globalized world, how can we develop a reasonable global strategy?
Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish. It requires both close attention and strategic vision. Taiwan has already wasted too much time. Vicious infighting persists between the ruling and opposition parties. Shouldn't we think long and hard about what we are doing?