Take Action, Overcome Depression
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 26, 2012
Summary: The worse the depression, the greater the need for initiative. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin held a year-end press conference. He is in the second year of his second term. He proposed "Ten New Major Construction Projects for Taipei City." The city is in a slump. It is drowning in negative sentiment. Hau hopes that amidst the tumult of political pluralism, people can set aside their differences and work together toward a common goal. Hau Lung-bin's gesture will naturally lead to speculation about his motives. But set aside ruling vs opposition party political considerations for the moment. Taiwan must continue to develop. This cannot be ignored. It is a universal aspiration.
Full Text below:
The worse the depression, the greater the need for initiative. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin held a year-end press conference. He is in the second year of his second term. He proposed "Ten New Major Construction Projects for Taipei City." The city is in a slump. It is drowning in negative sentiment. Hau hopes that amidst the tumult of political pluralism, people can set aside their differences and work together toward a common goal. Hau Lung-bin's gesture will naturally lead to speculation about his motives. But set aside ruling vs opposition party political considerations for the moment. Taiwan must continue to develop. This cannot be ignored. It is a universal aspiration.
Forty years ago, the Republic of China found itself in precarious circumstances. An international financial crisis loomed. The first global oil crisis erupted as well. The Republic of China was forced to withdraw from the United Nations. In addition to an economic crisis, the Republic of China faced a national security crisis, and a crisis of confidence. No one who lived through that era will forget the slogan,「莊敬自強，處變不驚」meaning "In prosperity caution, in adversity patience." Of course, besides to offering slogans, the government must also offer solutions. When public confidence was shaken, the government launched the "Ten Major Construction Projects." This fundamentally transformed Taiwan's infrastructure and industry. It offered a concrete vision. It unified the nation and dispelled panic. Within five short years, the Republic of China was number one among the Four Asian Tigers. It created an economic miracle that won universal praise.
The crisis became an opportunity. The precedent entered textbooks as a case study in national development. Chiang Ching-kuo, Sun Yun-suan, Lee Kuo-ting and other determined elders put the public interest ahead of their personal ambition. Their fearlessness inspires nostalgia. In the four decades since, the ROC has undergone a "quiet revolution." What international tourists who visit Taiwan notice is the deep-rooted cultural heritage. Everyone is confident. Everyone is himself. On the other hand, political liberalization has also exacted a price. That price is democratic dsyfunction. That dysfunction has plunged society into collective anxiety. The public worries that ruling vs opposition party checks and balances, and even constitutional constraints, may make economic revival impossible. The public worries that they may lead to generational conflict, labor vs. capital confrontation, a lack of compromise between infrastructure development and environmental protection, and a deadlock between the ruling and opposition parties. But is this really the case? Must it be?
According to the latest polls, 83% of Taipei residents like Taipei. A similar poll about Taiwan would probably yield similar results. Peoples' reasons may not be the same. But the vast majority on Taiwan love it. They like its livability, its safety, and its diversity. They consider it a place where they can fulfill their dreams. Can a "New Ten Major Construction Projects" ease public anxieties? Can it enable people to work together? The times are different. The political and economic circumstances are different. Just how effective would a "New Ten Major Construction Projects" for Taipei be? That remains to be seen. But Taipei is the capital. Suppose it could create a more comprehensive industrial development environment? Suppose companies could become more competitive? It would at least have a "locomotive" effect. It would enable the public to feel more ambitious and act more boldly.
Needless to say, Hau Lung-bin's declaration led to political speculation. According to the election laws, when local leaders vacate their offices after the midpoint of their terms, their positions may be filled by the central government. No by-elections are necessary. Does Hau Lung-bin want to join the central government? Is he laying the groundwork for a 2016 presidential bid? Political pundits may wonder. Such speculations are reasonable, but not necessarily factual. First, as elected officials, they are accountable to the voters. They must not do little and say little, or even do nothing and say nothing, for fear of ridicule. Secondly, as political leaders, they must consider their reputations, if not their legacies. High office is no guarantee of public adulation. The public's estimation of past presidents is well known. Politicians will not always choose "higher office." Thirdly, career politicians should serve the public, and show the public what they have to offer. If they perform well, the public will acknowledge them. The opportunities are endless. Otherwise it is empty talk. No matter how early one makes preparations, not matter how much effort one invests, it may all be for naught.
Hau Lung-bin quoted former Premier Sun Yun-suan. "The government must do what it must. Even more importantly, the government must communicate with the public. It must let the public know where it is headed." Society on Taiwan is mature and pluralistic. It allows people who want to work the opportunity to work. It allows people to respond to each other in good faith. The public on Taiwan has no shortage of political rhetoric, no shortage of political calculation, and no shortage of political grievances. What they have a shortage of, is tolerance, non-partisanship, cooperation in search of solutions, and opportunities for entrepreneurship. The mayors of the five cities and the leaders of the municipalities and counties complain. They say the central government has not devolved sufficient resources and authority to the local level. More should be done within their own purview. This will enable them to lead the people in their struggle. Taiwan belongs to everyone. If everyone has the will, then together we can find a way. Together we can find our way to the next stage of development. The possibilities for Taiwan's future are infinite.