Modest but Real Wealth vs. Vast and Grand Ambitions
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
April 1, 2014
Summary: The unshirkable responsibility of the the ruling KMT is to make people
understand that cross-strait policy is the key to Taiwan's economy. The KMT must turn
public opinion around. It must adopt proper procedures when it deals
with cross-strait matters. It must communicate with the 30 something
percent of the public who support the DPP. It must reduce support for a
Closed Door Policy. Only then can Taiwan's economy entertain grand
ambitions. If the KMT fails at this, it will not matter how much "modest
but real wealth" it bestows upon the public.
Full text below:
Last month, the Ministry of Internal Affairs decided to increase the number of legal holidays next year by six. Many people praised the move. They said it would add to the peoples' "modest but real wealth." Predictably, students soon launched large-scale "anti-Cross-Strait Service in Trade Agreement" demonstrations and occupied the legislature. The peoples' newfound joy over "modest but real wealth" swiftly turned to anxiety.
The Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) is not only an economic issue. It is not only about an isolated agreement. It is not only about the legislative process. It is about Taiwan's larger survival strategy. After the CSSTA, a number of other agreements must also be signed. They include the Cross-Strait Goods Trade Agreement (CSGTA), dispute settlement agreements, and investment protection agreements. These also require legislative review. But given current opposition to the CSSTA, cross-strait trade faces numerous obstacles. The trouble is, after the student protests, public suspicions about the CSSTA have multiplied. Without a cross-strait economic opening in the foreseeable future, how much "real wealth" will six more legal holidays really offer?
The public is filled with doubts about the CSSTA. It is uneasy about an "economic invasion" by the Chinese mainland. But the main reason is that many on Taiwan still do not realize that cross-strait relations is the key to Taiwan's economic development. Even the DPP's own polls show that the public on Taiwan is more likely to trust the KMT on cross-strait economic and trade policy. But on individual issues, public support for the KMT vs. the DPP runs 40 something percent vs. 30 something percent. The gap is significant but not enough to make those who demand a Sinophobic, Closed Door Policy change course.
Political party support derives from the public. That is why it is difficult to link DPP politicians' ideological perspective to their bull-headed cross-strait economic and trade policies. The DPP's cross-strait policy is obdurate, yet 30 something percent of the public on Taiwan still support it. It is necessary to undestand why. Why have the student protests increased public suspicions about the CSSTA? We think the DPP's Closed Door Policy still has public support because the public on Taiwan still does not realize trade and economic globalization is something Taiwan cannot avoid.
Hundreds of governments across the globe are signing FTAS. Taiwan faces two kinds of pressure. One. Taiwan must aggressively join regional alliances. Otherwise its trade in goods will be squeezed out by high tariffs imposed by non-allied governments. Also, allied economies want to manufacture their own products. International and domestic manufacturers form alliances and set up factories in allied economies. This weakens Taiwan's investments, and hollows out Taiwan's industry. That is why Taiwan must become a part of international economic and trade alliances.
Two. The Chinese mainland is a major force in the international economy. Taiwan must reach an implicit understanding with the Chinese mainland. Otherwise it will find it almost impossible to sign free trade agreements with important trading partners. Therefore cross-strait relations are an unavoidable hurdle for Taiwan's economic development. If Taiwan cannot normalize cross-strait relations, then Taiwan's economy will not survive.
Take the first kind of pressure. The DPP apparently fully understands it. But it has yet to undestand the second kind of pressure. It is still grappling with it. It is still resisting it, all the way. During the last presidential election, Tsai Ing-wen set forth her "Entering [Mainland] China through the World" argument, as an alternative to the KMT's "Entering the world through Mainland China" argument. But her argument was wishful thinking. It failed to inspire public trust in the DPP. Its implementation involved all manner of obstructionism in cross-strait affairs. It constituted a major obstacle to globalization. This "autistic" Closed Door Policy harms Taiwan. But the effect has been gradual, like boiling a frog. People have not noticed it. That is why the DPP's cross-strait policy continues to receive 30 something percent public support.
The unshirkable responsibility of the the ruling KMT is to make people understand that cross-strait policy is the key to Taiwan's economy. KMT cabinet members rightly criticize the DPP for blind opposition of anything to do with Mainland China, and of ignoring the big picture. But they have yet to fully discredit the DPP's cross-strait policy rhetoric. This is probably the result of excess complacency. Taiwan's economic outlook is something we must face together. The KMT must turn public opinion around. It must adopt proper procedures when it deals with cross-strait matters. It must communicate with the 30 something percent of the public who support the DPP. It must reduce support for a Closed Door Policy. Only then can Taiwan's economy entertain grand ambitions. If the KMT fails at this, it will not matter how much "modest but real wealth" it bestows upon the public.
2014.04.01 01:46 am