Trust in Taiwan's Stability
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
March 28, 2014
Summary: The current political storm is the result of long-term social divisions. Like a rash, it requires time for detoxification. Taiwan has a stable society. People need not be overly concerned. But just as someone must sound the storm alert, someone must end the storm alert. The Ma administration must decide wisely. The community must act as a stabilizing force. Together they must contribute to ending the storm as soon as possible.
Full text below:
The Sunflower student movement continues its protest. The Legislative Yuan grounds remain occupied. Legislative Yuan operations remain paralyzed. The President and Speaker of the Legislature remain at arms length and in opposition. Their moves remain out of sync. They have left the public the impression that they are both passing the buck. The ruling and opposition parties remain at loggerheads. They lack mutual trust. In particular, the students covertly support the opposition DPP. Therefore it has nothing to fear. The ruling and opposition parties have consulted three times but to no avail. No solution to the impasse has been found.
The deadlock could have been easily resolved. President Ma declared that the government was willing to dialogue with the students. But the two sides did not trust each other enough. Contacts and dialogue between the two sides yielded no concrete progress. Yesterday, student leaders publicly announced the cessation of all dialogue. They even organized a protest march on Ketegelan Boulevard to escalate the confrontation.
Within the legislature, the KMT legislative caucus made an apparently genuine goodwill gesture. But the DPP was in no mood to compromise. Eventually the KMT caucus' goodwill gesture was rescinded by KMT Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang, who said, "I urge the ruling and opposition parties to propose a solution consistent with legislative procedure as soon as possible. I will then convene ruling and opposition party consultations as soon as possible."
The number of students at the protest sie has diminished. Student stamina and willpower are approaching a breaking point. But student movement leaders have neither seized upon nor proposed a dignified exit strategy. All manner of violence occurs daily at the legislature among legislators, police, students, and reporters. The atmosphere is volatile. Violence may erupte at any moment. The situation can easily get out of hand.
No progress has been made regarding dialogue and consultation. Everything has apparently returned to square one. Square one is the source of political opposition, the source of social division, and the source of public insecurity on Taiwan. It is the source of uncertainty in cross-strait relations. Political leaders must cease being selfish, and confront the current crisis.
The student movement originally targeted the Cross-Strait Agreement in Trade in Services. In fact, the outbreak was the result of years of accumulated pressure. First, there is pro-Mainland vs. anti-Mainland sentiment. This is a critical factor in Taiwan's development. Between 2008 and now, cross-strait relations have been on a path of peaceful development. But solutions have not been found for Taiwan's internal divisions.
Secondly, there is a society-wide fear of the Mainland. Expanded cross-strait exchanges have been an enormous benefit to both sides of the Strait. But increase contacts between the two sides has also increased distrust toward the Mainland. The Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services means the two sides will be in closer touch with each other. The economic, social, and cultural exchanges may provoke emotional apprehension toward the Mainland, and concerns about Mainland influence.
Thirdly, the Ma administration's image of ineptitude may not be justified, but it reflects what many people believe. Many people believe the Ma administration is incompetent and unable to defend the interests of ordinary people on Taiwan.
Fourthly, the constitutional framework of the ROC contains shortcomings. Presidential power is monopolized by a single individual. The Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan never read from the same page. The political parties who come to power have never worked out the proper power relationship between the party and the administration, or between the presidential office, the executive yuan, and the legislative party caucus. The current dispute has shone a light on many of these problems.
The ruling authorities face a critical choice. Based on the current situation, they face a triple crisis. First, there is the immediate crisis of confidence in the regime. The student movement is showing signs of decline. But if the government fails to demonstrate sincerity, if it fails to promote dialogue, confrontation could flareup yet again .
Secondly, there is the end of the year election crisis. Absent any surprises, the KMT will be negatively impacted by the student movement. It is likely to suffer an end of the year election defeat. This constitutes a serious threat to the Ma administration during his last year and a half in office.
Thirdly, there is a crisis of social division and social confrontation in Taiwan society. The student movement precipitated unprecedented social divisions and and confrontation. New forms of Internet media provided new tools for the spread of these divisions and confrontation. Everyone is anxious. Everyone is emotional about his plight. The student movement may be ebbing. But the roots of social conflict and instability remain.
How can we solve the current crisis? How can we resolve the impasse? That depends on the political vision of those in office and the political maturity of the general public. Those in office must not seek to resolve the immediate crisis by suddenly surrendering or bulling their way through. Both options are dangerous. No matter which path they take, the KMT is likely to suffer an end of year election defeat. The divisions in Taiwan's society will remain unresolved. Cross-strait relations might regress. The Taiwan Strait crisis might recur. If so, this would be a tragedy not merely for the Kuomintang, but for all of Taiwan.
The background of the student movement may be complex . The DPP has its own political calculations. But the students' four demands can be reduced to two. One. Legislative oversight regulations for Cross-strait agreements. Two. The convening of a citizens' constitutional conference. Regarding the former, in the late 1990s then Premier Vincent Siew twice proposed a similar bill. Regarding the latter, Premier Chiang Yi-hua said he is willing to discuss a constitutional convention. Can two apparently opposed parties not find a basis for a dialogue?
The current political storm is the result of long-term social divisions. Like a rash, it requires time for detoxification. Taiwan has a stable society. People need not be overly concerned. But just as someone must sound the storm alert, someone must end the storm alert. The Ma administration must decide wisely. The community must act as a stabilizing force. Together they must contribute to ending the storm as soon as possible.
中國時報 編輯部 2014年03月28日 04:10