Taiwan after the Turmoil
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
April 14, 2014
Summary: The Sunflower student movement has ended. But calm has yet to be
restored on the streets of Taipei. On the evening of the 11th, crowds
laid siege to a police precinct station. We can expect continued
struggles between Ma and Wang, between the ruling and opposition
parties, and between the two sides of the Strait. The government's
response to the mass protests was weak. The public has acquired an
inflated sense of its own power. The Internet makes it easy to rally
protestors. In the future similar siege and occupation activities could
become the norm.
Full text below:
The Sunflower student movement has ended. But calm has yet to be restored on the streets of Taipei. On the evening of the 11th, crowds laid siege to a police precinct station. We can expect continued struggles between Ma and Wang, between the ruling and opposition parties, and between the two sides of the Strait. The government's response to the mass protests was weak. The public has acquired an inflated sense of its own power. The Internet makes it easy to rally protestors. In the future similar siege and occupation activities could become the norm.
Henceforth, we will use only terms such as "crowds" and "unrest." We will avoid such terms as "riots" and "student movements." We have our reasons for doing so. We must consider the matter carefully. Was the street unrest a student movement, or a social movement? Were they the result of poor communications or power struggles? Were they the result of opposition to black box operations, or were they the result of a dispute over reunification or independence? Were they opposition to the CSSTA, a struggle for democracy, or blanket opposition to Ma and Mainland China? Were they political issues or legal issues? Were they a struggle over generational justice, or merely a struggle between two political paths? We must do not be deceived by appearances. We must not ignore the real problem. Taipei, Beijing, and the international community must all arrive at an understanding about Taiwan. They must arrive at a professional, comprehensive, in-depth conclusion about a turbulent situation. Only then an they determine what sort of countermeasures are required.
Hundreds of thousands of people may take to the streets, spontaneously or through mobilization. These however cannot be simplistically defined as reunification vs. independence struggles. Society on Taiwan is concerned about other serious problems as well, including the economy. Taiwan has been losing economic momentum. Manufacturers have fled. The younger generation is worried about its future. It faces high unemployment, high prices, and growing disparities in wealth. Young people see no hope for the future. Their reasonable demands warrant compassion and understanding. Taiwan must make major changes in its government operations, tax policy, and educational policy.
Meanwhile, suspicions were reasonable and inevitable. Did certain leaders make superficially harmless, seemingly legitimate demands as part of a coordinated attack? Did they collude with certain political parties and politicians as part of a coordinated political struggle? Were they opposed only to black box operations and poor communications? Were they concerned not just about power-sharing, but also about reunification vs. independence? Was this an anti-democratic movement flying the banner of democracy? That is a good question.
Like anything else, the CSSTA has its pros and cons. Even the CSSTA, as signed with the Mainland, has its risks. But globalization and market liberalization are irresistible. They are megatrends that cannot be reversed. Time is not on Taiwan's side. Opportunities and markets, once lost, are hard to regain. Taipei must board the regional economic integration express train. Market opening is an iron law. It is the only way Taiwan can survive. The problem is how government and the people can reach a consensus, enhance competitiveness, maximize benefits, and minimize deficits. The CSSTA may be subjected to strict review. But it must not be annulled. Even more importantly, it must not reduced to a struggle over reunification vs. independence.
The Mainland is no longer poor and backward. It is no longer uninformed. In cross-strait political, economic, diplomatic, or strategic competition, time is not in Taiwan's side. Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew said the main reason the Asian Tigers were able to develop successfully was that the Mainland blundered with a long string of political movements. Today the Mainland has risen. Taiwan must seize the moment, take full advantage of its achievements, in order to expand its own interests. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says the CSSTA is beneficial to Taiwan, and that refusing to sign it would be a waste. On the 11th, ROC representative to the US Shen Lu-hsun said the CSSTA concerns more than just trade in services. It concerns Taiwan future status in the world. Such wisdom is worth considering. But many on Taiwan persist in populist demagoguery. They prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than face reality. These important strategic choices are all up to us.
Consider current official data. Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and the EU wish to sign free trade agreements with Taipei. Current rumors suggest that all negotiations have ground to a halt. We are unsure whether these rumors are correct. But from a management perspective, they cannot be ruled out. The public on Taiwan lacks determination. The government lacks ability. Other nations see limited benefits and have limited resources. Naturally they prefer to remain on the sidelines for the time being.
We must consider Taiwan's future. Once the CSSTA has been subject to strict review, we must demonstrate our commitment to market opening. This will help persuade the Mainland to reduce its constraints on Taiwan. This is the best alternative given the circumstances.
Taiwan is small. The Mainland is large. But experience has show that Taiwan's soft power should give it greater confidence during cross-strait exchanges.
2014年04月14日 04:10 中國時報 本報訊