Social Movements: Just Saying No Cannot Help Taiwan
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
May 5, 2014
Summary: The Economist magazine has noted that Taiwan's future
just may be decided in the streets. The Economist's implications were
twofold. One. That the political system's decision-making ability is
weaker than ever. Two. That street protests are an ineffective means to
rule a country. Taiwan's political and economic ills are serious. They require
aggressive and thoughtful cures. They require more than merely taking to
the streets and shouting "No!"
Full Text Below:
The Economist magazine has noted that Taiwan's future just may be decided in the streets. The Economist's implications were twofold. One. That the political system's decision-making ability is weaker than ever. Two. That street protests are an ineffective means to rule a country.
The Economist's observations were not groundless. In an April 29 editorial, this newspaper wondered, "Will Taiwan be reduced to obeying commands issued by mobs in the streets?" It expressed the same concerns as The Economist regarding this phenomenon. The Sunflower Student Movement delayed ratification of the STA. That may have been the result of unavoidable circumstances. But Lin Yi-hsiung fasted to protest the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Under internal and external pressure, the ruling administration caved in and mothballed the plant. In effect, it turned a "Referendum on Whether to Halt Construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant" into a harder to pass "Referendum on Whether to Restart Construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant." The government still cannot quell the controversy over the referendum law threshold. The DPP continues its struggle.
The Ma administration caved in to the policy demands issued by the street protesters. Was this really necessary? Whether it was or not, enormous damage has been done to the government's authority. The government could not convert the masses on the streets to its way of thinking. It could even not persuade its own officials of the soundness of its decisions. It showed itself to be timid and cowardly. Mor seriously still, it paid a price for undermining the rule of law. It sacrificed the aspirations of the silent majority. This was the most frustrating aspect of it all. Over the past two years, the Ma adminstration has retreated again and again in the face of street mobs. All it received in return was diminished public authority.
The perverse phenomenon of "street mobs dictating public policy" has now become standard operating procedure on Taiwan. Opposition Green Camp parties bear much responsibility. The Legislative Yuan is among the important sectors of the government. Yet the opposition Green Camp parties, who hold over 40% of the seats in the legislature, have never perceived themselves as part of the government, They have never contributed to the nation. To the contrary, they have enaged in obstructionism, incited social divisions, obstructed the progress of the nation and society. If not for 20 years of internecine warfare between the Blue and Green camps, would Taiwan have declined so precipitously? Would the new generation have lost all hope for their future? Taiwan's low growth, high unemployment, and policy flip-flops make consensus nearly impossible. This was hardly the doing of President Ma alone.
When the political process fails, street movements arise. Protesters use them to vent their dissatisfaction. That is understandable. It is also an important means of forcing the government to address problems. But taking to the streets too frequently, especially when one lacks any constructive alternative, is agitation for the sake of agitation. That will never relieve Taiwan's economic stagnation and ensure its future. The reason is clear. Recent protests have opposed this, that, and the other. They have all prevented the government from achieving its goals. It is true that the Ma Chiang government failed to do enough. But such protests will only increase government wheel-spinning. They will only result in even greater stagnation. They will only make Taiwan weaker still.
The Ma government is still jabbering about "free trade zones." It is revisiting the old dreams of an "Asian Pacific Operations Center" that arose during past political turmoil. In fact, that dream is 20 years too late. Earth-shattering changes have taken place. Mainland China is about to become the world's largest economy. Times have changed. Can Taiwan stage a comeback? That is highly doubtful. But even if Taiwan does not promote "free trade zones," it still has many paths to choose from. Which of these many paths should Taiwan take? That is an even greater strategic issue. Does the DPP have any answers to such questions? No, it does not. Have the student mobs holding street demonstrations offered any solutions? We have yet to see even one. Lin Yi-hsiung has just emerged victorious from the battle over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. He has threatened to organize public opposition to "free trade zones." Suppose he wins another victory? What alternative will he offer? What will Taiwan's next step be?
Have you noticed how the demands of the Sunflower Student Movement involve opposition to this, that, and the other? They are all opposed to Ma, to Mainland China, to globalization, or to free trade. Their opposition to Ma and to Mainland China is easier to understand. But what about their opposition to globalization and free trade? How can Taiwan realize its potential if all it can do is shouts such slogans? That is the most baffling question of all. Have student movement members and offered any quick fixes that will ensure new generation hopes for "modest but assured prosperity?" Have student movement members and public supporters gotten any answers from the DPP? The mobs opposed the STA and the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Will they follow up with opposition to the free trade zone, the referendum law, and the First, Second, and Third Nuclear Power Plants? Will they take their anger out on the police, the legislators, the MRT system, and even on passersby? Will their temper tantrums make Taiwan any better?
We would do well to look at Ukraine. People there have engaged in months of street protests. They have gotten rid of their president. The result has been greater foreign aggression and civil unrest. They have lost the Crimea. Now people of different ethnic backgrounds throughout Ukraine hate and murder each other. Street demonstrations are not some fashionable activity that democracies indulge in for their amusement. Once Pandora's Box has been opened, no one can stuff the demons back in. The streets of Taiwan appear to be moving in the same direction.
Taiwan's political and economic ills are serious. They require aggressive and thoughtful cures. They require more than merely taking to the streets and shouting "No!"
2014.05.05 02:46 am