Taiwan's Illusory Sense of Superiority
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 6, 2014
Summary: The economic and political miracle that contributed to the Taiwanese sense of superiority has become an obstacle to Taiwan's continued progress. Many refuse to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Mainland. They insist on seeing the Mainland as a threat, as a negative example. are closed-minded and lack pragmatism. They refuse to learn from the Mainland's experience, They refuse to work together toward a common dream. If they have their way, a golden opportunity will be lost.
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Now that she is once again DPP chairperson, Tsai Ing-wen's main task is to engineer a return to power. Her biggest challenge, everyone agrees, is cross-Strait policy. Most people focus on Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait policy positions. Will the DPP relinquish its Taiwan independence party platform? Just exactly what is the "Taiwan consensus"? Has Tsai accepted the 1992 consensus? Is the "Taiwan consensus" too vague? Accepting the 1992 consensus would appear to be adopting the same position as the KMT. If it is, can Tsai and the DPP advance any new ideas? Can they persuade the Mainland to accept their ideas? The back and forth arguments are always about such questions.
But the DPP's political path is also a matter of concern. The DPP's political path is closely related to factional power struggles. Are Tsai and Hsieh allies? What relationship do they have to Taiwan independence elements? Do they enjoy Lee Teng-hui's support? Su Tseng-chang harbors grievances. Will that affect DPP policy reform? These topics are the ones that interest the media.
Everyone is concerned about policy positions and power struggles. But few are concerned about deeper issues, such as the underlying social psychological obstacles to DPP policy reform. In fact, social psychological issues may be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of DPP policy reform.
Ever since Tsai Ing-wen became involved in politics, including cross-Strait relations and cross-Strait policy, she has been the beneficiary of two political assets. One. Tsai Ing-wen is recognized as the mastermind behind Lee Teng-hui's "two states theory." She is perceived as being close to Lee Teng-hui, both personally and ideologically. Therefore Taiwan independence elements have high expectations of her and good feelings toward her. Two. Tsai Ing-wen has a background in international trade. As Vice Premier she was relatively pragmatic on cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges. She deliberately cultivated a relatively moderate and rational political image. As a result swing voters looked to her to lead DPP cross-Strait policy reform. Alas, Tsai Ing-wen's two assets are mutually contradictory. She often flip-flops between the two. The real problem is that Tsai Ing-wen lacks the will, the determination, and the ability to change the DPP's political path. Taiwan independence elements have a deeply ingrained a sense of "Taiwanese superiority." This is the underlying social psychological obstacle to DPP policy reform.
What is this Taiwanese sense of superiority? It is the belief that Taiwan's economic development, democratic politics, and way of life make it vastly superior to the Chinese mainland. It is the belief that Taiwan cannot afford and has no need to conduct exchanges with the Mainland. let alone integrate itself with the Mainland. It is the belief that doing so would hurt Taiwan, lead to the loss of our existing assets, to economic dependency, would turn the clock back on democracy and undermine our way of life.
No one can deny that Taiwan experienced an economic miracle that became the basis for Taiwan's superiority. But Taiwan is currently experiencing sluggish economic growth. Looking back at the causes of Taiwan's economic miracle and momentum will help us see into the future. Taiwan's economic miracle has often been portrayed as an achievement of Big Government, of Very Important People, or of diligent workers. Most people ignore the Cold War factor. The confrontation between the East and West provided Taiwan with many opportunities. In order to fight the Communist bloc, the U.S. deliberately nurtured the economies of Taiwan and South Korea. Money and material assistance partially solved the problem of capital accumulation for economic growth. Open markets solved Taiwan's exports problem. Dependence on the United States made Taiwan's economic miracle possible. But dependence on the United States also meant that a weakened U.S. economy would stall Taiwan's growth engine.
Under the Cold War the United States helped shape Taiwan's democracy. Democracy countered Communism. U.S. support for Taiwan's government ensured stability and contributed to democratic reforms. The U.S. helped create a peaceful and democratic transition. But transplanting America's democracy also led to its current debasement on Taiwan.
Cold War confrontation and dependence upon the United States enabled Taiwan to enjoy economic prosperity, political stability, and social progress. The public on Taiwan used the opportunity to work hard. Meanwhile, the Mainland watched as Taiwan took flight, Formerly complacent, the Mainland noted the obvious gap between the two sides.
Taiwan's economic and political miracle brought jubilation. But it also encouraged people to ignore the defects in their system. People blinded themselves to Taiwan's limitations. Their myopia encouraged people to look down their noses at the Mainland as a whole, including its culture and society. But competition is dynamic process. The Mainland reformed and liberalized. Cold War confrontation ended. The scales of history tipped in the opposite direction. Taiwan's limitations were slowly exposed. A grave lack of international understanding made Taiwan complacent. It made Taiwan repeat the past mistakes of the Mainland. The Mainland has now risen. It may surpass Taiwan, Our past sense of superiority has paradoxically increased our hostility.
Taiwan needs self-reflection. It needs to open itself up in the search for opportunities. The economic and political miracle that contributed to the Taiwanese sense of superiority has become an obstacle to Taiwan's continued progress. Many refuse to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Mainland. They insist on seeing the Mainland as a threat, as a negative example. They are closed-minded and lack pragmatism. They refuse to learn from the Mainland's experience, They refuse to work together toward a common dream. If they have their way, a golden opportunity will be lost.
Tsai Ing-wen has become party chairperson. Her primary task must be to confront and deal with this illusory sense of Taiwanese superiority. Tsai Ing-wen has recently emphasized the importance of understanding [Mainland] China. If the public on Taiwan refuses to abandon this sense of superiority, it cannot possibly understand [Mainland] China