Tsai Ing-wen, Still "Hollow" After All These Years
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 14, 2014
Summary: Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly referred to the reconstruction of Kaohsiung.
Following the Kaohsiung gas explosion, the green camp obviously wanted
to point the finger at the petrochemical industry. But if Kaohsiung
totally rejects the petrochemical industry, where will the new jobs and
economic growth come from? Once the petrochemical industry in Kaohsiung
is evicted, what alternatives will the industry chain and its huge
workforce have? From Kaohsiung to Taiwan as a whole, all that the DPP
and Tsai Ing-wen have to offer are slogans. But "Where's the beef?"
Full Text Below:
Tsai Ing-wen, who is busy planning her 2016 presidential campaign, has once again held forth on "Taiwan's Future." The theme of her speech at the NTU Forum was "Taiwan's Future." In Tsai's own words, "Taiwan as a whole faces changes to the global situation, and Taiwan must develop a new strategy." Given the timing and the topic, her remarks attracted considerable attention.
First she said "With the ICT industry as its mainstay, the orders from Taiwan, production overseas OEM export growth model" has led to "a disconnect between domestic employment and salaries and greater income inequality." She said "The impact of structural changes in international supply and demand" requires "swift adjustments and changes."
Tsai Ing-wen put it quite well. In particular with her reference to employment, salaries, and income distribution. She obviously wanted to highlight her concern for social justice and public issues. But when she spoke of how Taiwan's economic growth model must adjust and change, Tsai began talking in circles. She said Taiwan needs to consider "both export and domestic demand, to link globalization and localization, and become innovation-oriented in order to increase employment, raise salaries, and improve the public welfare by means of the new economic growth model." But what exactly is this model? How can one create and implement this new model, given the existing economic base?
As we all know, the ingredients for economic growth are capital, labor, and technology. Tsai Ing-wen's "new economic growth model" requires investing in emerging industries, training a labor force with professional skills, and developing innovative new technologies. But she avoids every one of these key issues. As a result, she essentially said nothing. She probably realized her talk was much too vague, so she added a comment. She said Taiwan needs to "vigorously promote industrial innovation." It needs "domestic industry and infrastructure investment." Unfortunately, such insights have long been truisms. They have been hashed over for decades. Tsai has criticized the status quo. She has declared the need for a vision for the future. Yet she has no new ideas about how to deal with hard reality. Needless to say, she has no new medicine to prescribe for what ails Taiwan.
Next, Tsai Ing-wen trotted out the "China factor." She acknowledged that "The rise of [Mainland] China and cross-Strait relations will have an even greater impact on Taiwan's future." She thinks the "China factor" is "a challenge Taiwan must face in the future." She pointed out that "More and more Taiwan investments and jobs are going to [Mainland] China." She spoke of "Taiwan's top talent and the industry's core technology," of "major injections of [Mainland] Chinese talent and technology," of "[Mainland] Chinese enterprises imitating or poaching from Taiwan, copying technology, constituting a growing pressure on Taiwan." In other words, Tsai Ing-wen's "[Mainland] China Factor Challenge Theory" is nothing more than "China Threat Theory Lite." On the one hand, she one-sidedly emphasized the magnetic effect the Mainland market has on Taiwan, but failed to offer any specific remedies by which Taiwan can retain its capital, talent, and technology. On the other hand, she ignored the economic development opportunities the Mainland market has brought Taiwan. She refused to think about how to strengthen Taiwan through cross-Strait economic cooperation, and thereby consolidating Taiwan's economic base. This of course amounts to serious ideological indolence and irresponsibility.
Regarding cross-Strait relations, Tsai Ing-wen said she is "willing to confront long-standing differences between the two sides, and actively seek to resolve the cross-Strait dispute. The DPP will be firm and pragmatic, steady in its pace, and make every effort to establish of a new way of interaction and communication with the other side, in order to realize cross-Strait peace and stable development." She repeated some of her "goodwill" rhetoric from the past, including such terms as "peaceful and stable development," "pragmatic and moderate," and so on. But the problem Tsai Ing-wen faces is not only about goodwill. More importantly, it is about strategy. The DPP refuses to accept the 1992 consensus as the political basis for cross-Strait interaction. Yet it still wants to create "a new mode of interaction and communication." Therefore the party must offer a clear and concise proposal as to how this would be achieved, and not always sideline the issue by talking about goodwill. Meanwhile, the DPP opposes and obstructs everyone else's solutions to cross-Strait political problems.
Besides cross-Strait relations, Tsai Ing-wen also touched on the matter of regional economic integration, She said "The Ma government focuses exclusively on the STA and MTA. It does not think about how to make breakthroughs by negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with major trade rivals, or how to participate in regional economic integration." She said "The result has made Taiwan more dependent on the [Mainland] Chinese market, and global integration more distant." Tsai Ing-wen accuses the Ma administration of promoting "Sinicization" in the name of "globalization."
So what is Tsai Ing-wen's solution? When confronted with demands for specifics, she talks in circles. She says "Taiwan must be become integrated into the regional economy," and "We need more strategic and comprehensive FTA negotiations, and active participation in multilateral trade agreement negotiations." These are all politically correct slogans. But how would they be implemented? No one opposes the pursuit of a "balanced and diversified economic and trade strategy." But the DPP habitually ignores cross-Strait political reality. It talks idly about "internationalization" and "globalization" that bypasses the Mainland. But given political and economic realities, these are merely empty words.
Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly referred to the reconstruction of Kaohsiung. Following the Kaohsiung gas explosion, the green camp obviously wanted to point the finger at the petrochemical industry. But if Kaohsiung totally rejects the petrochemical industry, where will the new jobs and economic growth come from? Once the petrochemical industry in Kaohsiung is evicted, what alternatives will the industry chain and its huge workforce have? From Kaohsiung to Taiwan as a whole, all that the DPP and Tsai Ing-wen have to offer are slogans. But "Where's the beef?"