Cross-Strait Relations: Advancement or Stagnation?
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 26, 2014
Executive Summary: Voters must ask themselves a tough question. They may be dissatisfied with the status quo. They may be dissatisfied with the KMT. But will the KMT's defeat punish the KMT? Or will it punish themselves? Whether a particular party wins or loses is not worth that much ink. But this election will determine whether Taipei and Beijing sail into an open sea. or wind up trapped in a blind alley.
Full Text Below:
Attorney Chen Chang-wen recently published an article predicting that if the KMT loses the nine in one elections, the results will be seen as a rejection of President Ma and the KMT's cross-Strait economic policy. The STA is already stalled. The MTA and FEPZ special regulations remain hopelessly deadlocked. Chen raised a key question. This election is characterized as a local election. But its impact is definitely more than local. This election may determine whether cross-Strait relations continues down Ma’s path of peaceful development, or reverts to Chen Shui-bian's path of endless confrontation.
Voters may not realize that this election will have a major impact on the path of national development. But if the KMT is defeated in the nine in one elections, it is almost certain that the cross-Strait reconciliation and improved relations that Ma championed for the last six and a half years will be weakened or even reversed. The ruling party’s election prospects are not good. Is the public psychologically prepared to accept a reversal of cross-Strait policy?
The impact of such a major reversal is likely to be more significant than who becomes the mayor or county chief of various cities. Therefore when voters cast their ballots for their preferred candidates, how can they refuse to consider the impact on the nation as a whole? The PRC-ROK FTA is about to go into effect. Taiwan's economy may not have sounded its death knell. But is surely has sounded its economic tsunami alarm.
We face a difficult situation, yet we are regaled with irresponsible comments. Huang Kuo-chang argues that cross-Strait agreements are not ordinary FTAs. He says their political purpose is all too clear. He says the people must be on guard. He says the Ma government wants to use the PRC-ROK FTA to blackmail the people into signing the STA and MTA, as soon as possible. Wang Tu-fat argues that Korean products surpassed Taiwan products in Mainland market share long ago. He said that even if flat panels and plastics tax rates are impacted, the real key is industry research and development, innovation, and product differentiation. He says people should not be intimidated by the FTA.
Huang and Wang should not be so cavalier. They should not dismiss or even vilify the government's response. If they wish to oppose the STA and MTA, they are free to do so. But they should at least be responsible enough to warn people about the consequences. They should inform the Sunflower Student Movement youth who took to the streets because they believed what they said. Taiwan faces increasing marginalization on the world economic stage. If we reject Ma Ying-jeou’s peaceful development roadmap, and revert to Chen Shui-bian’s path of confrontation and evasion, will that help Taiwan survive? These two men are encouraging the destruction of current policy. But can they offer any constructive alternative that will help Taiwan out of its dilemma?
Please do not recite the same old mantra, "Innovation and differentiation are the real key." People on Taiwan are working hard to innovate and differentiate. Do they really think other countries are oblivious to the need for innovation and differentiation? Before businesses can innovate and differentiate, they must have capital. Korea and Taiwan are in a race. Taiwan is burdened with tariffs. Korea is not. Taiwan companies will not simply lose sales to Korea. Taiwan companies will also see smaller corporate profits. Smaller profits will hamper their ability to innovate.
Huang Kuo-chang Wang Tu-fat can pretend not to understand any of this. Pretending will not affect their salaries. Pretending will not affect their standing in society. The two may even be crowned with garlands and be cheered by Sunflower Student Movement youth. But the public on Taiwan, especially the younger generation, cannot pretend not to understand.
As soon as agreement on the PRC-ROK FTA was reached, the DPP’s attitude toward the STA changed completely. The DPP went all out to block the STA in the legislature. Now however, it stopped claiming credit for blocking the STA. Now it blamed President Ma for a “failure to communicate.” The DPP made a 180 degree about face. What we would like to know is, where are all those who insisted that "opposition to the STA is the will of the majority” currently hiding?
President Ma’s momentum may be in the doldrums. But his cross-Strait policy, including the diplomatic truce and the 1992 consensus were affirmed in two presidential elections. Lest we forget, on the eve of the 3/18 student movement, a poll commissioned by the DPP revealed that the KMT's cross-Strait policy was more popular than the DPP’s. The poll revealed that the most unpopular aspect of the DPP’s cross-Strait policy was its blanket rejection of anything to do with Mainland China.
That was why following the DPP’s defeat in 2008, it conducted a cross-Strait policy review. That was why in 2012, it released a rare poll that showed the public disapproved of its cross-Strait policy. Clearly the pressure of public opinion forced the DPP to change its cross-Strait policy, making it more similar to the Kuomintang’s. It was already becoming almost indistinguishable.
If however the DPP makes a comeback during this election, green camp fundamentalists will inevitably rise to prominence. The Ma government will no longer have the political prestige necessary to promote cross-Strait exchanges. That is certain. The warm spring the two sides have enjoyed the past six and a half years will turn to a bitter winter.
Voters must ask themselves a tough question. They may be dissatisfied with the status quo. They may be dissatisfied with the KMT. But will the KMT's defeat punish the KMT? Or will it punish themselves?
Whether a particular party wins or loses is not worth that much ink. But this election will determine whether Taipei and Beijing sail into an open sea. or wind up trapped in a blind alley.