Admit Mistakes of 2014, Create Opportunities for 2015
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 31, 2014
Executive Summary: Tonight we bid farewell to 2014, and welcome 2015. We reminisce over the
shocks and controversies of the past year. We look ahead to the
unprecedented challenges facing us in 2015. Taiwan must either clear the
air or fall into decline. Can we rebuild a consensus about the
direction of the nation and move ahead? That is the question.
Full Text Below:
Tonight we bid farewell to 2014, and welcome 2015. We reminisce over the shocks and controversies of the past year. We look ahead to the unprecedented challenges facing us in 2015. Taiwan must either clear the air or fall into decline. Can we rebuild a consensus about the direction of the nation and move ahead? That is the question.
For the ruling Ma government and the KMT, 2014 was prolonged torture. President Ma Ying-jeou regarded the STA as a shining achievement. Yet the public viewed it with suspicion. The Sunflower Student Movement occupied the Legislature for over a month. The STA and Cross-Strait Oversight Regulations remained stalled in the legislature. They probably will not move ahead before the next presidential election.
Last year was marked by the “black-hearted merchants” adulterated oil scandals. This year was marked by still more food safety scandals, including the rancid oil scandal and feed oil scandal. The public was alarmed. Housewives did not know what they should buy. Stores lost business. Society was in turmoil. The government's ineptitude became common knowledge. The rush to implement 12 year compulsory education also sparked intense controversy.
The heaviest blow last year was the nine in one county and municipal elections in late November. The KMT suffered an unprecedented defeat, the worst in history. The KMT political realm shrank from four cities and 11 counties before the election, to two cities and nine counties after the election. The DPP on the other hand, grew from two cities and four counties to four cities and nine counties. To cap it all off, pro-green Wen-Je Ko was elected Mayor of Taipei.
The defeat has left the KMT in its death throes. It now lacks the political endorsement and public support necessary to promote major reform. The president is a lame duck. Any attempts to improve cross-Strait relations will face greater obstacles than in the past. In fact, the defeat of the Kuomintang is more directly linked to the long-term economic downturn, widening wealth gap, and rising housing prices. But his slump in popularity may have a very negative impact on cross-Strait relations.
The world was not at peace during 2014. The biggest disturbance occurred in Ukraine. Pro-European and pro-Russian factions clashed over the future of the nation. Russia supported Eastern Ukrainian rebels and was accused of annexing Crimea by the US and Europe, who then imposed sanctions. The deterioration of relations between the two sides, has even been described as a "new Cold War."
The United States sought to suppress Russia. But on the global field of battle, a new trend appeared. The US finally withdrew its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. America's troops were exhausted. America's citizens were powerless. America's economy was stalled. The public opposed another war, whether a civil war in the Ukraine, or a war with the emerging Islamic State terrorist organization. The US was willing only to take indirect measures, such as imposing sanctions, conducting air strikes, or providing military aid.
By contrast, the Chinese mainland's rapidly expanding political and economic strength enabled it to play an increasingly important role in the international arena. It could patrol the waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands. It could increase the area it laid claim to in the South China Sea. It could even promote a "one zone, one road" maritime and overland New Silk Road Development Plan. It could actively promote cooperation with the countries in the region, based on a comprehensive set of policies and strategies for the nation. Step by step, it expanded its power and affirmed its territorial sovereignty.
America's decline, coupled with the rise of mainland China
and increasing tensions between Russia and the West, impacted both global and East Asian geopolitics. They also foreshadow the new order. The global situation is changing. Taiwan cannot continue playing the role of the United States' “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in East Asia, in the deluded belief that this will enable Taiwan to protect itself. We must take into account the domestic political environment, geopolitical environment, and be willing to see the two sides of the Strait as part of one family. We must make dynamic adjustment to national strategy. Only then can we respond wisely to the rivalry between the US and the Mainland, and ensure that Taiwan benefits.
Clearly Mainland China will be an important locomotive for global economic growth. Economic development is the lifeblood of Taiwan. International competition is fierce. We cannot afford to bind ourselves hand and foot.
In fact, when it comes to cross-Strait economics, Taiwan's role has shrunk while those of others have expanded. Taiwan went from being first among the Asian Tigers to last by a large margin. Worse, growth momentum and market size cannot compare with the Chinese mainland. But we must not be discouraged. We must not close ourselves off, refuse to confront the competition, and oppose open communications. Doing so would only accelerate our decline. By looking to the Mainland, Taiwan can create new growth momentum. If we waste precious opportunities for national growth, that would be the greatest betrayal of ourselves as well as the next generation.
In 2015 Taiwan must make the right choice about cross-Strait relations
The situation may be dangerous, but we must not sell ourselves short. Taiwan has been poor before. It endured prolonged diplomatic ostracism. Yet it created a "Taiwan Miracle" and underwent a "quiet revolution." Taiwan style democracy may have defects. But we believe in time they can be remedied. We lack international political status. But we continue to tirelessly promote democracy. We continue to promote a free, open, and vibrant multi-cultural society. The human being is Taiwan's most valuable yet intangible asset.
The Mainland has implemented a different system. It will need to undergo long-term liberalization. Taiwan has the same language and culture as the Mainland. It can hold up a valuable mirror to the Mainland. Under a "two sides belong to one family" relationship, it can become an opposition party to the CCP. As long as Taiwan retains its sense of self-worth, it can contribute to the liberalization of the Mainland. The result will be beneficial not only to Taiwan's survival and development, it will also enhance the well-being of Chinese people on both sides of the Strait.
The year 2014 was indeed a tempest tossed year. But having experienced defeat, we must muster our wisdom and courage. We must recognize our own value amidst the wind and the rain. We must make the right choices, and create new opportunities for ourselves.