Democratic Dysfunction Erodes Taiwan’s Institutional Advantages
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 16, 2014
Executive Summary: For the welfare of the people, Taiwan cannot afford to “live by democracy, only to die by democracy.” We must prove that Taiwan's democracy is more than just the Sunflower Student Movement forcibly occupying the legislature, legislators forcibly occupying the podium, backroom deals passed off as "political consultations," and the nine in one Kuomintang election defeat. Taiwan’s democracy must unite people, and save the nation. Otherwise, Taiwan's one time advantage will be gradually eroded by internal conflict.
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The Mainland is touting is "constitutional rule", but the public is silent. Taiwan is touting “constitutional reform”, and the public is vocal.
But this picture is incomplete. The two sides’ political systems are different. Consider their frameworks. The Mainland has more constitutional rule and less democracy. Taiwan has democracy, but a shaky constitution. In terms of concrete achievements, the Mainland may have less democracy, but it gets more results. Taiwan may have democracy, but fails to get results. As a result, in cross-Strait political competition, Taiwan has gradually lost its institutional advantages.
Taiwan once enjoyed "democracy and freedom" instead of "one-party dictatorship." It felt superior and confident. Now however, it has cause for concern. The "China collapse theory" has been discredited. Now the question is how a Taiwan suffering from "democratic dysfunction" can remain in coopetition with the Mainland?
Compare Taiwan’s "democracy and freedom" to the Mainland’s "one-party dictatorship." In terms of human rights, Taiwan is superior. Moreover, Taiwan's democracy is the primary lever by which it can to control cross-Strait relations. It is essential to resisting pressure from the Mainland. These are all advantages Taiwan has in cross-Strait relations. But democracy has malfunctioned and debilitated Taiwan. It has even made it difficult for Taiwan to contend with the Mainland. If Taiwan remains trapped in this state, it will lose its capacity to compete and respond. The outlook is grim.
Consider the political aspect. The Mainland’s constitutional rule means adhering to a Communist dictatorship. Such constitutional rule violates human rights and democratic ideals. Yet somehow its record has been exemplary. By contrast, Taiwan's constitutional rule has led to divisions even on the issue of national identity. The constitution has been amended seven times. Currently, yet another amendment is being proposed. Furthermore, Taiwan's constitutional difficulties involve far more than constitutional provisions. For example, the Legislative Yuan's "political consultations" amount to fake democracy and has destroyed the constitutional principle of majority rule. This amounts to democracy without constitutional rule.
Consider the economic aspect. The Mainland’s one-party dictatorship turns industries into caged birds. To adjust salaries, they issue an executive order forcing those with high salaries to accept pay cuts and those with low salaries to receive pay raises. When they wish to participate in FTAs, they can ignore complaints from "vulnerable industries." By contrast, Taiwan's democracy has made nuclear energy policy untenable, brought the petrochemical industry to its knees, and made industrial policy indecipherable. It has made free markets and liberalization impossible. The only way to raise wages is "moral suasion." As a result, economic policy debates often become "struggle sessions” to denounce government that never establish any sound goals, strategies, or policy paths. Compare the two sides’ frameworks. Three characteristics stand out. One. The Mainland enjoys an "autocratic advantage." Taiwan must endure a "democratic burden." Two. The Mainland enjoys a "space advantage." The Wenzhou earthquake was merely a regional earthquake. But the 9/21 earthquake shook the entire island of Taiwan. On Taiwan, a single Wen Lin-yuan event turns into an island-wide trend. But on the Mainland, “nail house” protests are merely local events. Three. The Mainland enjoys a "demographic advantage." It is the world's factory to the world market. Both exports and domestic demand make full use of the economies of scale provided by 1.3 billion people. If Taiwan throws its doors open, it will become a “shallow dish economy” due to its small population.
Compare the two systems. On the Mainland authoritarian politics dominates economics. The economy in turn bolsters authoritarian politics. This is the “economic coopetition controlling political opposition" approach that Xi Jinping adopted at Yanqi during ECFA. It reflects the domestic and foreign benefits of political and economic synergy. By contrast, Taiwan’s economic growth remains hobbled by democratic politics. The sluggish economy in turn undermines democracy. For example, the Sunflower Student Movement describes itself as a democratic movement. But its proposed political program opposes market freedom by obstructing the STA, MTA, and FEPZs. Is this either reasonable or practical?
The Mainland’s one-party dictatorship can be criticized from a civilizational perspective. But the “China collapse theory" is seldom heard these days. The entire world is wondering how to respond to the Mainland’s "autocratic advantage, space advantage, and demographic advantage.” The Mainland’s performance record has been exemplary. By contrast, as mentioned earlier, Taiwan's democracy and freedom enjoy an advantage in terms of human rights. Democracy is also the most important political lever by which Taiwan can counter the Mainland. But "democratic dysfunction" threatens the survival of democracy and the nation’s strategic advantage. Democracy incites social unrest, but cannot solve the nation’s problems.
Taiwan, of course, should adhere to its democratic institutions in cross-Strait relations. But Taiwan's democracy can no longer resort to inciting social divisions as means of seizing power during elections. It must offer ways to save the nation. The Mainland uses its dictatorship to create a record of achievements. Taiwan must be able to use its democracy to create a record of achievements. "Democratic dysfunction" will make reversing long term deterioration in the cross-Strait situation difficult.
For the welfare of the people, Taiwan cannot afford to “live by democracy, only to die by democracy.” We must prove that Taiwan's democracy is more than just the Sunflower Student Movement forcibly occupying the legislature, legislators forcibly occupying the podium, backroom deals passed off as "political consultations," and the nine in one Kuomintang election defeat. Taiwan’s democracy must unite people, and save the nation. Otherwise, Taiwan's one time advantage will be gradually eroded by internal conflict.
2014.12.16 02:13 am