China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 3, 2015
Executive Summary: The 2016 presidential election is now approaching. Taiwan politics needs a major change, a major reorganization, a major shock to the system, one that breaks the pattern of narrow blue-green confrontation, that abandons barren and parochial political discourse. It needs new ideas and new political talent to emerge, to gather, to enage in healthy competition, to blaze a path towards a truly new and democratic Taiwan. We hope that in the coming year, political parties, legislative candidates, and presidential candidates, confront the issue of Taiwan's crumbling democracy and propose solutions. Voters must think hard and exercise independent judgment. Only then will they be able to cast votes that benefit Taiwan's democracy and future generations.
Full Text Below:
Is Taiwan democratic? Is Taiwan's political system too democratic, or not democratic enough? Is Taiwan's democracy in crisis? If it is, what is the nature of the crisis? What is the extent of the crisis, and why? What is the solution? What reforms should we implement? These questions are the key to Taiwan politics. Understanding these questions is the key to Taiwan's political predicament. People hold different views on these issues. That is the critical difference in Taiwan politics. We could say that how we answer these questions, is the key to political reform on Taiwan, and the key to socio-economic development.
This is all very surprising. Starting in the mid-1980s, Taiwan began its transformation into a democracy. Bans were lifted on the formation of new political parties and newspapers. Martial law was lifted. Legislators and the president were directly elected. Two changes in the ruling party followed. Yet some still maintain that Taiwan's political system is undemocratic. Those who maintain that Taiwan is undemocratic include anti-KMT pseudo-revolutionaries. They maintain that Taiwan is still a one party state. They maintain that the government, the legislature, the judiciary, intelligence agencies, and even the media are still dominated by a one party state. They insist that "Unless the KMT falls, Taiwan will not improve." Last year they used the STA as a pretext for the Sunflower Student Movement. They set the agenda, manipulated public sentiment, and played a major role in the nine in one elections.
Citizens' Movements Transformed into Opposition Movements
This time warp in political consciousness is rooted in a narrow understanding of Chinese reunification vs. Taiwan independence and even “ethnic” consciousness, so-called. These pseudo-revolutionaries maintain that despite repeated elections, the ruling Kuomintang is a "foreign political party", and an "agent of [Mainland] China". This narrow understanding has led to anti-democratic, pseudo-revolutionary, "Down with the Kuomintang", “overthrow the one party state” political rhetoric, utterly detached from reality. This subjective perception was already on the wane, but was revived by the Sunflower Student Movement. This rhetoric has regressed political debate on Taiwan 30 years, and prevents a calm, serious, in-depth understanding of Taiwan's predicament and the ills of its political system.
Another fashionable myth in Taiwan's political realm concerns "citizens' movements" or "civic consciousness". During martial law, abuses due to cronyist economic development, as well as authoritarian oppression, gave rise to to protests, to the "self-help movement", and "social movements." The self-help movement was a response to unreasonable laws or their enforcement, and occasionally led to clashes. The social movements, meanwhile, addressed economic system reform. Interestingly enough, social movements debuted on Taiwan 30 years earlier. But the media suddenly replaced the term “social movement” with the term, "citizens' movement". What is the "citizens' movement"? On the surface it is a citizens' rights movement dedicated to the reform of unreasonable laws and institutions. It is dedicated to protecting the rights of citizens. But on Taiwan a "citizens' movement" is a protest against a non-existent "one party state". The original meaning of “social movement” as a movement that transcends partisan politics and reunification vs. independence, has been transformed, into a highly politicized "citizens' movement."
Problems with the Transplanting of Western Democracy
The fight for rights has been transformed into a fight for power. Taiwan's "citizens' movements" have flourished. They have nourished the DPP, the "third force", and facilitated the formation of new political parties. Civil society is a key to mature citizenship. The highly politicized, highly partisan "citizens' movement" has made rational discussion of public policy through open democratic mechanisms and procedures impossible. It has made the reconciliation of competing party claims and interests and balanced decisions impossible.
In such an atmosphere, the real ills of Taiwan's political system are completely concealed. This ills include powers inconsistent with the constitution, black box operations reflecting a weak legislature, inadequate rights protection, a bureaucracy lacking in efficiency and transparency, over commercialization, cutthroat competition, a politicized media environment, and complex problems of political reform. All of these are falsely characterized as clashes between the "Taiwanese people" and an alleged "one party state". Taiwan desperately needs rational debate, comprehensive dialogue, risk benefit analysis, and sound decision-making. All this is lost amidst populist sentiment.
Taiwan's democracy is indeed in crisis. This is nothing special. From a global perspective, democracy, or more precisely, "Western-style democracy" has encountered difficulties all over. These include the rise of populist political opposition, the escalation of partisan political divisions, the shortage of people of integrity and ability, and the proliferation of money politics. All of these have manifested themselves in different countries to different degrees. On Taiwan, they have manifested themselves simultaneously. Why? For starters, the transplanting of Western-style democracy failed to account for local political culture. Secondly, the major political parties on Taiwan have long trumpeted reform and innovation. But their point of departure has always been their own partisan or even personal interests. They steal credit and destroy the system, but lack the wisdom, foresight, and ability to create a new, flexible, and transparent system of democracy. As a result, Taiwan's democracy is crumbling all around us.
Voters Must Think Independently
The 2016 presidential election is now approaching. Taiwan politics needs a major change, a major reorganization, a major shock to the system, one that breaks the pattern of narrow blue-green confrontation, that abandons barren and parochial political discourse. It needs new ideas and new political talent to emerge, to gather, to enage in healthy competition, to blaze a path towards a truly new and democratic Taiwan. We hope that in the coming year, political parties, legislative candidates, and presidential candidates, confront the issue of Taiwan's crumbling democracy and propose solutions. Voters must think hard and exercise independent judgment. Only then will they be able to cast votes that benefit Taiwan's democracy and future generations.
真道理性 真愛台灣 系列8－台灣民主搖搖欲墜 原因何在？