United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 30, 2016
Executive Summary: The Economist Special Edition featured a Tarot card on the cover. It predicted global trends for 2017. It invoked "Planet Trump" as a metaphor for the setback he poses for globalism. The process of regional integration is confusing, disorderly, and intense. Yet Taiwan remains ignorant of the cards it holds. Tsai Ying-wen must wake up and clear her head, lest she follow in Chen Shui-bian's footsteps. She must cast off her illusions and boldly proclaim which path she intends to take. Otherwise, she will become a puppet of deep green pressure groups. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly. She had better complete her test paper, lest her Asian tiger be reduced to a sick cat.
Full Text Below:
Donald Trump wants the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). That is no longer in doubt. Taiwan is stunned. The situation is grim. If the Tsai Ing-wen government sweeps the problem under the rug and does nothing, Tsai's popularity will hit rock bottom. If she attempts to push through reforms after she has lost popular support, it will be too late.
Trump's election victory marks a dramatic reversal in global political tides. Since the end of World War II, the US has dominated global affairs. This domination is now on “Pause”. Meanwhile, Mainland China's "Chinese Dream" has begun to see the light of day. The Mainland is using a variety of means to shape the world to its liking. Trump's New Isolationism and Xi Jinping's Chinese Dream clearly indicate who is pulling back and who is moving forward.
Obama's withdrawal from the Middle East was a precursor of this strategic withdrawal. Hillary Clinton authored Obama's "Asian Rebalancing" strategy to suppress China's rise. But based on its behavior in the South China Sea, the United States' bark is worse than its bite. The TPP, its most important containment tactic, is already unsustainable.
Furthermore, during the same period, Mainland China set forth its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. It successfully promoted its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) project. Even Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and other US allies have joined. In the South China Sea, it has consolidated its strategic position through island building. This year, for the very first time, it hosted the G20 Summit, the most important platform for global governance.
The world has arrived at a major watershed. The Chinese Dream and the New Isolationism now stand side by side. A new bipolar world is emerging. Yet Tsai's policy remains rigidly anchored in the old world. Tsai sees only Hillary Clinton, who appears to retain the luster of global hegemony. She does not see that the colors of the US Empire have already begun to fade.
Tsai Ing-wen failed to see the signs. She bet everything on the United States. Needless to say, Trump's opposition to the TPP has impacted Taiwan.
The TPP is ostensibly an “economic agreement”. But Hillary Clinton's economic adviser John W. Holmes described it as the "Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty", as a coalition designed to contain China. Alas, the TPP has collapsed even before it could take shape. Taiwan has consequently become an economic and strategic orphan.
Following the collapse of the TPP, the global focus shifted to the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) and the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area (FTAAP) initiatives, both of which are dominated by Mainland China. Taiwan probably will be denied entry. Attempts to sign bilateral agreements will probably be met with frustration. Yet according to the October issue of The Economist, Tsai Ying-wen has affected a carefree manner and declared her intent to promote bilateral and multilateral economic and trade agreements. She even boasted that she would restore Taiwan to her former status as one fo the four Asian tigers.
There are two possible explanations for Tsai's attitude. First, The Tsai government is blind. It does not see that Taiwan is already in its death throes. Second, Tsai Ing-wen knows that Taiwan's condition is critical, but she remains a hostage to ideology. She wants to procrastinate, and whistle in the dark. If the Tsai government is blind, will the fate of the tourism industry and the dissolution of TransAsia Airways shock the Tsai government into awareness? If Tsai already understands the situation, then Taiwan has become a sacrificial pawn to the TPP. Must we tighten our belts, and continue to serve as the United States' starving sentinel in Asia?
Tsai Ying-wen has a responsibility to make the right decisions in the face of cold reality. The new global paradigm shows that Taiwan cannot renounce bilateral agreements. But more importantly, Taiwan must take part in RCEP and FTAAP regional integration. Such an about face is not that difficult. Tsai need only follow through on her inaugural address. She need only reaffirm that she is abiding by the Constitution, and that cross-Strait relations are not relations between different states.
Beijing's recent actions are worth noting. Xi Jinping met with Hung Hsiu-chu in Beijing early this month. In mid-May he embarrassed Ma Ying-jeou in Malaysia, when he omitted “different interpretations” from the 1992 Consensus", leaving only "one China". By contrast, he did not shut James Soong out of APEC in Peru. Before James Soong left for Lima, he declared that "both sides of the Strait belong to one China” and reiterated his “opposition to Taiwan independence". Xi praised Hung, blocked Ma, and met Soong. Beijing is probably waiting for Tsai Ing-wen to complete the unanswered questions on her test paper.
The Economist Special Edition featured a Tarot card on the cover. It predicted global trends for 2017. It invoked "Planet Trump" as a metaphor for the setback he poses for globalism. The process of regional integration is confusing, disorderly, and intense. Yet Taiwan remains ignorant of the cards it holds. Tsai Ying-wen must wake up and clear her head, lest she follow in Chen Shui-bian's footsteps. She must cast off her illusions and boldly proclaim which path she intends to take. Otherwise, she will become a puppet of deep green pressure groups. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly. She had better complete her test paper, lest her Asian tiger be reduced to a sick cat.