Friday, April 27, 2007

The President can pardon Criminals, but can the People pardon Crime?

The President can pardon Criminals, but can the People pardon Crime?
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 27, 2004

TV Celebrity Pai Ping-ping, a former Green Camp supporter, denounces Chen Shui-bian's Mass Pardon

Chen Shui-bian wants to declare a nationwide pardon for convicted criminals. Public response has been anxiety and discontent. The president can pardon convicted criminals, but can the public pardon rising crime?

Let's put aside political considerations for the moment and look at the issue purely from the perspective of public safety. Such a large scale pardon, involving 20,000 sentence reductions and 7000 immediate releases, undermines judicial impartiality, police morale, and social order. During his seven years in power, Chen Shui-bian has failed to ensure public safety and social harmony, yet he has the audacity to cavalierly issue mass pardons before his term of office expires. This is a gross abuse of presidential power.

In recent years major felonies and white collar crimes have increased dramatically, even as the legal dragnet has developed gaping holes. One look at the crime statistics tells the entire story. The types of crimes committed have also changed: First, crimes of impulse such as opportunistic robberies, kidnappings and rapes, have increased. This has made crime prevention more difficult and increased public anxiety. Secondly, a variety of misdemeanors have proliferated, including brazen telephone fraud, the theft of iron gates and manhole covers for scrap value, and even the theft of melons from farming communities and the theft of fish from fishing villages. Such crimes are never seriously investigated. They are crimes police usually ignore, but which cause people great suffering. Yet the object of this round of pardons is the perpetrators of these misdemeanors.

If the ship of state were on an even keel, commuting sentences to rehabilitate convicts and promote social harmony would not be an extreme measure. But on today's Taiwan, economic recession encourages the weak-willed to resort to theft or robbery, even as political confrontation leaves the public in a moral vacuum. At a time when the government has failed to maintain public safety, or rehabilitate chronic offenders, or prevent more people from taking the path toward crime, does it make sense to suddenly issue a wholesale pardon, and release large numbers of criminals back onto the streets? Is the government not concerned about adding fuel to the fire?

Consider several cases which occurred in the past week: A university co-ed in Hualien was attacked and raped at night on her way home. Fortunately villagers and fellow students were vigilant, and the perpetrator was captured. A few days ago, a man pushed his ex-wife over a cliff. If not for the persistence of the woman's family members, who looked in every direction and followed up every lead, the truth would never have come to light. Additional cases include the theft of two senior high school students' motor scooters and the theft of one university co-ed's purse. These cases were solved only when the victims themselves obtained security camera footage, then captured the perpetrators on their own initiative. When more and more people must depend on themselves to see justice done, one realizes the "Thin Blue Line" has long since vanished, and the public has long since ceased to expect anything from public authorities.

After the perpetrator of the attack on the Hualian university co-ed was captured, he confessed to six previous offenses; yet no record of of his crimes could be found in police archives. Whether the victims were intimidated into remaining silent, or the police dropped the cases down the memory hole, "public safety" on Taiwan is an empty fiction. Prime Minister Su's boast that "Public safety has taken a turn for the better" is a bare-faced lie. Yet Chen Shui-bian wants to use presidential pardons to demonstrate his "humanitarianism" toward felons? What is he doing to law-abiding citizens, except pouring salt in their wounds?

It is true that commuting sentences is the privilege of a head of state. But for Chen Shui-bian to do so for the wrong motives at the wrong time, merely reveals his callous indifference to the public's state of mind. Consider the extent to which the burden of coping with declining public safety on Taiwan has been shifted onto the shoulders of the private sector. Neighborhoods, high rise buildings, and businesses have all arrived at a point where not hiring private security guards means not having any security whatsoever. Even farming communities and university campuses have resorted to organizing "Self-Defense Brigades" to guard against criminal intrusions. Ordinary citizens have been compelled to invest more and more of their limited resources into providing their own security. The government, meanwhile, is more and more lackadaisical in its fight against crime. Does the ruling regime feel no shame? For years the ruling party has been at a complete loss in dealing with telephone fraud. Yet it has suddenly demanded that the newly established National Communications Commission (NCC) "assume responsibility." This kind of attitude reveals the Chen administration's buck passing attitude.

If Chen Shui-bian has the slightest empathy for public opinion, he should devote himself to improving the economy and reducing political provocations and ideological struggles. If Taiwan's economy could be improved, if poverty induced burglary and larceny could be reduced, that would demonstrate an ability to govern. The president has abandoned his key responsibilities. Ignoring what he must do, he is hoping to use "humanitarianism" as a pretext for an extravagant pardon of convicted felons, for purely political motives. This not only puts the cart before the horse, it is naked grandstanding and mass deception. How can such a fraudulent commutation of sentences, demonstrating sheer contempt for judicial independence, possibly be justified?

Having occupied the presidency for seven years, Chen Shui-bian has tasted all the power a head of state can ever hope to. He has abused that power and milked it for all it is worth. Confronted with a government in decay and a society in chaos, he chooses to engage in an ostentatious commutation of sentences. Does he really have public safety in mind, when he doesn't have the people in his heart? The president can pardon criminals, but can the people pardon escalating crime?

Original Chinese below:

2007.04.27 02:27 am


撇 開此舉的政治算計不談,從治安的角度看,幅度如此之大的減刑,兩萬人刑期縮減,七千受刑人可隨即釋放出獄,不僅對司法正義構成削損,對執法人員構成打擊, 對社會治安亦構成潛在威脅。陳水扁執政七年,無能把台灣建設成一個較安全、和諧的社會,卻在即將任滿前大肆減刑,這真是對總統特權的大揮霍。

近 幾年台灣重大刑事及經濟犯罪愈見嚴重,且法網愈形疏漏,僅看通緝犯排行榜,即一目了然。同時,犯罪型態也出現變化:一是「即興犯案」的比率大為提高,諸如 隨機搶劫超商,或隨機擄人強暴;這不僅大大增加了防範難度,也升高了民眾的恐懼。二是「微罪型」的犯罪層出不窮,包括囂張的電話詐騙,從未被認真偵辦的鐵 門、鐵蓋竊案,乃至農村漁村的偷瓜、偷魚賊。這大抵是警力最怠忽的一隅,卻也是全民受害、受擾最深的一環,但此次減刑的對象卻以這些微罪、輕罪犯為主。

如 果國家承平,藉減刑協助受刑人重獲新生,增進社會和諧,尚不失為積極之計。但以台灣目前的狀況,經濟萎縮逼使意志弱者走上偷搶,政治對峙導致人民精神缺乏 追求;此時,不檢討政府對治安的維護能力,不問國家對罪犯的矯正是否周全,不設法預防更多人民步入監獄,卻驟然實施大減刑,把大批人犯放出來,難道不怕助 長亂世的動盪?

且看最近一周發生的幾個案例:花蓮女大學生在夜歸途中遭襲擊強暴, 幸虧村民和同學機警,方才擒獲歹徒。此前數日,狠心男子將前妻推落山谷,若非女方家人鍥而不捨,自行四處查訪、過濾線索,奇冤如何大白?此外,包括兩樁高 中生機車失竊、女大學生皮包被偷,都是受害人自行調閱錄影帶,自力擒賊。當社會上越來越多人須靠自力救濟來討回公道,不啻意味治安防線已瀕於崩毀,人們對 公權力也已失去了寄望。

再看,襲擊花蓮女生的歹徒就擒後,承認自己曾犯下六案;然 而在警方的資料中,卻查不到紀錄。無論受害者是被迫噤聲或遭警方吃案,台灣的治安「黑洞」多麼幽深,已不言可喻。蘇揆誇稱「治安好轉」,分明是違心之論; 而陳水扁要用減刑向罪犯體現「人道」,這無異是選擇對善良百姓雪上加霜!

的確,減 刑是元首的特權,但陳水扁此時實施,不僅在錯誤的時機提出了錯誤的藉口,他也暴露自己對人民的心情毫無感應。試想,這幾年來台灣治安惡化的重擔,有極高的 比率已轉由民間自行承受。包括社區、大樓乃至企業,皆到了不僱用保全人員不足以保安的地步;連農村及大學校園也組織「自衛隊」,來防止歹徒入侵。人民投注 可觀的資源來維護自身安全,政府在治安陣線的心力反而愈形鬆散,執政者不愧對手中公權力嗎?就如執政黨幾年來對氾濫的電話詐騙束手無策,最近突然要求 NCC「負起責任」。這種作風,在在反映了扁政府「一推二託三狡賴」的本質!

陳水 扁如果對民意稍有感應,他應該致力拚經濟,減少政治的挑撥和鬥爭;若台灣經濟能有起色,「飢寒起盜心」式的偷竊詐欺自可減少,這才是治國之本。現在,總統 拋棄核心的施政責任不顧,卻欲假藉「人道」之名大縱放刑事罪犯,目的無非是為了選舉「割喉」的權謀算計,這不僅本末倒置,更是赤裸裸的欺世盜名。更別說, 施行減刑的手,還是全力侮蔑司法的貪瀆正犯;如此「名不正、言不順」的減刑,如何自圓其說?


Tutu gives Taiwan a Lesson in Transitional Justice

Tutu gives Taiwan a Lesson in Transitional Justice
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 27, 2007

During his recent trip to Taiwan, former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu shared South Africa's experience with the pursuit of transitional justice. To people from all walks of life, he stressed the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation. For Taiwan, which has also experienced ethnic antagonisms, Tutu's suggestion is worth heeding.

South Africa's situation is similar to Taiwan's in certain respects. In the past, political power remained firmly in the hands of the white minority. With the end of apartheid in 1994, the white South Africa government relinquished its hold on political power, and the African National Congress (ANC), led by Nelson Mandela, assumed power.

Even though South Africa experienced an earth-shaking change in its system, society did not descend into chaos, bloodshed, or an orgy of retaliation. Credit must be given to Mandela's warmth and openness, and to former president F.W. de Klerk's wisdom and courage. Tutu's long term criticism of ethnic apartheid, promotion of South African democratization, demands for the restoration of truth about South Africa's history, the dissolving of racial hatred, also deserve credit. One of the most important tasks following South Africa's political transition, was to reverse and compensate past injustices, in other words, implement "transitional justice." Hence the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with Tutu as president. Past victims of persecution appeared and testified one after the other, restoring the truth about South Africa's history, healing wounds, restoring justice, reaffirming society's norms and values, and serving as a warning to future generations.

The forgiveness and reconciliation Tutu mentioned is the foundation by which South Africa maintains social harmony and pursues national growth. Following political transition, no matter how large the gap between ethnic groups and political parties might be, everyone agrees that ethnic harmony must be maintained and any words or deeds inciting ethnic conflict must be opposed. By the same token, forgiveness and reconciliation must be Taiwan's way to dissolve differences and defuse hostilities.

Archbishop Tutu, who accepted a Taiwan Foundation for Democracy invitation to visit, made numerous statements awakening people to the truth. For example, while speaking with Lin Yi-hsiung, members of the audience asked, how can we reconcile when we haven't uncovered the murderer in the Lin Family Murder Case? Tutu responded that to forgive is something one can do on one's own initiative, that if one insists on waiting until the victimizer apologizes, then the victim will remain under the control of others forever.

The harm done to the victim by the victimizer can be divided into two kinds. The first kind is immediate violence or oppression. The second kind is long term trauma, rage, and anxiety. The victim cannot control the reality of the immediate violence or oppression. But the trauma, rage, and anxiety are phenomenon the victim can heal and overcome. It is not necessary to wallow in past grievances. It is even less necessary to be immobilized by rage and anxiety.

The victim often perceives himself as the weaker party, tends toward passivity, and thinks of the victimizer as the primary subject. Besides demanding punishment and compensation, the victim is seldom conscious of what he ought to do. Naturally, making excessive demands upon the victim is overly harsh. But in the process of pursuing transitional justice on Taiwan, we hope not only to restore justice and equality, to leave behind an example for later generations, but also to establish a happy home. We consider the act of exploiting ethnicity as a label, as a price, or even as a tool, a crime we must never repeat.

The responsibility of the victimizer is of course heaver. If one constantly shifts responsibility onto others, if one cannot face one's past mistakes, if one refuses to engage in self-introspection, if one refuses to apologize to and compensate the victim, then one can never escape the shadows of the past, never be free from accusations and condemnation, and never win the public trust.

During the "International Symposium on Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation" Tutu pointed out that people need merciful and gentle treatment, that the past will not simply vanish. If one refuses to acknowledge the past, the past will return to haunt us. The universe is just. Right and wrong will make themselves known. It may not look that way on the surface, but justice will prevail.

Long term political struggles have undermined Taiwan's ethnic harmony. But if victimizers are unwilling to engage in self-introspection and offer sincere apologies, and if victims remain mired in past grievances, then what will we bequeath ourselves and our children, other than a recurring legacy of trauma and rage?

If on the contrary, when faced with historical mistakes, one can find the courage to face one's responsibilities, if one is willing to open one's heart and forgive, if one is willing to overcome historical grievances and start anew, then one can liberate oneself from the bonds of the past and discover new opportunities for Taiwan's future. If South Africa, with its racial differences and color differences can strive for racial harmony and mutal prosperity, then Taiwan, with its homogeneous society, has no reason to adopt a policy of "kill or be killed."

The mistakes of history must not be forgotten. Victimizers must not be let off lightly, because the refusal to distinguish between right and wrong will sap a society's vitality. But even as we remember history, we must ask ourselves whether a society's cohesiveness and a nation's unity are to be founded on hatred, suspicion and rejection, or on love, tolerance, and reconciliation?

Original Chinese below:





南 非的狀況其實和台灣有點類似,過去政權長期掌握在少數白人族群手中,一九九四年種族隔離政策終結後,白人政府讓出政權,曼德拉率領的非洲民族議會黨 (ANC)接手執政。南非雖然經歷天翻地覆的體制變更,社會卻未陷入混亂失序或流血報復。這當然要歸功於曼德拉的溫暖開闊,和前總統戴克拉克的睿智與勇 氣。而屠圖長期以來批判種族隔離政策、推動南非民主化、還原歷史真相、化解族群恩怨的努力,同樣居功厥偉。



接 受民主基金會邀請訪台的屠圖大主教,近日來在台灣發表了不少發人深省的談話。例如與林義雄對談時,有與會者質疑,沒有找到真相,如同林宅血案沒有凶手時, 又該如何和解?屠圖勉勵說,寬恕是可以主動的,如果必須等到加害者道歉,那受害者就永遠會受到控制。受害者應該主動把寬恕的禮物給別人,才不會永遠留在受 害者的角色。

的確,加害者對受害者的傷害有兩種。第一種是當下的暴力或壓迫,第二種是長期遺留的創傷、憤怒與恐懼。對於暴力傷害壓迫的事 實,受害者當時既不能控制,事後也無法抹滅,但創傷、憤怒與恐懼,受害者卻是可以癒療及超越的,不一定要永遠被過去的傷痛淹沒,更不一定要永遠被憎恨恐懼 捆綁得動彈不得。

受害者往往心態上自覺是弱者,傾向於被動、以加害者為主體對象的思考方式。除了要求加害者受到懲罰及提供賠償外,很少意 識到自己也該做些什麼。當然,過度要求受害者也失之嚴苛,但在台灣追求轉型正義的過程中,我們不僅希望重建公平正義的價值坐標,為後世留下可供遵循的良好 典範,也希望構建一個和諧幸福的美好家園。而曾經以族群為標籤、為代價、甚至為工具的各種可恥罪行,我們既覺昨日之非,當然務求永不重蹈覆轍。




相 反地,如果在面對歷史過錯時,能展現出勇氣與負責態度;如果願打開胸襟主動給予寬恕,勇敢跨越歷史傷痕重新出發,不僅能解開捆綁台灣的繩索,也能為台灣的 將來開拓新的機會。如果種族膚色不同的南非,都願努力追尋族群的共存共榮,那麼同文同種的台灣社會,更沒有理由必須廝殺得你死我活。


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why not solve the Discretionary Fund Controversy by Legislative Means?

Why not solve the Discretionary Fund Controversy by Legislative Means?
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 25, 2007

The Discretionary Fund case is currently being tried by the courts. What exactly is the Discretionary Fund? Are the Discretionary Funds public funds, or private funds? Ripples continue to spread from the Legislative Yuan over whether the Ministry of Justice has changed its legal opinion.

Should the Legislative Yuan be looking into the Discretionary Fund? If it does so only because Ma Ying-jeou has been indicted, that is not a good reason. The Legislative Yuan should respect the findings of the judiciary. It should not pass legislation tailor-made to help Ma Ying-jeou, just as it should not amend the presidential election laws and change the eligibility requirements to hinder him. The Discretionary Fund issue is not about Ma Ying-jeou individually, or even the hundreds and thousands of administrative heads who have drawn upon the Discretionary Fund in the past. The Discretionary Fund issue is basically a system design issue. It is the Legislative Yuan's responsibility to legislate in strict accordance with standard procedure. The design of the Discretionary Fund system contains defects. An inability to agree on the legal interpretation may lead to an inability to agree on legal responsibility and trial results, creating anxiety among central and local government officials island-wide. Even worse, it could become a political football in the coming struggle for the presidency. The Legislative Yuan has a responsibility to clear the air by returning to the fundamentals.

The Discretionary Fund did not make its debut today. It has no basis in law. It was created by default, by means of administrative orders handed down over the years. It is a bad precedent. The right way, the only way, for a nation under the rule of law, is to establish a system by means of the legislative process. The source of the problem, the cause of the controversy, turns on whether the Discretionary Funds are public funds or private funds,

The Discretionary Fund exists to handle the common needs of administrative heads and other political appointees. Even Legislative Yuan committee members have the same problem. A mixture of official business and private business is unavoidable during a political appointee's official activities. Wedding invitations and funeral notices are the best example. High level political appointees receive countless wedding invitations and funeral notices. On the one hand they are personal matters. On the other hand they are official duties. Prior to disbursement Discretionary Funds are of course public funds. If following disbursement, they are still regarded as public funds, then administrative heads are clearly permitted to use public funds for private purposes. If following disbursement they are regarded as private funds used for public purposes, then they are a form of subsidy or allowance. By its very nature the Discretionary Fund will be used for both public and private purposes. Therefore a rational system should estimate in advance the expenses a particular office is likely to incur, and once the funds have been disbursed, omit the need to provide original itemized receipts. An advance estimate ensures that the funds disbursed will fall within a reasonable range. The system acknowledges that certain officials will incur certain expenses, otherwise it would not allow those officials to draw from the Discretionary Fund in the first place.

The fact is, half the Discretionary Fund requires only the submission of a receipt, a written acknowledgment that a specified sum of money has been received. It does not require original itemized receipts. That this distinction has not been made sufficiently clear constitutes a defect that legislation ought to address. If legislation can replace administrative orders, the defects in the system can be corrected. By contrast, once the Discretionary Fund issue became a high-visibility criminal case, the National Audit Office reacted by engaging in overkill, issuing administrative orders requiring original itemized receipts for all Discretionary Fund disbursements.

Requiring original itemized receipts for all Discretionary Fund disbursements will solve only the National Audit Office Main Accounting Department's problems with the assignment of blame. It neglects the reason for the Discretionary Fund in the first place, a solution to the problem of how to provide funds used for both public and private purposes. Current procedures fail to address this problem.

This problem should be addressed through legislation, because the rules are unclear, and administrative orders lack legitimacy, creating legal pitfalls which should not exist in a country governed by the rule of law. If officials who have received Discretionary Funds find themselves in legal hot water as a result of the duties of their office, this violates the legal principle of "nulla poena, sine lege" (no penalty without a law). The Legislative Yuan cannot solve all cases by means of the legislative process. That is the responsibility of prosecutors. But a Discretionary Fund Law would address the defects within the system and provide a point of reference for prosecutors.

The Discretionary Fund case was triggered by the controversy over the State Affairs Confidential Expense case. Chen Shui-bian drew from the State Affairs Confidential Expense Allowance rather than the Discretionary Fund. There is good reason to examine it for defects as well. The State Affairs Confidential Expense Allowance is for secret official business, and is purely public in nature. It is clearly different from the Discretionary Fund, which is both public as well as private in nature. The problem is that besides needing the State Affairs Confidential Expense Allowance, the president, like other officials, also needs the Discretionary Fund. The system should allow the president to draw from the Discretionary Fund, but it must not allow the State Affairs Confidential Expense Allowance to be conflated with the Discretionary Fund, and must not allow the president to draw from the State Affairs Confidential Expense Allowance as if it were the same as the Discretionary Fund.

Defects in the system have triggered disputes over the prosecution of the Discretionary Fund case These defects must be remedied by returning to the source, by allowing the legal system to repair the legal system. Custom-tailored laws must not be allowed to replace trials. Systemic defects must not be allowed to persist. Legislators concerned about the Discretionary Fund issue need to be clear about what they need to do.

Original Chinese below:

中國時報  2007.04.25
何不藉由立法手段 一次解決特別費爭議

特別費案件正由法院審理中,特別費的性質究竟為何? 在立法院中餘波蕩漾,為了法務部的見解有無變更,特別費是公款還是私款的問題,爭執不休。

立 法院為什麼該研究特別費的性質?如果只是為了馬英九的官司,並沒有正當性。因為立法院應該尊重司法審判,不該針對個案立法,就像是不該為了馬英九繫案而去 修法改變競選總統的參選資格一樣。但是特別費的問題,並不只是涉及馬英九個別的問題,也不只是關係到千百位政府首長過去如何支用特別費的問題;特別費的問 題,根本上是個制度設計的問題。用正統的立法制定適切可行的制度,正是立法院的責任所在。現在特別費的制度設計出了問題,解釋上莫衷一是,還可能因此引發 刑事責任與審判結果的莫衷一是,搞得全國從中央到地方的政府首長人心惶惶,更進一步成為政治惡鬥、搶奪總統權位的賭博籌碼,立法院其實負有很大的責任,正 本清源,是該在制度上做一次徹底的澄清了。


特 別費之所以存在,是要處理行政首長乃至政府其他部門政務層級人員的共通需要,即使如立法院立法委員也有相同的問題。乃就是在政務層級人員的公務活動之中, 有各種公務與私務性質夾雜的開支,無法避免。紅白帖子就是一個最好的例子。高層政務人員會有為數眾多的紅白帖子,一方面是私人的關係使然,一方面也是職務 需要所致。特別費的支領,乃兼含公務與私務的性質。特別費在制度設計上,領取之前,當然是公款;領取之後,如果仍然以公款視之,則無異允許首長以公款支付 兼有私務性質的支出。如果領款之後以私款視之,則其性質亦是一種帶有公務目的,以公務為負擔的私款,也就是一種實質補貼。正是因為此中性質兼含公私,所以 一個合理的制度,應該是預先定期估算每一個職務具有此種性質的花費若干,以概算的方式支領,一旦支用,即不必事後另以單據核銷。因為事前的概算已經確保款 項的使用會落在合理的額度範圍之內,因為制度上必須先已認定相關職務必然會有相關支出的必要,才會容許擔任其職的人支領特別費。

準 此而 言,實務上特別費中半數只須出據領取,不須事後另外檢據核銷的做法,其實就是應該以立法加以落實的制度設計。只要能以法律取代過去的行政命令,制度上的瑕 疵就可以解決。反倒是特別費成為眾所矚目的刑事案件之後,審計部門再以行政命令要求一切特別費都應該實報實銷的做法,乃屬矯枉過正的錯誤處置。要求所有的 特別費實報實銷,其實只能解決審計主計部門的責任問題,卻完全忽略了特別費所以需要存在,兼具公私性質卻又有取據困難的現象,應該有制度上的克服手段。現 在的做法,並不能真正解決相關職務上的需要。

之所以強調現在應該用立法方式正面解 決這個問題,是因為制度設計模糊不清,以及行政命令的位 階過低,製造了一個法治國家不應出現的陷阱。所有領取特別費的政府首長,假如因為實務上的需要而竟致刑罰纏身,是完全違背了罪刑法定主義的精神。當然,立 法院通過立法並不當然可以解決既有的案件,那是審判部門應該處理的問題。但是,適當正確將特別費加以立法,可以用來觀照既有制度的瑕疵,也可提供審判部門 參考。

該附帶一提的是,特別費案件是從國務機要費案件的話題引發的。總統支領國務 機要費而無特別費,其實也有從制度上加以檢討的理由。國 務機要費是為了機密的公務所需,是純粹公用的性質,與特別費的亦公亦私有所不同。問題是總統有國務機要費的需要之外,其實也有特別費的需要,與其他政府首 長並無不同,制度上應該容許總統支領特別費,也不應該不加區辨國務機要費與特別費的性質不同,用領取國務機要費的名義領取特別費。


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Look into Your Hearts, and Leave Us a Little Seed Corn

Look into Your Hearts, and Leave Us a Little Seed Corn
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 24, 2007

Comment: The following China Times editorial evokes mixed feelings. On the one hand, I empathize with the China Times editor. When I say I "empathize," I mean I identify with and understand the editor's situation, feelings, and motives. Politicians should behave in the responsible manner the editor wishes they would.

On the other hand, I sympathize with the China Times editor. When I say I "sympathize," I mean I feel pity, sorrow, and compassion for the editor's distress. I feel pity, sorrow and compassion for the editor's distress because I have come to realize that politicians who seek elective office in democracies and other monopolistic states will never behave in the responsible manner the editor wishes they would.

The Chinese have an expression: 緣木求魚 yuan mu qiu yu. It means: "climbing a tree in search of fish." As you can probably guess, the expression refers to the fruitless act of looking for something where it will never be found.

Expecting politicians of any stripe to behave in the responsible manner the editor wishes they would is an example of "climbing a tree in search of a fish."

The vast majority of people alive today are under the spell of the democratic myth. They genuinely believe that democracy's raison d'etre is to protect the rights of the ordinary citizen.

They don't realize democracy's actual reason for being is to enable ambitious politicians to exercise limitless power and remake the world in their own image, at the ordinary citizen's expense.

Once one understands democracy's actual reason for being, one will never again make the mistake of "climbing a tree in search of fish." One will never again labor under the delusion that one's "democratically-elected leaders" have any interest whatsoever in looking into their hearts, or leaving us a little seed corn.

Central Election Committee Reform must not be Undermined

Look into Your Hearts, and Leave Us a Little Seed Corn
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 24, 2007

As the legislative elections loom, the spectacle of ruling government and opposition lawmakers recklessly promoting pork barrel legislation in their struggle for re-election is being repeated once again. On the one hand, they slash taxes. On the other hand, they expand welfare benefits. Tomorrow the Legislative Yuan will review the "Temporary Act for Welfare Subsidies to the Elderly." Ruling and opposition lawmakers are eagerly pushing for increases. In a single breath, they have proposed 25 versions. The smallest proposed increase is 4000NT, the largest 10,000NT. They apparently consider the nation's finances child's play.

Meanwhile, the Executive Yuan is making it up as it goes along. If someone asks for an inch, the Executive Yuan gives a mile. The Ministry of Interior led the way by proposing a draft for a "National Annuity Law," attempting to combine Welfare Subsidies to the Elderly, Welfare Subsidies to Farmers, and other welfare benefits into one, sacrificing a smaller sum to prevent lawmakers of all stripes from increasing Welfare Subsidies to the Elderly.

This scattering of dollar bills to buy votes has not stopped at Welfare Subsidies to the Elderly and a National Annuity. A little earlier, the Legislative Yuan had already proposed abolishing the inheritance tax. The Ministry of Finance (MOF) also responded by making it up as it went along. The MOF announced day that it was considering reducing the maximum rate for the inheritance tax and the gift tax by half, substituting tax exemptions and tax deductions with a "Basic Living Expense," and drastically reducing the individual income tax. This was another case of giving a mile when someone asks for an inch.

That's how it is this year, and that's how it has been in years past. In March 2004, we held a presidential election. In November 2004 we held a legislative election. In January of that year, the Legislative Yuan passed the amended land tax bill after three readings. It implemented a one half reduction of two year property appreciation taxes, unconditionally extending it for one year. Later, in February of that year, the Blue Camp Lien Soong ticket posted advertisements pledging that if it was elected, it would drastically increase government employees and teachers' salaries, by an amount equal to "two national incomes." The Green Camp Democratic Progressive Party took one look, and Central Personnel Administration Chief Lee Lee Yi-yang immediately wrote out a check, guaranteeing that he would increase the military, civil service, and teacher salaries by three percent

Both the Blue and Green camps, both the ruling and opposition parties, are of one mind on this. Both add fuel to the flames, both encourage the unhealthy practice of exchanging dollar bills for votes. Even conservative former Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou indicated the other day that he approved increased Welfare Subsidies to the Elderly. As the onrushing wave carries everyone along in its wake, the only ones remaining are the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics and and handful of clear-headed legislators such as Wang Jung-chang, standing their ground, appealing to the ruling and opposition parties to step on the brakes and not neglect the nation's finances.

Nobody opposes the social welfare system. Providing adequate care to the elderly, the weak, the disabled, elderly widows and widowers, and the poverty-stricken, is the government's responsibility. However social welfare should not be coercive egalitarian redistribution of wealth. Not all the elderly are poverty-stricken. Not all farmers are in financial straits. Without greater discernment, the expenditure of vast sums, not based on actual poverty, but on age, will only make it harder to conserve resources and to look after poverty-stricken people who truly need to be looked after. Currently the central government spends 80 billion NT every year on Welfare Subsidies to the Elderly and Welfare Subsidies to Elderly Farmers. If one still wishes to increase benefits, be aware that every time Welfare Subsidies to the Elderly are increased 1,000 Yuan, the burden on the state treasury increases 10 billion Yuan. Every time Welfare Subsidies to Elderly Farmers are increased 1,000 Yuan, the burden on the state treasury increases 84 billion Yuan. At the same time, the National Health Insurance system teeters on the brink of collapse, insurance premiums keep increasing, the scope of health insurance coverage keeps diminishing, safeguards to poor patients keep shrinking, and the effectiveness of medical health insurance treatment keeps declining. Put simply, it is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul!

The reason this kind of pork barrel legislation, which reduces tax revenues even as it increases benefits, appears at election time, is that the beneficiaries are clearly defined, while the victims are not. Reducing taxes may allow certain taxpayers to feel that their tax burden has been lightened. Increased benefits may allow certain recipients to increase their income. Conversely, the financial shortfall created by reducing taxes while increasing benefits has no clearcut victims.

Theoretically, the financial shortfall can be made up by issuing government bonds, but eventually bonds must be repaid by means of tax increases. The problem is, a nation endures, and its central government never goes bankrupt. Therefore the day of reckoning on which the shortfall must be made up by means of tax increases constantly recedes into the future. Therefore, regardless of whether one is reducing taxes or increasing benefits, the shortfall can always be covered by issuing bonds. No need for any specific target to bear the burden created by pork barrel legislation. Therefore, no matter whether one is reducing taxes or increasing benefits, every kind of pork barrel legislation is theoretically a Zero-sum Game. But in practice, so long as the government does not collapse, it's a "heads I win, tails you lose" proposition. Because of this, ruling and opposition party political figures have unscrupulously resorted to pork barrel legislation, undermining the nation's finances and sapping the nation's vitality.

This resort to pork barrel legislation every time an election rolls around, is already deeply ingrained in Taiwan's election culture. Frankly it's going to be difficult to rectify this trend. To expect ordinary citizens to spontaneously awaken and resist the temptation to exchange votes for dollar bills is wishful thinking. The only hope is that ruling and opposition party political figures will look into their hearts, reach a consensus, abide by a gentlemen's agreement, and refrain from cutthroat competition. One needs to realize that if one resorts to pork barrel legislation to buy votes, one's opponent can do the exactly the same thing. Whether one engages in cutthroat competition or not, makes no difference as far as votes are concerned, but a major difference as far as the nation's finances are concerned. The Blue and Green camp "Princes" need to be clear on this. Instead of cutthroat competition, they ought to declare a truce, and leave a little seed corn for the nation's future!

Original Chinese below:

拿出良心 為國家財政留點老本吧








理論上,財政缺口可藉由增發公債暫時填補,但公債最後終究須靠增稅才能償還。問題是,國家永續存在,中央政府不會破產清算,所以,這「終究須靠增稅償還」之日,永遠遙遙無期。所以,無論減稅收還是增支出,都可以靠發行公債軋平財政缺口,無需特定對象承受錢坑法案所造成的犧牲。於是,不論減稅收還是增支出,各種錢坑法案理論上是正負相抵的「零和遊戲(Zero-sum Game)」,但實際上,只要政府不倒,都是無本生意,只有正面收益,而無負面損失。正因為這項特色,朝野政治人物多年來才會如此肆無忌憚,亂挖錢坑,把國家財政挖得千瘡百孔,元氣大傷。


Sunday, April 22, 2007

The DPP Primaries reveal the DPP's Lack of Character

The DPP Primaries reveal the DPP's Lack of Character
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 22, 2007

The "Four Princes of the DPP" (actually One Princess and Three Princes) From left to right: Annette Lu, Frank Hsieh, Yu Hsi-kuen, Su Tseng-chang

The second Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential primary will also be the party's final political debate. As matters stand, compromise is impossible. The DPP primary process must end, and the DPP's presidential candidate can be decided only after a party vote and an opinion poll.

The DPP primary process has underscored two phenomena: First, the party is spinning its wheels. No progress or breakthroughs have been made during the debate over the party's direction and policies. Second, internal divisions among party factions have worsened, and have become life and death struggles between mortal enemies.

First, the internal divisions. Ten days ago, two presidential and vice presidential tickets still seemed a possibility. But Su Tseng-chang repeatedly declared that "If I lose the primaries, I won't accept the vice presidency." On the one hand his declaration sharpened internal divisions. On the other hand, it made healing those divisions impossible. Frank Hsieh, by stating that, "I will not disappoint my supporters, I will not withdraw from the primaries," also slammed the door shut on compromise. Most intriguing of all was Frank Hsieh's statement: "Everyone wants to be president. But everyone should have the magnanimity to accept the role of vice president." On the one hand, this statement chided Su Tseng-chang for insisting that he would not accept the vice presidency. On the other hand it may have been Frank Hsieh's way of keeping the option of the vice presidency open. In other words, in case Su Tseng-chang wins his bid for the presidential slot in the primaries, the Frank Hsieh camp does not want to watch idly as the winner takes all, but wants to reserve the right to be part of a "Su Hsieh ticket." Hsieh figures that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But if Su wins the primaries, will he still respond to extortionate demands for a "Su Hsieh ticket" from the Frank Hsieh camp? If Su loses in the primaries, having stated that he would not accept the vice presidency, can the Su camp really swallow its pride and eat crow? These divisive struggles within the DPP will probably continue through the presidential election and beyond.

Next, the party's direction and policies. Chen Shui-bian is the DPP's chief sinner, and yet the party primaries have become a competition among the Four Princes to see who can demonstrate the most unquestioning loyalty toward the party's chief sinner. This absurd scenario reveals that the DPP primaries had nothing to do with reform or self-introspection, and everything to do with which of the Four Princes would have the honor of being Chen Shui-bian's chief accomplice, hence designated heir. As for the issue of Taiwan independence, Yu Hsi-kuen, who advocates abolishing the "Resolution on Taiwan's Future" and champions "de jure Taiwan independence," had the worst showing in the primaries. Apparently even DPP members consider his agenda a pipe dream. The other three princes, Hsieh, Su, and Lu, continued supporting the "Resolution on Taiwan's Future" and advocated "making constitutional revisions based on existing constitutional procedures," a policy that boils down to maintaining the status quo. In which case, aren't they nothing more than Kuomintang (KMT) fellow travellers? What have they contributed to the Sacred Cause of Taiwan independence? Other debates involved nothing but mutual recriminations over policy flip-flops on the Suhua Freeway and the Losheng Sanatorium. When it came to important policies affecting the nation's political and economic future, all we were offered were empty boasts about "adopting a global vision" and "ensuring perpetual development." Because none of the participants were able to give a concrete reason why they had come, the debate turned into attacks upon each others' character. Su accused Hsieh of being "devious." Hsieh accused Su of "inconsistencies in policy, inconsistencies in thought." This inadvertently revealed the real plight of the DPP. The nation is in decline because the character of its leadership is in decline.

The ugly truth that the DPP primaries have laid bare is this: the DPP is a political party whose core value is the lust for power. Its core value is not democratic reform, otherwise it would not have ruled in utter disregard of the law as it has. It is not even Taiwan independence, otherwise it would not have flip-flopped on Taiwan independence and engaged in self-deception and deception of others as it has. The DPP's core value is naked power lust, otherwise it would not have eagerly abetted the thoroughly corrupt Chen Shui-bian, and consigned the nation to a plight in which democracy and the rule of law have vanished into thin air. The DPP can paint the Pan Blues as "Chi-Com fellow travellers" who "do not love Taiwan." The DPP can paint Su Tseng-chang as a heretic of the "New Tide Faction," who is "violating the DPP's fundamental values." The DPP can paint Frank Hsieh as a "One China Constitution" advocate even more "pro reunification" than the Chinese Communist Party. Whether such allegations are true or false is irrelevant. What matters is they are useful in one's struggle for power.

The DPP is using the same tactics it used against the Pan Blues against presidential primary rivals within its own party. Like criminal gangs accustomed to poisoning villagers, who live with poison day in and day out, they have finally poisoned themselves and their families with lethal doses of their own toxins. Following these primaries, power struggles within the DPP have intensified to an unprecedented degree. These worsening power struggles will inevitably leave deep, visible, and permanent scars on the DPP.

Su Tseng-chang said "character is the most important factor in a president." This party primary has not only exposed the character of the Four Princes, it has also exposed the perverted and decadent character of the DPP as a political party.

Original Chinese below:




先 談內爭。大約十天以前,似仍存有「初選前兩名正副搭檔」的想像空間。但蘇貞昌幾 度宣示「初選落敗,不當副手」,一方面使初選趨於尖銳,另一方面亦使選後療治裂痕的藥方頓告消失。謝長廷則稱,「不會讓支持者掉淚,初選絕不退讓」,也已 關上了「協調」之門。最可玩味的是,謝長廷又稱:「每個人都想要當總統,但也應有願當副手的雅量。」此話一方面或在揶揄蘇貞昌宣示不當副手,另一方面卻也 許是為謝長廷自己可能出任副手預留餘地。也就是說,初選倘由蘇貞昌勝出競選總統,謝長廷陣營若不容蘇「全碗捧去」,亦不無轉而爭取「蘇謝配」的可能性。謝 的算盤也許是「無魚蝦也好」,但蘇若初選勝出,還會回應謝長廷陣營「蘇謝配」的勒索嗎?反過來說,蘇若初選失敗,且已言明不當副手,難道蘇系真會打脫牙和 血吞?民進黨內的撕裂性鬥爭,恐將由黨內初選延伸影響至正式總統大選,甚至大選以後。

再 談路線。陳水扁是民進黨的大罪人,但初選卻成了四大天王向陳大罪人效忠的競賽。 此種荒謬的場景,凸顯了這場初選完全沒有改革反省的意味,四大天王只是在比賽誰是陳水扁的頭號共犯而已。至於台獨問題,主張廢除「台灣前途決議文」及力挺 「法理台獨」的游錫?,顯然在初選中人氣最差,民進黨人亦視其為白日夢囈而已;其餘謝、蘇、呂三人,皆仍站在「台灣前途決議文」的底線上,並一致主張「應 循現行憲法所定程序進行修憲」,亦即實際上仍主張「維持現狀」;既然如此,他們不啻皆是國民黨的同路人而已,在台獨大業上又豈有一丁點的推進?再看其他方 面的政策辯論,則只聞相互攻訐蘇花高、樂生院的政策反覆;至於國家政經大計,卻只用「放眼全球」、「永續發展」幾句假、大、空話,在點綴場面。於是,正因 政策辯論說不出個所以然來,所以轉而相互攻擊對方的「人格」。蘇說謝「奸巧」,謝說蘇「政策不一致,思想不一貫」;這麼一來,反而揭露了民進黨如今真正的 困境所在:一切國政沉淪的問題,皆出自主政者人格境界沉淪的問題!

初選進行至今所 暴露的政治真相是:民進黨竟是一個以權謀鬥爭為核心價值的政黨。其 核心價值,分明不是民主改革,否則就不會違法亂政至此地步;也不是台獨,否則就不會自欺欺人、反覆搖擺至此地步。民進黨的核心價值只是權謀鬥爭而已,否則 就不會力挺貪腐無狀的陳水扁,亦不會使國家陷於今日民主法治萬般落空的痛苦之中。民進黨可以將「泛藍」打成「中共同路人」、「不愛台灣」;亦可將蘇貞昌打 成「新潮流化」、「違反民進黨基本價值」;謝長廷的「憲法一中」更遭追殺,甚至稱其比中共還要「統派」。這些,是非真偽皆莫辨,只要有利於權謀鬥爭即可。

民 進黨用於對泛藍鬥爭的全套戰法,如今已全盤移用於黨內總統初選的鬥爭。猶如一個 慣常對村人下毒的邪惡集團,由於日日與毒共處,終於自身也中了劇毒,且亦毒害了自己的家族。經過此次初選,民進黨內權謀鬥爭的深化、惡化、毒化及公開化, 皆已超越過去,這必將對民進黨體質的繼續惡化與毒化留下深刻及公開的傷痕,影響久遠。


Friday, April 20, 2007

What You need to know about the Ma Ying-jeou Indictment

What You need to know about the Ma Ying-jeou Indictment
April 20, 2007
by Bevin Chu

Ma Ying-jeou's approval ratings shot up eight points following his indictment on trumped up charges of "embezzlement"

By now everyone who follows events in mainland China and Taiwan knows that political superstar Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) has been indicted by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government for "embezzlement."

Based on their own experience with relatively independent judiciaries, political observers from "mature" democracies in Europe and America may assume that "Where there's smoke, there's fire." They may conclude that Ma Ying-jeou, despite his hard-earned, well-deserved reputation as "Mr. Clean," has turned out to be "just another crooked politician whose sins finally caught up with him."

Such a conclusion, so natural and so reasonable within the context of an "advanced" western liberal democracy, could not be further from the truth.

The fact that Ma Ying-jeou has been indicted is evidence not that Ma Ying-jeou is guilty of abusing state power to line his pockets. The fact that Ma Ying-jeou has been indicted is evidence that the ruling DPP is guilty of abusing state power to eliminate its political rivals.

Ma YIng-jeou used his Discretionary Fund exactly the same way all 65,000 administrative officials on Taiwan have been using the Discretionary Fund for the past 30 years. If the judiciary wants us to believe that Ma Ying-jeou is guilty of "embezzlement," why weren't Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh, Annette Lu, and Yu Hsi-kuen, the "Four Princes of the DPP," standing in the dock beside him?

To say that Pan Green ruled Taiwan "lacks an independent judiciary" would be a gross understatement. The judiciary on today's Taiwan is the farthest thing from an independent judiciary. The judiciary on today's Taiwan is the ruling DPP's "muscle," ready, willing, and able to do the ruling regime's dirty work.

Would you like to frame aggressively pro reunification New Party lawmaker Fung Hu-hsiang on trumped up charges of "rape?" No problem.

Would you like to frame 2008 presidential front runner Ma Ying-jeou on trumped up charges of "embezzlement?" No problem.

Taiwan under Pan Green rule is not a democracy, not as observers from Europe and America understand democracy. Taiwan under Pan Green rule is what political observer Fareed Zakaria referred to as an "illiberal democracy," a democracy in which the ruling government may (or may not) have been elected in a free and fair election, but whose legal framework is woefully incapable of checking its power.

Taiwan, a newly democratized region of the Republic of China, lacks a history of political pluralism. In the absence of such a moderating tradition, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), upon assuming power, began behaving in an authoritarian manner involving mind-boggling, all-pervasive corruption, undisguised persecution of the political opposition, and relentless harassment of media organizations perceived as "pro reunification."

The ruling DPP believes it has a mandate to act any way it sees fit, to ignore the law and even the Republic of China Constitution, as long as it holds regular elections and espouses Taiwan independence.

Republic of China citizens on Taiwan are fully aware of this. That is why when Ma Ying-jeou was indicted on trumped up charges of "embezzlement" in February his approval ratings shot up eight points. The public was so outraged by the ruling DPP's transparently obvious attempt to eliminate Ma Ying-jeou as a presidential candidate in 2008, that they reacted by giving his approval ratings a sharp boost.

What you need to know about Ma Ying-jeou's indictment can be summed up quite simply.

The fact that Ma Ying-jeou has been indicted is not evidence that Ma Ying-jeou "embezzled" funds from his Discretionary Fund account. The fact that Ma Ying-jeou has been indicted is evidence that the ruling DPP owns the judiciary, lock, stock, and barrel, and has no qualms about abusing its power to rule in perpetuity.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Public Referenda: Tools in the Service of Presidential Elections

Public Referenda: Tools in the Service of Presidential Elections
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 19, 2007

As the year end election approaches, several referenda related issues have been dusted off and added to the political agenda. One issue is whether presidential elections should be held concurrently with legislative elections. A second issue is whether presidential and legislative elections should be held concurrently with public referenda. A third issue is whether the referendum law should be amended, and if so, how. These issues, which have surfaced one after the other recently, obviously interest the ruling party.

Regarding the question of whether the presidential elections, legislative elections, and public referenda should be held concurrently, the Executive Yuan has said it hopes they can be. The ruling party hierarchy is already planning to push for a three in one election. Regarding the referendum laws, President Chen has hinted that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) proposes to amend them, and hopes to drastically lower the threshold for initiating referenda, widen the scope of issues that may be voted on, change the right of initiative, and eliminate constraints upon the executive. The proposal that the threshold for a public referendum be reduced to only one hundred persons has yet to clear consultations between the ruling government, the legislature, and the various political parties. Referenda topics the DPP have proposed include investigating KMT party assets and joining the United Nations using the name "Taiwan."

Public referenda are one of many mechanisms for bringing about democracy. They are an important means of revitalizing democratic pluralism. The advocacy and promotion of public referenda on Taiwan is something we should welcome with open arms. Unfortunately public referenda on Taiwan have degenerated into a tool for winning elections, rather than a means of enhancing the quality of democracy. In other words, whether to hold a referendum, how to hold a referendum, when to hold a referendum, and why one should hold a referendum, hinge on whether they help win elections, especially presidential elections, because presidential elections are the elections that most affect the power of the ruling regime. Public referenda have been transformed into a tool for winning elections, instead of means of seeking social consensus. This distinction must not be overlooked by anyone concerned about the future of democracy on Taiwan.

Elections are mechanisms for the realization of democracy. To link public referenda with presidential or legislative elections however, is unprecedented among democratic countries. That such a procedure increases the turnout for public referenda is something everyone understands. However elections are not the sum total of democracy, nor should they be. The foolish linkage of elections with public referenda, and the simplistic equation of democracy with voting, assuming that everything can and ought to be decided by a vote, that if all questions are decided by a vote, democracy has been realized, reveal a blind spot among advocates of democracy on Taiwan.

Equating elections with democracy is a form of blindness. Voting is merely part of the democratic process, a problem solving method of last resort. A more mature democracy seeks social consensus and social harmony via communication and debate. If one fails to understand the need for rational communication and patient debate, but pursues only electoral victories, partisan quid pro quo, and jockeying for power, then the democracy one brings into being may appear healthy from the outside, but will be rotten to the core.

If the only time that Taiwan brings up the issue of public referenda is every four years, during presidential elections, and if politicians champion public referenda solely as a means of winning elections, then public referenda are pointless. If the threshold for a public referendum is reduced to only one hundred persons, we forsee a whole range of public referenda diluting the already thin air of democratic debate. If public referenda are merely political ploys that lead to ideological impasse and partisan bickering, then Taiwan's public referenda will remain empty rituals incapable of lending legitimacy to its system of democracy. If the ruling party plays the public referendum card every time a presidential election rolls around in order to seize or maintain political power, then it is unqualified to claim that it is championing democracy.

After all, the legitimacy of a democratic political system does not depend upon the number of votes cast. The legitimacy of a democratic political system depends upon political leaders who champion rational thought and responsible debate about matters affecting the community, who seek consensus from all walks of life in order to create a harmonious society.

During the last presidential election the public underwent a traumatic experience. In the years since, the ruling regime has learned nothing from the experience. Three years later, nothing has changed, everything is as it was. The referendum process remains riddled with defects. The neutrality of the Central Election Committee remains in question. A successful public referendum remains a chimera. Referendum proposals include ad hoc demands for the amending of laws for flagrantly partisan motives, and tired election ploys familiar to the man in the street. With referenda like these, how can the ruling regime expect to win the hearts and minds of the political opposition and society at large? How can it persuade the public to participate in them? All we can expect is a political sham that delights politicians even as it increases voter alienation and provokes public disgust.

Original Chinese below:

中國時報  2007.04.19









Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Taiwan vs. Dubai

Taiwan vs. Dubai
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 17, 2007

Comment: The following United Daily News editorial notes that:

Taiwan's political dilemma is not something that land reclamation benefiting a handful of industries can resolve. What is needed is a return to the basics, rebuilding and enhancing Taiwan's economic and trade role. Taiwan's advantages over Dubai are legion. But Dubai can, while Taiwan cannot. Taiwan's rulers have despoiled Taiwan, betrayed Taiwan, and destroyed Taiwan.

Fair enough. But why is it Dubai can, while Taiwan cannot?

Dubai can, while Taiwan cannot, believe it or not, because of the distinction between the "Republic of China" and "Taiwan."

Political control of the Taiwan region of the Republic of China fell into the lap of the Taiwan independence nomenklatura 19 years ago, when Taiwan independence wolf in Republic of China sheep's clothing Lee Teng-hui ascended to the throne.

During this time the Taiwan independence nomenklatura has been struggling mightily to transform the Taiwan region of the Republic of China into a "Republic of Taiwan" or "Nation of Taiwan."

More to the point, it has been struggling mightily to transform the Chinese people in the Taiwan region of the Republic of China into "Taiwanese, not Chinese."

In order to transform the Chinese people in the Taiwan region of the Republic of China into "Taiwanese, not Chinese" however, the Taiwan independence nomenklatura must first eradicate the "China" in the "Republic of China."

The Taiwan independence nomenklatura can eradicate the "China" in the "Republic of China" only by fostering an artificially engineered "Taiwanese, not Chinese" ethnic identity and national consciousness.

It can foster an artificially engineered "Taiwanese, not Chinese" ethnic identity and national consciousness only by imposing a "ben tu" Taiwanese form of apartheid upon the Chinese people on Taiwan, forcibly segregating them from their fellow countrymen on the Chinese mainland.

Hence, the Taiwan independence nomenklatura's vehement opposition to "Three Links" between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.

If you have been bewildered by the Taiwan independence nomenklatura's irrational opposition to close contact between the Chinese people on Taiwan and the Chinese people on the mainland, then scratch your head no more. That is the reason why.

The Taiwan independence nomenklatura is terrified that close contact will enable 23 million Chinese on Taiwan to reawaken to the fact that they are indeed Chinese, that they are indeed the compatriots of 1.3 billion Chinese merely 80 miles across the Taiwan Straits.

The heavy economic price of this forced segregation of course, is the Taiwan region's economic marginalization.

Why is it Dubai can, while Taiwan cannot?

Dubai can because Dubai is focused on economic development. Taiwan cannot because the Taiwan independence nomenklatura which has hijacked the Chinese people on Taiwan is obsessed with creating an artificial and ahistorical "Taiwanese, not Chinese" identity.

Dubai can, while Taiwan cannot, because of the seemingly trivial, but in fact life and death distinction between the "Republic of China" and "Taiwan."

Dubai's Burj al-Arab, the world's only "Seven Star Hotel"

Palm Island, Dubai

Dubai City Skyline

Passenger Terminal, Dubai International Airport

Taiwan vs. Dubai

United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 17, 2007

The world is witness to Dubai's technological advances, including its land reclamation projects. This article compares and contrasts Taiwan's land reclamation projects with Dubai's.

For years the Executive Yuan has been promoting the Formosa Petrochemical and Kuokuang Petrochemical land reclamation projects. The total investment now exceeds six billion NT, and the projects are expected to create 2,700 hectares of land off the coast of Yunlin County. Because they will consume huge amounts of energy and water, they have been challenged on environmental grounds. By contrast, the tiny country of Dubai, located in the Persian Gulf, has been using land reclamation projects to promote economic reform and development since the 1980s. Compared to Taiwan, Dubai's ability to see the big picture and bring its plans to fruition, is like the difference between night and day.

Dubai's strategy for development is to reverse its excessive reliance on the fragile petroleum economy. Dubai began by developing the world's largest man made harbor at Jebel Ali, by establishing a free trade zone, and by offering tax benefits to attract foreign capital. Dubai has since become the trade, financial, and shipping center for the Middle East. Last year Dubai International Airport passenger throughput approached 29 million. In 2000 Dubai began developing tourism, digging canals, erecting "seven star" hotels such as the Burj al-Arab, creating man-made islands such as Palm Island and The World archipelago, replete with shopping centers, theme parks, hundreds of hotels, as well as 20,000 apartments and mansions.

Dubai's land area is 380 square kilometers. Years of land reclamation have increased the nation's territory by 30 square kilometers. Dubai has established an academic city, a music city, a media city, a network city, a medical city, a golf course, and an indoor ski slope. It is building Dubailand, a theme park twice as big as Disney World, currently the world's largest theme park. Dubai is transforming barren desert into a "Pearl of the Middle East." The rich and famous of Europe and America are rushing to buy Dubai real estate. Two years ago Dubai held an advance auction of space in the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building. Every space was sold within two days.

Over 30 years ago, in order to develop basic industries, Taiwan began the work of land reclamation. The government acquired 20,000 hectares of shoals in Changhua and Yunlin via eminent domain. As of today, it has reclaimed over 4000 hectares, including a Formosa Petrochemical Company plant site. The scale of the project and the difficulty of construction exceeded those encountered in Dubai. Moreover construction was handled entirely by domestic contractors, unlike Dubai, which relied on outsider expertise.

The biggest difference between Taiwan and Dubai was that Dubai used land reclamation primarily to develop tertiary sector industry, whereas Taiwan used it to develop secondary sector industry. Viewed from the perspective of industrial evolution, nations only invest in steel manufacturing and petrochemical industries while they are making the transition from labor intensive industries to capital intensive industries. Taiwan began developing capital intensive industries as early as the mid 1970s. It completed the China Steel Corporation, the China Petroleum Corporation, Formosa Petrochemical Corporation and other major projects one after the other. But time flies. Thirty years later, Taiwan's economy is spinning its wheels.

With the economy in recession, any major investment in Taiwan is going to be about political selling points, particularly when the investments are unprecedented in scale, as they are with Taiwan Steel and Kuokuang Petrochemical. The Chen Shiu-bian government and the Su cabinet use such projects to pad their personal resumes. Does Taiwan really have no alternative? Today, 30 years later, Taiwan is still investing in high consumption, high pollution heavy industries. Taiwan's current rulers clearly have no new ideas. The Taiwan Steel project alone will increase the production of carbon dioxide green-house gases by 2.5%, increase the burden on the environment, and defy global trends.

During the 1970s, Dubai's first highway leading to Saudi Arabia was built by the Republic of China's Retired Servicemen Engineering Agency (RSEA). During the early stages of its transformation, Dubai dispatched officials to learn from our experts. Circumstances change over time. Dubai, despite being situated in the Middle East powder keg, has created an Arabian Nights miracle. Today income from petroleum constitutes less than 6% of Dubai's GDP. By contrast, Taiwan's industrial evolution remains stagnant. Taiwan does not necessarily need to imitate Dubai. But from the standpoint of the nation's economic development, it needs an even more diversified, more capital intensive, more farsighted economic policy. Only such a policy can rescue Taiwan from gradual marginalization. We are not saying that Taiwan should develop artificial tourist islands. We are saying that Taiwan should emulate Dubai's willingness to see the big picture.

Compared to Dubai, Taiwan has every advantage: abundant human resources, favorable geography, beautiful scenery, and a solid industrial foundation. But although both have been practicing land reclamation, Dubai has abandoned religious fanaticism, implemented reforms and liberalization, and changed Dubai's international role and international image. Taiwan's land reclamation by contrast, has benefited only a handful of high consumption, high pollution industries. This is a case of inferior judgment, inferior wisdom, and inferior circumstances.

Taiwan's political dilemma is not something that land reclamation benefiting a handful of industries can resolve. What is needed is a return to the basics, rebuilding and enhancing Taiwan's economic and trade role. Taiwan's advantages over Dubai are legion. But Dubai can, while Taiwan cannot. Taiwan's rulers have despoiled Taiwan, betrayed Taiwan, and destroyed Taiwan.

Original Chinese below:




杜拜的發展策略是以扭轉過度依賴石油的脆弱經濟為基調,從開挖世界最大人工港傑貝阿里起步,成立自由貿易區、提供免稅優惠吸引外資,如今已成為中東的貿易、金融和航運中心,去年杜拜機場過境的旅客已近兩千九百萬人次。二○○○ 年後,杜拜又開始大力發展觀光業,構築運河、興建七星級帆船飯店、開闢棕櫚島和世界群島等人造島,島上規畫購物中心、主題樂園、上百間飯店,以及兩萬多間公寓和豪宅。








Do They really want to join the WHO?

Do They really want to join the WHO?
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 17, 2007

People on Taiwan long to join the World Health Organization and be readmitted to the United Nations and other international organizations. But if we treat these goals as election tools, if we allow campaign considerations to outweigh all else, if we ignore reality, these goals will become even more remote and even less attainable.

Our government's strategy for gaining access to World Health Organization (WHO) activities in the past was to tackle the easiest problems first, such as seeking World Health Assembly (WHA) observer status. The fight against disease affects the health and safety of people the world over, and infectious diseases know no national boundaries. The SARS experience showed that Taiwan is an indispensable part of the fight against infectious diseases. That is why Taiwan's request that it not be excluded from the global disease control network received the approval and support of the US, Japan, and the European Union.

But because the World Health Organization is an agency of the United Nations, is impossible for the UN to make exceptions. The PRC has been blocking Taiwan with all their might. They say they have already shared information with Taiwan, that they have attended to the rights and interests of the people of Taiwan, and have indicated they are willing to allow Taiwan to join the PRC delegation. These declarations do not accord with the facts, and attempt to demote Taiwan. We find them unacceptable. Taiwan has tried for ten years, but has not been able to gain membership in either the WHO or the WHA.

Recently the Presidential Office announced that Taiwan has decided to change its strategy. In addition to past efforts to become a WHA observer and to seek meaningful participation in technical conferences, Chen Shui-bian will write directly to WHO Secretary General Margaret Chan, officially applying to become a member nation of the WHO using the name "Taiwan." This means adopting a high profile, refusing to enter through the back door, and knocking directly on the front door of the World Health Organization. But this strategy inspires only skepticism. To become a WHA observer is hard enough. One must negotiate the first hurdle before one can think about the second. Yet Chen wants to leapfrog all of them and be admitted immediately as an official member nation. Getting into the WHA is much less difficult than getting into the WHO. But years of trying have met only with failure. Yet Chen wants to attempt the far more difficult task of getting into the WHO? Does he really imagine this will be easier?

It is true that a skyscraper a thousand feet high starts on the ground floor. Maybe one day a completed building will miraculously appear, replete with a bronze plaque on its cornerstone. Maybe we ought to be more optimistic. Maybe a man's reach should exceed his grasp. But diplomacy and internal affairs are hardly the same thing. Not everything is up to the individual. Therefore one cannot indulge in wishful thinking. One must have a clear understanding of realpolitik. One must play one's cards right and adopt the most effective strategies for achieving one's goals.

The problem is, no matter where one looks, one can see no trump card that will enable us to join the WHA this year. Forget the WHO, for which the entry threshold is even higher. Everyone knows which cards Taiwan holds. Over the years, they have all been played, to absolutely no effect. What makes this year any different?

Not only is this year no different, it is probably even less advantageous to Taiwan's participation. Needless to say, the United Nations recognizes only the PRC. In 2005, the PRC and the WHO signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing that if experts from Taiwan wanted to participate in WHO conferences, they would have to use local names such as "Taipei" and "Kaohsiung." The name "Taiwan" would be changed to "Taiwan, China," clearly indicating that Taiwan is a part of a China. This framework has already limited Taiwan's participation in every way conceivable. One can hardly expect it to enable Taiwan to become an official member nation.

The US is the primary force ensuring Taiwan's security and helping Taiwan obtain more international maneuvering room. But it's time for a reality check. Have US Taiwan relations following the "One Country, Each Side" and the "Terminate the National Unification Council" controversies improved or worsened? Is the US more enthusiastic about supporting Taiwan's participation in international activities, or is it more apathetic?

Taiwan's demands for participation in the WHO have received a great deal of sympathy. The undeniable international reality however is that the mainland economy is rapidly growing, and entrepreneurs the world over are flocking to mainland China. No country is willing to cut itself off from the mainland Chinese market. The PRC leadership's "Great Nation Diplomacy" has had an impact. Under such circumstances, Taiwan can no longer count on receiving much international sympathy.

The Taiwan government has decided to pursue a more difficult goal, in a less advantageous environment, against a stronger rival, with less supportive allies. Its attitude may be admirably defiant, but its methods are wholly irrational. But returning to our original point, whether its methods can be considered reasonable depend on its goals. If truth be told, the target audience for this sort of political gesture is domestic consumption.

First they launched a campaign to "rectify" the names of state-owned enterprises. Then they trumpeted a campaign to join the WHO under the name of "Taiwan," followed in September by a campaign to join the United Nations using the name "Taiwan." When the year end election rolls around, they will illegally "link" the presidential election with a public referendum, possibly one to "rectify" the name of the nation. Applying the name "Taiwan" to any number of pipe dreams consolidates Pan Green support and intensifies ethnic polarization. As long as it contributes to election victories, whether one is able to join the WHO or the UN is beside the point.

Since the only reason for such political gestures is to win votes, the more sensational, the better. Regardless what strategy one adopts, one will never gain entry. So why not stage an extravaganza for domestic consumption? Whenever election time rolls around, the ruling DPP makes all kinds of empty promises and sets all kinds of impossible goals, knowing perfectly they can never be fulfilled.

You want to join the WHO? Fine. You want to be readmitted to to the United Nations? Even better. But don't forget, these are trial balloons floated by a government that knows everything about how to run an election campaign, but nothing about how to enhance public safety or reduce the rising suicide rate. All we can say about these proposals, is "Good luck with that."

Original Chinese below:

中國時報  2007.04.17













Monday, April 16, 2007

Campaign Rhetoric vs. Electioneering Reality

Campaign Rhetoric vs. Electioneering Reality
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 16, 2007

The "Four Princes of the DPP" (actually One Princess and Three Princes) From left to right: Annette Lu, Frank Hsieh, Yu Hsi-kuen, Su Tseng-chang

During the first televised debate of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential primaries, one vice-president and three erstwhile prime ministers appeared on the same stage. They offered little in the way of beef, but plenty in the way of position papers, every one of which was referred to as "incontrovertible," and every one of which emphasized that "The previous (or following) administration is to blame, not me." Every one of the DPP's Green Princes is thoroughly versed in the language of elections, but is also afflicted with selective amnesia regarding the rosy scenarios they painted during previous campaigns. These position papers, which they dug out of their archives, reveal a superficial electioneering style that cares only about short term election advantage. The DPP's Green Princes don't engage in debate willingly. But when they do, the fact that they themselves were responsible for endless delays in the implementation of DPP policy becomes clear.

Take the Suhua Freeway for example, which the three erstwhile prime ministers got red in the face arguing over. This freeway project was begun while the Kuomintang (KMT) was in power. During the seven years the DPP has been in power, it has been stopped and restarted repeatedly, based exclusively on political considerations. Like the outer island Kinmen Bridge, which is essentially a "pontoon bridge" hastily assembled just before elections and hastily disassembled afterwards, the Suhua Freeway has become a "virtual freeway," a sacrificial offering in the service of central and local level elections.

Su Tseng-chang, Frank Hsieh, and Yu Hsi-kuen ("Su Hsieh Yu") have argued over who blocked construction of the Suhua Freeway. Who was responsible? Actually the question is meanless. During the 2000 presidential election, the Suhua Freeway was a plank in Chen Shui-bian's campaign platform. Subsequent DPP prime ministers all endorsed Chen Shui-bian's proposal. The first was Chang Chun-hsiung, in October 2000. He emphasized that this was A Bian's political proposal and that the government would see it through, and even "fast track" it. Toward the end of the same month, Chen Shui-bian said that the government would not give up on the Suhua Freeway. Yeh Chu-lan recently proposed that the DPP return to its core values. In November 2001, Yeh, then Minister of Transportation, said "The Suhua Freeway must be built." Sure enough, the core values of the minister and the ordinary citizen are remarkably divergent, and the divergence remarkably ironic.

The irony does not end here. During his term as premier, Yu Hsi-kuen completed the budget and even acquired the easement through eminent domain. Yet key members of his staff stressed that Yu Hsi-kuen's actual policy was "foot-dragging." On the one hand he demanded environmental impact studies. On the other hand, he proposed a "Master Plan for the Development of the Eastern Region and National Lands." Yu Hsi-kuen and his staff have probably forgotten that it was Yu himself who visited Hualian in person, thumped his chest, and promised that "The president's campaign pledges will be fulfilled." The time was 2003, and the Special Election for Hualian County Magistrate had reached a fever pitch. Campaign pledges were hardly limited to the Suhua Freeway. Yu Hsi-kuen's transportation fund pledges to Huanlien and Taidong amounted to 150 billion NT. Only Vice-president Annette Lu tapped the brakes, saying "Haste makes waste."

Yu Hsi-kuen adopted a footdragging policy regarding the Suhua Freeway, not based on environmental considerations, but because DPP nominee You Ying-lung lost the election. In fact, out of concern for the following year's presidential election, the Yu cabinet's "New Ten Major Construction Projects" omitted the Suhua Freeway. When skeptical lawmakers question Yu's commitment, Yu Hsi-kuen reiterated that "The government's policy is that it must build the Suhua Freeway." That the list of "New Ten Major Construction Projects" did not include the Suhua Freeway is laughable. Yet during the 2004 Presidential Election, Chen Shui-bian assured Hualian that he would build the Suhua Freeway.

For the ruling DPP, these major infrastructure projects involving hundreds of billions of NT Dollars are paper projects. One moment they are used to deceive the public. The next moment they are be canceled with a single stroke of the pen. To build or not to build? Whether they add one's votes is always the consideration. But for the local population, these rubber checks may well determine their community's continued prosperity and even an individual's continued livelihood.

For the people of Hualian, the Suhua Freeway is psychological torture. It is impossible to know whether it is going to be built or not. Fortunately the project is still in its planning stage. Not going forward amounts to maintaining the status quo. The people of Taichung are not so fortunate. Chen Shui-bian has only to make a casual promise to build an international airport in central Taiwan and before you know it, he has killed the once-thriving Shuinan Airport. Meanwhile, because international air routes are limited, and cross-Straits routes have yet to be developed, the Chingchuangkang Airport has become a derelict facility. Don't even mention the Pingtung "International" Airport which has been unable to attract any air routes at all. Recently the Su cabinet provoked a dispute over the legalization of auto racing and horse racing. One word from the central government, and local governments were climbing all over each other. They even had their building sites picked out. Another word from the Su cabinet was all it took for their plans to "go south." Proposals that central government agencies be transferred to southern Taiwan or Taipei County almost provoked Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu to conduct a "Northern Expedition." Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei was equally furious. Were the six or seven talks between the Taipei County Government and the central government nothing more than a joke?

The DPP vociferously champions "the primacy of the nation" and "the primacy of Taiwan." Yet no one from the president to the erstwhile prime ministers, the DPP's "Green Princes," has the first clue how to develop the nation's resources. Their position papers entranced. Their shouted slogans resonated. Chang Chun-hsiung cited his "8100 Public Construction and Investment Projects." Yu Hsi-kuen cited his "Challenge 2008 National Development Plan," "Two Trillion, Twin Stars" plan, "Tourism Doubling" plan, "Five Year Five Hundred Billion" plan and "New Ten Major Construction Projects" plan. Frank Hsieh cited his "Reconciliation and Coexistence" plan, and his off budget "Navigate the East" plan. Su Tseng-chang was no slacker, with his "Great Investments, Great Warmth" plan. Preceding every slogan was an election. Beside every slogan was a propaganda video. Behind every slogan was an election ploy. In the end, the only thing these slogans bequeathed Taiwan was a "Complete Volume of Political Humor."

Original Chinese below:

辯起來都是頭頭是道 做起來全是選舉算計

民 進黨總統初選首場電視政見會,一位副總統與三位歷任行政院長同台論辯,沒端出太多牛肉,倒是拿出不少公文,每一件公文都叫「鐵證如山」,重點也都是「錯的 是前(後)任,不是我」。民進黨綠天王個個熟諳選舉語言,卻對其曾經規畫的國土願景都患了健忘症。這些從檔案櫃裡挖出來的公文,不多不少,正凸顯一種唯選 舉是從的短視近利風格,他們不辯則已,一辯反倒把許多政策拖延的真相全洩了底 。


蘇 謝游三人,爭辯誰擋了蘇花高、誰放水?其實毫無意義。早在二○○○年總統大選,興建蘇花高就是陳水扁的競選政見。歷任民進黨閣揆都曾為陳水扁的支票背書。 最早的是張俊雄,二○○○年十月中旬,他不旦強調這是扁的政見,政府一定會推動,而且,還要「加速動工」;同月下旬,陳水扁自己都說了,政府不會放棄推動 蘇花高。隔年,二○○一年十一月,最近大聲倡議要回歸民進黨核心價值的葉菊蘭,當時正在擔任交通部長,她那時節的說法是「蘇花高一定會建」。部長與平民, 核心價值果然不同,兩相對比,無限反諷。

反諷的不僅於此。任內都已經完成預算編列、甚至土地徵收的游錫堃,透過核心幕僚強調,游錫堃採取 的依舊是「拖」字訣,一方面要求做環境差異分析,一方面另提出「東部發展和國土開發計畫」。游錫堃和其幕僚大概忘了,就是游錫堃本人,親赴花蓮拍胸脯保 證,「總統的競選承諾,一定兌現。」當時,是二○○三年,正值花蓮縣長補選打得火熱,當時的支票不僅蘇花高,游錫堃承諾投在花東的交通建設經費,從天上飛 的到地上跑的就有一千四、五百億。當時,唯一踩煞車的反而是副總統呂秀蓮,她說,「不要急,否則會呷緊弄破碗。」

游錫堃後來,果然對蘇花 高採「拖」字訣,未必出於環保,只是因民進黨提名的游盈隆落選了;甚至,隔年為了拚總統大選,內閣推出的「新十大計畫」,都未包括蘇花高,被立委察覺提出 質疑,游錫堃重申,「政府的政策是要建蘇花高」。可笑的是,新十大沒蘇花高,但二○○四年總統大選,陳水扁對花蓮的競選政見與承諾,還是興建蘇花高!


蘇 花高,對花蓮人而言,簡直成了精神折磨,迄今難料到底建是不建?卻也好在迄今仍在虛擬中,沒有,只是維持現狀。對台中人而言,可就沒這麼幸運,陳水扁隨便 一個競選支票,要搞個中部國際機場,讓原本國內線極為熱絡的水湳機場當場終結,清泉崗機場卻因為國際航線有限、兩岸航線未啟,處於半報廢狀態。更甭提也是 號稱國際機場的屏東機場,幾乎開不出航線。最近蘇內閣引起爭議的開放賽車賽馬,中央一句話,地方搶破頭,連規畫地點都找好了,卻落得蘇揆一句「八字還沒一 撇」;部會南遷或都北移至副都心,差點讓高雄市長陳菊「揮軍北上抗議」,台北縣長周錫瑋更怒,縣政府和中央開了六、七次會都是笑話嗎?

這 麼強調國家主體性、台灣主體性的民進黨,從總統到歷任行政院長擔負重責的天王們,對台灣整體國土規畫卻毫無概念,遑論理想。文章寫得都動聽,口號喊起來都 響亮,張俊雄有「八一○○,台灣啟動」;游錫堃有「挑戰二○○八」、「兩兆雙星」、「觀光客倍增」、「五年五千億」、「新十大」;謝長廷有「和解共生」、 還有沒編預算的「東部領航」替代計畫;蘇貞昌不落人後,「大投資、大溫暖」。每一個口號的前面都有一個選舉,每一個口號的旁邊都有一段宣傳VCR,每一個 選舉口號的背後,都有選票的算計;最後,這些建設口號留給台灣的:可能只是一本笑話大全。

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Su Tseng-chang says No to the Vice-presidency

Su Tseng-chang says No to the Vice-presidency
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 14, 2007

Comment: According to the rhetoric of democratic universalism, ambitious politicians within democracies and other monopolistic states seek political office because "they wish to dedicate themselves to public service,"

If you are too old for bedtime stories, you are old enough to realize this assertion is a fairy tale.

The unseemly narcissism displayed by the ambitious politicians mentioned in the following United Daily News editorial reveals the real reason why politicians within democracies and other monopolistic states seek elective office.

They want to "be somebody." And once they have "become somebody" by winning elective office, they want to remake the world in their own image, and they want to do it using our hard-earned tax money.

Let's face it. Why should any of us give a damn which ambitious demagogue insists on being president, and which is willing to "settle" for being vice-president?

Why should any of us meekly accept the premise that these ambitious demagogues have a right to live off our tax money?

If anyone knows a better reason for rejecting democracy and opting for market anarchism than this, speak up.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (DPP)

Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-Pyng (KMT) A Pan Green Wolf in Pan Blue Sheep's Clothing?

Su Tseng-chang says No to the Vice-presidency

United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
April 14, 2007

The road to the presidency is riddled with obstacles. On the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) side, Su Tseng-chang has declared that if he loses the party primaries, he will turn down the vice-presidential slot. On the Kuomintang (KMT) side, Wang Jin-pyng refuses to commit to a "Ma Wang ticket."

Su Tseng-chang's declaration shows that the issue of who will be the DPP's presidential candidate may cause trouble. On the KMT side, Wang Jin-pyng's moves have made it hard for him to accept a "Ma Wang ticket" for fear of becoming a laughingstock. Not only are the identities of the candidates uncertain, so are the methods by which they will be chosen.

Su Tseng-chang's declaration that "he won't accept the vice-presidency" reveals his determination to burn his bridges, to do or die, in order to consolidate his voter base. Another consideration is the divisive effects of the primaries. Whether the result is a "Su Hsieh ticket" or a "Hsieh Su ticket," bad blood may make any shotgun marriage impossible. Su Tseng-chang has declared that "he won't accept the vice-presidency." On the one hand he is attempting to turn calls for a "Hsieh Su ticket" around, hoping to bring back swing voters. On the other hand he is rejecting the idea of a "Su Hsieh ticket." The question is if Su declares that "he won't accept the vice-presidency," can we really expect Hsieh to declare "No problem, the vice-presidency is okay with me?"

Su and Hsieh are two candidates evenly matched in popularity, but with clear differences in direction and style. Whether Su or Hsieh emerges as the DPP's presidential candidate will have a dramatically different impact on the future of the DPP and Taiwan. Therefore whether Su or Hsieh emerges as the frontrunner really does make a difference. The DPP party primaries have not allowed the differences in the two candidates to come to the fore. Su Tseng-chang's declaration that "he won't accept the vice-presidency" may be an attempt to underscore the differences between the two candidates, to prevent the party primaries from becoming focused exclusively on the issue of "who will be president and who will be vice-president." If that is the case, the election has changed from a "non zero sum" game into a "zero sum" game.

Meanwhile, inside the KMT, Wang Jin-pying has taken Ma Ying-jeou hostage. That is why Ma has reiterated that he "would give priority to Legislative Speaker Wang as his vice-presidential running mate." Wang Jin-pyng has questioned Ma Ying-jeou's status as frontrunner in no uncertain terms. He refuses to say whether he would accept the vice-presidential spot on a Ma Wang ticket. When confronted, Wang Jin-pyng will only say "Thank you," and "I will continue listening to the public." In fact, Wang Jin-pyng is merely attempting to keep Ma Ying-jeou hostage. By refusing to indicate whether he would accept the vice-presidency, he is preventing Ma Ying-jeou from settling on a campaign strategy. As long as Wang Jin-pyng refuses to clarify his position, Ma Ying-jeou cannot plan ahead. Wang Jin-pyng is giving himself maneuvering room while imprisoning Ma Ying-jeou in a box.

Su Tseng-chang has declared that "he won't accept the vice-presidency." Wang Jin-pyng, even more than Su Tseng-chang, ought to do the same. Wang Jin-pyng's outrageous remark that "elite elements from an ethnic minority have no right to govern an ethnic majority," directed against Ma Ying-jeou, amounts to an open accusation that the KMT party primaries lack legitimacy. But if Ma Ying-jeou becomes the party's presidential candidate through a process that Wang Jin-pying has declared lacks legitimacy, how will Wang Jin-pyng justify becoming his running mate? Wang Jin-pyng has said that when he met with Lien Chan two days ago, Lien did not ask him to sign a pledge not to abandon the party and declare an independent candidacy. Wang Jin-pyng wants the right to abandon the party and declare an independent candidacy. At the same time he wants to lean on Lien Chan. So why not come right out and declare forthrightly that "he won't accept the vice-presidency?"

Based on political calculations, Wang Jin-pyng has refused to take a stand on a potential "Ma Wang ticket." Wang's calculating behavior harms Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT without benefitting himself. If Wang Jin-pyng were to commit to a "Ma Wang ticket," and Ma Ying-jeou was indicted, Wang could still be the KMT's presidential candidate, and could serve more effectively in Ma's stead. If Wang Jin-pyng wants us to believe that committing to a "Ma Wang ticket" today would make it harder for him to stand in for Ma tomorrow, he is not being truthful. By stalling for time, Wang Jin-pyng is engaging in wishful thinking. He wants to be certain that abandoning the party and declaring an independent candidacy is no longer an option before he accepts a "Ma Wang ticket." His political calculations are a little too devious. Wang Jin-pyng will have to decide whether to accept a "Ma Wang ticket." The KMT should give Wang Jin-pyng a deadline by which he must respond. If Wang Jin-pyng drags his feet and refuses to commit, he is not only holding Ma Ying-jeou hostage, he is holding the entire KMT hostage.

Su Tseng-chang has declared that "he won't accept the vice-presidency." But if circumstances force him to change his position, Su Tseng-chang would not rule out the DPP's vice-presidential nomination. This is what makes the DPP unique, its flexibility and willingness to see the bigger picture. So far Wang Jin-pyng has not declared whether he would accept the vice-presidency. His failure to do so will undermine his legitimacy in the event he belatedly does. It will also endanger the KMT's election prospects. Damaging the party without benefitting himself. Is this the strategy Wang Jin-pyng has chosen?

For the KMT and DPP, the election has focused on the question of who is or is not willing to accept the vice-presidency. Su Tseng-chang has decided to participate in DPP party primaries and has declared that "he won't accept the vice-presidency." Wang Jin-pyng on the other hand, has denounced the KMT party primaries and refused to state whether he would accept the vice-presidency. The reactions of the two parties to similar circumstances underscore their very real differences.

Original Chinese below: