Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Love for Taiwan should not be a Political Posture

Love for Taiwan should not be a Political Posture
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 27, 2007

Absent comparisons, it is easy to overlook the dramatic changes that can occur over time. Absent comparisons, it is easy to overlook one's own stagnation or even regression. Over the past three months, the China Times has mobilized substantial manpower and resources producing its "Taiwan's Hope 2008" retrospective, which examines Taiwan's progress over the past two decades. We interviewed people from every walk of life, reminiscing with them about the past, and sharing their concerns about the future.

During this process, we rediscovered Taiwan. Sadly, Taiwan has remained stagnant for the past decade, its vitality sapped by an endless political soap opera that repeats and repeats and never goes anywhere. Happily, Taiwan retains its resilience. As a result of their love for this land, more and more people are refusing to be politically manipulated. More and more people are speaking out, voicing their aspirations for the future. We must find our own way. The Chinese people on Taiwan deserve a better life. Those who live on this land, have no excuse to give up and no right to despair. Just as in the past, whenever Taiwan touched bottom, that is when things turned around. Taiwan underwent the White Terror, then the economy took off. Taiwan underwent chaos, then a Quiet Revolution. Taiwan underwent regime change, and the public welcomed the advent of a new era. Tragically, to everyone's surprise, the world continued on its way, while Taiwan stagnated.

During these years, a Taiwan which prided itself on its economic miracle, found itself eclipsed by South Korea in annual GDP. Taiwan's replacement by a rapidly rising mainland China became a global phenomenon that could no longer be ignored. Taiwan, it was once said, was "up to its knees in money." Now it is up to its neck in red ink. The next generation will be born owing money. A formerely egalitarian Taiwan is becoming an "M Shaped Society" in which the middle class has vanished. This M Shaped Society will be the next generation's unwelcome legacy. Children will be born into two different worlds. From the moment they are born, the will start out unequal. We are unlikely to witness another child from a "Category Three Impoverished Household" become ROC president.

When discussing Taiwan's past, many members of the public, including scholars and experts, find themselves imagining Taiwan's future, and feel a deep sense of unease. When asked what worries them most, they sigh and reply, "Everything. Everything worries me." When asked whether Taiwan will be better off in ten years, only 20% of the public says it will be. As many as 34% think otherwise. Such numbers were unimaginable ten or twenty years ago. Taiwan was once a society brimming with confidence. No matter what occupation, give a man a suitcase and he would conquer the world. So how did it all come to this?

To many anxious and angry members of the public, politics is a curse they can't seem to rid themselves of. Reunification vs. independence, Blue vs. Green, so-called "ethnicity," which is nothing more than communal groups, and cross-Straits issues, all involve politics. Put bluntly, ideology is leading everyone around by the nose. Being led around by the nose is bad enough. What's worse is that for the past several years Taiwan's society has been led around in circles, and gone nowhere. Political indoctrination and mobilization have deepened social divisions. Political rhetoric rides roughshod over the Rule of Law and fills people's hearts with hatred. Opposition between "us" and "them" helps justify cronyism and corruption. Professional expertise is treated with contempt. As a consequence public works and tax policy become means of buying votes and winning elections. Cross-Straits policies are impossible to implement. Direct Links have become a chimera. The 40% upper limit for investments on the mainland has remained in place. Taiwan's wealth is outsourcing itself at a rate and in a manner the government cannot fathom.

What can Taiwan do? If current trends cannot be reversed, what is Taiwan going to look like ten years from now? Will it look like Brazil or the Philippines? During our investigations, many people said that whether Taiwan can turn things around depends on what we do in the coming year or two. The hour is late. Action is overdue.

The media is a part of the larger environment. It cannot divorce itself from this environment. When politics possesses everyone like a demon, much of the media gets led around by the nose as well. They parrot the politicians, classifying individuals as enemy or friend. They willingly act as the government's mouthpieces and attack dogs. The result is the language of hate trips off the tongues of third rate demagogues and insinuates itself into every household. One turns on the television, and lo and behold, there is the enemy, there is the spectacle of civil war in the guise of democratic elections, a waking nightmare.

The China Times champions freedom, democracy, and openess. It never cozies up to authority. It refuses to divide people into "us" and "them." The "Taiwan's Hopes 2008" retrospective focused on the people of this land. We wanted to hear the people's voices and understand their aspirations. In the process, even though we were subjected to political persecution and smears, we never flinched. Members of the media are society's guardians. We uncover problems and seek solutions alongside the Chinese people on Taiwan.

Our investigation revealed deep skepticism about the government's competence, shared by experts and laymen alike. As many as 75% of the people do not believe the government has the ability to solve society's problems. Such numbers would be enough to leave us deeply pessimistic about Taiwan's future. After all, the government is incapable of even maintaining the status quo, let alone reversing a downward trend. But we feel just the opposite. During our investigation, experts and laymen alike still harbored hope for the future of Taiwan. Most importantly, 80 to 90% of the leaders polled were willing to take action on behalf of Taiwan's future. Even among those ambivalent about Taiwan's future, some 46% are committed to take action.

"Don't always rely on the government!" Taiwan's vitality and competitiveness derives from the people. Taiwan's resilience will be our greatest asset in our reversal of fortune. The people mistrust the government. Yet the government refuses to open its eyes and see the problems. It refuses to open its ears and listen to the people's wishes. It remains drunk with power. It continues to believe that winning elections is everything. The Chinese people on Taiwan need wait for them no longer.

Look to the land. Identify with the people. Every individual can do more. The China Times' "Taiwan's Hope 2008" retrospective is a beginning, not an end. Our efforts show that love for Taiwan is not a short term political ploy. Only selfless love will enable Taiwan to thrive.

中國時報  2007.11.27













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