Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shen Fu-hsiung's Dream of a Prosperous Taiwan

Shen Fu-hsiung's Dream of a Prosperous Taiwan
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 21, 2007

Confronted with an increasingly ennervated Taiwan, Shen Fu-hsiung said he hoped Taiwan would experience prosperity once again. He suggested that if the Blue camp won over 60% of the legislative seats, Green camp voters should not vote for Frank Hsieh in the presidential race, in order to avoid a recurrence of political deadlock, a situation in which one party controls the Executive while another controls the Legislature.

Shen Fu-hsiung's Dream of a Prosperous Taiwan is something many on Taiwan no longer dare hope for. Taiwan's political dilemma has left many people bereft of hope for a rosy future. But his dream of prosperity is not an irrelevant fantasy. It suggests a way out of Taiwan's political deadlock. Only if this deadlock is broken, can Taiwan's economic engine be restarted.

From the perspective of political theory, Shen Fu-hsiung's hope that the power of the Executive and the Legislature will be held by the same political party, is not entirely consistent with the principle of checks and balances. His former comrades in the Democratic Progressive Party have severely criticized him for this. But from a realpolitik perspective, Shen Fu-hsiung's proposed "exception to the rule" is the result of his understanding that the system of checks and balances has been so thoroughly undermined by politicians, democracy no longer functions. His solution may appear extreme and simplistic. But it reveals this "lone wolf's" detached eye and deep concern for Taiwan's political health.

The implementation of a system of checks and balances on Taiwan, has led to some eye-opening moments. The Democratic Progressive Party championed high-minded ideals before it came to office. Its political posture reflected a reaction to the Kuomintang's attitude back then. The existence of a political opposition provided checks and balances on the ruling party, and advanced democracy. When Chen Shui-bian first took office, the composition of his cabinet and his so-called New Centrist Path, approximated attempts to share power. But within six months, it gave up any such pretense. It arrogated all power to itself, and began acting unilaterally. The Democratic Progressive Party resorted to cut-throat tactics and a scorched earth strategy. It had no qualms about destroying the people's livelihood and dividing Taiwan's society, for partisan political benefit. Its perversion of party politics cast a pall over Taiwan's democracy.

We can now see that the decline of the ROC's system of checks and balances was not due to opposition party resistance, but to ruling party arrogance and bigotry. The DPP was both incapable of ruling the nation and unwilling to accept outside advice. It chose to ignore the complaints of the multitudes, rather than to yield even an inch. Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Wang To criticized Shen Fu-hsiung. He said that Taiwan's problem was that the KMT/PFP coalition, which constituted a majority in the legislature, was unwilling to behave like a loyal opposition party. This is typical Democratic Progressive Party buck-passing. When has the Democratic Progressive Party ever behaved like a loyal opposition party? The minority Chen regime has never accorded the slightest respect to the majority in the legislature. The ruling DPP is unethical, incompetent, and intolerant. It brooks no dissent from ordinary citizens. When have the people ever figured in its calculations? The Democratic Progressive Party has the temerity to accuse the Blue camp of not being a "mature opposition party." When has the DPP ever behaved like a "mature ruling party?"

Shen Fu-hsiung's Dream of a Prosperous Taiwan sounds remote and impossible, but he has written a prescription that can dispell a myth about democracy. The fact is, a political authority that will not allow its power to be checked, is the source of political disaster. For ROC voters, this reminder has a kind of special significance. Because over the years, a kind of self-regulating mechanism has appeared in the ROC's elections. If one camp scores a major political victory this time, the next time swing voters shift their support to the opposite camp. This kind of pendulum effect ensures that a political party which wins will not let success go to its head. Shen Fu-hsiung is now reminding people that this pendulum effect has led to political deadlock and wheel-spinning. Everyone must reject this pendulum effect. Only then can we liberate Taiwan's democracy from the curse of political deadlock.

Taiwan's political polarization, is unquestionably more complex than Shen Fu-hsiung's simple diagnosis. In Shen Fu-hsiung's vision of party politics, the ruling regime and the political opposition have room for compromise, and share a common national objective. But the Democratic Progressive Party makes partisan politics a showdown over reunification vs. independence. Domestic opposition is turned into undying enmity between "Us" and "Them." What room is there for reconciliation between Blue and Green given the DPP's attitude? Chen Shui-bian railed, "The Pacific Ocean doesn't have a lid on it, those who gripe about Taiwan can swim to [mainland] China!" Democracy has been reduced to Mobocracy. The ruling authorities no longer feel any constraints whatsoever. Talk of a system of checks and balances is irrelevant.

Shen Fu-hsiung resigned from his political party at the age of 70. Yet he dreams of a prosperous Taiwan. Is he courageous, or merely naive? The final answer does not depend on the strength of Shen Fu-hsiung's proposal, but on how many people still cling to hope for a prosperous Taiwan. The final answer depends on whether the people of Taiwan can divest themselves of their deeply entrenched cynicism.

2007.11.21 03:20 am









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