Friday, April 30, 2010

Disaster Prevention: No Slogans Please. Just Pass the Geology Act

Disaster Prevention: No Slogans Please. Just Pass the Geology Act
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 30, 2010

A few days ago, a landslide occurred on National Highway Number 3, near Keelung Road. An entire section of mountain near Cidu Road suddenly gave way, blocking traffic in both directions. Nearly twenty million tonnes of earth and rock slid down the side of the mountain. The situation was truly shocking. This was the first time a landslide stopped traffic on the National Highway System. So far three cars and four bodies have been discovered. The emergency response phase is over. What follows will be recovery, restoration, and a search for accountability. The landslide was not preceded by days of heavy rain. The landslide was not preceded by an earthquake. That is why even President Ma Ying-jeou, who visited the disaster site, said it left him with a "creepy feeling."
According to reports, Transport Minister Mao Chi-kuo initially speculated that substrata slippage caused the the disaster. According to geological experts, a dip slope was probably to blame. The road was located on a dip slope. The substrata consisted of relatively soft sandstone and shale. Years of erosion, plus days of rainwater infiltration, led to slippage and the landslide. The Highway Department, after several days of investigation, determined that National Highway Number 3, going north to south, has a total of 32 locations where this type of dip slope occurs. The sections range from 59 meters to nine kilometers in length. The longer dip slopes are located in the southern section. The northern section has 19 dip slopes. The central section has five dip slopes. In other words, the same disaster could happen again at any time.

National Highway Number 3 has dip slopes. Hillside residences on dip slopes also merit attention. In 1997, the Lincoln Mansions condominium in Xizhi collapsed. Government agencies placed 340 residences located on dip slopes in the Greater Taipei area on their watchlist. But because the Geology Act failed to pass, this information has yet to be released. It is our understanding that the Geology Act has been in the channel since 1996. The Legislative Yuan completed a third reading in 2004. But special interest groups exerted pressure. Forty or so legislators forced reconsideration of the proposal, and eventually killed it. The Executive Yuan has formally submitted a draft bill to the legislature for consideration.

A government is duty bound to provide information about environmental safety. Yesterday we had the Lincoln Mansions disaster. Today we have National Highway Number 3 disaster. Both the executive and the legislature must say no to special interest groups. They must pass the Geology Act, as soon as possible. They must ensure full disclosure of geological information, and expand the range of remedies.

Taiwan is located in an active seismic zone. Typhoons and floods occur almost every year. Helping the public avoid geologically sensitive and vulnerable areas should be the government's number one priority. Unfortunately disaster prevention maps and data are grossly inadequate. Providing information about faultlines, dip slopes, and other relevant information has not been a high priority. The disaster maps completed in recent years are almost all small scale maps at 1:30,000 or 1:50,000 scale. By contrast, urban planning maps or urban land maps are large scale maps at 1:1000 or 1:5000 scale. The two simply do not compare. When even the most basic maps are unavailable, how can we talk about disaster prevention?

Disaster prevention must not be all talk and no action. It must solicit the views of professionals. Domestic disaster prevention is a case of "five minutes of enthusiasm." Once the emergency has passed, it is as if nothing had ever happened. In the past, with public works or other construction, people worried only about the construction phase. When it came to environmental studies, geological surveys, and land planning, they merely went through the motions. That nothing untoward happened with most of these projects is a miracle. If the agencies in charge refuse to make systemic changes, and appreciate the importance of planning, surveys, and design, if they pay attention only to the construction phase, then more landslides will occur, one after the other.

The government's top priority should be to make full use of existing professional talent and technical equipment, to create an integrated national land monitoring body. This body will provide basic information on the island's 36,000 square kilometers of land. Changes in topography, geology, ecology, hydrology, and vegetation will be made available to everyone. This data will help government agencies make disaster preparedness decisions. It will enable the public to avoid dangerous sites, or to make disaster prevention and mitigation plans in advance, minimizing the extent of the disaster. Therefore, we call for an integrated 10 year plan for national land monitoring. We call for the creation of large scale 1:1000 or 1:5000 maps, complete with landslide, flooding, earthquake faultline, and dip slope information. These will enable people to identify which sites are environmentally fragile and sensitive, and enable them to keep their distance.

Every day tens of thousands of people drive on the national highways. They are required to pay tolls for these roads. They have the right to expect that these roads are safe. If in the future people who use the national highways also have a "creepy feeling," and are forced to worry about landslides, then a hundred apologies from the government will be meaningless.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.04.30
防災別光喊口號 《地質法》快立法









Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tsai Ing-wen's Problem: A Lack of Policy, not a Lack of Eloquence

Tsai Ing-wen's Problem: A Lack of Policy, not a Lack of Eloquence
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 29, 2010

During the Two Yings Debate, Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Tsai Ing-wen did not do as well as expected. Not surprisingly, she has been mocked by the Blue Camp. Surprisingly, elements within the DPP and the Green Camp have engaged in covert schadenfreude, and overt mockery. Their reaction is incomprehensible. Because if Tsai Ing-wen cannot win this debate, then other DPP heavyweights stand no chance at all.
Schadenfreude is an unwillingness to see others succeed. It is part of human nature. Competition within the DPP is cuthroat. DPP elders are adopting the attitude: "Another rival has been laid low!" They are not taking advantage of the debate to reflect on the future of the DPP. They are passing up a valuable opportunity to contemplate the DPP's future. Individuals so short-sighted can hardly be entrusted with the heavy responsibility of ruling a nation.

These attacks, leveled against Tsai Ing-wen by DPP elders, merely reveal these elders' own limitations. For example, some elders argue that since Ma Ying-jeou's approval ratings were at their nadir, Tsai Ing-wen should not have agreed to debate him, thereby raising his ratings. But this is wishful thinking. The DPP is vehemently opposed to ECFA. It has even called for a referendum. A debate was inevitable. The DPP has long paid ritual lip service to the democratic process. Surely it does not intend to keep the public in the dark? Surely it does not intend to demand a referendum even as it hides the facts from the people?

Most commentators, not merely those in the Green Camp, think Tsai Ing-wen lost because she came across as an academic or policy wonk immersed in a class debate. Even Tsai Ing-wen herself feels that her political rhetoric was not up to Ma Ying-jeou's. But this underestimates the intelligence of Republic of China voters. After all, the Republic of China holds elections year in and year out. Political rhetoric flies back and forth, day in and day out. Voters long ago learned to separate the wheat from the chaff. The reason the Two Yings Debate was a rout for the DPP was centrist voters. For them the debate offered two clear and divergent paths for national governance.

Ma Ying-jeou has been promoting ECFA. His short term goal is to alleviated the pressure exerted by ASEAN plus One. Affected industries may suffer losses due to high tariffs. The Blue and Green Camps each have their own arguments. But industry losses are a hard fact, Some industries may suffer losses as high as 8 or 9%. Our national leaders cannot turn a blind eye to them. In the medium term, ECFA is a more feasible means to integrate Taiwan's economy with the rising economies of East Asia. In the short term, weak industries may be harmed. But the Ma administration has weighed the risks and benefits. It has offered a workable option that cannot be cavalierly dismissed as "political rhetoric."

Tsai Ing-wen found herself at a disadvantage because she was honest enough to forsake the Democratic Progressive Party's populist, anti-ECFA rhetoric. Unfortunately the alternative she set forth does not appear to be feasible. She wants the WTO's multilateral system to safeguard Taipei's interests. But the WTO has repeatedly blocked the Doha Round negotiations. She wants to adopt the the Washington/Taipei TIFA (Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) model. But this model is incapable of dealing with Taipei/Washington trade tariff issues. It is even less capable of dealing with FTAs and tariff reduction agreements between major trading nations.

Tsai Ing-wen did not lack eloquence. She lost the debate because her policy proposals were unworkable. At least she made an effort to come up with alternatives. Democratic Progressive Party heavyweights who are secretly gloating should ask themselves a question. What was the real reason they opposed a Two Yings Debate? Was it because they knew that without the cover of Taiwan independence ideology, and charges that their opponents were "pro reunification" or "selling out Taiwan," they were incapable of offering any concrete policy prescriptions?

Even Tsai Ing-wen, who stressed the importance of policy oriented debate, was deeply pessimistic about ECFA. For example, she worried that the products manufactured by Taiwan businessmen on the Mainland would use their tax-free status to undercut manufacturing on Taiwan. But NCCU Professor Chen-Yuan Tung conducted a study of 1019 Taiwan and foreign based companies. If Taipei becomes part of the integrated East Asian economic system, 23 to 37% of the companies surveyed would increase their investments on Taiwan. If Taipei and Beijing entered into economic integration agreements, 29 to 42% of the respondents would increase their investments on Taiwan. Also, every industry unanimously recommended that Taipei first enter into economic integration agreements with Beijing, and only then into agreements with Washington, the European Union, and others.

The study also pointed out that "Taiwan must resort to Sinicization. Only Sinicization could expedite its objective of Globalization." "Sinicization and Globalization go hand in hand. They are not mutually exclusive."

Chen-Yuan Tung was Vice Chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council under the former DPP government. He was also a member of the DPP's China Affairs Committee. If Ma Ying-jeou were to make such a recommendation, the DPP could perhaps ignore him. But these recommendations were made by a middle-aged scholar concerned about Taiwan's plight. They cannot ignore him. The DPP has attempted to overcome cross-Strait problems through globalization. But current trends make it virtually impossible to globalize by bypassing the Mainland. This was Tsai Ing-wen's fundamental problem during the debate.

Given Tsai Ing-wen's dilemma, the DPP has no cause for gloating. Because this is not her personal problem. This is a new international political and economic scenario the DPP must address. If the DPP is unable to address this scenario, winning or losing the debate is a minor matter. Whether the DPP can return to power, that is the truly major matter it ought to worry about!

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.04.29
社論-蔡英文口才沒問題 是政策出問題












Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Liberty Times Should Publish Its Raw Polling Data

The Liberty Times Should Publish Its Raw Polling Data
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 28, 2010

Ruling and opposition leaders recently held a debate on ECFA. The next day a number of media organizations published their poll results. Their results were nearly identical, differeing by at most one or two percentage points. The overall picture was consistent. A majority of the public felt President Ma Ying-jeou fared better in the debate than Chairman Tsai Ing-wen. Public understanding of ECFA and public support for ECFA showed substantial increases. Only the Liberty Times' poll results differed. Once in a blue moon, media polls will result in large discrepancies. But the Liberty Times published its numbers on the front page, in banner headlines, in a clear violation of professional conventions, not to mention professional ethics. The Liberty Times should immediately publish the raw data behind its recent poll results, allowing neutral parties to verify its results, and confirm its credibility. Otherwise it will be misleading or deceiving its readers.

Polls are an important part of contemporary democratic society. Using objective data, citizens can track public support for their political leaders and their policy proposals. The numbers will speak for themselves. This is why politicians in democratic nations dare not ignore the polls. They believe polls are accurate reflections of public opinion. That is why polls must reflect public opinion in fact, and not just in name. That is why polls must be conducted in accordance with strict professional procedures. That is why they must be scientific and free from bias, to prevent special interests from misusing them or even perpetrating frauds. Put simply, a polling organization can survive only if it maintains its credibility.

Every modern polling association, including the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the National Opinion Polls Council (NCPP), and the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) has strict standards for poll results released to the media. News reports on poll results must include the sponsor of the poll, the conductor of the poll, a complete list of the poll questions, the poll sample, the sampling methods used, the sample size, the response rates, the polling technique, the time frame, the margin of error, and the sample weighting. The poll published on the front page of the Liberty Times on the 26th of this month violated virtually every one of these standards for professional procedures and professional ethics.

A polling organization will normally conduct over a hundred polls a year. The Liberty Times "Polling Center" has conducted only three polls over the past five years. Each of these polls was conducted at a critical juncture, for example, just before an election. Each time its results were the exact opposite of all other polling organizations. Why did the Liberty Times set up its "Polling Center" only at these critical junctures? When exactly did the Liberty Times set up its "Polling Center?" How many polls has it conducted over the years? Who was in charge? Who were its key members? What kind of polling expertise and polling experience did they have? Outsiders have no idea. Professional pollsters would also like to know. After all, the poll included at least 10 questions. It was conducted on a Sunday, when finding respondents is the most difficult. It was conducted between 5:00pm and 8:30pm, at dinner time. In order to poll at least 1,300 individuals, one needs at least 50 pollsters. We would like to know just exactly where the Liberty Times "Polling Center" is located. What kind of telephone equipment does it have? How large is it? How many pollsters does it have in its employ? How much polling experience do they have? These are concrete and specific questions concerning manpower and equipment. The Liberty Times should have no difficulty answering these questions in order to establish its bona fides to a skeptical public.

We of course are curious why the Liberty Times poll results diverged so drastically from those reached by other media organizations. We are not implying that the results were faked. What we want to know is why the Liberty Times chose not to publish the poll questions? Isn't this the most basic requirement for any polling organization when it publishes polling data? If the poll questions were omitted due to space considerations, can't they provide a copy of the questionnaire? Can't they tell us what questions were asked, in what order, to establish their credibility? It is bad enough the poll questions are nowhere to be found. What's worse is that the Liberty Times has raised so many questions with its "news poll," yet it is choosing not to provide any of the procedural details. For example, what was the structural composition of the respondents? What proportion of the respondents were blue or green camp supporters? How was the poll weighted? How many respondents refused to answer? What was the success rate? These are all "standard operating procedure." If the Liberty Times "Polling Center" is sufficiently professional, how can it omit this information?

Even more interesting was the question of public support for ECFA. As many as 36% answered "don't know / have no opinion," far higher than for other media organizations. As many as 50% of respondents between the ages of 20 and 29 were undecided. As many as 45% of respondents 30 and over were undecided. Meanwhile, only 29% of those over 60 were undecided. Experience and common sense tell us this poll was substandard. Normally the older the respondents, the higher the undecided rate. The results of the Liberty Times poll were just the opposite. Would the Liberty Times care to offer an explanation in response to public doubts?

The best way to allay public doubts is for the Liberty Times "Polling Center" to immediately submit the telephone numbers and recorded telephone conversations, along with the original data, to scholars and professionals, for neutral and objective review, allowing them to confirm their authenticity and reliability. This the very least any "polling organization" can do when its credibility is brought into question. Did the Liberty Times "Polling Center" in fact conduct a poll? If it did, it should have no trouble providing this raw data.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.04.28



這亦就是當代所有民調協會組織,包括美國民意研究協會(AAPOR)、全國民意調查評議會(NCPP) 、世界民意研究協會(WAPOR)等,都曾針對媒體在發布民調訂有一套相當嚴格的標準,責求所有公開發布「民調新聞」都必須要完整交待民調的贊助者是誰、執行者是誰、完整問卷題目、調查的母群體及抽樣方法、樣本大小及完成率、施測的方式及時間、調查結果的精確度如抽樣誤差的估計、加權或推估程度等。從上述標準看來,我們必須要說,自由時報在本月二十六日在該報頭版所發布的民調數據,幾乎背離了所有民調發布專業程序與倫理。





Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Legislative Review: Absolutely Necessary!

Legislative Review: Absolutely Necessary!
United Daily News editorial editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 27, 2010

Confronted by a massive wave of opposition, the Legislative Yuan postponed its third reading on the "Personal Information Protection Act." It reverted to a second reading of the bill, subjecting it to review, and amending those provisions that stifle freedom of the press. This is the only way to prevent this bill from becoming law -- bad law. There is no other way.

If legislators still do not realize the gravity of the situation, and insist on a third reading, then the Executive Yuan will be forced to veto it. This will waste time. It will also leave behind an embarrassing record of a KMT-ruled Executive Yuan vetoing legislation passed by a Legislative Yuan with a KMT absolute majority.

In the name of "protecting personal privacy," the KMT-dominated legislature has created a huge pitfall for freedom of the press and online freedom of expression. Promoters of the "Personal Information Protection Act" set their sights too high, even as they resorted to methods too underhanded. Ironically, until the ruling and opposition parties subjected it to joint review, many legislators still did not realize what was wrong with the bill. All they could do was to consult with the Executive Yuan. This scenario accurately reflects the abysmal quality of proceedings in the Legislative Yuan.

Last Tuesday, during the second reading, the Legislative Yuan passed 17 bills in a single breath. The legislature resembled an auction house. It reverberated with the sounds of auctioneering, bidding, and gavel banging. Was anyone giving serious consideration to the impact of these bills on society and the public? Some Blue Camp legislators proposed that elected representatives be exempt from the law. But when their colleagues reprimanded them, they jettisoned exemptions for the media as well. Green Camp legislators initially expressed vehement opposition to the "Chiu Yi Clause." They were concerned only with blocking it, and ignored all other considerations. The result was ruling and opposition legislators colluded in suppressing freedom of the press in the Republic of China, then reveled in the fact they had exempted themselves from their own laws.

The Ministry of Justice behaved barbarically, acted hastily, and shirked responsibility, in a manner that left onlookers aghast. During interpolation in the legislature, the Ministry of Justice held a public hearing. It invited representatives of impacted industries to participate. Among the broadcast media it invited only one Green oriented media organization. This bill has far ranging implications. Yet the public hearing was so flagrantly lopsided and biased. How can it possibly win the public trust? How can it possibly represent the views of the media as a whole? How can a meeting shot through and through with such selectivity, "heed the voice of the people?"

Even more frightening was the "media exemption" clause included in the Ministry of Justice's original draft. During the public hearing, the "Taiwan Rights Committee" advocated "equal treatment." The result? Media exemption was eliminated in one fell swoop. The entire process was truly mind-boggling. The news media is the Fourth Estate. This is true the world over. How can it be compared to the credit industry, the securities industry, or the banking industry? That a human rights group would harbor such a deep bias against the media, staggers the mind. The Ministry of Justice lost sight of its duties. It failed to assert itself before the fact. It shirked its responsibility after the fact. It demeaned its own role as the foremost legal authority in the nation.

The executive and legislature behaved rashly. They created an stumbling block with the "Personal Information Protection Act." The act abrogates freedom of the press. It turns ordinary netizens into lawbreakers. Abuses of privacy occur mainly when large corporations misuse or leak information about individuals stored in their databases. While dealing with these, the executive and judiciary have revealed just how embarrassingly incompetent they are. According to the new law, the government's dragnet will be tight. Whether it can catch information thieves is unknown. But people will post group photos of students in Facebook. People will post photos of Spring Scream concerts in Kenting in their personal blogs. These photos may not have received the "consent" of every person in them. The poster may be charged with violating other peoples' privacy. Endless disputes may arise. Will the executive and the judiciary have the time and manpower to cope with them? If not, won't this law be meaningless?

To violate freedom of the press in order to protect peoples' privacy, is an example of intellectual confusion. It is uncalled for. It is not worthwhile. If one casts a dragnet, but fails to catch real criminals, but instead inadvertently catchs young netizens in the trap, one's good intentions will wind up as social harassment. Worse still, if this giant dragnet becomes a magic cape that protects corrupt officials and profiteers, while binding investigative journalists who expose corruption hand and feet, who will be the beneficiaries?

Ruling and opposition party legislators are now willing to conduct a joint review. This shows they realize the seriousness of the problem. Ruling and opposition party legislators created this mess. Ruling and opposition party legislators must clean it up. They are not merely salvaging the Personal Information Protection Act. They are also salvaging their personal images. Last Friday the ruling and opposition parties discussed how they would review the Personal Information Act. Green Camp legislator Liv Wong flat out refused. Business taxes nearly became collateral damage, and had to undergo emergency review. How can legislators not feel ashamed about their performance?

2010.04.27 03:03 am










Monday, April 26, 2010

Globalization without China: Is It Possible?

Globalization without China: Is It Possible?
United Daily News editorial editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 26, 2010

The key controversy during the Two Yings Debate was over globalization, specifically "Is globalization possible without Mainland China?"

Chairman Tsai Ing-wen said the DPP's policy was to "move closer to the rest of the world, then move toward [Mainland] China together with the rest of the world." She said that the KMT's policy is to "move closer to the rest of the world through Mainland China." President Ma Ying-jeou retorted the DPP's globalization was "globalization without Mainland China."

One should not look only at the areas of disagreement between the Two Yings. This debate also highlighted the main area of agreement between the KMT and the DPP. Both the KMT and DPP agreed that Taiwan must confront globalization and cannot avoid interaction with the Mainland. This the Two Yings agree upon. Their disagreement is over how to globalize and how to interact with the Mainland.

Alas it is impossible to talk about globalization without talking about the Mainland. Taiwan has geographical and cultural links to the Mainland. Globalization without the Mainland is impossible. One reason is that Mainland China is both the world's marketplace, and the world's factory. No government in the world can globalize without Mainland China. Besides, Taipei is subject to political constraints from Beijing. If Beijing is hostile to Taipei, Taipei cannot globalize by going around Mainland China. President Ma said that of course we must not put all our eggs in one basket. But Mainland China is undeniably "the biggest of all the baskets."

President Ma Ying-jeou did not press Tsai Ying-wen for alternatives. He was apparently afraid Tsai Ying-wen might have something up her sleeve. He was afraid to walk into a trap. Instead he waited for Chairman Tsai to offer alternatives on her own. He avoided responding to a proposal advanced by Green oriented think tanks to "move plants for high tariff industries to Mainland China or Southeast Asia." He knew it would be difficult to present a convincing case. Actually, Tsai Ying-wen's "move closer to the rest of the world, then move toward Mainland China along with the rest of the world" concept is old hat. It is the tired old "indirect transit" concept, and hardly qualifies as a "workable alternative." Tsai floated one alternative after another, including talking to the United States, Japan, EU, and ASEAN through channels such as the WTO and APEC. None of these alternatives were anything more than wishful thinking. They were all a waste of time, lacking in feasibility and persuasiveness.

The two sides arrived at another important consensus. Interactions between Taipei and Beijing entail considerable political risk. Chairman Tsai repeatedly stressed the importance of strategic and political risk awareness. President Ma meanwhile, declared said he knew perfectly well Beijing's goal was "peaceful reunification" and "one country, two systems." Of course he knew the risks. Since both of them understood the risks, the only difference was how to respond to the risks. Chairman Tsai wanted to evade and procrastinate. President Ma wanted to confront the risks head on. Nothing ventured nothing gained. In other words, Ma and Tsai differed only in their policies, not in whether they want to "sell out Taiwan."

Chairman Tsai said Taiwan must avoid bringing about a "China-centered East Asian political and economic structure," and reiterated the strategic and political risk. Is Chairman Tsai contending that Taipei should assume the role of "preventing the rise of China?" To begin with, the rise of Mainland China is not necessarily detrimental to cross-Strait peaceful development. If anything, the danger posed by the rise of Mainland China is less than that posed by its collapse. Furthermore, is the rise of [Mainland] China something that Taipei should rush to prevent? Is the rise of [Mainland] China something that Taipei even has the wherewithal to prevent? Chairman Tsai is surely aware that over the past decade or so the Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian regimes predicated their rule on the "Coming Collapse of China Theory." They brought the nation to its current state. Does Chairman Tsai really want us to dedicate ourselves to "preventing the rise of [Mainland] China?"

This debate had important political repercussions. For the first time, the major parties have explored cross-Strait policy qua policy, rather than as "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan" or other populist irrelevancies. In fact, given our predicament, there is no such thing as a "risk free Mainland policy," any more than there is "globalization without [Mainland] China." Tsai accused Ma of rashness, and said that was not the answer. Ma asked Tsai whether evasion and procrastination were the answer. Ma and Tsai each had their own policy perspectives. Tsai was defensive. Ma was aggressive. Each complemented the other. If cross-Strait policy ceases to be characterized as "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan," then the ruling and opposition parties should be able to find a middle ground.

Unfortunately the debate may not ease social frictions. It may even intensify them. Why? Because the DPP insists on seeing the debate as an internal political struggle. It has no real desire to seek a cross-Strait policy consensus. Especially since yesterday Tsai Ing-wen did not perform as well as expected. The debate may touch off infighting within the DPP, with some arguing "What's the use of reasoning?" To moderate infighting, the DPP will inevitably fall back on rhetoric about "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan," exacerbating social frictions and confrontation.

In fact, the debate may have a greater impact on power struggles inside the DPP, than on power struggles between the Blue and Green camps. Pundits initially assumed that if Tsai did well in the debate, the "Princes of the DPP" might feel threatened. Since Tsai did not perform as well as expected, the debate was a setback for her. In the short term, the Princes of the DPP and Taiwan independence elements may pressure Tsai to run for Xinbei City Mayor, in the hope of undermining her power and authority. But Tsai Ing-wen will not willingly walk into their trap. In sum, Tsai Ing-wen failed to gain any political points from the debate. Instead, the DPP lost its commanding advantage. Yesterday Tsai demanded a rematch, showing she knew she had lost.

Public attention is currently focused on who won or lost. But Ma or Tsai won a two and a half hour verbal joust. Nothing more. Will Taiwan's economy be a winner or loser? Will Taiwan's economy prosper or decline? Can we find a way out of our current dilemma? That will not be decided by a Two Yings Debate. That will be decided by the grim struggle that is to follow. The strategic future of Taiwan, the Mainland, and the world as a whole, will be decided by whether the public on Taiwan can present a united front to the outside world.

2010.04.26 04:09 am












Friday, April 23, 2010

Closed Door Policy and Phobia of Mainland Students: What Century are We Living In?

Closed Door Policy and Phobia of Mainland Students:
What Century are We Living In?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 23, 2010

Fear leads to retreat. Retreat leads to conservativism. Conservatism leads to isolationism. Confronted with the rise of Mainland China, Republic of China citizens must not be afraid. We must not retreat, because we cannot retreat. We must meet the challenge head on. We must make ourselves more competitive. We must solidify our advantage. The path of conservativism is not the path to competitiveness. Just the opposite. We must have unparalled confidence in the appeal of our democratic institutions. We need not refuse to allow Mainland students in. If anything, we should shine a spotlight on Taiwan, induce young people from the Mainland to accept Taiwan, like Taiwan, and take the good from Taiwan back to the Mainland.

Whether Mainland students' academic qualifications should be recognized, and whether they should be permitted to study on Taiwan been debated for two years. Our public and private schools are ready. The sticking point is the Legislative Yuan. Most regrettably, when the principals of public and private universities from across the land appeared before the Legislative Yuan to familiarize themselves with the committee's progress, physical violence erupted. A mere committee meeting led to a melee. Clearly, when the relevant bills are submitted for second and third readings, the confrontations will only get worse.

Why are Democratic Progressive Party legislators so obstinately opposed to Mainland students studying on Taiwan? The reason they give is limited educational resources. They fear that once Mainland students have finished their studies, they will seek employment on Taiwan. They will take the civil service exams, apply for occupational licenses, and reduce job opportunities for young people on Taiwan. Also, they fear that once the two sides open up, students from Taiwan will have fled even before Mainland students arrive. Their objections are utterly baseless. One. The Ministry of Education is providing additional slots for Mainland students. Not one student from Taiwan will be displace. Two. The Ministry of Education is not providing Mainland students with one thin dime in student aid. No scholarships are involved. Three. As the Examination Yuan has reiterated, ad infinitum, Mainland students will not be permitted to take the civil service exams. According to the laws of the Republic of China, only Republic of China citizens can take the civil service exams. Four. The Ministry of Education has yet to allow a single Mainland student to study on Taiwan. Yet outstanding high school students from Taiwan have already chosen to study on the Mainland, in Europe, or in the United States. Young people hope to expand their horizons and connect with the outside world. Adult policy makers, fret not. Five. As long as universities on Taiwan remain competitive, we should remain courageous and determined, confident in our ability to attract outstanding young people from around the world, including the Mainland. We need not worry about our children going abroad or to the Mainland. The free flow of human talent is a global trend. Only by welcoming this trend can we increase our economic momentum, and ensure that we remain at the crest of the global wave.

The Republic of China has been democratic for over two decades. It created an economic miracle and underwent a quiet revolution. What does it have to be afraid of? Even during the Cold War, when we refused to compromise with the CCP, the Republic of China citizens never feared the PRC. On the contrary, Republic of China citizens have long been confident that we were on the right path, the path toward democracy and openness. History has proved us right. The Mainland has forsaken authoritarianism and embraced democracy and the market economy. Now that it has take this step forward, Republic of China citizens on Taiwan should exert as much influence as possible to prevent the Mainland from backsliding. Education is an indispensable link that can only increase our influence. The DPP is terrified that the Mainland will dispatch hordes of young people from the Mainland to Taiwan as part of a "war of reunification." A "war of reunification" sounds terrifying. But a war of reunification is not the least bit frightening. What is a war of reunification, but allowing you to stand where I stand, and see what I see? Allowing Mainland students to study on Taiwan, is to allow young people from the Mainland to stand on Taiwan, and see what we see. What's wrong with that? What's so terrifying about that?

Fear is natural. A mouse for example, naturally fears a cat. But Republic of China citizens are not mice. The relationship between the Republic of China and the Peoples Republic of China, historically and culturally, has never been the relationship betwen a mouse and a cat. It is the relationship between a big cat and a kitten. Who is the big cat? Who is the kitten? History has been a roller coaster. The Republic of China was once on an equal footing with the Peoples Republic of China. What reason do we have to demote ourselves? What reason do we have to think of ourselves as mice, and hide whenever we see a cat?

The Democratic Progressive Party refuses to allow Mainland students to study on Taiwan. They need a refresher course on cross-Strait relations. Have they forgotten they were the ones who took to the streets and demanded that Chiang Ching-kuo allow veterans to visit relatives on the Mainland, and to permit cross-Strait exchanges? Many founders of the DPP have visited the Mainland. Many of their friends and relatives have studied on the Mainland. DPP leaders are not afraid they will be brainwashed. Why should they be afraid that courageous young people who embrace the outside world will not be able to stand up to a "war of reunification?"

The DPP ruled for eight years. Its "Avoid Haste, Be Patient policy" stalled our economy for eight years, undermining its competitiveness. Doe it now intend to impose a policy of "Avoid Haste, Be Patient" in academic affairs? We have no problem admitting global talent. Why must we exclude talent from the Mainland? The rise of Mainland China is a reality that cannot be ignored. Cross-Strait exchanges are an unstoppable historical trend. The two sides cannot return to Cold War confrontation. We must confront and cope with all manner of cross-Strait relations, including education and culture. The DPP was once in office. It hopes to be in office again. It is aggressively promoting its "Platform for the Coming Decade." Therefore it cannot avoid dealing with cross-Strait relations. If it does, that will be the Achilles Heel that prevents the Democratic Progressive Party from ever returning to office.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.04.23
都什麼時代了 還在鎖國拒陸生

恐懼讓人退縮,退縮造成保守,保守的結果就是封閉。台灣面對崛起的中國大陸,不能恐懼,更不能退縮,因為台灣退無可退,我們只能正面迎戰,以更堅強的競爭 力,穩住台灣的優勢。要塑造競爭力,保守絕對不是辦法,相反的,台灣更要以無比信心,相信民主體制的吸引力。從這個角度出發,台灣不但不必拒絕陸生來台, 還要發揮台灣的光與熱,吸引大陸年輕人接受台灣、喜歡台灣,從而把台灣的好處帶回大陸。

然而,承認大陸學歷與開放陸生,討論兩年,全國公私立大學都做好準備,就是卡在立法院無法放行。最遺憾的是,當全國各公私立大學校長列席立法院,了解委員 會審查進度的時候,立法院竟是以爆發四波肢體衝突收場,委員會如此,可以想見,未來相關法案送進院會二、三讀的時候,衝突只會更大。

民進黨立委為什麼堅持反對開放陸生來台?說法是他們擔心教育資源遭到排擠,陸生讀完書在台工作,考公職、拿證照,更排擠台灣年輕人的工作機會,還有,兩岸 一開放,陸生還沒來,台生就跑光光。這樣的反對完全沒有道理。第一,陸生來台在教育部的規畫裡,是附加名額,完全不佔台灣考生的缺;第二,教育部的規畫裡 不給陸生一毛錢補助,沒有獎學金這檔子事;第三,考試院多次申明,陸生不能考公職,事實上,根據中華民國的法律,只有中華民國的國民才能考公職;第四,教 育部沒開放陸生前,已經有台灣優秀的高中生,選擇赴大陸,甚或赴歐美,年輕人都擴大視野與全球接軌的企圖心,決定政策的大人何須憂心;第五,只要台灣大學 具有競爭力,理應有更大勇氣和魄力,吸引全世界優秀年輕人,包括大陸,不必擔心自己的子弟出國或到大陸,人才交流是潮流、是趨勢,只有迎向這個潮流,才能 創造台灣不斷成長的動力,永遠讓台灣站在世界頂端的浪頭上。

台灣民主開放廿多年,創造了經濟奇蹟和寧靜革命,還有什麼可畏懼的?即使漢賊不兩立的年代,台灣從沒對大陸心生恐懼,相反的,台灣一貫有強烈的信心,走在 民主開放的正確道路,事實也證明,中國大陸終於也從專制封閉的體制,走向民主開放和市場經濟,這步路既已向前,台灣更應該發揮強大的影響力,不要讓中國大 陸回頭。教育,當然是強化影響力、不可或缺的一環。民進黨人擔心,大陸大張旗鼓派出年輕人來台,有統戰的因素,從字面上看,「統戰」很恐怖,其實統戰一點 不可怕,就是統一戰線,讓你站在我這邊,從這個角度看,開放陸生來台,就是讓大陸年輕人站在台灣這一邊,有什麼不好?有什麼可怕?

恐懼,可能是一種天性,就像老鼠怕貓一般。但是,台灣不是老鼠,台灣與中國大陸的關係,不論從歷史或文化淵源看,也不該是老鼠與貓,而是大貓與小貓,誰是 大貓、誰是小貓,因為歷史情境的推移互有消長,本來該與中國大陸平起平坐的台灣,何必自己矮一截,誤認自己是老鼠,見貓就躲呢?

拒絕陸生來台的民進黨人,從新回味兩岸關係史,不要忘記,當年,還是民進黨人(黨外)站上街頭,呼籲蔣經國開放老兵返鄉探親,開放兩岸交流,民進黨創黨大 老們登陸交流者,所在多有;晚近親友赴大陸修習學位者,更歷歷可數,民進黨人不怕自己被洗腦,為什麼怕更勇於迎向世界的年輕人,會經不起「統戰」?

民進黨執政過八年,戒急用忍讓台灣經濟競爭力停滯了八年,難不成現在還要搞學術的戒急用忍?台灣可以接受全球人才,為什麼要排斥來自中國大陸的人才?中國 崛起,已經是無法忽視的事實;兩岸交流,已經是擋不住的歷史方向,兩岸既回不到漢賊不兩立的年代,就要正視、處理各種類型的兩岸關係,教育文化當然是無法 迴避的一環。曾經執政、還準備再執政的民進黨,既積極討論準備提出「十年政綱」,就不能迴避處理不可逆的潮流下的兩岸關係,因為這將是民進黨再執政的最大 罩門。

Thursday, April 22, 2010

No Closed Doors! Taiwan Needs Glasnost and Perestroika

No Closed Doors! Taiwan Needs Glasnost and Perestroika
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 22, 2010

What Taiwan needs is glasnost and perestroika, i.e., openness and reform. Deng Xiaoping's trademark was openness and reform, or more precisely, reform (gai ge) and openness (kai fang). Thirty years ago Mainland China had hit bottom. Openness and reform allowed the Mainland to experience a rebirth. Today its "peaceful rise" has made the world sit up and pay attention. It may make some on Taiwan uncomfortable, but we need to say it anyway. What Taiwan needs is openness and reform!

The DPP in particular, needs to hear this.

The Republic of China was once an international exemplar of openness and reform. It had a highly liberalized economy, and a highly democratized political system. These were achievements of openness and reform. But globalization, the proliferation of regional economic organizations, the end of Cold War confrontation, and the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, provoked a reactionary counter current. This counter current opposes reform, opposes openness, and demands for a Closed Door Policy. If this reactionary counter current cannot be overcome, it is unlikely the Republic of China will be able to meet its future challenges.

Taiwan faces a new strategic scenario. One. Globalization. Two. The rise of Mainland China. Mainland China has become the world's factory and the world's marketplace. Three. The small scale of Taiwan's economy. Taiwan has been unable to shed its export-oriented economic model. It must remain linked to the global division of labor chain. It cannot ignore Mainland China. Four. The Republic of China has a free and democratic system. It cannot prevent people from making use of resources from both sides of the Strait to prosper and survive. In other words, openness is the only way out for Taiwan. The government's political and economic reforms must move in the direction of openness.

The real crisis for the government on Taiwan is that it can no longer prohibit the outflow of personnel and capital. Over the past decade or so the government erected all manner of barriers to prevent outside resources from flowing in. The result was resources flowed out, never to be replenished by resources flowing in. The concept of "keeping one's root in Taiwan," and "turning Taiwan into an Asian Pacific Platform" turned out to be impossible and impracticable.

The controversy over Mainland students studying on Taiwan is a clear example. Students from Taiwan have not been prevented from studying on the Mainland. But the DPP is using all its might to prevent students from the Mainland from studying on Taiwan. The Mainland recognizes academic test scores for students from Taiwan. It allows students to use these scores to gain admission to Mainland universities, particularly exceptional students. It even grants them "treatment as citizens," allowing them to obtain occupational licenses and to seek employment on the Mainland. By contrast, the KMT's policy for students from the Mainland includes "three restrictions and six prohibitions." The Democratic Progressive Party's policy is even worse. It calls for an across the board ban. Such is the perverse nature of our Mainland policy. It cannot stop the outflow, and can only stop the inflow. Actually the problem extends far beyond Mainland students studying on Taiwan. It impacts the long term balance in cross-Strait exchanges. It has a major influence on the humanities and politics. One need only look at what overseas Chinese contributed to Taiwan upon their return to appreciate the impact Mainland students on Taiwan could have on society and culture. Besides, for a Closed Door Policy to work, one must block the exits in addition to the entrances. What's the point of blocking the entrances without blocking the exits?

The cross-Strait economic agreement (ECFA) is a perfect example of blocking the entrances without blocking the exits. Trade between Taiwan and the Mainland cannot be stopped. But resources from Taiwan have long flowed toward the Mainland. Taiwan meanwhile, has lost its appeal to Taiwan capital and foreign capital. We are even more resistant toward Mainland capital, and politely decline. This includes the long-term ban on Mainland tourists visiting Taiwan. This is hemorrhaging without recirculating, because recirculating has been deliberately obstructed

Most people see only ECFA's outflow, for example, tariff reductions. Of course this is conducive to the exchange of capital between Taiwan enterprises and the Mainland. But critics fail to see ECFA's inflow. This inflow improves investment conditions on Taiwan. It makes Taiwan capital, foreign capital, and Mainland capital more inclined to invest in businesses on Taiwan. This is conducive to "keeping one's roots in Taiwan." The economic and trade provisions of the DPP's Closed Door Policy have always locked the entrance but not the exit. During its eight years in office, the DPP significantly increased cross-Strait economic interdependence. But it did nothing to "keep one's roots in Taiwan" and to "prevent Taiwan's marginalization." The Democratic Progressive Party opposes ECFA. But in a perverse sense, it is opposing "keeping one's roots in Taiwan" and "turning Taiwan into an Asian Pacific Platform."

Taiwan faces globalization. It faces regional economic organizations such as ASEAN plus N. Taiwan faces Mainland China, which has "peacefully developed" into the world's factory and the world's marketplace. Taiwan must implement perestroika and glasnost, i.e., reform and openness. Of course there will be pain. But unless we open up, we cannot increase our competitiveness. We will lose our attractiveness to global capital. Opening up will improve the conditions required to "keep our roots in Taiwan." Allowing Mainland students to study on Taiwan and signing ECFA are essential to promoting openness and reform.

A Closed Door Policy is unworkable. A Closed Door Policy that blocks only the entrances but not the exits is even less workable. The DPP sees students and capital from Taiwan flowing toward the Mainland. But all it can do is deceive the masses by posturing as a "champion of neglected industries." All it can do is sit back and watch Taiwan's gradual marginalization. One thing is certain. The more the DPP clings to its policy, the less it will be able to keep students on Taiwan, the less it will be able to keep businessmen on Taiwan. Because human and financial capital will never stay in a society whose competitiveness becomes weaker by the day, whose attractiveness declines by the day. Openness will surely inflict suffering. But only reform will offer us hope.

The engine of Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening was the emancipation of the intellect. The DPP could do worse than heed Deng's wisdom.

反對鎖國 台灣需要改革開放
2010.04.22 02:01 am












Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Has the Asian-Pacific Platform Been Resurrected?

Has the Asian-Pacific Platform Been Resurrected?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 21, 2010

Over the past few months, President Ma has been battered by the 8/8 Typhoon, the U.S. beef controversy, and a long string of other crises. These have led to him being characterized as weak and incompetent, and lacking any plan for governing the nation. Subsequent hikes in health insurance fees, confrontations between Yuan Presidents and Bureau Chiefs, and endless litigation, led to Health Director Yang's angry threat to resign. The Ma administration has been like a chicken with its head cut off, panicky and at a loss what to do.

The recent cabinet reshuffling left more than a few major national policy measures high and dry. The first time the new Minister of Economic Affairs spoke to the public, he announced plans for an "economic zone," one that had been studied and debated for months. But the Ministry of Finance strongly opposed lowering business taxes, and the Council of Labor Affairs brazenly refused to delink wages for foreign workers with the minimum wage. No consensus was reached even on these two matters. The Minister of Economic Affairs was left alone, hung out to dry, forced to abandon his plan.

Yet the "special economic zone" was a far more important policy than flood control bills, regulation of U.S. beef imports, and health care reform. It was a measure that could have extricated Taiwan from its economic predicament in one fell swoop. It could have allayed public doubts about economic liberalization. It could have provided momentum for economic growth. It could have underscored Taiwan's geographical advantage. It could have strengthened Taiwan's strategic hand in cross-Straits negotiations. Promoting the plan was a heavy responsibility, one that should have been borne by the nation's leaders. Instead, it was shouldered by a lowly minister. He was expected to override ministry heads of the same rank, and to determine its feasibility. How could he possibly succeed? People cannot help wondering, where were our leaders?

When the health insurance rate hike reached an impasse, President Ma suddenly laid down the law. The rates would be hiked according to the approach suggested by Health Director Yang. Health Director Yang withdrew his resignation. The public, which had sided with Yang, was mollified. But even as the rates were being hiked, low income insurees were being granted subsidies. Seventy percent of all insurees' fees would remain the same. Therefore Premier Wu's suggestion would also be honored. This amounted to a compromise, but one with careful thought behind it, and allowed both parties to hold their ground. President Ma also promised to promote the second generation health insurance plan. This may enable the first generation health insurance plan, with all its accompanying baggage, to be phased out. The rule of law, considered box office poison by the Legislative Yuan and frozen for years, rose like a phoenix from the ashes. The bill may even become law within the current legislative session. This "fling open the doors" approach has been much too rare since President Ma took office.

Disputes over health insurance have subsided. But the Industrial Innovation Act is again making waves. The Industrial Innovation Act should have been passed last year. Its purpose was to continue investment incentives and industrial upgrade measures introduced a half century ago. Its purpose was to provide companies on Taiwan with tax breaks and subsidies. Unfortunately over the past half century, the situation has changed dramatically. The government's finances are strapped. Tax breaks have been fully exploited. The Ma administration has no more tricks up its sleeve. The result has been a trendy catchphrase, "industrial innovation" -- nothing more than old wine in an old bottle.

Nor could the opposition DPP offer any sound alternative to this controversial legislation. The DPP knew only how to engage in blind obstructionism, and to create legislative deadlock. It obstinately dragged the process out, 100 days past the sunset of the Statute for Upgrading Industries. No resolution is in sight. Amidst this senseless stalemate, ruling party legislators quietly added an ultra low 15% operations headquarters tax for financial consortiums. This provoked an unexpected public backlash. The DPP took advantage of the situation to reduce the operations headquarters tax to 17.5%. The DPP was overjoyed, and promptly embraced it as an alternative to the Industrial Innovation Act. It won public approval, checked its opponent, and took the wind out of the ruling party's sails.

The DPP assumed that the KMT would not dare to follow suit. They never realized President Ma would "go with the flow." Ma swiftly made substantial changes to the party's version of the bill, dropping the tax rate to 17%. In retrospect the Ma administration clearly wanted to make major cuts in business taxes. But they was afraid to make the first move. They knew if they suggested any, the DPP would assume a contrarian stance. But once the DPP proposed a substantial tax cut, the Ma government pulled out its ace in the hole. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party has now lost its leverage. It has unwittingly played into the Ma administration's hand. Even more surprisingly, President Ma announced that wages for foreign laborers could probably be delinked from minimum wages within certain economic and trade zones. In one fell swoop, he removed two major obstacles standing in the way of an economic and trade zone. The public now realizes that tax cuts were actually chess moves intended to promote an economic and trade zone. The Industrial Innovation Act was merely an appetizer.

Was this chain of decisive moves merely a whim of the moment? Was it merely a lucky shot in the dark? Was it part of a well thought out plan? Was it merely an opportunistic move? Is the "Asian Pacific Platform" and "special economic zone" long anticipated by the public finally beginning to emerge? We will have to wait and see. If the Ma administration follows through, if all this turns out to be real, Taiwan will be far better prepared to face the challenges of the future.

2010.04.21 02:10 am






然而,在野黨面對此一頗具爭議性的條例,竟也不能提出有效的對案取而代之,只知一味杯葛抵制,弄成一個不上不下的僵局,硬是拖到促產條例已落日逾百日,尚無法善後。在無謂的僵持中,執政黨立委受財團之囑,悄悄加進一個特許財團設立營運總部得享十五%超低營所稅的條款,意外引爆輿論的強烈抨擊,順勢引出一個可將營所稅率降至十七‧ 五%的方案。民進黨見獵心喜,欣然將之納為產創條例的對案,爭取民意認同,立顯棋高一著,大挫執政黨版聲勢。




Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Deceive, Subsidize, Capture, Kill; Pretend, Take, Escape, Survive; Win/Win, Coexist

Deceive, Subsidize, Capture, Kill; Pretend, Take, Escape, Survive; Win/Win, Coexist
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 20, 2010

Both advocates and opponents of ECFA on Taiwan are wary of falling into a "deceive, subsidize, capture, kill" trap set by Beijing. Those who oppose ECFA are worried. But even those who favor ECFA have knots in their stomach.

As we noted previously, each side has its own "visible agenda" in today's cross-Strait wrestling match. Beijing's visible agenda is "deceive, subsidize, capture, and kill" the Republic of China government in Taipei. It is to use the vague language of the 1992 Consensus to deceive Taipei, to open direct links allowing Mainland tourists to visit Taiwan, to make large procurements subsidizing Taipei, to nurture a habit of dependency on the Mainland to capture Taipei, and finally, to kill the Republic of China government in Taipei. Taipei's "visible agenda" is "pretend, take, escape, survive": It is to use the "1992 Consensus" and other vague language to pretend to solve problems, without really getting to the bottom of the matter, to obtain nourishment from the Mainland, to use the nourishment to establish the primacy of the Republic of China, to escape from Beijing's trap, and to seek a symbiotic Win/Win relationship.

These agendas are not "hidden agendas." They are "visible agendas." Some people on Taiwan oppose ECFA. They are afraid of falling into Beijing's "deceive, subsidize, capture, kill" trap. Other people on Taiwan favor ECFA. They hope that Taiwan can "pretend, take, escape, survive."

In March, Mainland China experienced a 7.2 billion trade deficit, its first in six years. Its deficit with Taiwan was 7.9 billion. In other words, its deficit with Taiwan remains larger than its total deficit. The two sides are signing ECFA. Beijing's "share the wealth" policy panders to Taiwan's interests. As we can see, Beijing's policy of "deceive, subsidize" and Taipei's policy of "pretend, take" have reached a high point. This is why ECFA is currently raising alarms.

One of our recent editorials pointed out that the Republic of China has two issues for which there are no substitutes. First, there is no substitute for the geopolitical and cultural relationship between Taiwan and the Mainland. Secondly, there are no substitutes for the Republic of China's freedom and democracy. Therefore economic and trade activities under the Republic of China's system of freedom and democracy make it Impossible to ignore the Chinese Mainland, the world's factory and the world's market place. That is why the two sides' unique economic and trade relationship cannot be discontinued. The only difference is that for over a decade, Taipei was mired in the myth of "China's Coming Collapse." Had Taipei taken full advantage of its situation back then, it would be in a far better bargaining position today. It would have far less need to "pretend and take" in response to Beijing's "deceive and subsidize." The economic side of "pretend and take" and "deceive and subsidize" are understandable. What is worrisome is the political side. Can Beijing "capture and kill" Taipei? Can Taipei "escape and survive?"

Actually, ECFA may well be the magic talisman that breaks the spell of "deceive, subsidize, capture, kill" and "pretend, take, escape, survive." On the one hand, ECFA would make de jure Taiwan independence even more impossible. On the other hand, ECFA would dramatically reduce the urgency and necessity of de jure reunification. As noted in this paper's "Six New Year's Day Editorials," ECFA can facilitate the process of cross-Strait interactions, while easing any tensions generated by conflicting cross-Straits goals.

When discussing cross-Strait interactions, one will encounter the "first economics, then politics" thesis. But cross-Strait interactions have never been either purely economic, or purely political. They have always been both. ECFA has economic content, but it also has far reaching political repercussions. ECFA will have an enormous impact on cross-Strait interactions. The greatest of which is that the Mainland's economy will "capture" Taipei, while the Republic of China's democracy will "capture " Beijing. Beijing will use ECFA to shower Taipei with benefits, mainly in response to the Republic of China's democracy and public sentiment on Taiwan. Therefore behind the economic actions are political motivations. If ECFA can facilitate cross-Strait interactions, then economics can soften politics, and peace can replace military force. Violent and coercive goal orientation can be diminished, and replaced by a kinder, gentler process orientation, allowing the two sides to establish better goals. The basis of future interaction will be economics, peace, and democracy, enabling both sides to win and prosper.

ECFA will soon be signed. Beijing should forsake its agenda of "deceive, subsidize, capture, and kill." Because no matter what goals the two sides move toward in the future, Beijing cannot afford to "kill" the Republic of China's freedom and democracy. Beijing cannot afford to be accused of killing the Republic of China government in Taipei. If it were killed, Beijing would find it difficult to revive and govern the Taiwan region. This is why Beijing has adopted its "economics, peace, and democracy" policy toward Taipei. This is why we urge Beijing not to try to lure us into a trap, but instead invite us to a dance.

ECFA is still being drafted. We recommend that One China, Different Interpretations be added to its table of contents.

騙養套殺 裝吃閃活 雙贏共生
2010.04.20 02:24 am











Monday, April 19, 2010

Ma Administration: Ratings Fall, But Still on Probation

Ma Administration: Ratings Fall, But Still on Probation
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 19, 2010

During a recent interview with Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao, KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung spoke frankly about President Ma Ying-jeou's approval ratings. He said that compared to political leaders in the United States and Japan, Ma's ratings have fallen more precipitously. But in response to the substantial 18 percent decline in the latest poll, King Pu-tsung said "This is a positive sign." The KMT's internal polls may offer some comfort to the Ma administration. But the accompanying decline in approval ratings suggests that public approval of President Ma's job performance has not increased, and is frozen at its current level. In other words, the public has put Ma on probation, and is adopting a "wait and see" attitude. Neither Ma nor the KMT should be too pleased with themselves.

Why has President Ma Ying-jeou's halo been so badly tarnished in two short years? This is a conundrum that has bedeviled the Blue Camp. Since the Ma administration took office two years ago, the Blue Camp been defeated in several legislative by-elections, and in last year's three in one county and municipal elections. These defeats reflect the decline in President Ma's popularity. Ever since the Ma administration took office, such challenges as the global financial tsunami and Typhoon Morakot have brought the Ma administration's ability to govern into serious question. Premier Wu's political finesse has allowed the ruling administration's approval ratings to recover somewhat. But President Ma's own approval ratings have not followed suit.

President Ma may not be willing to admit it. But apart from its determination to sign the cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), the Ma administration is a governing body without guiding principles. During the Ma administration's first term it set up a Tax Reform Commission. It invited a wide range of scholars and experts to participate. But frictions arose and it was dissolved, because the government lacked a comprehensive understanding of the tax system. Its economics and finance oriented officials lacked an overview of the nation's finances, including inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, and most recently, business taxes. Yet they cavalierly changed their tax rate recommendations in response to pressure from higher ups, against their profession judgment.

The Industrial Innovation Act changed the government's long held 20% bottom line on business taxes, almost overnight. It incorporated a tax rate even lower than the DPP's. The KMT was amenable to political appeals. It was even more eager than the DPP to cut taxes. Besides attracting votes, its tax cuts had no professional justification. The Industrial Innnovation Act is an evolution of the old Investment Awards Act and the Production Promotion Act. These two acts should have been sunsetted upon expiration. After years of development, industries that received special privileges or incentives have all become both powerful and profitable. Their tax umbrellas should have been closed up long ago. Who knew these umbrellas would be opened even wider, until they covered traditional and small and medium industries? Who knew that business taxes would be also cut, to the point where the Industrial Innovation Act has lost all meaning?

The Ma administration's lack of guiding principles is not limited to the Industry Innovation Act. Last year the Legislative Yuan reviewed the Local Government Act. The Ma administration yielded to the Taipei County Government in order to pander to voters in Tainan and Kaohsiung. With a single stroke of the pen, it increased the number of directly administered metropolises the government had planned from three to five. This has planted the seeds for even more uneven development on Taiwan. Agencies in the executive branch never planned for five directly administered metropolises. They have never completed either land plans nor administrative plans. Agencies responsible for financial matters have never completed the requisite revenue and expenditure plans. The ruling administration failed even to settle on suitable candidates for the five metropolises. It has without a doubt shot itself in the foot.

No one seems to care about the problems created by the establishment of these five directly administered metropolises. Both ruling and opposition party politicians are concerned only about who will be nominated and how they can win. Is the creation of these five directly administered metropolises compatible with the overall development of the nation? That is not their concern. They already occupy positions of power. They hope to become the heads of these five metropolises, or even higher offices. The larger interests of the nation are not their concern. Their sole concern is their own election campaigns. It is clear to see that no matter how many changes in ruling parties Taiwan undergoes, it is unlikely to lead to a healthy democracy, and even less likely to produce political appointees with vision.

Before Ma Ying-jeou became the leader of the nation, no one thought he lacked vision or convictions. But less than two years later, the government's weaknesses have been exposed. This includes conflicts between the cabinet and the ruling party legislative caucus, leading to government paralysis in times of crisis. The cabinet has been reshuffled. But major policies still fall victim to cavalier deal making within the legislature. Expert staffers are completely sidelined. The Liu cabinet was too elitist. The Wu cabinet is too unprofessional. The Ma administration has yet to find a balance between the public and its specialists, making it difficult for the public to give President Ma or his cabinet an accurate evaluation.

At about the same time King Pu-tsung was being interviewed, yet another Commonwealth Poll showed President Ma's approval rating stuck at 30% or so, and his disapproval rating rising to 66%. The KMT can interpret this data however it wants. But as long as one's approval rating have not rebounded, and one's disapproval ratings have not diminished, voter support will not be forthcoming. The Ma administration, including the party and the government, fully understands the public's perception. They know the public believes that "President Ma is a good man." But merely being a good man does not make one a leader the public can trust.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.04.19
社論-不滿意度雖降 馬政府仍「留校查看」









Friday, April 16, 2010

The Nation's Finances Need Internal Checks

The Nation's Finances Need Internal Checks
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 16, 2010

After months of stalemate in the legislature, the "Industrial Innovation Act" has suddenly experienced a reversal of fortune. The KMT is using its legislative majority to decide how the bill should be modified for passage. The question however, is whether the ruling party's policy coordination can be reconciled with President Ma's policy making.

Regrettably the current policy about face reveals serious oversights in the Ma administration's financial policy analysis, involving President Ma, the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, and his advisors. We hope to explain the basics of financial decision making in a series of editorials. These editorials would amount to a commentary on the decision-making process and policy direction of the president and his financial advisers. The most controversial aspect of the Industrial Innovation Act concerns taxation. Therefore we will begin by addressing the issue of taxation, and gradually broaden our critique from there.

The version of the bill originally sent to the Legislative Yuan was the result of discussions between the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. It was even approved by the Tax Reform Commission and the Executive Yuan. It was subjected to thorough discussion and study because the impact of financial policy decisions can be extremely complex and require professional analysis. They are often matters the man in the street cannot understand. Businessmen and the public alike naturally want lower taxes. Therefore when financial decisions come face to face with populist sentiment or elected officials, the result is invariably tax cuts all the way. Industrial and business tycoons are usually more adept than salaried workers at lobbying the executive and the legislature. Professionals are forced to step back, and no one is left to defend the larger interests of the nation. Populist fiscal policy or legislation may not always pander to Big Business, but it is often unconducive to the overall health of the economy.

Our emphasis on the importance of the nation's finances is nothing new. It applies to the large scale revenues and expenditures of all economic entities. Let us take a law everyone is familiar with to illustrate the importance of fiscal and financial policy. Article 14 of the Securities and Exchange Act states that listed companies must establish an independent board of directors, or "Audit Committee." Its most important task is to elect the company's Chief Financial Officer and and Chief Auditor. If we compare the government to a corporation, the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Auditor are the equivalent of the Minister of Finance, the Comptroller, and the Auditor General. According to Article 14 of the Securities and Exchange Act, a listed company's financial and auditing directors must be independent. They must not be appointed by the General Manager. They must not even be subject to the control of the Chairman of the Board. Most listed companies insist on this level of independence and professionalism for their financial managers. Can a nation's government demand less? Therefore a nation's financial and accounting heads must be professional and resolute. They must not even be subject to the control of the premier (General Manager) and president (Chairman of the Board). The premier and the president should respect the authority of financial and accounting heads.

The law does not set professional standards for most corporate financial officers, only for large listed companies, mainly because the bigger the company, the more serious the consequences of any financial irregularities. A company need not worry about financial problems as long as everything is proceeding smoothly. But when a company is expanding its operations or is facing troubled times, financial management and control becomes particularly important. Our current financial heads are clearly more concerned about being obedient than they are about being professional. As a result they are silent about the Industrial Innovation Act, and expose the lack of financial checks and balances in our government.

The government faces two challenges. One. The Ma administration has pledged to promote its "Twelve Love for Taiwan Construction Projects." These require a budget of four-trillion over eight years. The amount is staggering. Two. Global climate change is exerting pressure on the government. Every summer and fall Taiwan is subject to natural disasters. These often require the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars. It is easy to imagine the government's financial burden under these twin pressures. Those in authority must be vigilant. How can they overlook such problems? Two years ago, in July, when the Tax Reform Commission was established, the Ma administration had an excellent opportunity to complete a sound, long term, macro level financial plan in tune with his national infrastructure plans. Unfortunately, the Tax Reform Commission defaulted, and instead promoted hasty, piecemeal, emergency policies and bills. It left the government's financial structure confused, and experts and scholars devastated.

All through 2009, the Ma administration promoted haphazard tax cuts. Even now, the Ma administration seems unaware of the seriousness of the fiscal deficit. Its response to the Industrial Innovation Act is to "Stabilize the situation by shouting 17%." Its tendency to pander to populist sentiment is deeply worrying. The government's financial status has gone from bad to worse. It has been repeatedly downgraded by international credit rating agencies, and blasted by both the Blue and Green media. The root of the problem is national leaders seriously deficient in their understanding of financial and fiscal affairs. The Ma administration desperately needs to mend the holes in its financial policy making process.

2010.04.16 02:13 am








Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Republic of China: No Realistic Alternatives

The Republic of China: No Realistic Alternatives
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 15, 2010

Is there an alternative to the Cross-Strait Economic Agreement (ECFA)? Before we attempt to answer this question, we must first answer another question. Is there an alternative to the Republic of China?

The DPP says signing ECFA is evidence of "Ma Tong" (the Green Camp's coarse epithet for President Ma) "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan." Clearly the DPP is treating the ECFA controversy as a struggle over national identity and the meaning of the constitution. Therefore it is impossible to understand the ins and outs of ECFA without first understanding the controversy over national identity and the meaning of the constitution.

The Ma administration's thinking behind ECFA begins with the Republic of China. The Republic of China has a One China Constitution. This leads logically to One China, Different Interpretations, No [immediate] Reunification, No Independence, and No Military Conflict, Expansion of Cross-Strait Exchanges, Direct Links and Direct Flights, the Institutionalization of Economic and Trade Exchanges, and ECFA. Put simply, the institutionalization of cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges is the natural consequence of upholding the Republic of China's Constitution and its definition of national identity.

By contrast, those who advocate Taiwan independence and nation building, oppose the One China Constitution, One China, Different Interpretations, and No Reunification, No Independence, No Military Conflict. They will naturally oppose Direct Links and Direct Flights, obstruct the expansion of cross-Strait exchanges, and of course ECFA. After all, the closer cross-Strait exchanges become, the lower the likelihood of Taiwan independence and nation building. The Green Camp has long advocated Taiwan independence and nation building, as well as the rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution. That is why it advocates "Avoid Haste, Be Patient," opposes Direct Links and Direct Flights, and of course ECFA. In other words, opposition to ECFA is the logical consequence of support for Taiwan independence. Alas, consistent logic is hardly the same as correct policy.

In the final analysis, the dispute between the Blue and Green political camps on Taiwan has always boiled down to a single question: Is there an alternative to the Republic of China?

One side advocates preserving the Republic of China. The other side advocates Taiwan independence and nation building, and replacing the Republic of China with a "Nation of Taiwan." Is there an alternative to ECFA? Actually, if one examines the controversy in this light, the real question is whether there is an alternative to the Republic of China.

Whether there is an alternative to the Republic of China depends on whether the proposed alternative works. Take food for example. Noodles are an alternative to rice because they work. Poison, on the other hand, is not an alternative to rice, because it does not work. This comparison is admittedly extreme. Perhaps halting construction on the Number Four Nuclear Plant is a better example. Invoking a "nuclear-free homeland" to justify halting construction on the Number Four Nuclear Plant could be considered idealistic. It is not categorically unworkable. It is workable, providing one is willing to spend more money, live with more pollution, and hamper economic development. But we face a dilemma. Economical non-nuclear power generation is not yet a reality. Complete reliance on conventional energy generation poses its own problems. If we cease using nuclear power, halting construction on the Number Four Nuclear Plant in pursuit of a "nuclear-free homeland" may not be categorically unworkable. But one must first ask oneself whether society is able to bear the cost.

There are two basic reasons why a "Nation of Taiwan" cannot be considered a workable alternative to the Republic of China. One. The geopolitical and cultural relationship between Taiwan and Mainland China, and Mainland China's status as the world's factory and the world's marketplace. The United States, Japan, and Southeast Asia cannot replace Mainland China. Two. the free and democratic system on Taiwan. One cannot forcibly impose restrictions on cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges, and on cultural and social exchanges. Under a free and democratic system, unless one is willing to impose martial law, money will walk. These two reasons make any other political and economic path far too difficult.

Globally, bilaterall, and internally, Taiwan independence may be an ideal of sorts, but one that is unworkable. You may not like the meal in front of you, but poison is never an alternative. There may be alternatives to ECFA. just as there are alternatives to nuclear power generation. If one is determined to reject nuclear power generation or ECFA, one can halt nuclear power plant construction. For example, one Green oriented think-tank suggests seeking a six to nine percent reduction in tariffs for exports to the Mainland. It suggests encouraging companies from Taiwan to first set up plants in Southeast Asia, then transfer them to Mainland China. But this is nothing new. Over the past two decades, the two sides have habitually used third locations as alternatives to direct flights. Such roundabout methods are "alternatives" of a sort. But at what cost? And to what end?

The Green Camp refuses to sign ECFA because it wishes to establish a "Taiwan independence homeland." But will refusing to sign ECFA really enable them to establish a "Taiwan independence homeland?" Where is the rationality in refusing to sign ECFA, and forcing Taiwan into economic marginalization, all for the sake of an unattainable "Taiwan independence homeland?"

The "Two Yings Debate" has provoked controversy because information has been neither transparent nor symmetrical. We feel that the most opaque aspect of the Blue vs. Green political struggle is the Democratic Progressive Party's definition of national identity and the nation's constitution. Is their definitino of national identity and the nation's constitution contained in their Taiwan Independence Party Platform? Is it contained in their Resolution on the Future of Taiwan? Is it contained in their Resolution for a Normal Nation? Or is it contained in their Platform for the Coming Decade? Each time the Green Camp holds a protest march, "Nation of Taiwan" flags and banners fill the air. If the Democratic Progressive Party refuses to tell us whether it advocates Taiwan independence and nation building, it no longer has any criteria by which it can debate ECFA.

Only when the DPP allows the public to see what it is offering as an "alternative to the Republic of China," can the public evaluate the DPP's "alternative to ECFA."

2010.04.15 01:27 am



馬政府主張簽訂ECFA的政策思維是:中華民國→一中憲法→一中各表→不統不獨不武 →兩岸擴大各種層面的交流→三通直航→經貿交流法制化→簽ECFA。簡單地說,就是在國家認同及憲法定位上主張維持中華民國,面對全球競爭及區域化經濟整合的現實,才有了為兩岸經貿交流簽定法制框架的決策。







何況,倘若是為了建立「台獨家園」而反對簽ECFA;但不簽ECFA,就能實現「台獨家園」嗎?那麼,若是為了不可能實現的「台獨家園」,而反對簽 ECFA,使台灣面臨邊緣化的危機,這樣的決策理性何在?

雙英辯論正在為「資訊不透明」、「資訊不對稱」而生爭議。我們認為,在現今藍綠政爭中,最「不透明」的資訊,就是民進黨的國家認同與憲法定位;究竟應以台獨黨綱、國家前途決議文、正常國家決議文,或十年政綱為準?綠營的遊行隊伍裡仍見台灣國的旌旗招展,民進黨這一回若不說清楚是否主張台獨建國,則對 ECFA的辯論即失去判準。


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Explain ECFA: Refrain From Name-Calling

Explain ECFA: Refrain From Name-Calling
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 14, 2010

The debate over ECFA will begin at the end of the month. There has been no shortage of politicians maneuvering for political advantage during the consultation process. But as the leaders of the two sides make their entrance, we expect to see a rational and business-like debate. We also hope the two sides will dispel public doubts by providing people with clear answers.

The reason the government feels such urgency regarding ECFA, is that beginning this year, ASEAN plus One (10 ASEAN countries plus Mainland China) will form an East Asian Free Trade Zone. Its population will number 1.9 billion. In one fell swoop, the average tariff will be reduced from 9.8% to 0.1%. Over 7000 products will be 100% tariff free. Two years later, ASEAN plus Three (Japan and South Korea will be added) and will also form a free trade zone.

Frankly, the impact of this change on Taiwan needs no elaboration. Tariffs on exports among the countries of these regions will approach zero. Tariffs on exports from Taiwan to other economies within these regions will be subject to tariffs of 5 to 10%. The competitiveness of products from Taiwan will decline. In the short term, domestic companies may be able to endure thinner margins. But in the medium to long term, they will not be able enhance their competitiveness by lowering their costs. All they can do is set up factories in these areas, in order to achieve tariff free status. Two years from now South Korea, our major trade competitor, will also become a member. The pressure on us will then be doubled. The affected products will range from petrochemicals and textiles to electronics and machinery.

The DPP must explain. If we do not sign ECFA, what measures does the DPP have have to prevent Taiwan's exclusion from the East Asian Free Trade Area, and to avoid diminished export competitiveness?

Some in the Green Camp say that simply signing FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) with other governments in the region will solve all our problems. Please refrain from parroting this nonsense. ASEAN plus One did not spring into existence last night. As early as 2001, a number of private and official entities began assessing and reporting its potential impact on Taiwan. The DPP was in power for eight years. Did the DPP "solve our problems" then? With which governments in the region did it sign FTAs?

Since the beginning of this year, exports from Taiwan to Hong Kong and ASEAN have increased. Some in the Green Camp have cited this as "proof" that ASEAN plus One has had no impact whatsoever on our exports. Such unprofessional, amateurish comments are better left unsaid. No nation or industry in the world, when it exports to any particular area, will regard the imposition of higher tariffs as "friendly and acceptable." The market will not change overnight. Manufacturers may be able to endure lower short-term profits. But they cannot endure them over the long term. Look at it from another angle. If Taiwan enterprises are well run, they will enjoy higher profits. But with unequal tariffs, businesses under other governments will be more competitive because of their tariff status. Companies on Taiwan can only respond with price cuts and lower profits. If the government has the means to achieve tariff equity but fails to do so, that amounts to a dereliction of duty.

Besides, export competition is not merely about comparisons against oneself. One must also compare oneself against others. Suppose the ASEAN import market grows. Suppose exports from Taiwan to ASEAN increase 10%, but other economies in the region increase their exports by 30%? Taiwan will be the big loser. Does the DPP really not understand this? Increased exports to the Mainland and Hong Kong are clearly related to Mainland procurement purchasing groups that came to Taiwan over the past year. To conclude from these short-term numbers that ASEAN plus One had no impact on exports from Taiwan, is sheer ignorance.

The Democratic Progressive Party opposes ECFA. It even opposes economic and trade exchanges with the Mainland. But the figures before us represent businessmen from Taiwan investing an estimated 200 billion US dollars in the Mainland. The Mainland and Hong Kong account for 44% of all exports from Taiwan. It is also the major source of our trade surplus. Therefore the DPP must make itself clear. What plans does it have for cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges? If the government signs ECFA this year, but the DPP returns to power in 2012, does it intends to abolish ECFA?

As a responsible ruling party, the KMT must not report only the good news and not the bad. Signing FTAs with other governments will of course have a positive impact on the overall economy and on industry. That is why nearly 200 governments have signed FTAs. After signing their export trade has indeed grown. But this is not the whole story. The overall numbers look good. But they have also created winners and losers. The ruling administration must make clear which industries are likely to be losers, and inform us what relief measures it intends to offer these losers.

This matter affects many businesses and many people's jobs. The government cannot merely announce that it is providing tens of billions in relief funds and be done with it. The relief funds must not be like a cake behind a pastry shop window. One can see it, but cannot taste it. The government must make clear what it intends to do. Only then will the public be reassured. More importantly, no one wants to live on charity. The government must offer a set of policies that will provide relief to those who find themselves unemployed as a consequence of ECFA.

The government has reiterated that only after ECFA is signed, will it be possible to sign FTAs with other governments. Based on the reactions of other large governments, it would seem that ECFA may indeed pave the way for FTAs. But as a responsible ruling party, it must make clear the extent to which ECFA will pave the way for FTAs. Can it go a step further and tell us just how long it will take before we can sign FTAs with other governments?

We hope the debate over ECFA between the ruling and opposition parties will fulfill its function as a policy debate. We hope the debate will be professional and free of name-calling. The public has many doubts. Please allay those doubts, by speaking clearly and plainly.

中時電子報 新聞
中國時報  2010.04.14
社論-辯清楚ECFA 朝野都別亂扣帽子





綠營有人說:與其它區內國家簽訂FTA(自由貿易協定),即可突破困境。這種無聊的話,就請不要再講了。東協加一不是突然發生,早在二 ○○一年就可看到民間與官方各種評估其對台灣影響的報告,執政八年,民進黨突破了嗎?與區內那個國家簽下FTA?