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












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