No Closed Doors! Taiwan Needs Glasnost and Perestroika
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
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.
2010.04.22 02:01 am