Monday, May 3, 2010

A Confident Taiwan Will Not Fear Mainland Students

A Confident Taiwan Will Not Fear Mainland Students
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 3, 2010

Twice fistfights have broken out during Legislative Yuan Educational Committee hearings on the admission of mainland students. Have the relevant bills made it through committee review? The ruling and opposition parties disagree. Martial law was lifted 23 years ago. The Legislative Yuan eliminated the "10,000 year parliament" and held all new elections. Two changes in ruling parties have occurred. The time for fistfights is long past. How long will the Legislative Yuan remain a boxing ring? If legislators persist in starting fistfights and overturning tables, whether the Blue Camp or Green Camp is in power will be irrelevant. The antics of the legislature will no longer represent the values of a democratic society.

Just before the "Two Yings" debated ECFA, the DPP provoked violent clashes over the admission of mainland students. Following their debate, the DPP legislative caucus continued to initiate fistfights. But why? What irreconcilable hatreds compel the DPP to resort to such methods to prevent mainland students from studying on Taiwan? What manner of evil scourge are mainland students -- in the minds DPP legislators?

Just before the second wave of violence erupted in the Legislative Yuan, Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tse said "Taiwan should welcome mainland students." Lee Yuan-tse was Educational Reform Commissioner during the Lee Teng-hui administration. He was a Principal Advisor on the president's National Policy Advisory Committee during the Chen Shui-bian administration. He identifies with Taiwan, but has never rejected the mainland. On the contrary, he and Lee Cheng-tao visited Beijing even before Taipei and Beijing allowed cross-Strait exchanges, and met with then President Deng Xiaoping. During his eight years within the Chen administration, he visited the mainland twice. He attended Yang Cheng-ning's 80th birthday party, and the international conference Tsinghua University Beijing held in Yang's honor. He also attended the 85th anniversary of the founding of Xiamen University.

Why does Lee Yuan-tse favor allowing mainland students to study on Taiwan? Because as he puts it, "a society that values education, is a society with diversity, and a variety of classes." Since the Republic of China has a democratic system, It should tolerate and even welcome diversity. Even more importantly, Lee is increasingly confident of the Republic of China's democracy. Someone with self-confidence will not be afraid of liberalization. He will not reject liberalization. No one has a clearer understanding of the consequences of allowing mainland students to study on Taiwan than university presidents. Once the nation's universities have made an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of allowing mainland students to study on Taiwan, and have made preparations for their arrival, what justifications do legislators have to refuse?

DPP legislators say that allowing mainland students to study on Taiwan "will allow China's [sic] political elites to infiltrate and take overTaiwan." The mainland students who will come to Taiwan to study will be young people around the age of 20. How can they possibly "take over?" Even if political elites replace them, what of it? Even better. We should not exclude them. If anything, we should welcome them with open arms. Let them come to Taiwan to study. Let them be exposed to the advantages of a democratic society and a market economy. Let them convey a message of friendship from Taiwan. Once they assume positions of authority on the mainland, let them liberalize the mainland even further. Let this "powerful opponent" lean toward democracy, thereby ensuring Taiwan's security, and cross-Strait prosperity. Actually, the mainland began liberalizing 30 years ago. Already countless students from the mainland have studied in Europe and the United States. In recent years, these "haigui" (overseas returnees) have become the most important link in the mainland's development. Over the next ten or twenty years mainland elites will include "taigui" (Taiwan returnees). Wouldn't this be a feather in Taiwan's cap?

During the Two Yings Debate Ma Ying-jeou reiterated that the government welcomed oversight, and should be subjected to oversight. Ma Ying-jeou welcomed and invited questions from DPP and Green Camp legislators. But the DPP legislative caucus turned down his invitation, ten times. The DPP refused to attend public hearings, public briefings, or participate in ruling and opposition party consultations. Instead it accused the government of not being transparent. Actually, the DPP legislative caucus need merely take the tiniest bit of initiative. ECFA was never something the chairmen of the two parties needed to debate in the first place. It could have been debated and cleared up in the legislature. Unfortunately the DPP's attitude in response to cross-Strait matters, is to "Just say no!" Not content to oppose it, they have to provoke fistfights over it, undermining the image of the legislature and the reputations of legislators. The clashes over admitting mainland students are a perfect case in point.

The founding of the DPP is part of the Republic of China's democratic heritage. Senior DPP legislators persevered, playing an indispensable role in each stage of the Republic of China's transformation. Two ruling party changes have taken place. Can DPP legislators permit their forebears' inspirational words to perish amidst wars of words, and waves of physical violence? These forebears founded their party. They established the largest force in the legislature. They ruled for eight years. The party currently holds fewer than thirty seats. The DPP can no longer use its fists each time it lacks the votes. Violence is not a substitute for debate. Legislators represent the public will. A majority of seats represents the majority will. If the Ma administration fails to win the approval of a majority of the public, it will be punished by a loss of seats. Only those unable to offer a convincing argument, lose their tempers and resort to hitting people. Why does the DPP repeatedly descend to such methods? Isn't its image bad enough already?

The most important characteristic of a democratic society is the resolution of differences and the seeking of common ground through public debate. But the DPP prefers to operate outside this framework. It summons press conferences to denounce those who dare to differ, instead of dialoguing with ruling administration officials, it prefers to ignore its duty as legislators. The public pays taxes to support these legislators and their army of legislative aides. It expects them to review legislation, budgets, and policies. Instead all they do is denounce their opponents and provoke fistfights.

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