Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just What is Tsai Ing-wen's "Alternative?"

Just What is Tsai Ing-wen's "Alternative?"
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 27, 2010

Party politics means that the opposition party opposes the ruling party and proposes "alternatives." Tsai Ing-wen opposes ECFA, and has proposed an "alternative." Her "alternative" is her "Political Platform for the Decade," currently under construction, which may be regarded as a sweeping alternative for the nation's political and economic future.

The alternative Tsai has proposed for ECFA is "move closer to the world before moving closer to [mainland] China." She proposes "allowing industries with particularly high tariffs to invest on the mainland." But if one wishes to "move closer to the world before moving closer to [mainland] China," one must first "enable the world to move closer to Taiwan." Without signing ECFA, how can one provide the world an incentive to move closer to Taiwan? What about her proposal "allowing industries with particularly high tariffs to invest on the mainland?" What is this path but "moving closer to [mainland] China before moving closer to the world," which Tsai Ing-wen herself firmly opposes? Or worse, "forcing Taiwan businesses to flee to [mainland] China?" Such an "alternative" is not merely self-contradictory, it is suicidal.

Leave ECFA aside for the moment. Tsai Ing-wen's "Political Platform for the Decade" also seeks a political and economic "alternative" for the nation's future. She said that Taipei must rethink its "economics above all else path." She said that "Economic development has led to 'generational injustice,"' and asked "Is economic growth our only goal?"

She mentioned this during the Two Yings Debate. She said that "Over the past several decades Taiwan's economy had exports as its priority. The public on Taiwan paid a heavy price. For example, the destruction of national lands, the destruction of the local landscape, a growing gap between the cities and the countryside, and alternating floods and droughts."

Tsai Ing-wen's claim is questionable. Economic growth may not be one's only goal. But for the people of any nation it is invariably their most important goal. Therefore political rhetoric denouncing "economics above all else" hardly negates the necessity and importance of economic growth. Economic development can damage the environment. It can lead to calls for the "redistribution of wealth." But the resources generated by economic development can also heal the environment. Tax policies can also equalize inequities in wealth. Tsai Ing-wen said the public on Taiwan paid a "very heavy price" for an export-oriented economy. But her assertion hardly negates the fact that 70% of our GDP comes from exports. Exports have long been the bedrock of Taiwan's economic survival and prosperity. Given Taiwan's current economic difficulties, is Tsai Ing-wen's "alternative," the repudiation of economic growth and the questioning of export-orientation the least bit convincing?

Tsai Ing-wen's "Political Platform for the Decade" has yet to offer an "alternative" for the status of our constitution and our national identity. But her current obsession with "economic alternatives" is clearly politically-motivated. It is obviously a Procrustean Bed into which economics must be force-fitted into a preconceived political framework. For example, the main reason she opposes ECFA is her desire to avoid "East Asia becoming a Sinocentric East Asia." She also wants to avoid "weakening and marginalizing the United States." Perhaps her politically-motivated thinking has convinced her to question our "economics above all path" and our "export-orientation." Perhaps it has convinced her to reduce our cross-Strait economic and trade dependency, in order to avoid mainland China's political threat.

Such a policy proposal is even more bizarre than Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake!" It is precisely concerns about cross-Strait political crises that necessitate strengthening Taiwan's economic structure and export trade. Otherwise, if Taiwan's economy becomes increasingly depressed, the magnetic attraction mainland China exerts on Taiwan's economy will be even more serious. The political threat will be even more difficult to control, leading to a vicious circle. Is Tsai Ing-wen's "alternative" to "rethink our economics above all else path and export-orientation" in order to "reduce cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges?" If so, she needs to realize that such an "alternative" cannot possibly "cool down the economy" and "resolve political problems." It can only lead to an irreparable economic chill and political disaster. Is Tsai Chi really this obtuse, or is she merely feigning ignorance?

The world has changed radically. Whether we are talking about short term or long term benefits, Taipei must base its political strategy on its economic strategy. Over the past decade or so, the Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian regimes were utterly incapable of suppressing booming cross-Strait economic and trade exchanges. Instead they seriously undermined our chances of becoming an Asian-Pacific Operations Center. Whether we are talking about short term or long term profits, whether we are talking about economics or politics, the harm inflicted upon Taiwan will be difficult to remedy.

The Democratic Progressive Party's path is to force economic strategy into the Procrustean Bed of political strategy. The result is bizarre "alternatives" such as "rethinking our economics above all path and our export-orientation in order to reduce cross-Strait exchanges." We would like to ask Tsai Ing-wen what are the short term and long term benefits of her "economic cool down" and "questioning of exports?"

Tsai Ing-wen's "Political Platform for the Decade" is still tinkering at the margins. The public still does not understand what her "alternative" is for the status of our constitution and our national identity. Does she intend to "jettison our economics above all path and question our export-orientation?" Does she intend to propose an "alternative" to what she dismisses as the "Republic of China government in exile?"

2010.05.27 03:24 am











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