Sunday, August 17, 2014

Re-assessing the March Sunflower Student Movement

Re-assessing the March Sunflower Student Movement
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 18, 2014

Summary: Taiwan is rapidly slouching toward closed door status, and losing its competitiveness. The foreign media has concluded that Taiwan has left itself behind. People on Taiwan desperately need to reevaluate the meaning and impact of the Sunflower Student Movement, and correct its grievous errors.

Full Text Below:

Years from now, when historians recall Taiwan in 2014, they will probably arrive at a number of realizations. A local election will be held at the end of the year. The March Sunflower Student Movement combined a student movement with a social movement. Disasters large and small followed one after the other. More than a few officials were forced to step down for varying reasons. The prestige of both the ruling and opposition parties plumbed new lows. During the remaining quarter of the year, most would agree that there was little joy or glory in Taiwan during 2014.

Some have deliberately inflated the historical significance of the Sunflower Student Movement. They would have us believe it occupies a place of honor among Taiwan's student movements, social movements, and democratic evolution. The movement illegally obstructed the operations of a democratically elected legislature for over a month, yet received considerable public recognition and support. It eventually achieved its goal. It enabled the opposition to block the legislative process. If we are determined to assign it any additional significance, the movement may have enabled the green camp to stage two political shows.

When historians evaluate the significance of events on Taiwan in 2014, they are sure to mention the March Sunflower Student Movement and the signing of the PRC-ROK FTA. Most historians will arrive at such a conclusion. For Taiwan and South Korea, 2014 has been a critical year. It has widened the competitive gap between the two economies. South Korea continued its advance in the direction of major powers undergoing globalization. Taiwan on the other hand, clung to its closed door policy and spun its wheels.

In other words, student and opposition party leaders are patting themselves on the back over the "success" of the Sunflower Student Movement, even as South Koreans triumphantly patted themselves on the back for elbowing aside their Taiwan-based competitors and leaving them in the dust.

This is why in early August, a Wall Street Journal editorial took aim at Taiwan with an editoral entitled "Taiwan Leaves Itself Behind." The editorial was blunt. If the government on Taiwan maintains its cross-Strait trade barriers, it will only hurt itself. The reason is simple. Taiwan and South Korea are the Mainland's biggest trading partners. Taiwan's export commodities are petrochemicals, iron, steel, textiles, and machinery. These overlap South Korea's exports anywhere from 50% to 80%. If Mainland China and South Korea sign an FTA this year, most South Korean products will enjoy zero-tariff access to the Mainland. Taiwan will then be in serious trouble.

Few people recall the situation when the two sides signed ECFA in 2012. The South Korean media was wracked with anxiety and uncertainty. They feared cross-Strait industrial cooperation and a complementary production chain which would probably exclude South Korean industry. That was the reason they coined the term "Chiwan." They were vigilant. A mere two years later however, their worries failed to materialize. Instead South Korea picked up the pace. It concluded the Korea-US and Korea-Europe Free Trade Agreements. It then looked to a Korea-PRC Free Trade Agreement. Meanwhile, Taiwan sat on its hands.

Of course Korea is not the only economy that grew in 2014. In June and July of this year alone, when Taiwan was still experiencing ongoing catastrophes and mired in internal bickering, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Mainland China. The US and the Mainland accelerated dialogue on an investment agreement. Premier Li Keqiang visited Britain to negotiate direct RMB-pound exchanges. Germany, the United States, Britain and other major powers frequently interact with the Mainland. All of this affects Taiwan's trade competitiveness in services as well as goods. Meanwhile, the Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Regulations bill remains stalled in the Legislative Yuan. Taiwan businesses must watch from the sidelines as other countries aggressively carve up the Mainland market. Taiwan has benefitted from the ECFA early harvest list. But follow-up consultations have stagnated. Others come and go. Meanwhile, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, "Taiwan Leaves Itself Behind."

Unfortunately, despite the obvious signs, many are still wandering through the fog of the March Sunflower Student Movement. Yes, they succeeded in occupying the temple of democracy. Yes, they successfully humiliated the head of state and the premier. Yes, they successfully seized the bully pulpit. Yes, they successfully obstructed the STA, essential to Taiwan's competitiveness. On the surface, they won. But in fact they merely relegated themselves to the role of political tools on the fringes of the DPP. Was there a loser? Yes there was. The real loser was Taiwan's competitiveness.

SEF Vice Chairman Kao Koong-lian recently noted that the Mainland is not about to halt its progress merely because Taiwan has adopted a closed door policy. Taiwan must increase its competitiveness. Only then can it turn a threat into an opportunity. Kao Koong-lian's assessment is an appropriate footnote to Taiwan's global dilemma. Put more plainly, closing Taiwan's doors will not make the world stop spinning. Taiwan's market is too small. It can never do more than go with the flow. It can never expect the world to revolve around it. Unfortunately many on Taiwan are still patting themselves on the back for successfully closing Taiwan's doors.

The March Sunflower Student Movement involved a complex confluence of forces. It included students and non-students, opponents of capitalism, opponents of concentrated wealth, opponents of financial consortia, opponents of growth, opponents of nuclear power, opponents of the KMT, opponents of Ma Ying-jeou, opponents of imbalanced cross-Strait economic and political relations, extremist opponents of Mainland China, i.e., supporters of Taiwan independence, and even some inveterate street protesters.

Taiwan is rapidly slouching toward closed door status, and losing its competitiveness. The foreign media has concluded that Taiwan has left itself behind. People on Taiwan desperately need to reevaluate the meaning and impact of the Sunflower Student Movement, and correct its grievous errors.

2014年08月18日 04:10

設 想許多年後,當史家回顧台灣2014年,應該會有些許感觸。這一年年底有一場地方選舉,之前的3月時發生了一場學運結合社運的太陽花運動,先後發生了許多 大小不一的災難,不少官員因不同理由下台,朝野政黨聲望都創新低。儘管這一年還剩下四分之一,但絕大多數人應該都會同意,2014年對台灣而言,並沒有太 多的喜悅與榮耀。

可能有人會刻意放大太陽花運動的意義,認為它在台灣學生或社會運動史或民主史上享有崇高的意義。這場透過非法手段霸占民 選產生的國會議場長達1個多月的行動,激起社會一定程度的認同與支持,終於達成配合在野黨阻斷一樁重要法案立法進程的目標。如果一定還要找出其它意義,或 許就是這場運動,順勢造就了兩位未來綠營的政治新秀吧!

更多史家在評價2014年的台灣時,無法避免要將3月的太陽花運動,與年底中韓完 成自由貿易協定談判放在一起論定。多數史家會下這樣的論斷,台灣與南韓在2014這關鍵的一年,更進一步拉大了彼此競爭力的差距,南韓持續在邁向全球化的 大國挺進,台灣呢?卻是倒回鎖國內耗的深淵。


這 亦是為何在8月初,美國《華爾街日報》會在社論上,直接挑明「台灣自甘落後」(Taiwan Leaves Itself Behind)的原因。這篇社論明白點出,若台灣繼續施行兩岸貿易壁壘,只會傷到自己!原因很簡單,由於台灣與南韓都將大陸視為最大貿易夥伴,且台灣出口 商品從石化、鋼鐵、紡織到機具,5成至8成與南韓出口商品重疊,如果大陸與南韓今年完成FTA的洽簽,將使得大多數南韓產品能以零關稅進入大陸,會給台灣 帶來嚴重的問題。

如今,恐怕很少人還記得,當2012年兩岸洽簽兩岸經貿協議(ECFA)之際,南韓輿論普遍瀰漫著焦慮與不安,他們最擔 心兩岸產業若形成合作與互補的生態鏈,恐怕會將南韓產業排除在外,為此他們當時還自創了一個英文單字「Chinwan」,做為自我警惕。只不過才兩年過 去,他們所擔憂的情況不僅沒有發生,南韓還加快步伐,在陸續完成韓美、韓歐自由貿易協定(FTA)之後,更進一步推向韓中自由貿易協定的洽簽,在此同時, 台灣則是完全交了白卷。

當然,2014年並非只有韓國在向上提升,僅僅就在今年6、7月之交,當台灣還在為持續不斷的災變陷入循環內耗之 際,德國總理梅克爾訪中國大陸、美中兩國加速投資協定對話、大陸李克強總理訪問英國啟動人民幣與英鎊直接交易及人民幣清算業務。德、美、英等大國與中國大 陸經貿互動頻頻,攸關台灣競爭力的服務貿易和貨品貿易,及兩岸協議監督條例,卻依舊卡在立法院,眼睜睜看著他國積極搶占中國大陸市場,台灣卻除了ECFA 早收清單,後續協商卻是全面停滯。一來一往之間,正是應了《華爾街日報》的那句重話:台灣自甘落後!

遺憾的是,儘管跡象如此明顯,許多人 至今卻依舊停格在三月太陽花運動的勝利迷霧裡。是的,他們成功占領了民主殿堂,也成功羞辱了國家元首與閣揆,他們更成功搶奪了絕大部分的話語權,進一步成 功擋下了攸關台灣競爭力的服貿法案,表面上,他們好像全部都贏了,但實際上,他們真正的成就,其實只是成功履行了民進黨外圍的鬥爭工具,相對的另一方面真 正輸掉的,卻是台灣的競爭力。

海基會前副董事長高孔廉日前在一場研討會中表示,大陸不會因台灣鎖國,就停止進步的步伐,台灣惟有強化競爭 力,才能變威脅為機會。高孔廉這句評斷,對台灣目前全球化競爭上的處境,或許是個很適切的註腳。講白一點,鎖住台灣並不會讓地球停止運轉,以台灣的市場規 模,永遠只能順著大趨勢尋找自我定位,而非期待世界圍繞著台灣運轉。不幸的是,直到現在,當下台灣還有許多人仍然在為成功促成了鎖國而沾沾自喜!



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