Taiwan's sovereignty and economic freedom hangs in the balance. Are the best interests of the Taiwanese people protected with the pending ECFA deal signed between Taipei and Beijing?
Why all the back-room deals and lack of real transparency and public oversight? Taiwan's future should be determined by the 23 million Taiwanese citizens who call the island of Formosa their home, not by communist China and the secret meetings between the KMT and the CCP.
"the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy." Alex Carey, Australian social scientist, quoted by Noam Chomsky in World Orders Old and New
"The citizen can bring our political and governmental institutions back to life, make them responsive and accountable, and keep them honest. No one else can." John Gardner
ECFA = Taiwan's economic enslavement to communist China
Ma must consult public on ECFA
By Wu Hui-lin
The Taipei Times / Thursday, Apr 01, 2010, Page 8 A year has passed since President Ma Ying-jeou began extolling the virtues of an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) his government intends to sign with China. What has this publicity campaign achieved? A cartoon strip by CoCo on March 17 answers that question quite well.
Perhaps the best approach to promote ECFA would have been for the president to travel around the country explaining the benefits in person, but the dialogue in CoCo's cartoon reflects public distrust.
"I donít believe a word Ma says," one character says.
"But (Chinese Premier) Wen Jiabao says the same things as Ma," another says.
"That's precisely why I don't believe Ma," the first person replies.
What better illustration could we have of just how badly the Ma administrationís publicity campaign has failed?
Just a few days ago, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu, perhaps the most popular figure in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), was invited by NationalChungHsingUniversity to give a lecture on the merits of an ECFA. Hu was confronted by heckling students and one individual who apparently flashed a knife. This shows that debate on the issue has become emotionally charged and irrational.
Around the same time, someone posted threats to assassinate Ma's daughters on the Internet, prompting people to ask, "What is going on?"
People are getting increasingly anxious and this arises from the fact that the KMT appears to be on the same side as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), while the opposition is allied with Taiwan-centric civic groups. The confrontation between these two sides grows fiercer by the day, causing non-aligned voters and the middle class to feel ill at ease.
It is no longer just an ideological confrontation between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, or a matter of which one will come out ahead in elections, but a matter of whether Taiwan can survive as a free and democratic country.
Faced with this subtle but serious change, the media has failed to get to the root of the problem and in some cases could even be considered to be fanning the flames.
In the case of Hu being heckled, reports chose to focus on whether the students were being rude, whether it was acceptable to flash a knife and how broadminded Hu was not to pursue the case and to forgive the student.
Regarding the online threats to assassinate Ma's daughters, the media's main interest has been in seeing the culprit arrested or on how cynical and alienated these people appear. The media has shown little interest in asking the more important question as to why college students are going crazy and a middle-class person with no criminal record should be so dissatisfied with the way things are as to blame it all on the president.
The unifying point is the ECFA, which has been completely politicized and a highly effective weapon deployed by the opposition in recent by-elections. Ma and his government continue to insist that the ECFA is a purely economic issue, despite suggesting Taiwan's future is bleak without the agreement. Ma and his ministers are completely deaf to dissenting voices, still less are they willing to empathize with how people feel.
The public understands very well that the CCP's totalitarian rule makes China different from countries such as the US, Japan and South Korea. They know that cross-strait affairs are indivisible from politics and that, contrary to government statements, everything is political. The public is also aware that China is the dominant partner in cross-strait negotiations, while Taiwanís only hope of keeping China in check is international support. A typical economic matter is Taiwanís participation in the WTO, where we elicited support from other countries before tackling China.
The important thing is for Taiwan to first deploy its own strengths and that means we have to demonstrate self-confidence in order to win the support of other countries. When it comes to an ECFA, the approach being taken runs counter to such experience.
First, the Ma administration has deliberately downplayed Taiwanís strengths, instead whining that Taiwan can only survive by relying on China, and begging the Chinese side to help us out by deigning to sign the ECFA.
Apparently Taiwan will only be able to negotiate free-trade agreements with other countries after an ECFA is signed. If we start out by looking down on ourselves, how can we expect others to respect us?
It is time for this government to face the facts and change the paternalistic attitude it always adopts when addressing the public. It should not keep promising that an ECFA will be signed by such-and-such a date. Instead, it should be expending more energy on finding out how people really feel.
Our leaders should have the courage to play to Taiwanís strong points. However impossible things may sometimes seem, it is our responsibility to mobilize and fight for what we believe to be right. Let us not forget that Taiwanese have shown time and again that they can be as vigorous and tenacious as anyone else.
Wu Hui-lin is a researcher at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research.
Too many doubts remain about ECFA
The Taipei Times /Thursday, Apr 01, 2010, Page 8
It's an irony for Chinese negotiators who took part in the second round of economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) negotiations in TaoyuanCounty yesterday to say from a resort in Dasi that they remain open-minded about the trade pact and would do whatever they can to minimize any potential negative impact on the local economy.
Dasi is home to dictator Chiang Kai-shek's mausoleum, which to this day remains off-limits to Chinese tour groups, despite its popularity and the fact that tourism authorities in Beijing have never formally restricted the visits.
If you talk in private to Taiwanese travel agencies that arrange local trips for Chinese tourists, they will confirm that it is an unwritten rule that no travel agency will put anything related to the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) old-time rival on the tour groups' itineraries.
Only individual tourists who come from a third country and are not escorted by Chinese tour guides can visit the mausoleum.
That shows China isn't as open-minded and democratic as it would like to imply.
Although refusing to pay tribute to a former dictator might be construed as honorable under other circumstances, it is no less than a joke for the CCP, which is just as authoritarian as Chiangís regime was, to have such a ban ó a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Taiwanese tour operators will also tell you that Beijing authorities prohibit their outbound tourists from speaking freely to the media unless their comments are pre-approved.
This is just one small example of how China says one thing, but means another. Nobody should be surprised when Chinese officials hide their true colors.
This holds especially true when one considers the comments made yesterday by Tang Wei, director of the Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Department under China's Ministry of Commerce, who chaired the first round of talks on Jan. 26 in Beijing and co-chaired yesterday's round of talks in Dasi.
Tang, in his opening address, heaped praise on the ECFA, saying that Chinese leaders aim to facilitate such a "good thing."
Then he admitted that the trade pact would not be a panacea that will boost the local economy, although he said it was not a "horrifying monster" that will destroy Taiwan's economy. In the afternoon, he admitted that "it is too difficult to tend to every aspect of the deal as the clock is ticking."
Without going into details, what Tang said raised nothing but more doubts about the deal.
Is an ECFA a good thing or not? Good for whom?
Why are both sides in such a hurry to ink the deal when they say the deal is neither sweet nor bitter? Why not spend more time and tend to every detail of the deal before signing it, which would be in the interest of both sides?
No answers, of course, will be offered to these questions for the time being.
But let's hope the upcoming debate or "dialogue" between President Ma Ying-jeou and Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen will shed some light on the matter.