Tue, Nov 26, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Looking on the bright side of life

By Pu Ta-Chung 卜大中

Too many people in Taiwan are working hard to proclaim the country's demise. One reason for this is that the pessimism and sense of inferiority inherent in the genes of modern Chinese make them easily belittle themselves. The life attitude of cynics is to look at the negative and passive side of everything in search of some weird sense of psychological security. Another reason is their distrust of and dissatisfaction with DPP rule.

The latter derives from two sources. One consists of certain Chinese-born teachers, civil servants and military personnel under the spell of misgivings regarding their mainland origins, and their offspring, who are incapable of independent thought. They find it hard to accept their loss of political power and therefore condemn everything the native regime does. Most of the media happens to be in the hands of mainlanders or mainland ideology, which helps shape illusions.

The other source is a study that concludes that Taiwan is facing a dim future. The reasons include the inexperience and, in some respects, incompetence of the government, the difficult external environment, cross-strait constraints on national development, the international economic slowdown, US$140 billion in Taiwanese investments swallowed by the black hole of China and serious ethnic divides on Taiwan's soil.

Cynicism and pessimism, ethnic prejudice and a sense of loss of one's ethnic superiority, are crude, ignorant, unbalanced tribal sentiments that are not worthy of discussion. But the conclusion that people have drawn on the basis of the facts does deserve our attention. We should reflect on it if we are to bring about improvements.

The government's ability, cross-strait relations, domestic conflict and the international environment are severe problems. Much has been written on these problems, most of it correct, and there is no need to repeat any of it here. We should, however, observe Taiwan in an optimistic, positive and constructive light and look at her bright side.

When we have a deep understanding of the nation's flaws, we also come to see its shining side, advantages and hopes. This can be analyzed in terms of politics, the economy, society and culture.

Taiwan's political strengths are many -- ?no crises of legitimacy or succession, policy penetration or political integration. In other words, even if internal problems were to break out, political unrest would never occur.

The transfer of political power has eliminated the possibility of revolutions or coups d'etats and minimized the likelihood of a revival of the authoritarian system. Human rights are therefore ensured and the legal system established and consolidated.

Economically, although Taiwan is now facing a rocky road, the nation has five advantages, which will present opportunities for its resurgence.

First, businesspeople have vibrant ambition and vitality. Second, good education provides the essentials of economic development. Third, the political elite pursue economic knowledge and globalization. Fourth, the people have the ability to learn from the current slump. This includes the correct direction the government has taken to reform financial institutions. And fifth, the democratic and free mechanism offers a suitable environment for economic development.

Socially, the establishment of many grassroots mutual-help organizations, the maturity of the community and civil society as shown by the growing number of volunteer groups, as well as the appearance of public and civic awareness, will stitch up the wounds aggravated by ethnic confrontation and reduce the political identity crisis.

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