Thu, Mar 10, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan's fate different to predict

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

In today's world, globalization is seen primarily as a process of economic integration, which inevitably will be linked to closer political and security integration as well. But the cross-strait relationship has been challenging that conventional wisdom.

The growing economic ties between Taiwan and China, for example, have brought the sides closer together, but the political and security relationship has seen them drift further apart. Still, in both Washington and Taiwan, recent events have reawakened the conventional wisdom on globalization's political effects. That may turn out to be true. But by overhyping a warming of political as well as economic relations between the two sides, we may be too quickly avoiding reality.

The first transfer of power in Taiwan's government in 2000 was, inevitably, a difficult transition. The new governing party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had insufficient talent for running a government and inherited a bureaucracy that was, like the previous government, virtually indistinguishable from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). It faced in the KMT an opposition party that had no experience being in the opposition, and saw its major objective as not just to defeat the new governing party, but to destroy it.

This situation clearly -- and predictably -- led to many errors. By the end of that first term, there were still many laws from the previous authoritarian government to be changed, many rules and traditions still to be addressed, a reluctance to fully utilize the bureaucracy, and a lack of effective communication with the people of Taiwan and with foreign governments. Taking all this into consideration, the conventional wisdom on the effects of globalization may yet be correct.

This overlooks -- or perhaps deliberately avoids -- the progress that have been made in this period despite the errors and the obstacles which Taiwan faces. The government has effectively encouraged a much greater involvement by voters not only through political parties but in the growth of non-governmental organization (NGO) involvement in political, civil and cultural matters.

Despite the political slogans and sensationalist media on all sides, ethnic differences have diminished, helped in great measure by the rise of new, born-in-Taiwan generations. And though this might not make China happy, there has been a much greater consensus on what the people want as Taiwan's identity. This is demonstrated both in countless polls and in the rapidly-closing gap between the major political parties on the identity issue.

It was clear, after the presidential elections in both the US and Taiwan, and the legislative elections in Taiwan resulted in little change; that another four-year delay in progress on the economy, cross-strait relations, and domestic welfare was unacceptable to the voters. Thus, we see the recent effort by the DPP to experiment in cooperation with opposition parties.

The most logical cooperation for the DPP would probably be with the KMT, which has both considerable expertise in governance, and also now a majority of "local" members (including not only native Taiwanese, but young Mainlanders as well) whose preferences, especially on sovereignty issues, are very close to those of the DPP. For the time being, however, the KMT is in the midst of choosing new leadership.

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