Sat, Jun 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Winning a battle, losing the war

Yesterday the Supreme Court threw out the opposition's case claiming that the March 20 presidential election last year should be deemed invalid because of manipulation of the election by the Democratic Progressive Party, on the basis of there being no evidence to suggest that such manipulation had taken place.

The verdict itself hardly came as a surprise for anyone who paid attention to the original court case and the pan-blue's almost comical attempt to make a case out of nothing more than Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) feeling that he ought to have won. What might have seemed surprising was that the court case was still rumbling on. After all, given the tensions and excitement of last year compared with the disillusionment and overpowering ennui at the moment, it seems like a different world.

It does not, however, necessarily seem like a better one. Much as people might have worried about the ethnic hostilities whipped up by the pan-blues both in the election and in their attempts to overturn it -- which can be swiftly summarized as Mainlanders refusing to accept their diminished role in Taiwan's power structure -- there seemed at the time a possibility that a Taiwanese nationalism nourished by not only the election campaign but such events as the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally might change the political environment. It finally seemed that Taiwanese could be the masters in their own country.

That was not to be, of course, the failure of the pan-greens to secure control of the legislature was a shock that left the green reeling while the blues shifted the political agenda by the "selling out" visits of their leaders to China.

Seen in this light, yesterday's verdict serves only to remind us how much we have lost. The nation-building project has not only stalled, but seems to have gone into reverse. The government might point out that their opinion polls tell them that is what the pragmatically minded Taiwanese want -- less emphasis on identity issues and more on the economy. But government is not a consumer-service industry: the customer is not always right.

The task of leadership is to educate people into seeing where their interests lie, and to understand that short-term gains might mean long-term sacrifices and vice versa.

Perhaps no amount of explanation can deter businesspeople from running lemming-like toward China, just as no amount of common sense could warn people off the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s. That does not mean that nobody should try.

Perhaps more importantly we should have some inkling of what the government intends to do when the China bubble bursts. Few developing economies have sustained an economic boom for much longer than 30 years without running into serious problems; China's has lasted 28 and counting.

Last year, for all the controversy surrounding the election and the bitterness of the campaign, there was a feeling that Taiwan might actually be "walking with destiny" to use a Churchillian phrase. Now it seems fated to become an economic colony of China, and if the pan-blues have their way a political colony as well -- such is the fate of Special Administrative Regions of the PRC, as we have seen this week.

After Neville Chamberlain came back from Munich, Winston Churchill said that he had claimed to bring back peace with honor, but in the end Britain would have neither. Taiwanese look to China thinking that by some deft compromise of core values they can have wealth, freedom and peace.

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