The pro-localization political call-in TV show Voice of Taiwan (
Some people are saying that the station's Hong Kong investors pulled the plug, while others blame falling viewer ratings. But the real reasons behind the decision are likely political, and derive from flawed legislation. It is not too much to say that the program has brought its cancellation upon itself. Why do I say this?
First, the government's bold policy to allow more investment in China has damaged national consciousness. The principle of "active liberalization" has hurt the stock market, caused high unemployment and slowed increases in workers' salaries.
But the most grievous damage derives from the fact that "investing in the enemy" is now seen as normal behavior. A rather flawed concept has appeared in society; namely, the idea that China is not a hostile nation, or even that it is benevolent. This is the main reason that the Taiwanese failed to rally against the visits to China by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (
When the ideas of "working for the economy" and "unification with China" are become linked in people's minds, the idea of Taiwanese sovereignty loses its force.
On the political front, the policy has increased the number of people who vote for the pan-blue camp. Allowing more investment in China has caused cross-strait business to skyrocket, with 3.8 million roundtrips made to China annually by Taiwanese businesspeople. The more time you spend in a place, the more you identify with it, and the sympathies of these voters have gradually leaned toward the pan-blue camp.
As this happens, issues such as localization, the rectification of the national title and the creation of a new constitution lose their appeal. Some even change their opinions on these issues. This trend is most prevalent among moderate voters, who are gradually becoming more sympathetic to the pan-blue camp's support of the "one China" principle as Taiwan's economy becomes more intertwined with China's. Given this situation, it is natural that the ratings for Voice of Taiwan would tumble.
Also, the policy has meant that fewer companies are willing to schedule pro-localization shows. Taiwan has a relatively modest GDP of US$300 billion, and yet Taiwanese investment represents half of all foreign investment currently made in China. Taiwanese businesses there are subject to restrictions by the Chinese government, and are often too intimidated to give their support to TV programs sympathetic to the pro-localization cause. They have also switched their advertising to pro-unification TV stations in order to demonstrate their loyalty to China.
Under these circumstances, pro-localization programs are struggling to secure the financial support they need.
Second, legislation permitting Hong Kong and Chinese interests to control the Taiwanese media through the back door are just a precursor to what the pro-unification faction has in store for us. The reason this group is so enthusiastic about encouraging investment in China is that they want to create an environment in which unification is the obvious and inevitable counterpart to economic realities.
By the same token, they created the Satellite Broadcasting Law (
Third, the belief that investment from Hong Kong is not investment from China is naive -- and allowing such investment into Taiwan is akin to inviting a Trojan horse through the city gates. Prior to 1997 there may have been good reason to say that investment from Hong Kong and China were different animals. But following the handover, any money coming from the territory should be considered as investment from China.
Even more incredible is that some of our government officials see Hong Kong and Macao as separate from China, an claim that investment from those areas "does not influence the current operation of the economy." As in the case of the Satellite Broadcasting Law, the end goal of all this is unification with China.
After more than a fortnight of tussling, the Government Information Office finally decided to fine TVBS NT$1 million (US$30,000) for being largely financed by a Hong Kong investor. A fine of this size is a mere slap on the wrist for a company the size of TVBS.
In the past, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has given similarly light fines of between NT$1 million to NT$2 million to other firms that illegally invested in China (such as GMSC, which was fined NT$2 million). Such light fines are tantamount to encouraging them to continue to break the law, and others to do the same. If the government continues to pursue these policies, it will create a vicious circle, and Taiwan identity will be totally overwhelmed.
I hope that all those Taiwanese who truly love their country and mourn the silencing of the Voice of Taiwan will understand the true reasons behind it, and react accordingly.
Huang Tien-lin is national policy advisor to the president.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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