Sat, Jan 07, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The word games politicians play

By Bill Chang 張國城

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) New Year message offered a policy of "active management, effective opening" to replace his earlier "active opening, effective management" slogan. The words have been rearranged, but what does the new phrase actually mean?

Let's focus on "opening" first.

For businesses that have already invested in China illegally, the question is one of suitable punishment rather than management. It will not be until after the government lifts restrictions on China investment that "active" or "effective" management can mean anything.

In fact, we do not need a complicated economic theory to understand this. Our common sense tells us that the move to open up to China must be taken gradually rather than abruptly. We should allow a small-scale "opening" for a period of time as a feeler, and if the results are good, it will not be too late to adjust the policy in a more active direction.

That the government has espoused "active management" is a clear indication of the failure of the previous policy, in which management was neither active nor effective.

"Active management" is therefore simply a case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted. After four-and-a-half years, the government has finally realized that active opening to China can only be achieved on the basis of effective management.

When the previous policy of "active opening, effective management" was announced, there was plenty of talk of "effective management," but little was actually done. If there is only talk and no action, the shift from "active management, effective opening" to "active opening, effective management" is a meaningless word game.

Speaking of word games, we must mention Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman and Taipei mayor, because he is really good at them.

Since Ma took the KMT chairman's post, he has called for "active treatment of the KMT's assets," which has led an unsuspecting public to believe that, given Ma's leadership record, the KMT will finally hand back its stolen assets to the government.

But what the public did not know was that Ma's use of the word "treatment" (chuli, 處理) was conflated with its other meaning, "disposal," rendering the KMT's behavior no different to that of a liquidator.

Even worse, in a recent interview with international media, Ma said that the ultimate goal of the KMT was "Chinese unification." Whether his idea of unification contains deluded implications of "unifying China" or the more threatening ones of "Chinese unification," we will need the help of Ma, a master of word games, to explain.

Bill Chang is a member of the Taiwan Association of University Professors and of the Northern Taiwan Society.


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