Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Provincialism not Taiwan's future

Anyone wanting to celebrate the good news that Taiwan's exports increased by 17.9 percent last month should temper their jubilation by looking at which country was responsible for buying most of the goods: China.

This warning is not born of knee-jerk "China is the root of all evil" prejudice. The fact is that, as Taiwan's economy ties itself to China's, Taiwan shares much of the risk that comes with the rapid economic growth across the Strait.

There is absolutely no reason why Taiwan should not take advantage of China's "economic miracle," as the more exuberant analysts prefer to paint it.

Companies have every right and every reason to try to make a pretty penny as China transforms itself from a lumbering communist behemoth -- rife with petty corruption and beset with a byzantine bureaucracy -- to a lumbering capitalist behemoth with the same problems.

But what the latest export figures indicate is that Taiwanese companies may not be making enough of an effort to market themselves to the rest of the world.

We have heard a lot of talk from the government and some of the nation's bigger companies about the need to focus on "branding" and on how Taiwan should emphasize research and development.

Hardly a week passes when the public isn't regaled with proposals to turn Taiwan into a center for this or that, be it a "regional transportation hub" or a "regional financial hub."

All of this regional hub-bubbing may sound impressive, but without the political will, these good intentions may only pave the road to hell, as the saying goes.

The pan-blue alliance and the pan-green camp are both fond of describing themselves as having the "most business-oriented" political agenda. Obviously this cannot be true for both sides at once. The reality is that neither party is particularly business-oriented, preferring instead to waste taxpayers' time and funds on inane bickering in the legislature and elsewhere.

The pan-green camp is presently spending a lot of time and energy on symbolic gestures, such as changing the names of state-run companies and getting rid of statues of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). This is all good and necessary, but must it be central to pan-green camp identity? What happens when all of the statues are gone, and the only place one can see the word "china" is on descriptions of dishware? What will the pan-greens stand for then?

The pan-green camp must show a pragmatic Taiwanese polity that it has a vision for the future, instead of relying so heavily on the past for its political capital in belated attempts to build a new national identity.

This is not to say that the pan-blue camp isn't just as bad, or worse.

Pan-blue-camp supporters have nothing to be proud of. What has the pan-blue camp done for Taiwan in the past seven years, aside from regularly attempting to subvert Taiwan's democracy with short-sighted -- and often unconstitutional -- power-grabs?

It is hard to see how politicians of any stripe could hold their heads up high when they talk about the record of their parties over the past few years. This nation's recent political history can be summed up thus: "One side proposed this, and the other side opposed it. One side said this was true, and the other side disagreed."

There is a world outside of Taiwan, and most of it doesn't care one whit about this country's domestic issues. Our politicians must consider this when they attempt to balance critical domestic matters with the pressing problem of how to better engage the rest of the world.

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