Fri, Mar 13, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Not a time for a nation of sheep

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

Conversely, in democratic Taiwan access to information is such that anyone who wishes to do so can access what the CCP leadership is saying about cross-strait talks and agreements, and its objectives for the future. Not only can the speeches made by CCP cadres regarding “reunification” be heard and read, but it is even possible to keep count of the number of missiles that the Chinese military is aiming at Taiwan — a number that, despite “peace” talks, continues to grow.

For Taiwanese, who have access to all the information in the world, to stand by like sheep while their government plays with fire with agreements that not only lack oversight but whose ultimate objective may be misinterpreted by their Chinese counterparts, defies comprehension.

There is no denying that the current economic situation is taking center stage in people’s lives, that massive job losses and dwindling fortunes are threatening people’s livelihoods. This notwithstanding, Taiwan’s middle class has been dangerously apathetic when it comes to Ma’s experiment with China and the little opposition that has emerged has been largely relegated to academic circles, the elite, which can easily be portrayed as being out of touch with ordinary Taiwanese.

Part of this comes from the KMT’s skilful use of media outlets under its control or influence, which have portrayed talks with China as a panacea while skewering former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) over allegations of fraud. With the same stroke, it has successfully sidelined the Democratic Progressive Party, which has had difficulty getting traction with Taiwanese and has been regularly ignored by the government and the media.

Those who voted for the KMT last March, meanwhile, have not been getting the full picture. Ironically, by limiting themselves to a pan-blue media that preaches to the converted, and unhampered by the voice of a strong, credible opposition, they may be as blind as their Chinese counterparts when it comes to disagreements with Ma’s China policy (in all fairness, pan-green viewers and readers also tend to be myopic in their choice of media).

If the elite is perched too high in its ivory tower, and if the opposition party has been too discredited by allegations of corruption against Chen to mobilize the population and awaken pan-blue voters to the dangers that await around the corner, someone, somewhere, will have to take over and take the fight to the Ma administration.

For if this is allowed to proceed unchecked, Taiwanese could wake up one day and find themselves in a situation where their worries about a sagging economy or falling stocks are nothing more than a minor headache compared with the new challenges they face. The question is: Does this nation seek to react when it might be too late, or will it seek to be proactive and parry the blows as they come?

The Ma administration has displayed worrying signs of incompetence, while within the KMT there are a number of unaccountable individuals with close ties to Beijing whose motives bode ill for the future of Taiwan. This is a dangerous mix that competent CCP members are sure to exploit to the fullest and with total disregard for the views of ordinary Taiwanese.

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