Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 8 News List

[LETTER]

To be Taiwan, or not to be?

Is it just me, or is Taiwan heading toward being the first country in the world to turn away from its young and troubled but fully functioning democracy to become part of a gravely troubled autocracy?

China is facing troubling economic problems, with 25 million recently unemployed workers adding to a real possibility of unrest across the nation. The apparent increase in corruption at all levels of government; the rapidly widening gap between the abominably poor and the obscenely rich; and non-existent quality control mechanisms make China a very bad choice for any kind of trade agreement, especially under a “one China” policy.

Is our government really that weak, naive and shortsighted? Does it truly believe that the territory of the Republic of China includes the territory of the People’s Republic of China and that signing an agreement under the “one China” policy is therefore acceptable?

Or are government officials positioning themselves in view of China’s leaders so that, when their much-sought prize of unification is delivered, they will enjoy great benefits and preferential treatment — possibly even offers of positions in the Chinese Communist Party?

Anyone who has spent time studying the history of China — in particular the historical, ideological and emotional differences between Nationalists and Communists — would agree that this cannot happen.

How many Tibetan leaders, pro-China or not, were given high level positions and/or benefits that went beyond a few face-giving ceremonies and banquets? Hello, anybody home?

What can Taiwan do, given that it is burdened by the shortcomings of a “country” that isn’t recognized as such and doesn’t behave like one because of political complexity and historical distortions — not to mention the short-term, financially oriented thinking and planning of its government and citizenry?

First, let’s focus on what we have to offer the world: Pristine and gorgeous coastlines in the east and the south, complete with wonderful hot springs and splendid beaches, and a central mountain range that offers some of the most spectacular sights anywhere in Asia, as well as warm, hospitable and extremely generous people.

We must develop and cherish these assets in an ecologically sound way, promote sustainable long-term tourism and put in place infrastructure that can facilitate the industry and that can expand as demand grows.

Second, Taiwan has to implement and enforce tough anti-pollution laws for factories and farms so that our rivers and coastal areas can once again be safe for harvesting seafood, so that river water can be used for irrigation and so that we can provide an unpolluted and fun environment for recreational activities. Such laws should require that all households and businesses connect to waste water treatment plants, and it is imperative that this be achieved in the shortest possible time.

Third, Taiwanese factories in China that produce food or goods requiring highly skilled labor should be encouraged to return to Taiwan. Government subsidies and tax breaks that offset — at least initially — higher local wages and operating costs could boost the nation’s competitiveness.

This would maintain the high standard of Taiwanese goods as well as provide much-needed jobs to an ailing economy. Absolutely no food products, cosmetics or medicine should be allowed into Taiwan from China until there are rigorous and enforceable safety procedures operating in both countries.

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