From afar, a forest is all calm and quiet; penetrate its heart, however, and soon the placidity reveals itself as illusory, as nature perpetuates itself ruthlessly.
When it comes to political conflict, so-called experts and many government officials often look at it as they do a forest — from the outside, unawares of all the pressures, rifts and dynamics that animate it. Economists and investors, whose trade thrives on stability, are often also guilty of adopting an outsider’s view that blinds them to realities on the ground.
This usually engenders two problems: Self-deception, as experts do not have all the necessary variables to draw a complete picture of the situation; and intellectual dishonesty, whereby inconvenient variables are ignored so that the coveted end-result can be achieved with as little friction as possible.
Such a situation is taking place in Taiwan these days, where it seems that the entire international community is of one mind regarding the benefits of rapprochement between Taiwan and China and of the proposed economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) between the two countries. The same song has been repeated by academics, economists, consul-generals, trade council chairmen — all of whom have one thing in common: They do not live in Taiwan and get their information about the place through a number of filters.
So far, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has succeeded in fostering an image — at least abroad — of unity on his pro-China policies, an image that diplomats in places as close as Hong Kong, or who were wined and dined by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials on official visits to Taipai, appear to have swallowed. Ma promises stability and peace in the Taiwan Strait, slogans that have been received abroad well.
Like the proverbial forest, however, there are tensions — and they are rising. The ruling on whether the administration will allow an opposition-initiated referendum on an ECFA to proceed will also determine the manner in which these tensions manifest themselves. If the referendum bid is turned down, like the one initiated by the Democratic Progressive Party earlier this year was, inhibitions for social unrest will also likely disappear.
This holds especially true for the many single-interest groups, such as pro-independence organizations and the many sectors that feel threatened by an ECFA. Without proper democratic outlets to express their grievances, and absent sincere government measures to palliate political and economic apprehensions (Ma has offered too little, both in terms of financial compensation and assurances on sovereignty), the next steps cannot but become more radical.
Already there are signs that this is happening. Last week, this newspaper learned from a source that must remain anonymous that protests on Friday night in downtown Taipei were on the brink of escalating, with tactics that could have resulted in damage to property, if not injury. Though this did not come to pass in that specific instance, the potential for escalation is real, and if the Ma administration continues to neglect rising public apprehensions, the restraint that gainsaid more radical elements on Friday could quickly dissipate.
No one — regional economies, global markets and least of all Taiwanese — stands to gain from unrest and instability. However, if a group of people feels boxed in and their fears are ignored by all, they may come to see unrest as the only option. If this happens, all the stability that experts, diplomats and economists are so enamored of would be threatened.
Rather than allow this to transpire, would it not be better if they ensured that a people’s fears and grievances are properly addressed?
In September 2013, the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quietly released an internal document entitled, “Coursebook on the Military Geography of the Taiwan Strait.” This sensitive, “military-use-only” coursebook explains why it is strategically vital that China “reunify” (annex) Taiwan. It then methodically analyzes various locations of interest to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) war planners. The coursebook highlights one future battlefield in particular: Fulong Beach, in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District, which it describes as “3,000 meters long, flat, and straight,” and located at “the head of Taiwan.” A black and white picture of Fulong’s sandy coastline occupies the
Early last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), officially approved the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan. The strategy was supposed to demonstrate that China has a long-term economic vision that would enable it to thrive, despite its geopolitical contest with the US. However, before the ink on the NPC’s stamp could dry, China had already begun sabotaging the plan’s chances of success. The new plan’s centerpiece is the “dual-circulation” strategy, according to which China would aim to foster growth based on domestic demand and technological self-sufficiency. This would not only reduce China’s reliance on external demand; it would also
Interrupting the assimilation of Xinjiang’s Uighur population would result in an unmanageable national security threat to China. Numerous governments and civil society organizations around the world have accused China of massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and labeled Beijing’s inhumane and aggressive social re-engineering efforts in the region as “cultural genocide.” Extensive evidence shows that China’s forceful ethnic assimilation policies in Xinjiang are aimed at replacing Uighur ethnic and religious identity with a so-called scientific communist dogma and Han Chinese culture. The total assimilation of Uighurs into the larger “Chinese family” is also Beijing’s official, central purpose of its ethnic policies
In studies of Taiwan’s demographic changes, the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica has found that a mere 36.5 percent of men and 19.6 percent of women think getting married is an important life event. The institute also found that the government spending money or amending laws and regulations in order to encourage families to have children is having no impact on the birthrate. Opinions differ on whether this kind of change is a matter of national security, as Japan faces a similar situation, without having a negative impact on its economic strength. Fewer women are willing to marry and the divorce