Fri, Jul 09, 2010 - Page 8 News List

A ‘social defense’ strategy is needed

By Wu Jieh-min 吳介民

There is nothing all that new about cross-strait political or commercial alliances, which are more often than not special interests clothed in some form of rhetoric about being in the public interest. That is surely what we have come to expect of globalization, with its emphasis on deregulation.

During the June 26 march organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to protest the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said that China’s offers of concessions to Taiwan were misleading, as they were only going to help big business, and not workers or small and medium enterprises. Things always flow the way of powerful vested interests; the big question is how to put an end to this kind of thing. Who is going to be there to protect the weak and the vulnerable, the little guy? Who is going to fight to protect the democracy and freedom that the Taiwanese struggled long and hard to achieve? The DPP has been out in the wilderness for a while. The time is now right for it to come back with a China policy that is both substantial and effective, by which I mean it needs to look beyond election results. Lee knows this very well, so once again, the question is how?

China has already replaced the US as Taiwan’s biggest trading partner, but despite the importance of the relationship, there remain many tensions between the two sides. We see eye to eye on trade, but not on politics. There is a charged feeling in the air similar to what it must have felt like between the major European nations in the run up to World War II. The biggest difference between the current cross-strait dynamic and that in Europe back then is the respective strengths of the nations involved. In its tussle with China, Taiwan is always going to be at a disadvantage.

In the year 2000, the DPP took power, and some of the old guard of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) started to become more sympathetic to the idea of dealing with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After the latter passed an “Anti-­Secession” Law, providing Beijing with a legal basis for the use of military force against Taiwan should it make any moves toward independence, there was a swift reconciliation between the KMT and the CCP. When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office he was quick to further solidify ties with Beijing. At this point, tactical disengagement went out of the window and the two sides began talking about economic cooperation. Beijing took the initiative in this, magnanimously granting us “concessions.” The more they did so, however, the more suspicious the pro-­independence lobby became.

The DPP’s China policy for the last 20 years or so has had something of a conceptual blind spot. That is, how is Taiwan to get this monkey off our back once and for all? Is relying on the US to guarantee our national security, the preferred policy of the government during the presidencies of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son and successor, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), still the best way forward? If we agree to purchase a large consignment of weapons from the US, will that necessarily guarantee their intervention should things get a little sticky in the Taiwan Strait?

As far as the US is concerned, Taiwan still constitutes an important market for its arms sales. It’s a market that the Americans have a virtual monopoly over. Beijing may well object, but they still do not have the wherewithal to challenge the US. What Beijing is most intent on preventing is the US both selling arms to Taiwan and subsequently coming to its aid should that be required sometime in the future. Back in May, Ma told CNN that the government would continue to purchase arms from the US, but would “never” ask it to go to war on Taiwan’s behalf. This clearly plays right into China’s hands.

This story has been viewed 3448 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top