Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) seems to have thrown the towel in the political boxing ring when it comes to opposing economic integration with China.
In the months before the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated government signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China, Tsai was a loud voice of opposition to the trade pact. She rightfully stated that the agreement — the same as the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement between China and Hong Kong in all but name — would likely lead to economic unification with China, but she has since fallen silent.
The ECFA has been signed, it is coming into force, economic integration is speeding up and Taiwan is likely to be engulfed by its behemoth neighbor one corporation, one firm, one consumer at a time. After its economy has been swallowed, the country will find itself unable to claim that it is anything but a renegade province of China, something Beijing has been claiming for the past 60 years.
However, just because that is the most likely scenario, should the opposition keep silent? Should Tsai give up because she has lost the battle? Should she stop being the voice for rights of workers, those workers who will lose their jobs because consumers will inevitably choose cheap Chinese products flooding the market over more expensive, locally made goods? Whatever happened to “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”?
As leader of the largest opposition party, Tsai told her supporters on Wednesday to refrain from protesting during next week’s visit by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林). According to DPP spokesperson Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦), Tsai told party officials that Chen’s visits had become “routine business” and therefore there was no need to stage street protests while he meets with Straits Exchange Foundation officials.
It seems that Tsai is saying that because selling out Taiwan is now routine, there is no need to oppose it anymore.
This is not the first instance that Tsai has shown a weak spine when it comes to the KMT’s breakneck plan to unify with China. In the run-up to the special municipality elections last month, in which she was the DPP’s Sinbei mayoral candidate, Tsai refrained from discussing the ECFA, instead hinting that she would not necessarily push the party to repeal it if the DPP were to win the presidency in 2012. That was shortly after the April 25 debate with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in which she painted the ECFA as a flimsy cover for unification with China.
Just before her change of course, Tsai had rightly argued that the ECFA would cost jobs and reduce salaries, increase capital outflows, lead to a brain drain to China and cause an influx of white-collar workers from China.
Those arguments are all still true, but who is championing them? The only opposition figure who seems willing to step into the ring to stop Taiwan’s plummet down China’s throat is former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), but he is almost 90 years old. Lee already did his part to guarantee Taiwan’s future as a sovereign nation. Why can’t those who follow in his footsteps live up to what he created? Is it that the DPP is so ashamed by the fall of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) that it is now unwilling to live up to its own ideals?