Thu, Jun 30, 2011 - Page 8 News List

KMT has no ideas for a third way for Taiwan

By Michael Danielsen

In 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came into office with a solid majority in the legislature. Three years later, and observed from an international perspective, it is disappointing to see how few original and inspiring ideas Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government have been able to generate in order to put Taiwan on the global stage. Instead, the KMT has revealed a worrying lack of global perspective in finding ways for Taiwan to further utilize its great potential to advance the nation’s industry and reduce its increasing dependence on China by cooperating with other advanced countries and regions, such as the US, Japan and the EU.

It appears that Taiwan’s ruling party has betrayed its fundamental duty to renew itself and in time formulate a “third way” forward for the nation. The KMT fails to move forward because the party is blinded by history and trapped in the past.

As a result, Taiwan is increasingly considered to be leaning toward China. Additionally, the US is currently debating if Taiwan is worth defending and the WHO has listed Taiwan as a province of China. Moreover, Taiwan’s hard-won trade status as an independent member of the WTO has been damaged by the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China as a non-governmental organization, not an independent, equal WTO partner.

The ECFA should have kicked the door to the world open, but Taiwan is becoming increasingly isolated, and is still not welcomed into international and regional free-trade agreements (FTA). A reality check: China now dictates to Taiwan that FTAs can only be obtained with countries with which China has an FTA, such as Singapore.

Despite the KMT’s intimate relations with China, it lacks the ability — or rather the willingness — to create a credible alternative to its current policies, which seem to go only one way: toward unification. It has chosen to ignore the fact that its policies are unsustainable and that they run contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Taiwanese. More than 80 percent of Taiwanese say no to the “one country, two systems” principle no matter how it is formulated.

The alternative is a new, third way for Taiwan that will not deny its complex history, but allow a fresh, forward-looking approach to Chinese and other international relations. A third way should be both pragmatic and based on solid policies respecting Taiwanese sovereignty.

A third way, among other policies, should adopt an ambitious and active strategy that avoids Taipei’s isolation in regional and international FTAs and diminishes Taiwan’s increasing dependency on China.

Industrial interdependency between Taiwan and a broader set of countries will clearly reduce Taiwan’s risk of being isolated. This can be achieved if Taiwan promotes even closer cooperation with other advanced countries and increases its foreign direct investments. In this process, Taiwan should identify its core areas of expertise and keep these core parts of the industry at home, as Peter Chow (周鉅原) says in a forthcoming book this year at Routledge. In addition, Taiwan can enhance its financial service industry by cooperating more closely with the EU, as Copenhagen Economics has said.

By adopting a third way, Taiwan can develop into a leading player in technology and service products with less focus on products with low value. More research and innovation needs to be directed into new exciting products.

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