On Wednesday last week, Taiwan’s benchmark stock index plunged 193 points, falling below its most recent low of 6,877.12 on Sept. 26. Among East Asian stock markets, only those of Japan and Taiwan have sunk lower than they did on Sept. 26, when the threat of a Greek sovereign debt default was looming. Those of South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have not seen such drops. In fact, South Korea’s index finished at 1,783 points on Wednesday last week, 7.9 percent above its most recent low of 1,625.
Thursday’s Chinese-language China Times tried hard to cover for the failings of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration. Referring to the electoral campaigns of Ma and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the paper ran a huge headline reading: “With Ma and Tsai neck-and-neck, Taiwanese stocks hit a two-year low.”
Blaming the market plunge on Ma and Tsai’s opinion-poll deadlock, the China Times report went on: “The market is worried that if Tsai is elected, it won’t be good for cross-strait relations, and that in turn will have an effect on Taiwan’s economy and stock market. These worries have prompted overseas investors to pull out one after another.”
This is a familiar dirty trick played by Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), its pan-blue allies and pro-blue media outlets. In 2008, they used the same trick to fool voters, first scaring people by claiming that if the DPP won the election, the stock market would nosedive, and then saying that if Ma were elected, it would herald a decade-long bull market for Taiwan.
Pan-blue politicians and the media gave the impression that Taiwan’s economic prospects were closely linked to China. They told voters that if they wanted to live well, they had better vote for the KMT because only the KMT could improve relations between Taiwan and China.
Considering what happened last time, let us hope that voters do not fall for the same trick again. Hopefully, DPP leaders and media pundits will boldly repudiate the triple falsehood so often repeated by the pan-blue camp and China-friendly media, namely that peaceful cross-strait relations are an essential condition for Taiwan to succeed, that the so-called “1992 consensus” is a precondition for peace and for Taiwan’s economic development, and that Taiwan could not bear any deterioration in its relations with China. They need to convey that the cross-strait factor is only one condition for Taiwan to be successful, that focusing on Taiwan is a precondition for peace and economic development, and that Taiwan’s economy performed better under former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) than now, and Chen did not recognize any “1992 consensus.”
Taiwan’s economic performance since the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement came into effect at the beginning of this year speaks volumes. From then until Wednesday last week, Taiwan’s stock index has fallen by 24.14 percent. That is a bigger fall than those recorded by other East Asian bourses — 13 percent for South Korea, 22 percent for Hong Kong, 18 percent for Japan, 0.4 percent for Indonesia and 5.4 percent for Thailand, while the Philippines’ index has risen by 1.7 percent.
Why the difference? Facts speak louder than words and the blame clearly lies with Taiwan’s economic integration with China under the Ma administration. Taiwan’s stock-market plunge on Wednesday last week is proof that Ma’s economic policies are taking us in the wrong direction, and the more than 20 million Taiwanese who are not particularly well off are suffering the consequences.