KMT’s baseless claims
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) campaigned in 2008 on a claim that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had run the economy into a ditch, that closer links with the fast-growing Chinese economy were necessary and that the KMT could deliver them.
The fact is that annual GDP growth in Taiwan during the DPP administration averaged about 5 percent. It is true that this was little more than half the growth rate in China, but it was higher than almost any other developed country in the world. Not bad when you consider that practically all DPP-proposed reforms were sabotaged by a KMT-dominated legislature.
And what about trade? Taiwanese exports to China (excluding Hong Kong and transit trade), which was practically nil in 1999, grew by an annual average of US$7 billion until 2007, reaching US$58.5 billion that year. By 2008, total Taiwanese investments in China had probably reached about US$150 billion, more than investments from any other country, creating possibly as many as 50 million jobs and generating 15 percent of Chinese exports.
Though the DPP was and is much reviled by China, the growth in economic exchanges was fast and extensive on its watch. Since then, the pace has slowed dramatically. This may be a good thing, since Taiwan was becoming quite exposed because of its heavy economic engagement with China, but it is not what the KMT promised in 2008.
The KMT has also been unable to keep its promise to deliver stronger GDP growth. While this can partly be blamed on troubled export markets and rising energy prices, it was totally improbable to begin with to think that even closer ties with China would improve the already high growth rates in Taiwan.
Klaus Carsten Pedersen
Director, Danish Foreign Policy Society
Election monitoring essential
It is disappointing to see that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not provided funding to European academics to observe next month’s presidential and legislative elections (“European election observers denied funding by MOFA,” Dec. 2, page 1).
The elections should be an opportunity to showcase Taiwan’s democratic development to the rest of the world.
DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has a good chance of winning the election. If Tsai is victorious, it will mark another transition of power and solidify Taiwan’s transition to democracy that began with the lifting of martial law in 1987.
However, one hopes the transition will be smooth and trouble-free. A look at Taiwan’s recent history suggests the possibility of trouble.
KMT supporters were engaged in violent protests following the election victories of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as president in 2000 and 2004. KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) even served time in jail for his role in leading a riot in Kaohsiung after the 2004 election.
The four-month transition period between next year’s presidential election and the swearing-in of the president is a window during which more trouble could potentially occur.
It is pleasing to the see the formation of an international committee, led by eminent figures that include former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and former presidential adviser Peng Ming-min (彭明敏), to observe the election (“US Congress to watch elections ‘closely,’” Dec. 3, page 1).
I hope that their efforts to ensure that the election is free and fair will also be supported by NGOs such as the Carter Center and Asian Network for Free Elections.