Major faults in the nation’s system of constitutional government allow Ma to feel secure even though his approval rate has fallen to about 10 percent. Furthermore, the Cabinet — consisting of Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and other ministers nominated by Ma — has handled many issues extraordinarily badly, including the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City, abuse of military recruits, political struggles, phone-tapping, forced demolitions, workers made redundant by factory closures, electronic toll collection, free economic pilot zones and school curriculum guidelines. The Cabinet has performed dismally amid his weak public support. However, they still rush through any policy it is imagined will improve the economy.
The government’s carrot-and-stick approach to getting legislators to give express approval to the cross-strait service trade agreement is just the first signal. The next item on Ma’s agenda is the proposed law governing free economic pilot zones, which could well prove catastrophic for the economy.
However, the most worrying question is whether the Cabinet will announce that the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has passed its safety tests and then proceed to install fuel rods and have the plant start operations. A rational view is that the plant should definitely not be completed. Strangely, the Ma-Jiang regime is determined to make sure that the plant does start operating. That is because establishing atomic power has become an essential element in Ma, Jiang and the conservative movements concern for its legacy. Their lordships refuse to recognize the reasonable judgements made by ordinary people on the basis of their wisdom and knowledge and only want to wallow in self-deception. That is the philosophical analysis one would make based on Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, but now it may really turn out to be the root cause of a Taiwan crisis.
The purpose of this analysis is to point out that while globalization, the “China factor” and international politics may have generated quite tough structural difficulties, the nation’s crisis is being brought about by internal factors and the actions of politicians and citizens. Conversely, how a crisis can be prevented deepening depends mostly on Taiwanese.
The current confrontation over the service trade agreement is a litmus test. People have raised a thousand doubts about it: The opaque way in which the agreement was drawn up, the dearth of public information about it, the lack of courage to assess its possible impacts, the questionable aspects of its terms, the controversial nature of the items it covers, the unbalanced deregulation of various sectors.
However the standard reply is that the legislature can deliberate on the agreement, but it cannot amend it. Does this not fly in the face of democracy? Does it not show that Beijing’s wish is Ma’s command? That is why it is so important for the legislature not just to screen the service treatment clause-by-clause, and do it meticulously, but also to enact a law about oversight of cross-strait agreements. These steps must be taken to safeguard democracy and prevent a crisis.
It does not look very likely that the Ma-Jiang regime can wake up from the stubbornness that power has engendered in its leaders. Therefore, apart from telling the opposition parties not to slack off in the legislature and to steadfastly oppose the express approval of the trade services agreement, civic groups are determined to continue speaking out and resisting in all kinds of ways.