One would be hard pressed to find anyone in Taiwan who is against making money. Likewise one would be hard pressed to find anyone in Taiwan who is against trade between nations. That said, there are trade agreements and then there are trade agreements and among these, certainly, not all agreements are equal — some might be unequal and some can even be disastrously unequal. This is the situation that Taiwan now finds itself in as the critical consideration of the cross-strait service trade agreement and the occupation of the Legislative Yuan reach their conclusions.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has from the very beginning been doing all in its power to impose this trade agreement on the nation without proper legislative review. The students, opposition parties and others have been opposed to this ham-fisted way of running a country. For them this signifies an attempted return to the old authoritarian one-party state ways of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) — the days of the White Terror and Martial Law. Throughout the past standoff, all sides had called upon PR agents, spin-doctors and pundits of all sorts to aid their cause, but beneath this, the real issue has been about more than trade, it has been that of representative democracy and a government that thinks it can subvert that.
With more resources, the Ma government has of course been able to call on a greater variety of commentators and pundits to bolster its position. These even included American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) affiliates David Brown and Richard Bush, who take its side over the agreement. However, rank and sheer volume do not mean such commentators are correct. The whole business recalls the well-known business proposition of the chicken to the pig. The chicken suggests that they go into business together.
What product, asks the pig. The chicken states happily, “We can make ham and egg sandwiches and market them. They are very popular and we will both get rich.” The pig declines, saying, “Thanks, but no thanks, I don’t mind profit, but getting rich in the way that you suggest is a slanted agreement. From your side, you are only involved, but for me it is a life-ending commitment.” For the Ma government and its pundits, the standpoint on trade that they have been promoting reflects the involvement of the chicken. For the people of Taiwan, it sounds too much like they are being asked to be the sacrificed pig.
Hence the impasse. Such trade promotion is of course what is echoed by the majority of “chicken pundits” outside Taiwan and Ma continues to refuse to let the dangers of this trade agreement receive proper examination. However as has been contended, this has not been just a matter of those for trade and those against. It even suggests the difference between a president who is involved with but not committed to the country he represents.
This precarious position also reflects the wider plight and position of Taiwan over the past six decades. Taiwan is a mid-sized nation; it is larger in population than 75 percent of the countries in the UN. Its economy places it in the top 20 countries of the world. It has a thriving, hard-won democracy and yet because of the financial pressure and politicking of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it is at risk. Furthermore, as Taiwan strives for long overdue international recognition it also watches the failed promises of democracy the PRC gave Hong Kong and the way in which the people of Hong Kong classify the Chinese — as locusts streaming across their border.