The time has come for the big storytelling about the Sunflower movement’s three week-long occupation of the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber. The storytelling will continue in the months ahead to shape public opinion and create history.
The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) stories repeatedly tell you that the movement and its supporters have misunderstood the benefits of the cross-strait service trade agreement, hurt Taiwan’s reputation and refused to participate in an open exchange of opinion.
Political stories are meaningful when they are based on facts and provide ambitious policy directions for the future. Unfortunately, the KMT’s stories fail to meet these simple conditions, making the stories meaningless. Consequently, the stories reveal more about the KMT than the Sunflower movement and its supporters.
It is, for instance, a meaningless story to say that the students have hurt Taiwan’s reputation, thus endangering future trade agreements. According to this story, delaying the ratification of the service trade agreement will send the wrong message to Taiwan’s trading partners.
However, agreements between countries are rejected routinely in other parts of the world, such as the EU, because domestic politics play a significant role in these types of agreements.
This KMT story contains no fundamental new policies — it only trumpets the benefits of the service trade agreement.
On the other hand, a future-oriented story would tell how the KMT decided to abandon the way cross-strait agreements had been handled — behind closed doors, between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as described by Andre Beckershoff in the Journal Of Current Chinese Affairs.
The story could continue telling how the undemocratic KMT-CPP forum’s strong influence on cross-strait relations would be replaced by negotiations through official, or at least semi-official, institutions only. This would not only allow greater transparency, but also ensure that negotiations can continue more smoothly after a change in government.
According to the KMT story about the Sunflower movement protest, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) generously offered an open and unconditional exchange of opinions, but the activists refused the offer. What the story fails to address is why the KMT refused to allow the agreement to be returned to the legislative committee for a review, jeopardizing the meeting.
The KMT’s stories assume that the public has misunderstood the service trade agreement and need more education. Considering that 71 percent of respondents in a TVBS poll said that they are not confident in the KMT’s negotiations with China, that 80 percent of respondents supported the demands of the students and that the Democratic Progressive Party has gained support, according to a recent poll, the KMT is up for a challenging educational project.
Instead of wasting energy spreading meaningless stories, the past month’s events could be an golden opportunity to start a meaningful dialogue among political parties that can move the nation into the future as a strong, independent democracy. China could then change its strategy and embrace a wider audience in Taiwan and win hearts and minds.
Taiwan cannot afford to let future agreements with China and other nations rely on Beijing’s so-called generosity. This will hurt Taiwan’s reputation and sovereignty. Current policies have already damaged Taiwan’s international sovereignty by allowing China to annually veto the nation’s participation in the WHO, while the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement has still not been signed in the WTO. It is time to focus on strengthening Taiwan’s democracy and sovereignty.