Economic reform rather than political ideology is clearly the foremost concern of Taiwanese voters, as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration’s failure to improve the economy translated into crushing defeat in the nine-in-one elections on Saturday last week.
For the first time in the history of the nation’s democratic evolution, Taiwanese simply voted for the right to survive. The Democratic Progressive Party’s landslide victory — winning 13 of the 22 mayoral seats — also destroyed the myth that “deep-blue” or “deep-green” supporters would always vote along party lines.
That is no longer the case. The KMT won just 40.7 percent of the votes, its lowest since 2001, while the DPP grabbed 47.55 percent, its second-highest since direct elections were introduced.
Voters roared for change as stagnating wages and a widening income gap have created a new generation of working poor. With monthly payrolls hitting a 15-year low, most young people are struggling to pay for the basic necessities. Meanwhile, Taiwan has become a haven for foreign businesses looking for cheap labor.
The KMT should learn from this defeat and listen carefully to the public’s voice — or risk facing even more serious consequences in the presidential election in 2016.
In its remaining two years in power, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration needs to tackle key economic issues skillfully and sort out the problems. The government forecasts that the economy would grow 3.5 percent annually this year, but the average person is unlikely to feel the effect of this growth because it is not passed on in the form of wage hikes.
The government has long ignored the disconnect between economic growth and wages, which most economists blame on Taiwan’s special trade structure — with local manufacturers taking orders in Taiwan, but manufacturing the goods overseas — for the mismatch.
In addition to wages, the government needs to ramp up its efforts to solve a host of problems ranging from food safety scares to rising prices of daily necessities, tax reform and trade talks not only with China, but also other countries.
The government should give up long-standing bureaucratic inertia and tackle the tasks at hand with determination. It should avoid the policy turnabouts that have only caused confusion among officials, depressed markets and caused the public to lose confidence in the government. The draft cross-strait trade in goods agreement and proposal to establish free economic pilot zones have been stalled in the legislature for at least six months, as poor communication by the government and the lack of an extensive assessment of potential trade losses have fueled strong opposition from a public afraid of what may happen if markets are opened up. The list goes on.
The Ma government has also arrived at a critical juncture as it confronts growing difficulties in tapping a capable candidate to helm the Cabinet following Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) resignation. The next premier faces an uphill task in pushing government policies in the face of an empowered opposition and deteriorating support from KMT legislators.
KMT legislators, including Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), had tried to persuade central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南) to take over as premier, but Perng has stuck to his guns and declined the offer.
With Minister of Economic Affairs Woody Duh (杜紫軍) and National Development Council Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) announcing on Monday that they would not try to stay on in their posts, the new premier will also face the difficult task of finding industry experts to take the portfolios.
The road ahead is bumpy, and the Ma government needs to install the right officials to work on new measures to improve public livelihoods — or risk another public backlash in the next elections.
China has long sought shortcuts to developing semiconductor technologies and local supply chains by poaching engineers and experts from Taiwan and other nations. It is also suspected of stealing trade secrets from Taiwanese and US firms to fulfill its ambition of becoming a major player in the global semiconductor industry in the next decade. However, it takes more than just money and talent to build a semiconductor supply chain like the one which Taiwan and the US started to cultivate more than 30 years ago. Amid rising trade and technology tensions between the world’s two biggest economies, Beijing has become
With a new White House document in May — the “Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China” — the administration of US President Donald Trump has firmly set its hyper-competitive line to tackle geoeconomic and geostrategic rivalry, followed by several reinforcing speeches by Trump and other Cabinet-level officials. By identifying China as a near-equal rival, the strategy resonates well with the bipartisan consensus on China in today’s severely divided US. In the face of China’s rapidly growing aggression, the move is long overdue, yet relevant for the maintenance of the international “status quo.” The strategy seems to herald a new
To say that this year has been eventful for China and the rest of the world would be something of an understatement. First, the US-China trade dispute, already simmering for two years, reached a boiling point as Washington tightened the noose around China’s economy. Second, China unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, wreaking havoc on an unimaginable scale and turning the People’s Republic of China into a common target of international scorn. Faced with a mounting crisis at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly decided to ratchet up military tensions with neighboring countries in a misguided attempt to divert the
Toward the end of former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) final term in office, there was much talk about his legacy. Ma himself would likely prefer history books to enshrine his achievements in reducing cross-strait tensions. He might see his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore in 2015 as the high point. However, given his statements in the past few months, he might be remembered more for contributing to the breakup of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). We are still talking about Ma and his legacy because it is inextricably tied to the so-called “1992 consensus” as the bedrock of his