The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and other political parties and groups are facing a turning point in the form of a generational shift, forcing some adjustments in party personnel. Members often call for a generational shift in the hope of bringing in new blood.
There are two problems with this logic: First, it is never clarified whether the younger generations should be defined by age, intelligence, mentality or by ability. As long as the definition of “younger generations” is not clearly delineated, there will always be different interpretations and disputes. Second, the current definition of generation focuses mainly on means and does not consider sustainability.
A possible generational shift is seen as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Emphasizing the importance of a generational shift is confusing means and end, and it could even harm the goal. The focus should not be on a generational shift, but on social sustainability, for three reasons:
First, social sustainability is a universal value. The backbone of social sustainability is the public interest, which is universally recognized and acknowledged. In comparison, the interests of minorities, ethnic groups, factions and political parties normally do not represent the public interest. More often than not, they are in opposition to it and, as a result, they are not widely accepted.
For example, people want social sustainability, so they push for energy conservation, reducing carbon emissions and promoting a circular economy to tackle overconsumption and waste of resources, and they do not want political and economic development to add to the environmental or social burden of future generations.
Second, social sustainability is the government’s responsibility. It has massive resources at its disposal, including public authority, personnel and a budget, so it is the entity most capable to bring it about. Theoretically, the public should therefore demand that the government do precisely that.
However, in reality, there are many reasons that government resources are not put to good use and are sometimes even hijacked by minorities with the result that future generations are saddled with debt. In such cases, the government is often blamed for the lack of social sustainability.
Everyone is responsible for making it possible for the government to set and pursue social sustainability goals. However, because the government’s hands are tied by politics, political issues must never be disregarded.
Third, social sustainability is crucial for political survival. If a party or faction does not align its interests with public opinion, it will be tossed aside by voters. The operations of the government of late have revealed too much political maneuvering and calculation, leading to political and social unsustainability.
To put it more plainly, the political system and political sustainability are failing, and no one seems capable of putting things back on track. This is the public’s main concern.
This issue also raises the question of whether government officials are appointed based on factional and party affiliation or social sustainability considerations. Such issues require the utmost caution and deliberation.
Social sustainability is the issue all should be concerned with. Whether a generational shift is necessary hinges on whether it will result in social sustainability. After all, a shift is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
This means that the horse must not be put before the cart. Change should focus on social sustainability rather than a generational shift. Not doing that will have a negative impact on social sustainability and Taiwan will be in even deeper trouble.
Yang Yung-nane is a professor of political science at National Cheng Kung University.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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