Negotiations between the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) think tank and Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) have resulted in China's Chaoda Modern Agriculture Holdings and the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Coopera-tives expressing a willingness to pay more than market value for Taiwanese oranges to help resolve the local glut. The proposal itself seems good, but careful examination reveals crude political machinations.
The two organizations are willing to buy 1,200 tonnes of oranges from Yunlin County at NT$15 per kilogram. Although this will help resolve farmers' urgent needs, China's willingness to buy oranges at a price that is NT$5 to NT$7 higher than the local Taiwanese price of NT$8 to NT$10 per kilogram is an obvious sign that it intends to woo Taiwanese farmers.
But if Chinese officials think they can win the hearts and minds of Taiwanese farmers simply by paying more for oranges, they have sorely underestimated farmers' intelligence. They are certainly aware that the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) intention is to make them appreciate the timely assistance, thereby furthering its political goal of winning their hearts.
But the CCP has overlooked the consequence of such maneuv-ering, which only reveal its "united front" strategy. Does it really think farmers can't see through its tricks?
In both the three-in-one elections in 2005 and the Kaohsiung mayoral election last year, the Democratic Progressive Party secured its support base in southern Taiwan. This proves that the CCP's previous preferential policies regarding Taiwan-ese agricultural products had failed to change the attitude of farmers and citizens in the south. Why can't such experiences change the KMT's thinking about Taiwan?
What is surprising is that the KMT fails to understand the situation and allows the CCP to buy Taiwanese oranges at high prices. In spite of its expectations, this method will hardly win farmers' hearts and may even deepen their negative impression of the KMT, alienating southern voters even further. Eventually, they may be reluctant to vote for KMT candidates and turn to parties that understand the southern atmosphere better.
The KMT believes that farmers are rustics who only care about money and that it can win their hearts by purchasing their products at high prices. But in reality farmers care about more than short-term interests. What they care about is a farsighted, effective agricultural policy that will enable them to make a good living.
If the KMT keeps trying to win them over while offering only superficial solutions rather than pragmatic policies, how can it truly touch voters, or win their trust? If this continues, the KMT will find it extremely difficult to win the south and may even lose its southern support base.
The KMT has to move voters, not buy them over. The effects of the former approach are long-lasting, while those of the latter are temporary. Isn't KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) visiting every corner of Taiwan to gain an understanding of local residents and issues and narrow the distance between them?
The KMT should never repeat the bad policy of selling Taiwanese agricultural products to China at high prices, or farmers will abandon and condemn it. It should make a sincere attempt at understanding the nature of Taiwan and use Ma's visits round the country to build a solid foundation of public support. This is what the KMT really needs to do before the 2008 presidential election.
Li Hua-chiu is a researcher at the National Policy Foundation.
Translated by Eddy Chang