'Go west' policy led to current woes

by Huang Tien-lin 黃天麟  / 

Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 8

"Stupid" seems to be the latest trendy word in the debate on Taiwan's economy and politics. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) invited Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last month to debate the DPP's push to join the UN using the name "Taiwan." Ma responded with former US president Bill Clinton's campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid!" President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) immediately attacked Ma, saying, "It's Ma not daring to say Taiwan, stupid!" Ma counterattacked with "Which stupid is it that has messed up Taiwan's economy?" I would like to tell Ma: "It's the blue camp's `go-west' policy, stupid!"

Calling "catch the thief" has always been the pro-China blue camp's best trick. A prime example of this was a recent series of articles in the Chinese-language China Times titled "Taiwan's Hope 2008."

Why has Taiwan's economy lost its luster? The answer lies in the flow of local businesses to China, but the articles accuse the government of isolating itself, blaming the outflow on the DPP for ruling based on political ideology. The authors seem to have forgotten that the phenomenon began under KMT rule, and reached its climax when the advocates of a "one China" market pulled the wool over then-president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) eyes by proposing that Taiwan be turned into an Asia-Pacific operation center as a result of their fascination with the establishment of six major operation centers in Taiwan.

It was this exodus that caused Lee to propose the "no haste, be patient" policy. Today, however, Ma and the pan-blue camp intentionally confuse cause and effect.

It is self-evident that once the production base is relocated to China, ships will no longer stop at our harbors since there is nothing here to transport. However, after traveling across the country for months, Ma still does not understand why the Port of Kaohsiung has dropped from the world's third-largest container port to the sixth-largest. Instead, he proposes curing these ills by opening up direct transportation links to expand cross-strait business links.

It is clear that the industrial relocation to China has hampered Taiwan's industrial competitiveness and internationalization. But the China Times articles actually used "Internationalization is the way out" as its headline -- "internationalization" is pan-blue camp terminology for "sinicization" -- in yet another example of a thief calling "catch the thief."

In terms of the economic downturn discussed in the article series, it is obvious that in addition to globalization, the problem mainly lies in Taiwan's collaboration with China. The outflow has triggered "factor-price equalization" and restricted Taiwanese workers' wages, while unemployment has worsened the poverty problem. The series did not mention this of course. It just criticized the government's various anti-poverty plans.

Amazingly, neither the DPP nor the Presidential Office dare refute the pan-blue camp's accusations or expose their inane logic and deductions by saying, "It's the go-west policy, stupid!" They only list statistics and claim that Taiwan is not inferior to South Korea and avoid the question of the broadening income gap by saying that the situation here is better than that in the US, Thailand, or China.

The government's head-in-the-sand attitude is a result of some DPP heavyweights advocating the go-west policy. Despite their expertise in law and politics, most of their economic knowledge comes from academics and media outlets controlled by the pan-blue camp. Pan-blue camp policy wields a strong influence over their economic decisionmaking, as seen in the "boldly go west," "strengthen Taiwan and go west," "active opening" and "confident opening" policies.

The pro-independence regime's implementation of the pro-unification camp's economic policies is yet another Taiwan miracle. The pan-blue camp's flawed economic discourse has been implemented by a blinkered DPP government, which is now suffering the consequences. What more can we say?

Still, repentance is salvation. Hopefully, the DPP government will stop hesitating and covering up the problem. Admitting one's mistake is the first step to success. The government should also challenge Ma's economic views by telling him and the pan-blue camp, "It's the go west policy, stupid!"

When the truth comes out, the public will surely stand by the pro-localization camp. We have enough wisdom to punch a hole in pro-unification push by pan-blue media outlets and academics.

Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser to the president.

Translated by Eddy Chang