What is next after the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) “Fury” (火大) demonstration? The pan-blue camp, which has criticized the demonstration, is asking about the party’s policy.
The question is whether a demonstration organized by the opposition needs to mention policy.
A look around the world shows that participants of demonstrations held by civic groups and student movements only express their feelings and demands. Proposing policy is the government’s job, therefore the opposition does not have the responsibility to include policy measures in a protest. The time for the opposition to do this is during elections or when offering alternatives to government policy.
So what should the opposition do following the “Fury” rallies?
Its main responsibility at the moment is to help the public understand why the starting salary for university graduates is NT$22,000, why so many people have problems making ends meet and why there are no jobs for the young. They should start doing the groundwork now so that when they do propose policy, the public will react positively.
There are two sets of reasons for the current public discontent.
First, there is the distribution system focused on the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s official community. The unfairness and injustices perpetrated by this community include: the KMT’s ill-gotten party assets; the 18 percent preferential interest rate enjoyed by retired military personnel, civil servants and public school teachers on part of their pensions; imbalance in pension distribution; pay raises for government officials; and the unfair year-end bonuses for employees of state-owned enterprises that have caused so much public anger lately. These issues are all part of the remaining legacy of the KMT’s former one-party dictatorship.
The second set of reasons consist of the proliferation of pro-unification media outlets, government policies that are China-centric and the core-periphery economic structure that treats Taiwan as a satellite to the core Chinese economy.
This core-periphery economic structure has caused high unemployment; dropped wages to a level not seen in 14 years; slowed domestic investment; reduced consumption; led to an economic performance ranked among the worst in Asia; devastated retail investors over the past four years and led to the disappearance of almost half of the year-end markets.
The public has come to accept the first set of reasons after hearing the DPP’s continued critcism of them, reflected in the party winning about 40 percent of the nation’s votes in the past.
However, due to diverging opinions within the DPP, the party has never offered a full and forceful criticism of the second set of reasons. As a result, pro-Chinese media outlets and the government have been given free rein to influence the public, resulting in China being seen as the best option for the nation’s economy.
This belief has been created by the economic threat card played by the government during last year’s presidential election.
The public needs to fully understand that the government’s excessive and misguided unification policies, aimed at promoting integration with China, are the reason that some people can no longer make ends meet.
Educating the public on this will be crucial to the DPP’s ability to walk that extra mile in the next presidential election.
The priority following the “Fury” demonstration should be to focus on the countryside and make an effort to explain the perils of economic integration with China to prepare voters for the next time the KMT plays the economic threat card.
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser to the president.
Translated by Perry Svensson