[ LETTER ]

Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - Page 8

Aspiring to be voiceless?

Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Li-chyun’s (孫立群) response (Letter, Aug. 13, page 8) to Gerrit van der Wees’ opinion piece (“China is only holding Taiwan back,” Aug. 11, page 8) serves as a neat illustration of the China-centric myopia and blind faith in neoliberal voodoo economics that has become the defining characteristic of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.

It is also concerning to see new language creep into the government’s nomenclature in recent months, particularly the use of “regional integration” as a thinly veiled synonym for self-annexation or unification with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

For example, Sun argues that Taiwan must further “integrate” into “the regional economy” and that “steady development” of cross-strait relations is key to preserving the nation’s economic and political autonomy. Aside from the critical and unanswered question of what constitutes the substance and speed of the one-directional “development” of cross-strait relations, it is troubling that Sun chose to use the word “autonomy.”

By not using the word sovereignty, Sun lost the opportunity to show that the government has a modicum of self-respect and independence of identity and action. Sun’s “autonomy” is also in direct contradiction to Ma’s unilateral definition of Republic of China (ROC) “sovereignty” which includes all of the PRC and Mongolia, despite the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese rejecting this Chinese nationalist fantasy. Sun should remember that Hong Kong is also notionally “autonomous,” as is Macau.

Is he arguing that the government’s greatest ambition for cross-strait relations is to downgrade Taiwan into an autonomous special administrative region of the PRC?

Worryingly, Sun argues that the Ma admistration’s modus operandi is to “further relations with other nations and regional organizations by normalizing cross-strait relations.” This is another way to express Ma’s campaign slogan of “going to the world through China.” It is an apt analogy.

When Taiwanese businesspeople want to travel to China, they cannot use their own passports, but must adopt a Mainland Travel Permit provided by the Chinese authorities. While in China, they face constant pressure to negate their Taiwanese identity. Their exports are marked “Made in China” and are counted statistically as part of the Chinese economy.

So too when Taiwan wants to participate in international organizations and events, it has increasingly had to “go through China to the world,” often with China being consulted beforehand, rendering Taiwan voiceless and humiliated. Taiwan’s observer ship at the World Health Assembly is one such example — a touted great achievement for the Ma administration which was nothing but yet another demonstration of the utter failure of Ma’s unpracticed “diplomatic truce.”

“Integrating” more closely with China did not facilitate free-trade agreements (FTA) with Singapore and New Zealand. They were negotiated separately. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and the subsequent services and goods trade agreements likewise will not convince other nations to sign FTAs with Taiwan, especially when it is almost certain that Chinese pressure will block any progress. The US already said it wanted Taiwan to be a part of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks in the future regardless of the PRC’s opinion, only to be later bewildered by the Ma administration stating it would need China’s approval first.

Never mind that the TPP is a largely secret pact which strips governments of the sovereign right to determine the extent to which the market can play a role in the delivery of core social services and public goods, and ownership of public national infrastructure. The TPP is entirely anti-democratic and designed to serve specific corporate interests.

Finally, it is supremely ironic that this government complains about the opposition blocking the free economic pilot zones bill and services agreement, when even many of its own legislators do not want to be seen voting for them. Between 2000 and 2008, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) blocked most of the former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration’s legislative agenda, regardless of whether the bills enjoyed public support.

It is because of the partisan and disrespectful manner in which the KMT has treated the Legislative Yuan that the nation now has a severely depleted airforce and which also caused the student-led Sunflower movement to occupy the legislature.

If the state’s leaders and institutions speak and act with no regard to public opinion, the public has no responsibility to “have the integrity and demeanor to accept that decision.” To do so on blind faith would instead be an abrogation of the entire concept of democratic participation, representation, and accountability.

Sun’s patronising, mendacious, and formulaic response to Gerrit van der Wees speaks volumes.

Ben Goren

Taipei