For the presidential poll in March, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) strategists should employ optimism rather than the defeatism that DPP candidate Frank Hsieh (
Ending defeatism cannot be accomplished without an energetic campaign to counter accusations that the DPP is to blame for everything that has gone wrong with the country -- or even that things went wrong to begin with.
For years, the idea that the DPP has been responsible for an "economic downturn" in Taiwan has been beaten into the consciousness so vigorously and with so little resistance that it has become received wisdom. Every day we hear about Taiwan's "slouching" or "limping" economy or, if we listen to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), about people struggling to make ends meet and barely eking out a living.
These economic "doldrums" and the DPP's culpability are examples of mythmaking, the result of a campaign of lies that successfully tapped into the irrational and uninformed fears of people who, in many cases, have never had it better.
At times the public seems to inhabit a psychological realm that can border on the downright gullible. As a result, a long series of reports on big retail companies making record profits, the stock market reaching new heights and unemployment falling to its lowest level since February 2001 were ignored.
Instead, everything is seen through the gloomy lens of pessimism: GDP growth is "only" 5.9 percent; unemployment is at a "high" level of 3.9 percent. What many fail to realize, however, is that GDP growth of 5.9 percent is more than respectable, while a unemployment rate of 3.9 percent would be the envy of many a country.
Part of the problem is comparing Taiwan with developing countries such as China -- a practice most unfair, as Taiwan is a modern, developed country and double-digit GDP growth will never happen again. The US, Germany, Britain and France haven't experienced sustained growth of this magnitude in decades, if ever, and economists there would be dancing in the streets if they experienced Taiwan's 5.9 percent growth.
Developing countries like China, Thailand and India have primitive economic circumstances and social and environmental dangers that are rarely factored into long-term economic forecasts.
True, there are grounds for complaint for middle to low-income workers. They rightly say that their wages have not risen -- for close to a decade in some cases -- in response to inflation. But instead of noting the effective absence of labor unions -- an important feature of most advanced economies -- and confronting employers who prefer to reroute entitlements into unpredictable annual bonuses, the government is blamed, even though it can only legislate for the minimum -- and minimal -- wage.
With all its faults, the DPP came to power at a time when the very paradigms of international relations were being shaken. Blaming the government for this is invidious. Love it or hate it, the DPP didn't orchestrate the Sept. 11 attacks, the US-led "war on terror," the invasion of Iraq, the US subprime mortgage crisis or record oil prices.
Once and for all, as it prepares for the March elections, the DPP and its presidential candidate should get their act together and light a candle in the dark to ward off the imaginary monster of economic failure.
Such myths have only ever helped the KMT.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
Last month, the Philippine National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea reported that more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels were anchored at the disputed Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, known as Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines. The task force released astonishing photographs, which showed clusters of enormous fishing trawlers at anchor and tied together in neat rows. Needless to say, the ships were not engaging in commercial fishing activity; they belong to China’s “maritime militia.” Beijing’s flimsy official explanation is that the vessels are temporarily seeking shelter from inclement weather. This is patently ridiculous, given the time that