Obama’s test in China
US President Barack Obama has been roundly criticized after his recent Asian trip. Many are ready to pin the unflattering insignia of Jimmy Carter on him, referring to the former US president’s penchant for bungling international matters — the Iran-hostage crisis in particular.
But it is the drawing of parallels between the political backdrop today and what existed when US president John F. Kennedy was in office that seems to portend most ominously. Kennedy’s steep learning curve was spurred by then-Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. It is believed that the crisis, while testing the young US president’s mettle, was consequent to his relatively unseasoned encounter with the Soviet leader some three months earlier in 1961. Similar to the Soviet Union then, China is a rising superpower seemingly primed to challenge the US’ premier role in the world stage.
While in Beijing, Obama quickly acquiesced to respecting “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and left out in the joint communique any reference to the Taiwan Relations Act, the bedrock of US-Taiwan relations for three decades and widely credited with maintaining the relative tranquility in the Taiwan Strait. Given that the significance of the TRA lies in the perception of its deterrent capability, its value has been eroded by its omission in the communique.
If the pretext of “deference to his Chinese host” for these concessions is to be believed, Obama’s performance in the presence of Chinese President Hu Jin-tao (胡錦濤) might be even more one-sided than that of Kennedy when he faced Khrushchev. This comes at a time when Taiwan’s defense readiness is slipping badly, thanks in no small part to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) glaring signals of his “readiness” to succumb.
Combining this with Beijing’s long-held desire to annex Taiwan and its knowledge of the necessity of a forceful conquest prior to achieving that objective, the danger to peace in the Taiwan Strait has probably risen to its highest since the early days of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) escape to Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait seems ripe to turn into Obama’s Cuba unless the other leg of Washington’s foreign affair checks and balances springs into action.
In 1979, the US Congress reacted to Carter’s severance of formal US-Taiwan ties by enacting the TRA, a momentous undertaking in retrospect. Given today’s international atmosphere and the US’ current economic woes, an encore might be beyond the realm of reality. But it is certain that Taiwanese, and perhaps the rest of the free world, want to avoid all occasions where the question of whether Obama can measure up to Kennedy has to be answered.
Los Angeles, California
Creating a ‘care’ economy
I refer readers to the recent Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) decision to amend legislation making it easier for foreign domestic care workers to enter and find work in Taiwan (“CLA mulls relaxed rules on home care workers,” Nov. 16, page 3).
While we recognize and admire the contributions of the more than 170,000 foreign caretakers and helpers working here, we urge the government to consider the domestic employment opportunities associated with Taiwan’s ageing population and create an emerging “care” economy.
A Green New Deal conference held in Melbourne last month, attended by four young members of Taiwan’s green community, outlined how to make the transition to a greener economy by fostering green jobs growth (low emissions, sustainable and based in the local community).
The ever-increasing demand for care workers — whether they belong to the public or private sector — presents the government with a huge opportunity to grow this key sector of the economy, as well as help alleviate some of Taiwan’s unemployment problems. We therefore respectfully request that the government start work now to address training and skills shortages, as well as incentivize participation (both for the workers and potential employers) in this industry.
As a concrete measure, the government should consider subsidizing the gap between what people in Taiwan currently pay for foreign caregivers and what it costs to hire local workers. This measure should also be taken in tandem with efforts to raise to parity the wages and working conditions of foreign domestic workers residing in Taiwan. Indeed, it’s only by thinking locally, and then responding creatively, that Taiwan can hope to make the transition to a greener, more equitable economy.
ROBIN WINKLER, CONVENER
SANDRA PENG, CONVENER
Asia Pacific Greens Network 2010 Congress Organizing Committee
One of former US president Theodore Roosevelt’s most famous quotes is: “To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
This deserves serious contemplation in light of professor Daisy Hung’s (洪蘭) recent article in the Chinese-language CommonWealth magazine criticizing National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine students for their negative attitude in class (“Snoozing students spark scolding from education minister,” Nov. 12, page 2).
The Taipei Times report quoted Hung, of National Central University, as saying: “With college student attitudes like these, how are we going to compete with others?”
Her remark raises questions about the state and prospects of higher education.
Because of a low birth rate and an oversupply of universities, admission to college has become relatively easy. This is the main reason why many college students no longer cherish the opportunity and study hard. Our priority should be finding a way to motivate them to learn.
At Harvard University, there is a motto to inspire the students: “Enter to grow wisdom; depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.” This is the core value of higher education, and it deserves our attention. However, how many college students comprehend and practice this concept?
Education authorities should identify and formulate long-term education policies and design programs that can motivate students.Creating pragmatic and innovative courses in terms of content and quality is a vital incentive for students. Meanwhile, faculty members should bear the responsibility of motivating their students through quality teaching and counseling.
Yonghe, Taipei County
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