President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) call over the weekend for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to return to the provisional legislative session to “review” the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was disingenuous at best. \nMa said it was the DPP’s responsibility, as the nation’s largest opposition party, to return to the extra legislative session to “monitor the government.” \nSadly for Taiwan’s democratic institutions, “monitoring” the government under the Ma administration, where both the executive and legislative branches are dominated by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has taken on an entirely different meaning. \nThe DPP walked out of the “review” on Friday because the KMT, which has about three-quarters of the seats in the legislature, used its majority to bypass a committee review and called instead for one month of deliberations. \nA clause-by-clause review of the ECFA has been nixed by the Cabinet and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), a KMT member. Faced with this situation and aware it has insuffient votes in the legislature to kill the ECFA as a whole, the DPP had little choice but to not participate in what is turning into nothing more than an unnecessary exercise to rubber-stamp the deal, for which every taxpayer in Taiwan is paying. \nWalking out was the right thing to do. Staying, or returning to the legislature and taking part in this travesty of deliberative democracy would confer an aura of legitimacy on the endeavor that it does not deserve. More than that, by participating in this KMT-orchestrated “review,” the DPP would make it possible for the Ma administration to tell the world that the process was transparent, fair and that the outcome reflected consensus between the two main parties. \nUnable to do its job of monitoring the government in the legislature, the DPP has been compelled to work outside the system. \nOf course, this action also exposes the DPP to accusations that it is acting “irrationally” and refusing to cooperate in the democratic process. Seen from abroad, those criticisms could even gain some traction. However, given its options, when forced to choose between being portrayed as “extremist” or actually doing what is right for the country, the DPP made the right decision. \nThough it is unlikely that this course of action will force the Ma administration to reconsider its ECFA policy, at least the DPP will have stuck to its principles and avoided becoming an accomplice in the perversion of democracy. That alone, however, will be insufficient. What the party must now do is come up with alternative strategies to either prevent an ill-reviewed ECFA from coming into force or, at a minimum, launch a public diplomacy campaign to explain to Taiwanese — and the world — why it could not be a participant in Wang’s legislative circus. \nFailing to do so — because of the DPP’s image problems in the international media — would make it easy for the KMT and governments who support the ECFA to cast the DPP in the role of a troublemaker. \nThe reluctant player here, the one who is exploiting the organs of democracy devoid of its heart and spirit, is the KMT, not the DPP.
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.
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has
As the US’ mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues at a record pace, one question under debate is what the administration of US President Joe Biden should do with its extra doses — and especially where to send them. One country that should be at the top of a donation list is Taiwan, in recognition of the help that it provided to the US at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. After weeks of pressure, the Biden administration announced that it is now “looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses.” By summer, it is clear that anyone in the