Okay, let us end the silly name-calling and focus on what needs to be done to prevent further erosion of the economy. Solutions for the future, not “I told you so” or hollow promises and calls for patience, are what the situation calls for.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration officials have had more than four years to demonstrate that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is better for Taiwan’s economy than was the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — claims that, along with the vow of clean governance, were major factors in Ma’s 2008 election. So far, his administration has failed to provide any convincing evidence that this is the case.
Defending his poor performance to date, Ma has argued that Taiwan’s poor economic showing is the result of the global financial downturn of 2008 and the eurozone crisis. While there is no doubting the impact that the global economic downturn has had on Taiwan’s performance, Ma conveniently omits that soon after he came into office, the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) faced a similarly difficult situation amid the recession sparked by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. While Chen could — and should — have done more for the economy, it simply shows that external factors cannot be cherry-picked for the sake of convenience.
Both administrations have done poorly on the economy. So what can be done to fix that should be the focus of both parties as they look to the future. Merely focusing on GDP growth, or comparing such figures with other countries in the region, comes far short of what is required of our leaders.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that the future cannot — should not — be characterized by more economic dependence on China. Laudatory remarks notwithstanding, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), increased Chinese tourism and further investment from China have not yielded the benefits promised by Ma. In fact, narrow focus on China alone has prevented the real changes that need to be brought into effect to modernize Taiwan’s economy, which includes measures to prevent the further rush-out-the-door of foreign private equity to a concrete strategy to attract the foreign talent that a small country like Taiwan cannot afford to continue ignoring.
If there is one country that should be the object of greater attention as a potential remedy to Taiwan’s nearly anemic economy it is not China, but Japan. For one thing, foreign direct investment from Japan will inevitably result in high-tech transfers that, for many years to come, will be unimaginable for China to provide. Despite its own economic troubles, Japan remains a major innovator and as such, investment in Taiwan will be a net benefit. China steals, mimics and reproduces, adding no developmental value through its investment here.
Beijing’s violent reaction in its dispute with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) has made a large number of big Japanese firms reconsider their investment in China and to look for regional alternatives. Such a trend creates tremendous opportunities for Taiwan, provided that its leadership does what it takes to seize the bull by the horns.
One stumbling block to achieving this is Ma’s ill-concealed animosity toward Japan, though greater forces could undermine his ability to prevent progress. Among other things, the KMT will need to prove that it can resurrect the economy before the next presidential election. Failing that, and its image severely damaged by the Lin Yi-shih (林益世) scandal, the KMT will run out of ammunition come 2016. With Ma barred from running for a third term, whoever runs for the party will want to be able to use the economy card to have a chance at being elected. Consequently, if a move closer to Japan, or away from China, is seen as a good strategy, Ma could quickly be sidelined.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday last week met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at an APEC summit in Thailand. The meeting made front-page news in Japan the following day. Three years ago, when then-Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited Beijing to meet with Xi, no one questioned Abe’s attitude toward China, as the conservative parties in Japan had been spearheaded by Abe. However, Kishida could easily be labeled as pro-China, as he hails from Hiroshima — a place known for its anti-war, anti-nuclear movements — and was once the director of the Japan-China Friendship Association of Hiroshima.
It is quite the irony when former British prime minister Boris Johnson — a buffoon who for far too long was taken seriously — is branded a buffoon for saying something deadly serious. Following Johnson’s withering criticism of China at a business forum in Singapore on Wednesday last week, the event’s organizer, Michael Bloomberg, apologized to attendees, saying that Johnson was “trying to be amusing rather than informative and serious.” However, Johnson’s characterization of China as a “coercive autocracy” that had showed “a candid disregard for the rule of international law” was spot-on. His comments evoked the wisdom of the Austrian-British philosopher
Although the share price of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) has fallen significantly amid concerns over worldwide inflation, US billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway spent a massive US$4.1 billion on the chipmaker’s American depositary receipts. Reporting on Buffett’s investment in TSMC, some Chinese-language media outlets have said that it would give the Taiwanese economy a shot in the arm. Although TSMC has planted its flag in various countries around the world, Taiwan is still its most important base. The US invited TSMC to set up a plant in Arizona, because it was worried that its source of cutting-edge chips would
As campaign fever for tomorrow’s local elections turns white hot, supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have been going head to head on social media. The latest row was triggered by a Facebook post on Nov. 13 by songwriter and KMT supporter Liu Chia-chang (劉家昌), who rebuked United Microelectronics Corp founder Robert Tsao (曹興誠) for advocating independence. “Although you regained your ROC [Republic of China] citizenship after returning from Singapore, you continue to help the green independents by guarding their flank,” Liu wrote, adding that it was an “insult to the nation.” “When [KMT