Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Anti-corruption: The True Spirit of 228!

Anti-corruption: The True Spirit of 228!
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 27, 2008

February 28 is here again. The DPP's eight years in power have proven one thing: Taiwan's political problems cannot be resolved by mendaciously casting them as "ethnic struggles." Taiwan's political problems can only be resolved by addressing the relationship between "those who rule," and "those who are ruled."

The DPP has used the "228 Incident" to define and manipulate its alleged "ethnic struggle." When the incident occurred, provincial origin was one factor. But the underlying cause of the incident was the government corruption and misrule. Back then the government was in the hands of "mainlanders." Sixty years later the government is in the hands of the Democratic Progressive Party, a self-proclaimed "native Taiwanese" regime. This "native Taiwanese" regime is also riddled with corruption. This tells us that the 228 Incident was not about "ethnic struggle," therefore the solution to the problems of 228 is not "ethnic struggle." All citizens, regardless of "ethnicity" (or more precisely, "social groups") are among "those who are ruled." Together, they must remain eternally vigilant against "those who rule." This is the correct path for Taiwan's politics.

Sixty years ago, "those who ruled" corruptly and incompetently were "mainlanders" belonging to the KMT. Sixty years later, "those who rule" corruptly and incompetently are "native Taiwanese" officials of the DPP. The issue was never "mainlanders vs. Taiwanese." The issue, from beginning to end, was always about "those who rule" vs. "those who are ruled."

The true spirit of 228 is anti-corruption. At the time, a common expression was "fan yu zheng," literally "opposition to bad government." In other words, the essence of the incident was a tragic struggle by "those who were ruled" against the corruption and incompetence of "those who ruled." Alleged "ethnic antagonism" was antagonism between "those who ruled" and "those who were ruled." It was not any "Original Sin" or "predestindation" on the part of "mainlanders."

The DPP "commemorates" February 28 primarily through a selective reading of history, and by putting history on freeze. They have freeze-framed history on Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang, casting them as the "chief culprits in the 228 Incident." They have totally discounted the KMT's achievements and reparations. They have repeatedly clicked "rewind," returning Taiwan's society to February 28, sixty years ago. They ignore the fact that "mainlanders" 60 years later are not the "mainlanders" of 60 years ago, and that "Taiwanese" 60 years later are not the "Taiwanese" of 60 years ago.

Over the past eight years, the corrupt and incompetent ruling Democratic Progressive Party knows only how to denounce its predecessor as an "alien regime." It does not know how to reflect upon its own corruption and incompetence, let alone engage in reform. It has reflexively manipulated "Taiwanese Pathos," playing upon a Taiwanese perception of chronic victimization. It uses this Taiwanese Pathos against an artifically concocted boogyman, an "alien regime." It uses it against those who were in power 60 years ago. It is as if the DPP hadn't been in power over the past eight years. It is as if the DPP is not the ruling party, and therefore responsible for what needs to be done.

This "228 Colored Vision of History" in which everything is about 228, and nothing is unrelated to 228, has turned the DPP into a party that dwells chronically upon the plight of "Taiwan's persecuted victims." It remains incapable of assuming a responsible role as "Rulers of Taiwan." Instead, the DPP has degenerated into a corrupt "exploiter of Taiwan," even as it dons the mantle of "champion of Taiwan's persecuted victims." When over one million ROC citizens protested the DPP's brazen corruption during the Red Shirt Army street demonstrations, the DPP had the temerity to denounce them as "Chi-Com Fellow Travelers."

If the 228 Incident is defined as "a tragic protest by those being ruled against those who rule," then it becomes an invaluable asset in the advancement of democracy and our understanding of history. During the 228 era, the people on Taiwan protested Kuomintang corruption and misrule. Sixty years later, the people of Taiwan have stood up to protest Democratic Progressive Party corruption and misrule. Those who learn the lessons of history will be spared the need to repeat them. If the 228 Incident is misleadingly defined as an "ethnic" struggle, then it will become a perpetual curse that will tear apart "those being ruled." Taiwan will spin its wheels endlessly, going nowhere.

The DPP's 228-oriented "ethnic struggles" over the past two years have torn apart "those who are being ruled" even more severely. The 228 Incident has shielded corrupt rulers from prosecution, by mischaracterizing an anti-corruption struggle as an "ethnic" struggle.

Take a look at the US presidential election. The history of black and white relations in the United States is written in blood. It was far more bitter than any alleged "ethnic" struggle on Taiwan. But out pops African American candidate Barak Obama, who has become America's collective savior. He is seen as the spokesman for a truly grass-roots, bottom up reestablishment of political justice, national spirit, and civilized values. If the United States can free itself from a century long struggle over "ethnicity," can the Republic of China do any less?

Since the 228 Incident, Taiwan has undergone 61 years of storm and strife. Citizens of the Republic of China on Taiwan should must reclaim the right to define the 228 Incident from the Democratic Progressive Party. They must not permit the DPP to further demagogue the 228 Incident by casting it as an "ethnic" struggle.

The true spirit of the 228 Incident is opposition to the corruption and incompetence of an unjust ruler. That is the true meaning of 228.














Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Taiwan Goal may have been Dissolved, but Suspicions Linger

Taiwan Goal may have been Dissolved, but Suspicions Linger
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 27, 2008

Minister of National Defense Lee Tien-yu has resigned. The Executive Yuan has declared that funds may not enter Taiwan Goal. Taiwan Goal Chairman Wu Nai-jen has announced that he will convene a shareholders' meeting to discuss the dissolution of the company. The controversy appears to be over. But this mysterious company has left us with too many loose ends, too many doubts. The whole truth has yet to be revealed. The Taiwan Goal incident is not over.

A number of doubts hang about Taiwan Goal, remaining to be clarified.

Government funds may have been invested in Taiwan Goal. Taiwan Goal may not have really disbanded. Neither is the point. The point is whether the Ministry of National Defense signed contracts authorizing Taiwan Goal to negotiate arms deals before the scandal broke. Was the Ministry of National Defense negotiating arms deals? Was it close to finalizing these deals, as the media suggests? If it was, what next? Will the Ministry of Defense take over? Or will the original gang carry on? This is critical, but has yet to be clearly explained.

If Lee Tien-yu resigns, if Taiwan Goal has been dissolved, the public will remain in the dark. The same gang will carry on as before, only their machinations will be better hidden. Where the kickbacks went no one will know. The Defense Department can only pay up afterwards. By the time any real investigation has begun, the culprits will have escaped overseas, like Wang Chuan-pu. By then, even assuming the Taiwan Goal case is brought to light, it will all be for naught.

Lee Tien-yu has hastily resigned. The official explanation is that he is assuming political responsibility for the improper handling of the Taiwan Goal case. But everyone knows this is not the real reason. The most widely held view is that:
One. The Presidential Office "suggested" that Lee Tien-yu resign.
Two. Lee Tien-yu knew his situation was not encouraging, so he bailed out early to avoid entanglement in any emerging scandal.
The inside story may not emerge in the short term, but whatever it is, it won't be straightforward. If Lee Tien-yu was "urged" to step down, obviously he was "less than effective in supporting Taiwan Goal." He may even have been "less than willing to support Taiwan Goal."
If the latter, that would mean Lee Tien-yu was fully aware that vast interests were involved, and the case was highly controversial. If he didn't draw a clear line of demarcation between himself and the scandal he could easily get burned, and wind up as the fall guy.
Within the military, Lee Tien-yu has long been regarded as Chen Shui-bian's man. If even Lee could not avoid being purged, becoming the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's shortest-serving Defense Minister, what sort of unspeakable acts were being committed behind the scenes?

The most intriguing aspect of the Taiwan Goal case, from beginning to end, is also the one least accounted for. Namely, why was everything under the direction of the New Tide Faction's "Two Jens?" Chiou I-jen, from behind-the-scenes, and Wu Nai-jen, from center stage? In the past, experienced politicians never got involved in arms procurement. The Two Jens carry considerable weight within the party and the administration. The two belong to the same faction. How dare they brazenly set up companies and elbow their way into the game, secretly negotiating important mulitnational arms deals? Especially within the context of a caretaker government, and clearly with the intention of evading legislative oversight? Who is going to believe that no selfish interests were involved? Lee Tien-yu has stepped down. His successor, Tsai Min-teh, just happens to be a New Tide Faction member.
Perhaps this is just a coincidence. But the impression it leaves the outside world is that obstacles were being removed to make way for "one of our own." To assert that the Taiwan Goal scandal is over, given the circumstances, strains anybody's credulity.

No one denies that given the mainland's authorities' blockade and suppression, the ROC has a hard time buying weapons. In order to maintain the most basic requirements of national defense and national security, we must remain flexible. After all, arms procurements often involve astronomical sums. Even the tiniest discounts involve staggering numbers. Absent systematic oversight, absent internal and external control mechanisms, arms sales are a hotbed for corruption. The Yin Ching-feng case remains seared in our memory. To this day, that military procurement scandal remains an albatross around the Kuomintang's neck. The DPP needs to open its eyes. If the Taiwan Goal scandal is not followed-up and handled properly, it is likely to become an albatross around the DPP's neck.

Therefore spare us any specious claims that Taiwan Goal was established to promote domestic arms production, or that the dissolution of Taiwan Goal will damage the nation's interests. Even the right thing, done at the wrong time, by the wrong people, in the wrong way, is the wrong thing. Besides, if Taiwan Goal is truly innocent, why is Frank Hsieh distancing himself from it?


國 防部長李天羽請辭,行政院宣布資金禁入鐽震,而鐽震的董事長吳乃仁聲明將召開股東會討論公司解散事宜,到此為止,這樁引發莫大爭議的事件好似就此落幕。但 就是因為這家神祕的公司留下了太多的疑點與空白,在全部真相還沒有完全揭露前,鐽震事件恐怕不能太輕易的就讓它成為「過去式」。


首 先,不論政府投資鐽震的資金是否已經確定不會到位,也不論鐽震公司屆時會不會真的解散,這其實都不是重點,重點是在先前鐽震公司還未曝光的運作期間,國防 部是否已經與鐽震公司簽訂了若干授權合約?或是已經實質洽談了若干軍火採購,而且也是否真如部分媒體所傳,是否都已經接近定案?如果答案是肯定的,那麼接 下來會怎麼處理?由國防部接手處理,還是由原班人馬繼續操作?這一點到現在都沒清楚交代,卻是相當關鍵。

試想,如果李天羽辭職,鐽震公司 解散,換來的只是「化明為暗」,一切操作還是由同一批人在運作,只是變得更隱密。屆時相關回扣去了那裡也沒人知道,國防部只有事後埋單的份,等到真正開始 追究,亦不過是台灣再多幾位避居海外的「汪傳浦」而已,那麼就算此刻揭發了鐽震案,未來還是可能白忙一場。

其次,李天羽倉卒的下台,儘管 官方說法是要為鐽震公司處理不當負起政治責任,但任誰都知道這當然不是真正的理由。目前較流行說法,一是府方主動「暗示」李天羽辭職,二是李天羽自知情況 不妙,選擇提前跳傘,以免未來釀成弊案難以脫身。真正的內幕或許短期內不易澄清,但不論上述說法中的那一種,內情都不單純。如果李天羽是被「暗示」要下台 的,顯然是認為他「挺鐽震不力」,甚至是「配合度不高」;如果是後者,那也意味李天羽深知這其中包含了龐大的「利益」,也包含了龐大的「爭議」,再不切割 遲早引火上身,淪為代罪羊。如果在軍系中一向被視為扁嫡系的李天羽都免不了出局,成為民進黨執政期間任期最短的國防部長,如何不令人好奇,這背後究竟存著 什麼不可告人的糾葛?

再其次,也是鐽震案從頭到尾最耐人尋味,也最不曾交代的一個環節,即為什麼這一切是由新潮流的「雙仁」在主導?不論 是隱身幕後的邱義仁,或是檯面上掛名主導鐽震公司的吳乃仁,過往從政經歷與專業都不曾涉及軍火採購,更何況他們兩人在黨政部門的身分與角色都未褪盡,還都 剛好隸屬同一特定派系,怎麼敢就這麼明目張膽地成立公司,強行介入跨國的軍火交易,甚至趕在看守政府階段,就暗中洽談重要軍火採購,而且擺明的要逃避國會 監督,這中間要說全無「私利」考量,恐怕是違反所有人的常識吧!耐人尋味的是李天羽下台後,接任部長的蔡明憲,偏偏又是新潮流出身,或許只是巧合,但給外 界的觀感,好似是移開石頭,交由「自己人」操盤一樣。如此要說鐽震疑雲已經落幕,恐怕很難令人釋疑。

沒有人否認,在中共的封鎖與打壓之 下,台灣對外的軍火採購確實困難重重,而為了維繫最起碼的國防安全需求,在手段上採取各種靈活變通,大家都會支持。但軍火採購畢竟是動輒涉及天價的交易, 再微薄的折扣比例,都是驚人的數額,沒有制度化的內控與外控監督機制,很可能就淪為貪汙與弊案滋生的溫床,「尹清楓案」的記憶猶新,國民黨執政時期的若干 軍事採購弊案,至今都還是該黨甩不掉的包袱,這一點民進黨應該看得很清楚,如果鐽震案的後續再要處理不當,很可能也將淪為民進黨揮之不去的包袱之一。


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Once Again, Singapore Can and Taiwan Cannot

Once Again, Singapore Can and Taiwan Cannot
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 20, 2008

A joke has been circulating on the Internet. Citizens from several countries are asked the same question: "What's your personal opinion regarding food shortages throughout the world?" Citizens of each country respond differently. Americans, living amidst abundance and accustomed to waste, respond, "What's a shortage?" Ethiopians, living amidst famine and extreme poverty, respond, "What's food?" Singaporeans, living under one-party, one man rule, respond, "What's a personal opinion?" This is of course is an ironic commentary on Singapore's lack of freedom of expression and thought. But there is no denying that despite being closed to threatening political ideas and opinions, Singapore has demonstrated an economic strength over the past few decades that Taiwan is unable to match.

Both Singapore and Taiwan must cope with the same economic environment. Both must deal with the gravitational pull of the Chinese mainland. Both must deal with competition from Shanghai and Hong Kong in maritime shipping. Both want to become regional operations centers. But Singaporeans regard such challenges as perfectly normal. They don't blame heaven and earth for their lot in life. Nor do they see the mainland China market as Forbidden Territory, where they dare not set foot. Although Chinese constitute a supermajority in Singapore, the nation's ethnic composition is highly varied. Malays and Indians occupy a considerable minority. Yet nobody in Singapore screams about who does and does not "Love Singapore." Who does or does not have a Green Card.

During the rise of mainland China over the past decade (1996 - 2005) Singapore experienced a 5.16% annual average growth rate, putting Taiwan to shame. Singapore recently experienced a financial surplus. It was able to give the public a tax refund. This truly makes one envious. Singapore's Sovereign Fund has received positive reviews and made a deep impression on outsiders. The fact that each citizen is receiving several hundred thousand dollars in tax refunds is considered no big deal. It is viewed as nothing more than an unexpected windfall. What we must not underestimate is the hidden social and economic potential within Singaporean society. That is the basis of Singapore's continuing ability to create wealth for their citizens year after year.

According to a report in the latest issue of The Economist, Singapore's Sovereign Fund is a major international fund for which the global economy is familiar hunting ground. Not long ago, Taiwan's Changhua Bank was for sale. Singapore's Temasek arrived to make a bid. The public probably still recalls. According to The Economist, Singapore's Sovereign Fund has about 330 billion in US dollars. It is second in total assets only to the United Arab Emirates, with 875 billion in US dollars, and to Norway, with 380 billion US dollars. Mainland China is still authoritarian. For the government to authorize the establishment of sovereign funds isn't necessarily praiseworthy. But Singapore's establishment of a Sovereign Fund is an expression of its pride, something which Taiwan today lacks.

First of all, if a Sovereignty Fund can strut its stuff on the global stage, that means the government has allowed it enormous flexibility. Only then can it avoid being manipulated by international money managers. For a government to grant a fund manager flexibility is not difficult. The difficulty is in retaining rule of law oversight. For years Singapore's government has demonstrated a high degree of efficiency. Despite one-party rule, the ruling party's system of oversight is able to ensure efficiency. One rarely hears of corruption. On Taiwan, by contrast, the DPP toppled the KMT by shouting anti-corruption slogans. Yet during the DPP's eight year long rule what has it done but engage in corruption on a scale never before imagined? Although the Republic of China government has over 100 billion in foreign exchange reserves, does it really dare turn over these billions in funds to the ruling authorities to dispose of as they see fit?

Over the past eight years, the ruling DPP has engaged in rampant corruption. Over the past half year, despite imminent regime change, it has attempted to establish a company named "Taiwan Goal." The purpose of Taiwan Goal is to evade legislative oversight and illegally pocket billions in arms kickbacks. These vicious politicians, devoid of any sense of honor, are intent on getting while the getting is good. If ROC China taxpayers were to turn hundreds of billions of dollars in assets over to their ilk, who knows what kind of scandal would ensue?

Singapore government officials are exceptional. Their management of state owned enterprises is second to none, even that of private enterprises. That is why Singapore is enjoying a fiscal surplus. That is why it can effectively operate its immense Sovereign Fund. On Taiwan, by contrast, our Minister of Education neglects his duties. He spends his days tearing down Chiang Kai-shek name plaques, "de-Sinizicing" public school textbooks, changing "zhongwen" to "huawen," and other pointless activities. Our Minister of Finance meanwhile, appears politically lost. One day he wants to cut this tax, the following day he wants to change that tax. He is utterly incapable of suggesting any coherent policy. Our Minister of Finance knows only how to implement the ruling regime's Closed Door Policies or to abet its corruption. It brokered the sale of Taiwan Television Company. It dared not raise gasoline prices amidst the energy crisis. Our Financial Supervisory Commission knows only how to promote the ruling regime's Orwellian "Second Financial Reform." It lacks the courage to allow businesses to invest on the mainland. If Taiwan were to establish a Sovereign Fund and turn it over to this bunch of incompetent thieves, what result could one reasonably expect?

Look at how Singapore has returned its fiscal surplus to its people. Look at how its Sovereign Fund shines on the international stage. Now look at Taiwan's current problems and challenges. After eight years of struggle, our future is rapidly slipping away. How will a new administration deal with this predicament? That will be their greatest challenge.

中國時報  2008.02.20


 就經貿大環境而言,新加坡與台灣一樣,都面對中國大陸的投資磁吸、都面臨上海與香港的運輸競爭、都想成為亞太營運中心。但是新加坡人將這些挑戰視為當然,沒有怨天尤人、也沒有將中國大陸市場視為千萬不能去的禁地。新加坡雖然華人居多,但民族組成極為複雜;馬來、印度人都為數不少,然而他們卻沒有整天在吵嚷誰愛星洲誰不愛、誰有綠卡誰沒有。終於,在中國崛起的過去十年間(一九九六﹣二○○五),新加坡創造出五.一六%的平均經濟成長率,令台灣相對汗顏。這一次,星洲出現財政盈餘,能夠將金錢退給人民,頗為令人豔羨。另一方面,該國主權基金(sovereign fund)在外頻有斬獲,也令人印象深刻。其實,每個國民分財政盈餘數十萬還算小事,畢竟那只是一年的意外之財。我們所不能小覷的,是這財政盈餘背後所呈現的潛在社會與經濟實力,那才是他們將來年復一年創造潛在全民利益的基礎。





Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Leave Room for Future Reconciliation and Cooperation

Leave Room for Future Reconciliation and Cooperation
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 19, 2008

Recent changes in the political arena make one wonder: "If that was the case, then what was the point?" These changes in the ruling DPP's past positions can only be described as sanguinary. They have been spun either as "solutions" or as "adjustments." One can only bow one's head and sigh. If the ruling DPP's current position is correct, then why the "daggers drawn" and implacable "Death before Dishonor!" posturing before?

Let's look at the twists and turns in the "Join the UN Plebiscite." The prospects for the "Join the UN Plebiscite" passing are not good. Therefore the ruling DPP is considering supporting the KMT sponsored "Return to the UN Plebiscite." It hopes to promote both of them at the same time, or else persuade the Legislative Yuan to introduce a third version. Chen Shui-bian is even considering recycling his "Defensive Plebiscite" of 2004. These ploys prove one thing. Unless the Blue camp cooperates by mobilizing public support, any and all plebiscites will be DOA. The results of the two previous plebiscites "linked" to the general election prove that the issue is not whether voters will give the plebiscite a one-half majority, but whether voters will allow the plebiscites to qualify at all.

The Blue camp is apparently determined to give the plebiscites the cold shoulder, to the bitter end. It is indifferent to both plebiscites and opposed to the Legislative Yuan trotting out a third version. If Chen Shui-bian promotes another "Defensive Plebiscite," the Blue camp may well launch a "Boycott the Plebiscites" movement. A number of NGOs and Taiwan businessmen are already organizing for that purpose. When the time comes, it may not even be necessary for the Blue camp to mobilize. It need only allow the plebiscites to wither on the vine. The Green camp, in promoting its "Join the UN Plebiscite," finds itself on the horns of a dilemma. It is riding a tiger and can't get off.

Watching Chen, Lu, and Hsieh, marching in lockstep, supporting the KMT sponsored "Return to the UN Plebiscite," has not merely left Pan Blue supporters dumfounded, it has left Pan Green supporters baffled as well. Does anyone remember how Chen Shui-bian characterized the "Return to the UN Plebiscite?" He characterized it as a "Surrender Plebiscite." He quoted the late President President Chiang Kai-shek, who in a moment of weakness, lamented that the Republic of China died on February 1, 1950. Chen said that the ROC died a second time in 1971, when it was expelled from the United Nations. He asked whether a nation "that has already died twice, can really rise from the dead?" The remarks of Government Information Office Chief Hsieh Chih-wei were equally nasty. He said the "Rejoin the UN Plebiscite" was "using plebiscites to undermine plebiscites" and amounted to "collusion with the Chinese Communists." Do their damning accusations no longer count? Has Chen Shui-bian reversed himself? Is he now saying he supported the "Surrender Plebiscite" all along? Is Hsieh Chih-wei now willing to support a "Plebiscite to undermine Plebiscites?" Forget the bafflement of Pan Blue supporters. One can only wonder how Green camp supporters feel in the face of their own leadership's complete flip-flop.

Suppose the Blue camp eagerly goes along with the Green camp initiative. Suppose it allows the "Join the UN" and "Rejoin the UN" plebiscites to be merged into a single plebiscite. Suppose it is willing to go along with a third plebiscite. That would mean Blue camp supporters are utterly indifferent to the insults heaped upon them before. That would mean as long as the Green camp deigns to smile upon them, Blue camp supporters will happily dance to the Green camp's tune. If that truly is the case, then what are Blue camp supporters except doormats -- willing victims of Green camp abuse?

Let's look at another development. According to media reports, Chen Shui-bian recently met with the chairmen of a number of Taiwan business associations on mainland China. He resolved to lift restrictions on cross-strait trade, grant amnesty to Taiwan businessmen, cut taxes, and expand the "Three Mini-Links." He affected great concern for them. His gesture may have been a concession for the sake of Frank Hsieh's campaign. But anyone with a memory remembers what vicious charges the Green camp, from Chen Shui-bian on down, leveled against Taiwan businessmen in the past. They accused them of emptying out Taiwan's coffers, of transferring wealth to "China" and leaving the debts in Taiwan, of trampling over "native industries," resulting in the hollowing out of Taiwan's industries. They even threatened to put Taiwan businessmen on a Most Wanted List for "Economic Felonies." Not long ago Taiwan businessmen purchasing airline tickets in order to return to Taiwan to vote, were said to be "in the pay of China." The Green camp has been making such accusations for at least eight years. Can they really be wiped from our memories with the stroke of pen?

For the past eight years, Taiwan businessmen have been vilified in every manner imagineable. In terms of policy, they have been subjected to "active management." They have been denied their right to travel directly to and from the mainland, and subjected to an array of capital and technology restrictions. These restrictions have never been relaxed. In terms of image, pro-independence media and pro-green academics have relentlessly painted Taiwan businessmen both "red" and "black." Now Chen drops the word "relaxation," as if intoning the words changes everything. He says he wants to grant them "amnesty," as if by doing so he was bestowing an immense favor upon them. One can only imagine how they feel inside.

If today this can be accomodated, and that can be discussed, why was there so little room for accomodation and discussion before? If the restrictions were merely for the sake of votes, if their past positions can be abandoned whenever expedient, how can they be expected to deliver on any pledges made today? Can they be counted on to honor them? Suppose the situation changes? Will they simply renege, yet again? Much of what we say goes on the record, and not everyone is afflicted with amnesia. In order to leave room for reconciliation and coexistence tomorrow, shouldn't we leave some things unsaid today?


最近政壇發生的不少事,都可以用「早知如此,何必當初」來當註腳,若干昔日 可謂是「殺聲震天」的議題,最近紛紛出現變化,不是說要解套,就是說要調整, 真的讓人不禁感嘆:如果今日種種「是非」是認真的,那麼昔日擺出那般「箭拔弩 張」、「勢不兩立」之態勢,又是所為何來?

先看入聯公投的轉向。由於預期「入聯公投」的結果不看好,當局於是試探轉向 支持藍營所推的「返聯公投」,希望能夠讓兩項公投併推,或是整合由立法院再推 出公投的第三案,陳總統甚至不排除還要再推防禦性公投。這些頻頻出招的動作, 其實只說明了一件事,即公投入聯如果還要玩得下去,除非藍營願意動員配合,否 則依前兩次「公投綁大選」的經驗,入聯公投會不會過早已不是重點,能不能通過 領票數過半的門檻恐怕才是問題。

問題是藍營似乎擺明了要「冷處理」到底,既對兩案並陳反應冷淡,也拒絕由立 院再提第三案。如果扁屆時再提防禦性公投,藍營很可能再發動拒領公投票。目前 若干民間團體乃至台商團體都已經在串聯拒領公投票,到時候或許根本不需要藍營 動員,只須消極以待就足夠讓公投案擱置。這意味綠營所強推的「公投入聯」,目 前正陷入進退失據、甚至騎虎難下的態勢。

看到扁呂謝同步定調支持藍營的「返聯公投」,不要說藍營支持者感到迷惘,恐 怕是綠營選民都會被搞糊塗吧!還記得陳水扁昔日曾怎麼狠批「返聯公投」嗎?他 直指返聯公投就是「投降公投」,還說「中華民國」在一九五○年二月一日故總統 蔣介石復行視事之際,以及一九七一年退出聯合國的時候,「已經死了兩次,難道 會活起來嗎?」新聞局長謝志偉的批判同樣難聽,說返聯公投是「用公投亂公 投」,是「和共產黨一鼻孔出氣」。這些當初狠批的語言,如今究竟還算不算數? 難道陳水扁也改口支持他所痛批的「投降公投」,難道謝志偉也願意力挺「公投亂 公投」?先不提藍營支持者會怎麼想,這麼大的立場翻轉,有理會過綠營的支持者 會怎麼想嗎?

話再說回來,如果藍營欣然接受綠營的倡議,讓入聯、返聯兩案輕易整合成一 案,或是願意提出第三案,那也就意味他們對當初所承受的種種羞辱,完全不在 意,只要綠營臉色一變,也都願意跟著起舞,真要如此,藍營豈不是犯賤,自甘被 綠營耍著玩?

再看看另一項訊息:根據媒體報導,陳總統日前在約見數名大陸台商協會會長 後,初步決議鬆綁兩岸經貿,包括特赦台商、調整稅制、擴大實施小三通等,擺出 一幅要照顧台商的姿態。問題是,不論這是不是為配合謝長廷的競選政見所做的調 整,至少稍有記憶的人都知道,往昔綠營從陳水扁以降,曾經扣過台商多少個罪 名!什麼掏空台灣經濟、錢進中國債留台灣、造成台灣產業空洞化、打擊台灣本土 企業等,一度還有意以重大經濟犯罪之名通緝台商,甚至還沒有多久之前,連台商 自助與航空公司預購機票返台投票,都被說成是在領「中國走路工」。這些指控, 講白一點,至少整整罵了八年,難道如今就都這麼一筆勾消?

這八年,扣在台商身上的當然不只形形色色的罪名。政策上,從積極管理、拒絕 直航、乃至於各種形形色色的資金與技術設限等,從未曾放鬆過;形象論述上,不 論是獨派學者還是親綠媒體,無時無刻不在使勁地將他們抹紅抹黑,如今一句「鬆 綁」,彷彿說句閒話般就全轉向了,說要給他們「特赦」,猶如給他們多大恩惠, 站在他們的立場想想吧,這算是什麼跟什麼呢!

如果今天變成這也可以調整,那也可以商量,那當初又何苦把話說得一點餘地都 不留?如果只是為了選票考量,什麼旗幟鮮明的立場都可都說變就變,那試問我們 今天又怎麼能信任此刻的保證,未來一定都能兌現?萬一情況再有變,是不是臉一 翻又都全不認帳了?要知道,許多話一旦說了出去,就是有紀錄了,同時也並不是 所有人的記性,都是那麼差的!要預留未來和解共生的空間,難道今天不該多積點 口德嗎?

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Marginalization of the Nation and Economic Polarization of Society

The Marginalization of the Nation and Economic Polarization of Society
United Daily News editorial
A Translation
February 18, 2008

Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh are engaged in a final struggle over the Presidency of the Republic of China. After spinning its wheels for nearly 20 years, Taiwan's economy is also engaged in a final struggle of its own -- to return from dead.

The presidential election has been reduced to the level of accusations about who held a green card and who was a police informant. These issues are not irrelevant. But they were decisions made by Harvard student Ma Ying-jeou when he was still uncertain about his future; and Frank Hsieh, when he was caught on the horns of a political dilemma. Such sideshows may undermine their public image. But they were events that occurred 20 to 30 years ago. What voters care about is Ma Ying-jeou today and Frank Hsieh today, and where they intend to take Taiwan tomorrow. In short, whether Ma or Hsieh deserves to win this final struggle ought to hinge on who one can give Taiwan one last chance.

Taiwan's economic crisis is not yet fully apparent. But if Taiwan continues to spin its wheels as it has over the past 20 years, then it has no future whatsoever. The Taiwan region faces two major crises: 1. the political marginalization of the ROC, and 2. the economic polarization of Taiwan society, leading to an "M-shaped Society." Ma and Hsieh need not remain mired in mud-slinging over green cards and police informants. Instead they should tell the nation how they intend to solve these two major crises.

First let's talk about the political marginalization of the ROC. In terms of international politics, the end of the Cold War and mainland China's "peaceful rise" quickly marginalized the ROC's strategic role. In terms of international economics, globalization and the attractions of mainland China led to a brain drain in Taiwan's core industries over the past 20 years. These, along with the shift of traditional industries from the mainland's coastal region to the interior, have driven Taiwan businessmen further inland or offshore. As the above indicators reveal, Taiwan's economy is rapidly being marginalized. Politically and economically the region is already well on its way to marginalization. What people want to know is what Ma and Hsieh intend to do about it.

Now let's talk about the M-shaped Society. Taiwan's economic performance depends upon a handful of leading edge technology and science parks supported by the government via tax concessions and special privileges, and a handful of fertilizer manufacturers. They do little to increase economic equality. Industries of this sort nourish only those at the top of the economic pyramid while starving those at the base. Abundant exports coupled with inadequate domestic demand has gradually polarized the economy and turned Taiwan into an M-shaped Society. Powerful elites can seek profits in the international arena. The lumpenproletariat meanwhile, can only fight for scraps under the table. The grim challenge that Ma and Hsieh face is how to enhance the international competitiveness of the strong while increasing local opportunities for the disadvantaged. The challenge is how to provide opportunities for both poles of the M-shaped Society, how to avoid helping only the rich or the poor, or worse, neither.

An "Isle of Liberty" is the only solution that can deal with both these crises. An Isle of Liberty stresses neither the freedom to leave nor the freedom to enter. The purpose of the Three Direct Links, for example, is not merely to facilitate leaving, it is also to facilitate the entry of international capital. If Taiwan hopes to become part of the international economy, it can hardly rely on a handful of science parks. All of Taiwan must become a part of the international economy. In other words, it must become an Isle of Liberty.

The Republic of China's international marginalization cannot be improved by means of a "Plebiscite to Join the UN." It can only be improved by transforming Taiwan into an Isle of Liberty. If Taiwan can become part of the international stage, the "Taiwan problem" will naturally be internationalized. Taiwan's economy is drying up. One cannot improve it merely by relying on mainland tourists. But mainland tourists visiting Taiwan is a necessary part of the process of becoming an Isle of Liberty. An Isle of Liberty is not merely about allowing mainland tourists to enter, it is also about allowing international capital to enter.

Politicians who boast about their "Plebiscites to Join the UN" during the presidential election are not merely shameful, they are contemptible. They merely wish to exploit the voters' "Taiwanese Sense of Victimization." They do nothing to inspire the building of an Isle of Liberty. Politicians who hurl baseless McCarthyite accusations about a "pro-unification economy" or a "One China Market" during the presidential election are beneath contempt. In fact, as mentioned above, mainland China is already driving Taiwan businesses into the interior. Yet we cling to our own Closed Door Policy. What a joke.

Some say that the ROC's future status is "a Hong Kong that can elect a president." If we refrain from applying a negative spin to this analogy, it is actually quite enlightening. To say that ROC citizens can elect a president affirms the ROC's sovereignty and political credentials. Comparing the ROC to the HKSAR merely underscores the ROC's different international status. Taiwan's future must be as an Isle of Liberty. The issue is not whether, but when.

Otherwise, the ROC faces a crisis of national marginalization, and Taiwan's society faces a crisis of economic polarization. Do politicians actually believe that only the "Rectification of Names and the Authoring of a New Constitution" can save Taiwan?

國家邊緣化 社會M型化











Thursday, February 14, 2008

The President gives "Special Approval" to Mainland Tourists

The President gives "Special Approval" to Mainland Tourists
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 14, 2008

A cruise ship carrying over 600 mainland tourists to the south and north of Taiwan provided the local tourism industry a short-term windfall. The increase in business opportunities was gratifying. But more noteworthy was the pomp and circumstance with which the local tourism industry greeted these VIPs, and their mood of desperation. Taiwan's tourism industry has been "waiting for the first swallows of spring" for several years now. The opening up of Taiwan to mainland tourists has always been a case of "much thunder, little rain." Now Chen Shui-bian is claiming credit for granting "special approval" to single shipload of tourists. We cannot help asking: Why should something as mundane as a shipload of tourists require "special approval" by the president? How long will we have to endure this absurd state of affairs?

Allowing mainland tourists to visit Taiwan and normalizing cross-strait tourism is an important plank in the election platforms of both the Ma Ying-jeou and Frank Hsieh camps. Now that A-bian has jumped on the bandwagon and attempting to claim credit, large-scale opening up should be merely a matter of time. But because the island's tourism industry has waited so long and been disappointed so many times in the past, it is adopting a low-keyed attitude.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party is talking about making the pie bigger, promising "many times more tourists." Yet the premier is still the product of Yu Shyi-kun era "Challenge 2008 National Development Plan." At the time pundits noted that if the plan was to be more than empty talk, it had make use of Taiwan's geographical advantages. It would work only if the island was turned into a regional trans-shipment center as soon as possible, and opened up to mainland tourists. But cross-straits relations have never been relaxed. Chen Shui-bian has flip-flopped repeatedly, resulting in cross-strait relations taking one step forward and two steps back. The government has tied the hands of middlemen who could have expedited matters. Opening up the island to mainland tourists has become a rubber check that government officials issue freely without having to make good.

In 2005 the mainland's National Tourism Bureau allowed mainland residents to visit Taiwan, on three conditions. Beijing would work with Taipei to control the total volume. It appeared as if the time had come and conditions were right. But the Mainland Affairs Council and the Ministry of Transportation suddenly demanded "government-to-government" consultations, leading to yet another stalemate. Last year, after Chinese New Year, Chen Shui-bian held a Spring Festival Friendship Tea Party for Taiwan businessmen in Taipei. He personally promised that mainland tourists would soon be allowed to visit Taiwan. As a result the local tourism industry once again made preparations for the mainland's early May "Golden Week." Who knew negotiations would run aground, yet again. The Taiwan stock market's tourism sector has risen and fallen repeatedly with vacillating policy decisions. The tourism industry listened to the government's policy declarations and increased its investments. But each time its hopes were shattered. Its resources were idled. It was caught with no return on its capital. Nor did it have any idea how many more times this would go on. When will promises that mainland tourists will be permitted to come to Taiwan be honored? On the Twelfth of Never?

Taiwan is "Formosa," a beautiful island, a humane and vibrant place. It has enormous potentional as a tourist destination. It ranks high in the World Economic Forum national tourism competitiveness index. Taiwan's natural beauty earned the Chicago Sun-Times tourism column's praise: "well worth spending 14 hours to fly from Chicago." The column also praised the people as friendly and courteous. On the other hand, based on actual income from tourism among Asian countries, the Taiwan region ranked only ninth. This was less than many neighbouring Southeast Asian countries. One reason is that in its effort to promote tourism the government has failed to do its homework. It failed to properly market Taiwan's selling points. But the real issue is the government's Closed Door Policy. Taiwan is separated from the mainland by nothing but the Taiwan Strait, yet one cannot fly non-stop to the opposite shore. This makes it impossible for Taiwan to become a connection point for cross-strait tourism. This squanders Taiwan's three biggest advantages: location, location, location, and has created additional obstacles to the promotion of bi-directional cross-straits tourism and international tourism.

The ruling and opposition parties know that opening up the island to tourism, particularly tourists from the mainland, can create business opportunities. But the ruling party continues to play its deceitful games. On the one hand it promises the local tourism industry the sky. On the other hand it keeps raising the threshold for cross-strait consultations, providing itself with excuses to break off negotiations. It has exhausted the patience of the local tourism industry. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party trotted out its "Challenge 2008 National Development Plan" early in its administration. It was confident it would have a respectable political record by 2008. It is now 2008. How many commitments have been realized? The tourism industry in Kaohsiung and Keelung rolled out the red carpet for a mainland cruise ship carrying 600 guests. Even taxi drivers mobilized, working night shifts. Their desperate hope of economic opportunities makes one sad. Why was Chen Shui-bian's "special approval" limited to a single cruise ship? Why not extend this approval to permit earlier and broader cross-strait economic and trade policies?





二○○ 五年中共國家旅遊局公布開放大陸居民赴台旅遊三原則,與我方「總量管制」、團進團出等原則相當配合,眼見即將水到渠成;卻又在主管的陸委會和交通部堅持協商「政府對政府」的條件下陷入僵局。去年春節過後,為台商在台北舉辦的春節聯誼茶會中,陳水扁親口向台商宣布,陸客來台觀光即將開放。於是,本地業者再次摩拳擦掌準備迎接五月初的大陸「黃金週」假期,誰知協商又一次觸礁。如此三番兩次,台灣股市的觀光類股隨政策消息反反覆覆而起起伏伏;觀光業者聽信政府放出的政策訊息而增加投資,之後卻又希望落空,甚至因資源閒置、資本無回而慘遭套牢,更已不知多少回。大陸客來台觀光政策,何時才能脫離畫餅充飢的局面?


朝野如今俱已認知開拓觀光產業、尤其吸引大陸客來台旅遊,可能帶來的商機。但執政黨如果繼續玩這種一方面向國內業者開出支票、一方面堅持提高談判門檻以致兩岸協商破局的遊戲,則國內相關業者苦撐待變的能力和耐心恐怕終將耗盡。民進黨執政初期即畫出「挑戰二○○八年——國家發展重點計畫」的大餅,可見對於二 ○○八年的執政成績有所信心。如今已邁入二○○八年,當年的執政承諾究竟實踐了多少?看高雄和基隆業者如此隆重迎接一船六百多大陸貴賓,連計程車司機都大舉出動熬夜排班,渴求商機的心情令人感嘆。阿扁所應「特案批准」者,與其限於一郵輪的觀光客,何不及早擴及更寬廣的兩岸經貿政策?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Defects in the Republic of China's Primary System

Defects in the Republic of China's Primary System
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 13, 2008

During the Spring Festival, Blue and Green camp presidential candidates competed with each other making courtesy calls on religious figures. This inadvertently provoked talk of "internal conflict" within the DPP. The hard-won appareance of internal harmony within the Hsieh/Su ticket came into question. During the primaries Su Tseng-chang and Frank Hsieh pummeled each other. Circumstances eventually forced them to become partners, but they still hold grudges. Voters remain concerned whether Hsieh and Su are truly united and able to govern.

When Hsieh and Su attacked each other, four candidates were in competition. These four candidates enjoyed grossly unequal access to resources. One of the main reasons is that the DPP lacks a fair and objective primary process. As a result, Lu, Yu, Su, and Hsieh each reverted to their basest instincts. Add to this Chen Shui-bian's capricious behavior, Yu Shyi-kun's manipulation of the electoral system, pro-Green media clamor, and the result was a primary in which every candidate went straight for the jugular. Not only was no quarter given to comrades, the party was ripped apart. Internal conflict of this kind is no accident, nor is it confined to Hsieh and Su.

Contrast this with the party primaries being held in the United States. Not only is the timeframe longer, the mobilization is more massive. But because the two parties have an unwritten code of conduct, their party primaries do not degenerate into bloody hand-to-hand combat destructive of the party and the nation. Their sitting president is not permitted to interfere in the primaries or hand-pick his successor. Party officials keep their distance from their own candidate. These ought to be the minimum standards for political party conduct. Yet on Taiwan they are constantly trampled into the dust.

Outside observers uniformly favor the Democratic Party in the upcoming election. They have high hopes for either Clinton, an icon of feminism, or Obama, an icon of ethnic progress. The Republican Party uses a winner-take-all delegate awards system. Therefore it is able to choose a candidate earlier on. The Democratic Party on the other hand, uses a proportional representation system. This has led to an ongoing see-saw struggle between Clinton and Obama. To avoid detriment to the larger scenario, to avoid splitting the Democratic Party and to defend against a unified Republican Party, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has asked the two camps to arrive at a decision soon. Only then can the Democratic Party adopt a unified stand against the GOP.

It is worth noting that despite such a hard-fought election, both the Clinton and Obama camps have maintained the necessary decorum. They have rejected mud-slinging and unnecessary personal attacks. When former president Bill Clinton stumped for his wife, he made reference to African American minister Jesse Jackson's primary victories in South Carolina. He said such victories didn't mean Obama was any closer to the presidency. This was seen as a serious slip of the tongue and cost Hillary points. Clearly voters expect far more from them than politicians imagine.

The restraint shown by the Clinton and Obama camps is the result of their concern for the good opinion of Democratic Party voters. Clinton and Obama each have their own strengths. Each has the support of different ethnic groups. Together they are indestructible. Separately they each have their own merits. But if the two attack each other during the primaries, engaging in mutual vilification, both will be harmed. The result will be harm to the interests of the Democratic Party and the American values their supporters hold dear. That is a risk neither party can afford to take, and that is why no one dares to take such a risk.

During last year's DPP primaries Su Tseng-chang accused Hsieh of accepting illegal political donations. He blasted Hsieh's "One China Constitution" thesis. He even called Hsieh "devious," a characterization that has stuck. Frank Hsieh compared Su's ambition to that of Wang Mang. He characterized Su and the New Tide Faction as evil incarnate. The two sides may not have lost, but they were both harmed, because they stooped to character assassination too vicious to smooth over. How can anyone believe the two could ever truly cooperate after that?

Nor was the Green Camp alone. The Blue Camp lost the presidency in 2000 because a struggle between Lien and Soong split the KMT. Even today, the grudge between Wang Jying-ping and Ma Ying-jeou has not been resolved. This is because the two parties lack an effective and convincing primary process. Because the two parties leave no quarter during the primaries, by the time the election rolls around, they have even fewer scruples about their methods. They will play the "You don't love Taiwan" card, or even accuse their opponents of "treason to Taiwan" as a matter of reflex. For the sake of selfish political advantage, they have debased the election process. Whither democracy?

When we compare the ROC presidential election to America's presidential election, all we can feel is disappointment and embarrassment. The Republic of China is about to celebrate its centennial. Eight years after regime change, the two largest parties still lack a presentable primary process. What right do they have to talk about progress? Politics is not a game for political elites. If they cannot learn self-restraint, they should at least acknowledge the electorate's capacity to distinguish right from wrong.











Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Caretaker Cabinet must Know Its Place

A Caretaker Cabinet must Know Its Place
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 12, 2008

The Executive Yuan made several hasty decisions before the Lunar New Year. We feel compelled to make a heartfelt appeal, and issue a solemn warning. The premier and his cabinet are merely a caretaker government. They must be circumspect in their conduct.

Following Chinese New Year, the government will resume operation. It will remain in operation until the March presidential election, less than 40 days away. After 40 days, regardless of whether or Frank Hsieh or Ma Ying-jeou is elected president, every cabinet member will be reappointed. By then, the heads of the ministries will have radicaly changed. The period between now and May 20, when the new cabinet is formed, will be a "caretaker" period. A caretaker cabinet's responsibility is merely to maintain the status quo for the new cabinet, to allow its successor to implement its own policies. Therefore, a caretaker cabinet should not make too many high-level personnel changes. It should not propose any long-term policies. Still less should it propose any changes to the system itself. This ought to be Political Science 101a.

And yet the Ministry of Education rushed to issue its 2009 senior high school curriculum, just in time for Chinese New Year's Eve. These first-ever high school textbooks will be divided into A and B versions. They will delay the segregating of students until their senior year of high school. Does it make sense to issue two versions of high school textbooks, given existing academic pressures? This is clearly an issue the Ministry of Education Curriculum Group should give long and careful consideration to before implementation. This is radical change. It is also radical change that lacks public approval. It is hardly something that educational heads with only 40 days left in their term ought to promote. After the curriculum was announced, the principals of Jianguo High School, Zhongzhen High School, Dazhi High School, Taichung High School 2, Hualian Girls High School and others voiced strong reservations. Obviously the proposed changes failed to meet with the approval of frontline teachers and adminstrators.

In principle a caretaker ought not to make major changes. In practice its agenda has not met with the approval of most educators. The result will unnecessarily alarm parents. With much fanfare, the Ministry of Education announced these major policy changes during the Chinese New Year. This was not merely irresponsible. This was a means of avoiding debate, an admission they lacked the guts to confront public disapproval. The Ministry of Education is responsible for the nation's educational matters. Its policies impact students and parents. Yet it has acted with reckless haste. Does it want every high school student to "run home crying to mother?"

The Ministry of Education is not the only member of the cabinet that lacks a sense of propriety. The Ministry of Finance also announced its plans on Chinese New Years Eve. It announced that it was moving toward "tax reform." According to reports, future tax reform policy will be "low taxes, simple government." Beginning next year, in exchange for doing away with the Statute for Upgrading Industries, the Ministry of Finance will no longer employ backdoor listings. The Ministry of Finance intends to lower the business tax to 17.5%, and abolish the 10% levy. This is radical change that has a wide-ranging impact on tax policy. It is hardly appropriate for a cabinet whose term is about to run out, and as a general election approaches.

The Statute for Upgrading Industries incorporated sunset clauses limiting the amount of time "infant industries" would be protected. If these industries were still not competitive when these statutes expired, it meant they lacked comparative advantages, and tax cuts were no longer justified. If these industries had competitive advantages, then there was no need for protection. In short, the Statute for Upgrading Industries should be abolished, regardless. Yet in order to protect the beneficiaries of these tax cuts, the Ministry of Finance has offered them lowered business taxes in exchange. Shouldn't these controversial policies have been subjected to public scrutiny?

Take the 10% levy on retained earnings. The reason for levying a 10% tax on undistributed earnings is to comply with the resolutions of the Second Tax Reform Committee, which combined the two taxes. But the real reason for taxing retained earnings is that Taiwan has no capital gains tax. Combining the two taxes permits large scale tax evasion, making it necessary to plug the loopholes with a tax on retained earnings. The Statute for Upgrading Industries is about to expire. Inheritance taxes are about to be cut. Business taxes are to be adjusted. Many different issues are converging. They should be dealt with, along with the capital gains tax, once and for all. They should be turned over to a future Third Tax Reform Committee for a comprehensive solution. That is the only way. Cabinet members at the Ministry of Finance with only 40 days left in their terms have made hasty piecemeal changes to the tax rates. The Statute for Upgrading Industries will not expire for a while yet. We really can't understand why a caretaker cabinet is behaving this way.

Premier Chang and his cabinet should demonstrate self-discipline and self-respect. They must not make radical and reckless changes. The Legislative Yuan must stand firm. During this caretaker period it must not pass any tax cuts, tariff cuts, or other major, far-reaching legislation. The Kuomintang is the majority party. It must act as a strict gatekeeper. It must resist the temptation to pass any election-oriented legislation whose negative consequences cannot be reversed. The ROC has been spinning its wheels for nearly eight years. We have only 40 more days to go. If the executive or legislative branches are unable to resist temptation during this interim, if they are afraid to take the high road, if they endanger the long-term interests of the ROC, then they are truly unfit to govern.

中國時報  2008.02.12









Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Plebiscite may not tie up the Election, but it will surely tie up Frank Hsieh

The Plebiscite may not tie up the Election, but it will surely tie up Frank Hsieh
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 5, 2008

Not surprisingly, despite all the controversy, the Central Election Commission (CEC) eventually package-dealed the "Join the UN" and "Rejoin the UN" plebiscites with the March 22 presidential election. This tells us that the results of the recent legislative elections did not change the DPP's agenda for the March presidential election. The package-dealing of the plebiscite is one of the most important factors in the presidential election. This may be the last time we ever see a combined plebiscite/election.

During previous consultations between ruling and opposition leaders, the Blue camp attempted to resolve the issue of the two referenda through the legislative process. But ultimately the Green Camp will find it impossible to abandon its "Join the UN" plebiscite. Chen Shui-bian went so far as to intentionally reveal that if the Blue camp took advantage of its new supermajority to eliminate the "Join the UN" and "Rejoin the UN" plebiscites, he might propose a defensive plebiscite instead. Even if the Blue camp legislative caucus responds to the proposed plebiscite, it will not willingly provide Chen Shui-bian with an opportunity to manipulate the issue before his term of office expires. This means everything is back where it started.

Because everything is back where it started, this makes the situation even more intriguing. For both the Blue and Green camps, the combined plebiscite and general election to be held this March has become a case of "riding the tiger." This is particularly true for the Green Camp, specifically for Frank Hsieh. The "Join the UN" plebiscite touches on the fundamental articles of faith for the Democratic Progressive Party. It also constitutes one of the key distinctions between the Pan Green camp and the Pan Blue camp. On this Hsieh has no room for evasion. But does he really want this to be the main theme of the presidential election? Hsieh has a predicament. If he pushes the "Join the UN" issue too hard, it will trigger an intense backlash from Washington and Beijing. Previous high-level US criticisms of the plebsicite were mainly directed at Chen Shui-bian. Hsieh is not going to be happy if future attacks are directed at him. Manipulation of the "Join the UN" plebiscite issue will increase cross-strait tensions. This would be self-defeating for cross-strait policy initiatives currently being promoted by the Hsieh/Su campaign.

Frank Hsieh may not be eager to state his second reason. Once the plebiscite issue becomes the main theme of the presidential election, Hsieh may be compelled to take the Chen Shui-bian path. He may even be compelled to allow Chen Shui-bian back into the campaign. He may find himself and Chen Shui-bian joined at the hip again. To Chen Shui-bian, the plebiscite issue is not about helping Frank Hsieh get elected. It is about leaving a legacy for himself within the Green Camp. This is the only issue that A Bian can manipulate before his term of office expires. To expect him not to use it is impossible. Neither Frank Hsieh nor the Blue camp want Chen Shui-bian to propose a defensive referendum. That would hand the initiative back to Chen Shui-bian. Not only would issues Hsieh is currently promoting be shoved aside, he would again end up as Chen's hostage. If the situation truly degenerates to that level, Hsieh may as well throw in the towel.

One issue the Green Camp needs to reflect upon is the outcome of the plebiscite. Suppose the result is as disastrous as the combined plebiscite and legislative elections? Suppose even the threshold isn't reached? How will it be interpreted? Based on the results of the legislative elections, even if the Blue camp fails to organize a boycott of the plebiscite, a significant proportion of Pan Blue voters will boycott the plebiscite on their own. Even assuming those who obtain plebiscite ballots exceed the 26% who did so during the legislative elections, the percentage is unlikely to reach the threshold. What will the Green Camp do in the face of such a setback? Will they do the same thing they did following their defeat in the legislative elections? Will they blame the plebiscite balloting system for unfairness?

To the Blue camp, the "Rejoin the UN" plebiscite was from beginning to end, a phony issue. The KMT promoted it in order to avoid being labeled as "anti-Taiwan." Events motivated the Blue camp to boycott all the plebiscites. Blue camp voters will resist manipulation by the plebiscite issue on their own accord. The Blue camp really has no need to dance to the Green camp's tune. Ma Ying-jeou will most likely downplay the plebiscite, hoping that it and related issues will marginalize themselves. After all, to the Blue camp, whether the "Rejoin the UN" plebisicite passes is a matter of indifference. With its numerical advantage in the new legislature, it can propose remedies any time it needs to.

Combining plebiscites with general elections has been Chen Shui-bian's main political strategy. He created the model. It is his only opportunity to intervene in the upcoming election. The plebiscite has been nothing more than an election tool. Its purpose has been to win general elections. The DPP has twice combined plebiscites with general elections. The cost has been a gradual debasement of the sanctity of plebiscites. In 2004 a plebiscite helped Chen "win" the presidential election. But at the same time, Chen lost his euphemistically named "Defensive Plebiscite," which was in fact a "Missile Purchase" plebiscite. In January of this year, the DPP lost the legislative elections. It also lost the "Recover the KMT's Party Assets" plebiscite. Will next month's "Join the UN" plebiscite really help Hsieh win the presidential election? Nobody knows. The answer to this question will test Frank Hsieh's political wisdom.

中國時報  2008.02.05








Monday, February 4, 2008

The KMT must affirm its Integrity by passing the Sunshine Law

The KMT must affirm its Integrity by passing the Sunshine Law
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 4, 2008

In the wake of the legislative elections, prosecutors have swiftly indicted a dozen or so former and current legislators for taking bribes in Chinese medicine and dentistry related cases. Both Blue and Green camp legislators were involved. The scope of the offenses was shocking. A new legislature is about to take office, but Sunshine Laws have yet to be passed. Under such circumstances, how can we expect the public to trust the legislature? How can we ensure the integrity of the new legislature?

The KMT won a supermajority in the Legislative Yuan. Some people think that will turn it into a monster. It isn't only outsiders who harbor such fears. Even the KMT Central Committee lacks confidence in its own party caucus. As a result, the party caucus is actually considering adjourning until after the presidential election, to avoid making any unintentional blunders. But if the KMT lacks confidence in its ability to control its own party caucus, to ensure that it promotes KMT policy, how will it control it over the next four years? Moreover, the KMT may well win the presidential election in March. When it comes time to coordinate between the presidential office and the legislature, how will it maintain even minimum standards for the character and conduct of its officials and legislators?

The KMT has two priorities: First, the swift passage of Sunshine Laws to rein in KMT legislators and KMT officials. Second, a public declaration that the KMT hopes prosecutors and the judiciary will investigate the administration and the legislature full force. That the KMT will not tolerate or abet corruption, even among its own members.

Speaking of Sunshine Laws, each party has its own name for such laws. Their content differs, and each party has its own political calculations. It will not be easy to integrate them into a single, unified package. The KMT has certain advantages. For the good of society, it should focus on the greatest common denominator and give that its highest priority. This includes political contributions, lobbying laws, and amending the Public Functionary Assets Disclosure Law. The most serious forms of political corruption will be regulated by these three laws. If these three bills pass, then the Sunshine Laws will finally have seen the light of day.

First let's talk about political contribution laws. That corporations or various interest groups secretly donate huge sums to political parties or to certain political figures, is a fact known to all. Political parties or political figures repay such contributions by cooperating on policy matters, and by dispensing certain kinds of jobs. Corrupt exchanges of power for money or money for power can easily become the legislative norm. The law stipulates that prosecutors have the authority to investigate such crimes. Political figures and political parties must account for the source of their income. Otherwise they will be presumed guilty. Only such standards meet the people's expectations.

Now let's talk about lobbying laws. The Chinese medicine scandal and other related scandals illustrate the urgent need for such laws. If lobbying laws cannot be normalized and made transparent, if money cannot be kept out of the equation, corrupt transactions will distort the content of legislation. Once the laws have been subjected to such distortions, the negative impact will be widespread and long-term. Public perception will be negative. National confidence and community trust will be undermined.

As for amending the Public Functionary Assets Disclosure Law, little more needs to be said. We must make the content more specific. False declarations or refusals to declare one's assets must be severely punished. Otherwise the law is merely a non-binding piece of paper. Chen Shui-bian is an obvious example. He refused to declare large quantities of expensive jewelry and designer watches. Despite the controversy, he refused to make any declaration. He didn't give a damn about punishments for violating reporting requirements. Toothless laws cannot lead to political reform. Strengthening such laws is essential.

The rationale and necessity for Sunshine Laws and related laws, such as the Political Party Law, the Presidential and Civil Service Personnel Election and Recall Amdendment, the Organic Law for the Ministry of Justice Independent Commission Against Corruption, should be explained to the public in greater detail. For example, would the functions of an Independent Commission Against Corruption overlap the functions of the Bureau of Investigation? Can the Bureau of Investigation shake off political control? Discretion is necessary. The problem in the past was not the lack of law enforcement authorities, but the attitude of law enforcement officials. They lacked objectivity and resolve. Instead of creating redundancy, it would be better to ensure that law enforcement authorities are freed from political interference, and free to impartially enforce the law.

The Sunshine Laws have repeatedly run aground. The problem is a lack of determination and discipline on the part of legislators and political leaders. The KMT now has a supermajority in the legislature. If it fails to promptly sponsor a Sunshine Law, and push for its adoption and implementation, how will it explain its failure to the people?

2008.02.04 03:13 am


國 民黨取得立法院絕對多數席次,有人認為將成「怪獸」。不僅外界有此疑慮,甚至連國民黨中央似亦對黨團沒有信心,於是,一度竟想在總統選舉前休會,以免「凸 槌」。但倘若國民黨現在就沒有自信控制得住黨籍立委,推動國民黨的政策,則未來四年又如何控制得住?何況,國民黨亦可能在三月贏得總統大選,屆時「府院合 體」,更將如何維持官員及議員的基本品操?


論 及陽光法案,目前各黨派提出的法案名稱眾多,內容歧異,甚至各有政治盤算,實難一次整套完成。國民黨以其優勢,應挑出社會有共識的部分,優先強力主導通 過。這應包括:政治獻金法、遊說法、公職人員財產申報法(修正案)。因為,政壇最嚴重的貪腐問題,皆在此三法案所規範的範圍內;這三個法案通過,陽光體制 即可稱已經奠基。

先談政治獻金法。企業財團或各種利益團體,暗中對政黨或特定政治人物的巨額捐獻,可謂眾所周知的事實;而政黨或政治人物 即回報以政策的配合、特定職位的分配等等,形成「以權換錢、以錢換權」的貪腐交易。如經立法規範,並明定對違法犯行的刑責,司法調查單位即有權展開偵辦, 政治人物和政黨亦須交代金錢來源,否則即受有罪推定,這必定符合民眾的期望。

再論遊說法,中醫藥相關法案收賄的醜聞,正足以說明此一法律 的急迫性。如若不能讓遊說正常化、透明化,禁止金錢介入,則這種藉歪曲法案內容來圖利特定團體的貪腐交易,其危害恐怕更甚於其他。因為法律一旦受到扭曲, 其影響是持續、廣泛、長久的,民眾的觀感也會十分惡劣,進而損害對國家社會的信心與信賴。

至於公職人員財產申報法方面,實無待多言,必須 強化其規範內容,對不實申報甚至拒不申報的案例,課以嚴厲的懲罰;否則此法即形同具文,對巨貪高官,毫無拘束力。陳水扁的申報案例就是明顯的例證,其大量 高價珠寶、名錶等,取得情形極有爭議,又拒不申報,也不在乎違反申報規定時的處罰,則此一法律豈能有端正政風的作用?故修法強化內容,實屬刻不容緩。

其 他陽光法案,或可稱廣義的陽光法案,例如政黨法、總統及公職人員選罷法的修正、法務部設立廉政局的組織法等等,其合理性和必要性如仍有爭議,即應進行更多 細密的論證並向社會說明。例如,廉政局有無設置必要,與調查局職權有無重疊,及調查局是否能夠脫離政治控制等關係密切,仍應仔細斟酌。其實,過去的問題是 在當局執法的態度不夠公正、堅定,而並非沒有執法的機關。與其疊床架屋,不如提供既有司法單位一個不受政治干擾、可以公正執法的空間。