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June 27, 2017

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Opposition party must tackle cross-strait issues head-on

You may call it "Sinophobia," and its symptoms seem to be fully manifested in Taiwan's main opposition party.

It's reasonable to be wary of the country that has always been looking to annex the island in one way or another; after all, even your closest ally may harm you in one way or another, judging from what the U.S. government did to spy on its friends and foes alike.

But it's another thing to just slam your door on your enemy, pretending that this act can shut out all problems and dangers. No, an ostrich approach won't do.

China has grown so powerful — economically, militarily and diplomatically — that no one, not least Taiwan, can afford to ignore it. Cross-strait relations have reached a point of no return.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) saw its hugely popular candidate Tsai Ing-wen lose to the re-election-seeking President Ma Ying-jeou in the 2012 presidential poll by a narrow margin, purportedly because of voters' concerns over her capability in handling cross-trait ties.

Following the defeat, DPP leaders generally accepted that the party's China policy had to be changed in order to win back voters' trust and the presidential seat, which it had held for eight years between 2000 and 2008 — a period during which cross-strait ties hit rock bottom.

We can't put all the blame on the DPP alone for poor cross-strait relations during those eight years. China deliberately snubbed any of the DPP administration's attempts to improve ties — a strategy apparently designed out of extreme mistrust toward the pro-independence party and a hope that it could help the more China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) oust the DPP.

It's certainly doubly difficult for a pro-independence party to make friends with China, but we haven't seen any meaningful attempt by the DPP in that direction, except for, perhaps, a visit by former Premier Frank Hsieh to China last year.

Two years after making its promises to change its China policy, the DPP has shown us that nothing has really changed.

The DPP's Sinophobia remains as intense as ever. The latest brawl at the Legislature over the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement has again demonstrated the opposition party's unhealthy desire to block whatever bills are related to China — notwithstanding their excuse of defending the nation's interests.

They may be genuinely thinking that they are defending the nation's interests, but the nation may not.

A recent survey conducted by the DPP itself shows that 44 percent of respondents support the KMT's cross-strait policy and only 25 percent support the DPP's.

It is easy to see why there is such a huge gap. The KMT's cross-strait policy is based on promises that it will improve Taiwan's overall economy, despite possible harm to some individual sectors.

The DPP's cross-strait policy — or its refusal to acknowledge the need for more cross-strait trade — reverts to a protectionism that does not promise any growth. Where is this protectionism leading us? How is it going to tackle Taiwan's growing isolation in the international community where free trade is becoming the norm?

The DPP has not given us any clues as to how it is going to address these issues. All it has been doing is hiding its incompetence and lack of ideas by vehemently dismissing the KMT's cross-strait policy as an attempt to sell out Taiwan to China.

We need much more than accusations. The KMT's policy may not be perfect, but at least we should give it a try to see whether or not it is feasible.

Yes, this may be a trial-and-error process carrying certain risks, but this should be much better than just sitting idly by and dreaming of a perfect solution without actually doing anything.

The DPP must realize that it is high time they tackled the cross-strait issues head-on. The people have already sent it a warning.

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