Written by Koo Kuan-Min, Founder of the Taiwan Brain Trust
Without the Service Trade Agreement, even if the profits of a select few suffer, Taiwan will be just fine.
The present occupation of the Legislative Yuan has already moved the hearts of people throughout Taiwan and around the world. The students have not only drawn the attention of the world’s media to Taiwan’s plight, but even more importantly, they have brought to the Taiwanese people a new sense of hope and possibility, inspiring this spirited eighty-eight year old man with profound admiration.
This latest wave of the student movement has successfully highlighted two major issues: the controversial nature of the Service Trade Agreement, and a deeper crisis in Taiwan’s democracy and constitutional order.What then is so controversial about an agreement liberalizing trade between Taiwan and China’s service industries?
The reason is that the service sector employs 60% of Taiwan’s workforce, and over 85% of firms within the sector are micro-enterprises with fewer than five workers (including the owner). Although liberalization of the cross-straits service industries may seem appealing, companies capable of reaching into the Chinese market are mainly medium to large corporations. Such an investment is unfeasible for the vast majority of small businesses and micro-enterprises, but these same small firms’owners and mass of workers will be assaulted by competition when Chinese service firms storm into Taiwan.This has already happened in the travel and massage industries, making their operation increasingly difficult. These are facts which the Ma administration wants to ignore because it is unwilling to investigate.
In other words, Mr. Ma Ying-jeou is prepared to sacrifice the vital claims of the vast majority of Taiwan’s people for the interests of a small minority and his own historical legacy. Were it not for the student movement’s confrontation bringing this reality to the fore, everyone would probably still be in the dark.
In recent years, many have begun to worry that China’s strategy towards Taiwan is to use service trade to strike deep into the heart of our domestic industries, gradually controlling Taiwan by grasping our economic jugular. In what is perhaps our most severe warning, this reading of China’s actions is accepted even by most foreign media and political observers.
As for the crisis of Taiwan’s democracy and constitutional order, from the opaque operations surrounding the Service Trade Agreement’s signing to its railroading through the Legislative Yuan, the deal was treated as a packaged whole to be passed without an article-by-article review and without a single word being changed. This complete disregard of democratic oversight demonstrates even more clearly Ma Ying-jeou’s usurpation of legislative power. That an executive with an approval rating of only 9% can somehow control and compel the other branches of government is a crisis which threatens the complete collapse of our liberal democracy.
Therefore, with all due respect, I must here apprise the Chinese Kuomintang’s (Chinese Nationalist Party) legislators and politicians: with an approval rating of only 9%, President Ma Ying-jeou has already lost his legitimacy to govern. Why then can he still do as he pleases while stubbornly refusing to change course? Only because you are still putting yourselves on the line for him. Any policy which Mr. Ma now pushes is doomed to failure and will only inflame public resentment, ultimately dragging down not only the Chinese Kuomintang but also our whole nation.
While I don’t believe that Ma Ying-jeou is truly Taiwanese at heart, I trust that you are and that you dearly love Taiwan. In the future you will continue to participate in Taiwan’s elections and serve the people of Taiwan. If you insist on ignoring public opinion and taking orders from a president with an approval rating of 9%, you can forget about running in the next election – voters are certain to crucify you at the ballot box.
Accordingly, I urge those of discernment within the Chinese Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party): for the sake of your consciences and love of Taiwan, bravely stand forth and organize a separate “Taiwanese Kuomintang” (Taiwanese Nationalist Party). Taiwan’s government, economy and society can only prosper if a “Taiwanese Kuomintang” shares with the Democratic Progressive Party the burden of advancing our democracy. Only then can cross-strait relations begin to make enduring progress.
I also wish to respectfully assure China’s President Xi Jinping that the Taiwanese people don’t wish to be enemies with you. Given the effort China has invested over the years into Taiwan policy, combined with the similarity of our language and culture, our ties should be extremely amicable and close. However, numerous polls have revealed that China is the country most disliked by the majority of the Taiwanese people. Because of this, I believe now is the time for China to seriously consider changing your Taiwan policy.
We are willing to peacefully associate with China under the banner of “Brotherly Nations.” However, continuing to pursue a Taiwan policy marked by aggression and interference will only serve to further depress support for Ma Ying-jeou and the Chinese Kuomintang, simultaneously increasing (not decreasing) the antipathy of the Taiwanese people towards China. You constantly reiterate that you “place hope in the Taiwanese people” – please do more to understand our feelings, will and resolve. Misjudge us at your own peril.
If you break something, it’s your responsibility to fix it. When and whether the students’ occupation of the Legislative Yuan can peacefully conclude ultimately depends on a shift in Mr. Ma Ying-jeou’s mentality. The students’ insistence on “legislation [of a Cross-Strait Relations Supervision Law] first, review [of the Service Trade Agreement] second” has already become the public consensus and received a constructive response from Wang Jin-pyng, the Speaker of the Legislative Yuan. I demand that Mr. Ma stop clinging stubbornly to his personal views. The reality is, even if the profits of a select few suffer without the Service Trade Agreement, Taiwan will be just fine. Are the profits of a few worth forcing destitution on many disadvantaged people? Are they worth marching our nation toward destruction? Could that be what Mr. Ma Ying-jeou wants?
Fortunately, Taiwan’s future won’t be determined by Mr. Ma Ying-jeou. It will be determined by the decisions all the twenty-three million people of Taiwan make together.
Our country rests upon our shoulders. When our nation is imperiled and our democracy decays, we, the people of Taiwan, must step forward and fulfill our duty and responsibility . Taiwan is our home, our country and the land where our children will live and thrive. It is from this beloved soil that all our ardor and dreams spring.
Let our island become a beacon newly alight with hope. Let us work together to defend democracy and Taiwan!
The author is a former senior presidential advisor .