The Dawn of Taiwan

(Next Weekly)  The Dawn of Taiwan.  By Jimmy Lai.  December 28, 2006.

[in translation]

"It was awfully nice of you to come to my office.  This is so embarrassing.  I ought to visiting you at your office instead," I said.  "You've been in Taiwan for so many years and we have never met yet.  I'm delighted to have this opportunity," he said.  He sounded more like a scholar than a politician."  "I don't usually mix with politicians.  I've never met any senior official of your status in your party."  He smiled and said nothing.  Then he asked me directly: "What do you think of the recent election results?"

Answer: "The KMT lost in Kaohsiung, and their victory in Taipei was tantamount to a defeat.  This had nothing to do with Ma Ying-jeou's special fee expenditures.  The people do not believe that he is corrupt.  Although Ah Bian is rotten, the people do not want to the DPP get wiped out and they don't want to see the KMT have one-party dominance.  They do not trust a powerful KMT, and they are especially worried that the Chinese sentiments of the KMT will cause them to sell out the independent political sovereignty of Taiwan.

Question: The blue-green confrontation has become a group conflict.  What do you think about the gridlock?

Answer: No.  The blue-green confrontation is the effect and not the cause.  It is not a political gridlock for Taiwan.  The reason for the confrontation is that Taiwan politicians have a fear of the mainland.  They lack confidence in the nascent democracy in Taiwan, so they fall into the trap of localism.  They also do not look at the world, so they are trapped in an self-absorbed and narrow localism.  Taiwan has therefore fallen into a trap with no space of development for both ideas and actions and the people become obsessed with inter-group battles.

In the final analysis, the positions of the politicians only reflect the narrow emotions of the people.  On the day when the people refuse to respond to any blue-green confrontation, that confrontation will stop.  All they have to do is open up to the outside and the people of Taiwan can break through the localism.  When they see the development space and future open up, the people will turn the bitterness into active forces of creativity.  Then Taiwan politics will open up a new path and break up the blue-green gridlock.

Question: The three links with mainland China are the principal factors of the opening up of Taiwan.  Will communicating with mainland China economically, culturally and socially involve political compromises and cause Taiwan to lose its freedom and independence?

Answer: It won't.  You must have confidence in Taiwan democracy.  As dreadful as Ah Bian's government was, people are still living decently in Taiwan.  Democracy in Taiwan is held in the hands of its 23 million people.  They also have the support of the United States, the democratic nations and the moral force of the democratic trend of the world.  This is not something that any other political power can take away.

For the mainland government, the idea of a democratic Taiwan is very dangerous because this model will effectively promote the development of democracy in mainland China.  As long as the mainland government is a totalitarian government, Taiwan will be in peril and will not be really safe until the mainland also becomes democratic.  For Taiwan, there is nothing to be afraid from a democratic Communist Party.  Only a totalitarian Communist Party is scary.

Question: Apart from the three links and the opening to the outside, what else can the government do to prosper economically?

Answer: Trust the people.  A government cannot create prosperity.  Only the people can do that.  Give freedom to the people.  Do not control or restrict them.  Then it will be easy.  Get rid of all the policies and regulations that are constraining the people and preventing development.

You ask before about why only people like myself who don't know any better come to invest in Taiwan?  The reason is very simple.  You are restricting your people from investing outside.  Why would your people be stupid to bring their invested capital or profits back from the outside to Taiwan so that you can restrict their use?

Many Taiwan entrepreneurs have made a lot of investments in mainland China, and earned a lot of profit.  Do you see them taking a cent back to Taiwan?  If even the Taiwanese are not willing to bring their outside money to invest in Taiwan, then why would you expect outsiders to do so?

Superficially, the government has a macroeconomic development blueprint, but does the leader have a broad vision?  No.  Economic policies in Taiwan are chaotic and stuck in a dead-end alley.  An investor with any commonsense would not get themselves in this mess!

Question: But Taiwan has many technical people.  Isn't that a competitive advantage?

Answer: Yes  Taiwan has many talented people, not just technical people.  There are also other competitive advantages.  I have been here for six years.  I know about those competitive advantages.  But if Taiwan shutters itself, then it does not matter how excellent those competitive advantages are.

For example, Taiwan produces certain automotive parts of world-class quality.  In conjunction with the world-class quality produced by other countries, it is possible to produce a world-class car.  But Taiwan shutters itself and so its world-class quality automotive parts cannot be used with the world-class quality parts from other countries.  Instead, its only possible use is to match with those third-rate or fourth-rate locally produced automotive parts to produce a third-rate car.  If Taiwan does not open up, the first-rate talents and advantages will be wasted just like those world-class automotive parts.  Such is the disappointing state of the economy in Taiwan.

Taiwan should open itself to the whole world.  It should open itself to the mainland.  It should have a Free Trade Agreement with the United States and other economically developed countries.  It should get the three links with mainland China.  The Democratic Progressive Party has the trust of the grassroots citizens, so if they carry out the three links, the people of Taiwan will not be afraid that they will be betrayed and the local citizens will not suspect that the self-autonomy of Taiwan is being traded away.

Question: The Taiwan media lack this type of information.  How can we disseminate this kind of information?

Answer: The people do not need information.  They want action.  There is too much nonsense being told in Taiwan politics.  People will no longer believe in empty talk.  They will only believe in actual action.  During the next spring festival, if you can increase the number of direct flights across the straits and then continue those flights after the holidays, the people will have confidence in you.  More importantly, you have to eliminate the restrictions on overseas investments.  When the people see actual actions, they will believe that the Democratic Progressive Party is interested in developing the economy.  These specific actions will help the Democratic Progressive Party in the 2008 presidential election.

Question: Do the Taiwan people lack confidence in the economy?

Answer: The policies of political isolation has limited the vision of the people.  In their eyes, the outside world is full of threats instead of opportunities.  If they have an international vision, public opinion would not be isolated in the localism and public confidence will soar instead.  The Taiwan people need to show confidence and strength, not fear and cowardice towards the world and China.

Right now, you have a democratic system and the rule of law; freedom of speech, information and religion; complete and powerful spontaneously emerging civic organizations; a social structure based upon moral strength and trust; a decent educational system; these excellent conditions should give you confidence.

Just imagine when Taiwan becomes connected closely to the mainland markets.  In all of Greater China, not even Hong Kong has your advantageous qualities.  Hong Kong does not have your technological base and they do not have your democratic system.  When that day arrives, how can Taiwan not be the center of information, technology and science in Greater China and the place where the talents are concentrated?  It is correct to say that Taiwan is the treasure island of Greater China.

The quality of the people is the strength of Taiwan.  If the government dares to open up Taiwan, the people will create the miracle.  The government only has to humbly respect the wisdom of the people, who will create results that will make Taiwan proud.  Trust the people!

Only dictators do not trust the people.  They want to control this or restrict that.  This is not because the people are not trustworthy.  Rather, they are afraid that the people may rebel, and that is why they only feel safe by controlling everything.  A democratic government is elected by the people.  You win the votes only because the people trust you.  So you win but then you don't trust the people.  Instead you want to control this or restrict that.  Isn't that a joke?

Trust the people.  A government that does not trust the people -- even if this government is elected by the people -- does not gain much acceptance because the people did not confer on you the power to suspect them.

Question: Do you see any space for Taiwan to exist in the international political arena?

Answer: Under the pressure of the Chinese Communists, there cannot be any space for Taiwan.  The stronger mainland China is, the less space remains for Taiwan.  Do not waste the time, resources and energy to develop the so-called international political space.  As long as the Chinese Communists do not open up politically, they will continue to apply pressure on Taiwan everywhere.  In this atmosphere, it is useless to fight for political space.  You are better off developing international trade.  The only path to enhance Taiwan's international position and influence is to strengthen your economy, open Taiwan to the outside and improve international trade relationships.  You should not bother with easing your mind by dealing with those small nations in Africa that you cannot even find on a map.

As he was leaving, he told me: "You are very optimistic about Taiwan."  I said: "Apart from my businesses in Taiwan, I have brought almost all of my personal assets to invest in Taiwan.  I am also buying stocks and real-estate properties.  I do this because I have confidence in the people of Taiwan.  It does not matter how lousy the current government is, because the people will be victorious.  The next government will be better than Ah Bian's.  For the past seven years, Ah Bian ignored the economy so that the business sector is in the doldrums.  It is certain that the next government will list economic development as the top priority.  Economic development is the only way out for Taiwan.  I await this to happen with optimism.  This is why democracy is so good."