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Apr 26, 2010

Winner of the ECFA debate?

Polls are naturally divided on partisan lines, but I have to say I was most impressed with Ma's performance in the ECFA debate. I wasn't expecting him to come out swinging. But instead, he was aggressive and dripped sarcasm, and somehow it worked better than I would have imagined. He was a man on a mission out there.

On the other hand, Tsai Ying-wen had a set of four reasonable questions which she felt Ma refused to answer even after being asked four or five times. She kept bringing that up, and that was making Ma look evasive. She was also amply able to answer questions asked to her, and appeared very competent.

The debate was quite tense. Quite something to watch. Tsai and Ma both became noticeably impatient and annoyed at several points.

I think Ma had the more rhetorically swaying argument even as I tend to personally support Tsai's logic. Tsai asked a lot of questions of Ma in that debate, and a lot of rhetorical questions began, "Didn't you think about...?" That was setting Ma up for homeruns like, "We have thought about it, and here's our awesome conclusion..." I think Ma capitalized on a difference in rhetorical style, and worked it to his advantage.

It wasn't a blow out by any means; quite close really. but I think I would still give Ma the win.

Apr 18, 2010

A point of Blue thinking

I've been wanting to blog on this topic for months, and thankfully, Michael Turton's latest post gave me just the right opening to present my contention.

Michael's post displays some of the worst paragraphs of a China Post editorial, but the line that caught my attention is this:

It is ludicrous to argue that Ma is planning a sellout of Taiwan. Even if he dreamed of presenting Taiwan to the People's Republic on a silver platter, he couldn't make his dream come true.
This sentiment is quite prominent in blue and light-blue thinking. I've had lots of debates with light-blue, anti-unification voters where I don't even raise the idea of KMT intent to sell out the island. Instead, I try to remind them what the Chinese position on Taiwan's future is. These voters, however, simply dismiss arguments about China's intent, policy or rhetoric. "Of course the CCP is going to say and do those things," they'll argue, "but what difference does it make?"

There is a real lack of concern about the Chinese position, and I find that these light-blues are convinced China simply can't force Taiwan's hand. This is why I think they dismiss the China policy/intention part of the equation, and instead believe that Taiwan can engage economically or culturally with China under almost any set of conditions with no threat of being forced into political capitulation. They figure the Taiwanese electorate just wouldn't let unification happen, and China can't force it.

Meanwhile, I find that the deep blue voters -- those with deep ideological bonds to the KMT or institutions it has created -- equally dismiss Chinese intentions for Taiwan's future, but I think they do this for entirely different reasons. First, many of these voters once deeply believed anti-Communist rhetoric from the old days. They believed the KMT line about a constant threat of invasion facing Taiwan, which justified martial law and lack of political freedoms. When Taiwan democratized and these anti-Communist arguments disintegrated, I think these deep blues just came to believe China was never and will never be the threat the old KMT guard made it out to be. And given their receptiveness to some eventual (if distant and mutually agreeable) unification, they see the "closer economic ties" as a great thing as well. Further, I think they see the Chinese "good will" rhetoric as genuine, and they accept that only DPP style "Taiwanese independence" would cause China to try and force unification.

Over all, however, I've always felt that the KMT's success in promoting its China policy depends on not factoring in China's arguments and intentions for Taiwan's future. And that seems foolish and short-sighted, at best. What surprises me is how many blue voters of different stripes are willing to ignore China's role in this equation, as well.

But what do you think?

Apr 13, 2010

ECFA Referendum

The TSU has announced that volunteers collected 120,000 signatures in support of a referendum on the ECFA. As you may recall, the signatures and petition will soon go before the Executive Yuan's Referendum Evaluation Committe -- probably by the end of the month, according to the TSU. As the Taipei Times notes, only 86,000 valid sigs are needed to get past "stage one," so the list should be safe.

Yet that committee, made up entirely of Ma appointees, roundly rejected a similar petition last August. The previously rejected topic was:

「你是 否同意台灣與中國簽訂之經濟合作架構協議(ECFA),政府應交付台灣人民公民投票決定?」

Do you agree that the government ought to put an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China to a referendum before the Taiwanese people?
This time, the question asks:
你是否同意政府與中國簽訂「兩岸經濟合作架構協議」 (簡稱「兩岸經濟協議」或ECFA)?

Do you agree that the government should sign a cross-Strait economic framework agreement with China (often called a cross-Strait economic agreement or an ECFA)?
The new wording gets around most of the Referendum Evaluation Committee's previous objections, but the committee could still have one excuse it used last time:
Instead, it asks the public to vote on something that has not yet happened — since the ECFA is not a concrete policy yet. Hence, we decided that the petition did not meet the criteria for a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法),” committee chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) said....
We'll see what happens around early May...but don't expect the Committee to rule differently, even if the public is less likely to buy the sole excuse "the ECFA is not concrete policy" this time around.

Apr 10, 2010

Oh yeah right

The DPP, in its preparation for the imminent debate between chairwoman Tsai Ying-wen and President Ma Ying-jeou about the ECFA, has asked for some information from the President's office: namely, a list of the "early harvest" products that China will likely be allowed to import, a working draft of the agreement, and information from government research agencies or think tanks about the expected impact of the ECFA on various industries.

The President's office has responded that, due to the ongoing negotiations, its not possible to provide these materials at this time. In other words, "you [the public] don't even need to have the slightest idea of what we're negotiating until we've signed it. The president's office asked Tsai to "stop evading," while other KMT legislators hinted Tsai is "scared of the exam [upcoming debate]."

Well, I don't think I need to bother actually refuting the Presidental Palace's and the KMT's absurd position on this. But I'll ask: how can it be that nobody of consequence outside the government has even seen a working draft? How can media and professionals be promoting an agreement they are being told is "too sensitive" to even know about? How can even the most basic points of an economic agreement -- not a political agreement, mind you -- need to be negotiated in secrecy? It seems to me the only reason to keep it secret if fear it will not be popular in Taiwan.

I think the DPP's push for a referendum on this subject will continue to gain momentum -- it the referendum idea already has a plurality of KMT voters' support, according to a recent TVBS poll (from 04/01's talking show) -- and likewise, we can be almost certain the referendum review committee will strike down the topic before it can even move to stage two of signature gathering.

Apr 9, 2010

One China, same interpretation

Please find here the translation of an article by Liu Shing-Ren (劉性仁), an NUU part-time lecturer and ROC constitutional scholar, which was featured on the President's website. I believe Professor Liu starts off presenting his views well, but degenerates into a bizarre, whiny patriotic rant.

The article and its translation are rather long, so I've just linked them above. But to sum up Professor Liu's argument:

  1. "One China, same interpretation" is a great idea if each side could accept that the ROC + PRC = One Complete China [quote: "the unified, complete China is made up of a 'Mainland China' and a 'Taiwan China' separated by civil war."]

  2. The Ma government's current position, though, is that One China = ROC.

  3. If the Ma Government tried to adopt a "One China, same interpretation" position, those pesky Greens would accuse him of preparing to surrender to the Communists. So it's politically unwise.

  4. When the election rolled around, the Blues would just fall back on China = ROC to avoid political heckling, and mainland China can't accept that, now can it?

  5. That makes "One China, same interpretation" a great ideal for the future, but impractical for now.

  6. Rather, the top priority right now is to arrive at a Blue + Green consensus -- not by compromising toward a middle ground, mind you, but by convincing the Greens to come on over to the Blue understanding.
Despite some sarcasm on my part, that's a pretty fair portrayal of the professor's argument.

Nevertheless, I find the idea of "One China, same interpretation" as defined above rather interesting, if impractical as the professor does. What do you think?

Apr 5, 2010

Pirate stations

The Liberty Times speculates that recent government efforts to shut down unlicensed radio stations is motivated by the government's annoyance at those pirate station's yelling down of the ECFA, and an attempt to reverse sliding public support for that agreement.

I think the Liberty Times overestimates effectiveness and audience of these underground stations. I am reasonably sure that I was one of about a half-dozen politically-oriented listeners in Kaohsiung and Pingtung, with the rest of the people listening in for the medical programs and medicine ads.

I make my estimate of these station's audience size based on three observations: first, you could hear the same two callers most every day calling in. No problem with clogged lines. Second, I never saw anyone tuning into a pirate station -- the only stations even Taipei taxis had on were Green Peace (綠色和平) or Voice of Taiwan (臺灣之聲). Third, there are just so few of these stations left, especially broadcasting with any frequency or regularity.

Plus, the KMT has been trying to pull the plug on these guys for a long time; ECFA is not the motive. They've just always hated the stations.

I, for one, love the pirate stations so much I would support liberalization of licensing requirements in the industry to keep bands reserved for these sorts of operations. I know some will defy government shutdown attempts. And that's great. And I wish the DPP had done more to help them become legit than just let them slide during their tenure. I just wish the stations would stop trying to sell expensive, ineffective medicine.