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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

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A Glimpse into Ma Ying-jeou's Economics


Election campaigns in the blogging era are great because they force politicians to show how stupid they are. Ma Ying-jeou gave a classic example the other day when he tried to show up the DPP administration's failure to impose price controls by saying that "Chiang Ching-kuo controlled oil prices. If the DPP can't do it, let the KMT do it."

The pro-Taiwan blogosphere had a field day. As this Executive Yuan chart shows (from Tseng Wei-chen), consumer prices spiked wildly under the younger Chiang's rule: 47.50% in 1972, 19.1% in 1979, and then 16.32% in 1981. The spikes in 1972 and 1981 were of course both direct results of the first and second oil crises. To the extent that Chiang did control oil prices, it was by subsidizing state-run industries at the expense of the taxpayer at a time when Taiwan's economy was not only state-directed, but also almost completely cut off from the outside world.

Ma's economic vision is a conservative one that looks back to the golden age of the 1970s and 1980s under Chiang. His objective, in other words, is to return to an era in which the state dominated a closed economy. But his gaffe on controlling oil prices shows how unrealistic this is. Taiwan's economy has been profoundly globalized during the past two decades, and the state simply cannot set prices as it once did.

What's more interesting is the profound disjunction between this unrealistic objective and the proposed means of achieving it. Remember that Ma's main policy proposals are allowing direct transportation links with China and removing the 40% investment cap. Just how is that going to get us back to the golden era?

China is not going to agree to the non-existent 1992 Hong Kong consensus and Ma will not have the political capital to accept the One China Principle without putting it to a vote. Even if he can, direct links with China mean more globalization and therefore less control over the domestic economy than we have now.

In all likelihood, what we will get is a lifting of the 40% investment cap. And everyone can see I'm sure how allowing what remain of Taiwan's industrial base to relocate to China will get us back to the good old days when the omniscient great man could control prices.

4 Comments:

At 3:39 AM, Anonymous Clemens Hsieh said...

Your arguments are logical and make sound economic sense. It would be impossible to return to the economic policies of the Chiang Ching-kuo era. I acknowledge your reasoning and am sorry that most DPP politicans are not as eloquent with the Chinese language as you are with English (and probably Chinese too).

If the pan-green camp stuck to practical reasoning, I suppose I would have a better impression of you lot. As a conservative and due to my background (see final part), I generally support the Pan-Blues... but I think the same would apply to them as well. Less rhetoric, more reasoning.

However, what spoils things is how you and other pan-Greens keep going on about "Taiwan, not China... Taiwanese, not Chinese", etc. etc. (This is more relevant to the post below this one.)

Let's face it... unless you're a Taiwanese Aboriginal or a foreigner who has settled in Taiwan, you're Chinese. Ultimately, your motherland (or "mommyland", as you call it) IS China. Whether your ancestors moved to this island in 1949 or 1650, they still came FROM CHINA. Your culture is Chinese, your language is Chinese, Chinese blood runs in your veins.

Of course, if you fall under the two groups I mentioned above, then I apologise. You have every right not to call yourself Chinese. I hope you realise, however, that mainstream Taiwanese traditions are simply regional variations of Chinese traditions; that the "Taiwanese dialect" is Minnan, a Chinese dialect.

I'm not going to argue for reunification under the Communist government. Whatever my personal opinions, there's no purpose in promoting such an "extreme view" to a pan-Green supporter.

The only point I'm trying to make is... please stop trying to draw lines between "THEM, CHINA" and "US, TAIWAN". Fine, advocate Taiwanese independence if you like, but the difference between the PRC and Taiwan stops at politics. Even with independence, they will be two nations of one people united by a common culture.

It's ridiculous how pan-Greens seem somehow ashamed or offended whenever they see the words "China" or "Chinese" in Taiwan. I don't see anything wrong with the "Republic of China" and its "Chinese instutions".

Final note: My background is half Mainlander and half Taiwanese Chinese. I don't know if this biases my opinions, but I'm including it so you can judge for yourself. I hold three passports: ROC, PRC (Hong Kong), and Canadian. I know the combination of the first two is illegal but whatever is convenient goes.

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger Feiren said...

Thanks for the praise Clemens. My own view on the Taiwan/China issue is that it is a political choice. Being Chinese in the sense of being huaren is a broad, inclusive cultural identity that can be reasonably compared to being European.

But being Chinese in the sense of being a zhongguoren is a political identity just as being Taiwanese is. Unfortunately, English doesn't let us draw these distinctions easily. In other words, I think that ethnic Han Taiwanese are culturally Chinese and should choose to be politically Taiwanese.

Having said that, there are special features of the Taiwanese experience such as the frontier period in the 18th and 19th centuries with the attendant mixing of Han and aboriginal cultures (where did all those Pingpu go?), the colonial period, and the KMT period that have shaped Taiwanese identity in ways that are not really shared by Chinese in China. These experiences are sufficient to create the sort of imagined community that is the basis of modern nationhood.

 
At 8:04 AM, Blogger Corey/可瑞 said...

From what I've come to understand, there is the difference between Taiwanese and Chinese that goes beyond politics. Acknowledging the fact that, as most Taiwanese will admit, Taiwanese are for the most part ethnically Chinese, Taiwanese aren't "Chinese" so to speak. Well, I suppose if you are arguing your own Taiwanese perspective that you are...whatever. My point is, I have many Taiwanese friends and acquaintances that will argue that, because they view themselves as independent, that ethnicity has no base in the argument, and that they are instead arguing from a nationality standpoint. If you are removed enough, it does, in my opinion, become an ethnic thing. Sure, the original migration was composed of KMT exiles, but the people today are not...they are not Chinese.

Of course, I am American viewing this from outside, but I'm trying to give a voice to those I know who don't read this blog, nor will attempt to read this much English.

 
At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Yukidaruma said...

Great information!
Stuff like this is rare if one is not fluent in Chinese, so I really appreciate being able to read such wonderful insight in English.

Yes, I've always wondered at the tenuous connection between what Ma meant when he said he would reliven Taiwan's economy and the "one china common market". Fishy? Obviously, he doesn't give a damn about Taiwanese people.

 

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