Friday, December 10, 2010

Something to think About: DPP China Policy

I'm offline for the next couple of days, but I wanted to leave something up here for discussion. As many of you are aware, the DPP is setting up a new think tank within the party to produce policy, send out authoritative DPP statements, and house DPP politicians when the party is out of power. The think tank will have two sides, domestic policy and China policy.

Imagine you are appointed head of the China policy section. What policies toward China do you think the DPP should adopt? How should it define and present its China policy? Recall that the DPP must not only please its local constituencies and all Taiwanese, but also the US with its diverse Wall Street and security interests, Japan, and perhaps other nations as well in crafting these policies. Think about it. I'll put the comments up on Sunday night when I am back on line.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

Won't it be a bit challenging for the DPP to offer its own China policy as long as the ROC Constitution claims all of China, including Taiwan, for as part of its territory?

Bozó le Clöwn said...

DPP should put someone from KMT in charge of that, possibly as the foreign minister, just to make Beijing happy. On the other hand they should be hardliners on protecting the interests of the Republic of China.

阿牛 said...

I'd say you have to craft a formula for dialogue and continuation of legal agreements across the strait. To do that, you find the space that straddles theline between denying and accepting the idea that the ROC and PRC are, if only for constitutional reasons, territorially intertwined. Frankly, Frank Hsieh already did that with his "Constitutional One China" rhetoric in the election. It's a pretty good position to work from.

And you have to do it with feelers to the CCP. If you craft this policy and it's worthless, you might as well not even bother.

At the same time, the CCP must accept the DPP's commitment to its core principles and its stiff opposition to any unification scheme that skirts a referendum.

Bluntly, a lack of dialogue between the CCP and DPP is simply no longer tenable. That silence begs for disaster.

Mark said...

The first question is why are the two aspects of policy domestic and China. Why can't they be domestic and global. This structure plays into the hands of the KMT.

justrecently said...

A foreign minister can make legally-binding statements to the United Nations, Bozó! :))

And I have the feeling that on the day where the KMT foreign minister aspires to make, you know, that one statement, there will be a way for him to even be allowed to the sacred UN podium.

Dixteel said...

This is really a tough one. I like to think outside of the box and just throw out an idea. It's just an idea, and I haven't thought about all the detail etc.

I think on the strategic overview, Taiwan's best China policy should be "passive," and active engagement with Japan, Korea and the US. This is because, I think, paradoxically, the critical point in China policy is not China, but the US.

On the political level, remember how KMT and China leveraged the Bush administration to pressure Taiwan? That strategy is much more effective than China pressuring Taiwan directly. This demonstrate my point that the critial point of China policy is not China, but the US.

This is also partly due to the fact that Taiwan's foreign relation communities are still largely controlled by KMT and partly because DPP did not focus on building relation with the US. I think one of Chen's failure is his lack of focus on foreign policy, because he desperatedly want to do something he used a shotgun tactics. Although that might have its own benefits, it might be more fruitful to engage potential strategic allies.

Similarly, for economic and business community, the critical point might actually not be China, but the US and Japan, although many think China is the critical point. The US is still the world largest economy. Most of the product produced in China are shipped to the US, for example. Those manufacturing facility could be setup in other places in the future, not necessarily in China, but the market of the US is not going to move. One can argue that China will become the next large market. However, let's think about it. If China becomes a larger market, that probably means it won't be the cheapest place to manufacture. Therefore, either way, focus solely on China is not the best bet you can have.

On this point, Taiwan should also focus domestically on utilizing its strength to attract domestic investors to invest in Taiwan, not China. This will solve 2 problems with one shot: business are happy because they could make money and people are happy because higher employeement opportunity. For example, Chinese labour are cheaper, so don't compete on cheapness, but on quality, automation etc. Chinese economic environment is more controlled, and more official based instead of law based. Therefore, Taiwan should strengthen its legal system and reduce red tapes so business have reduced risk, more freedome and incentives to invest in Taiwan.

By being passive, not focusing on China or even "ignoring" China, you could potentially gain leverage in negotiation and future engagement. Anyone who hasn't read on the Game Theory should check it out. Doing business directly with China might not be the best Chinese policy.

I am just throwing this out there though. There might be better policy etc. But I do strongly feel that direct engagement with China will not work, based on what Ma is facing right now. Because you will have to accept China's pre-conditions. Ma of course said he does not accept, but China just assume you accept it anyway. Doing so will only drag Taiwan into China's orbit.

Anonymous said...

Here's one based on events in the past few days: Samsung and LG organize LCD panel price-fixing with their smaller Taiwanese competitors. Samsung then calls itself a "whistle-blower", reporting the other firms to the European commission.

Right. So there's no question Samsung is the lead perpetrator here since only Samsung and LG together have the market power to put together credible price-fixing collusion. No Taiwanese firm had or has that kind of power, and the industry as a whole, even with the price-fixing, is not very healthy.

Yet Samsung gets off scot free and fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars are levied mainly against Taiwanese firms. The EU is basically proposing to transfer nearly 1 billion USD from Taiwan to the EU. Seriously?

The DPP should be proactive about protecting Taiwanese interests abroad. The US is trying to shove very questionably raised beef down the literal throats of Taiwanese; what is Taiwan getting in return from the US market?

Taiwanese businesses are admirable in their competitiveness. Like big business in the US or Japan or France, sometimes, their practices are not to the benefit of society (see the Formosa Plastics group). But they very often don't get a fair shake, whether it's the US, the EU, or China. This is a huge business issue that doesn't conflict with DPP leanings to say raise the corporate tax or increase the social safety net.

In many ways, the new generation of the DPP may be better prepared to advocate for Taiwanese interests with multilingual and multicultural ease abroad than the Chinese KMT. Imagine Hsiao Bikhim as Foreign Minister for example. But they need to clearly elaborate and plan how they would do so and convey that to the electorate. There are many actions they can take even now very cheaply via the internet and press releases / press conferences to make a stand for Taiwanese interests on this and other issues.

David on Formosa said...

There is a need for a multi-track strategy. High level dialogue between the two governments or representatives thereof may prove difficult if Beijing's past and present record is anything to go by.

Other potential paths for engagement include city to city contacts using the DPP mayors, especially those of the special municipalities. These contacts are less encumbered by sovereignty issues and protocol and can have practical outcomes.

Another is engaging with academia, business and NGOs in China. The DPP should seek to engage with a wide range of groups in China. Many business contacts may deal with people close to the CCP. Contact with academics and NGOs can encompass a broader range of thought within China. These contacts could be both direct and indirect through proxies reporting back to the DPP government.

Dixteel said...


Do you think we should fully trust and really care so much about Taiwanese tychoon's well beings? Remember, this people abandon Taiwan so easily and kiss Chinese asses so hard you cannot even imagine. Sure, the government can assist when necessary. But for Taiwanese government to stick its neck out for these people, I don't think the other tax payers will agree with, unless these corporations also show some serious loyalty. The large corporations should be able to take care of themselves. If the government help everytime these business start whining, they will become soft and relying on government officials too much, which can lead to systematic corruptions.

Taiwanese government needs to be strong for sure, but it should not become a tool of large corporations and guns blazing whenever these corporations start whining.

Anonymous said...

Dixteel, you're not looking at it in a us-vs-them, black-and-white way that is not reflective of what will happen if Taiwanese companies continue to be cheated in China, now in the EU, in the US, etc. What is bad for Taiwanese companies abroad is also bad for Taiwanese employees who are not rich tycoons. Taiwanese small and medium size businesses need protection as well, though they won't be suffering from abuse of anti-trust laws as in this recent LCD panel case.

Admittedly, that the capital in Taiwan has had a very strong negotiating position vis-a-vis labor is quite true and has been true since the 80s when China opened up its doors to become competitors of laborers worldwide. The way you solve that isn't to try to punish or allow Taiwanese capital to be taken advantage of. What you need to to do instead is introduce strong competition to Taiwanese capital the way that Taiwanese labor has had to face. I've mentioned it in comments on this blog in the past--

Taiwan needs a better business investment climate. Part of that is advertising the very low tax rates, both corporate and income; part of that is reform of certain bureaucratic-ness that many developed economies also suffer from. Again, imagine if Taiwanese capital had to compete with all the top US and Japanese firms hiring R&D, marketing, product design, engineering talent here. What if Silicon Valley startups were an option to bright Taiwanese CS graduates? How would 90-hour a week Hon Hai jobs look then? The bidding on labor would increase, salaries would go up, and you would not have this large imbalance between capital and labor.

That's the demand and supply issue. Hurting supply (people that hire) or allowing that supply to be damaged even more doesn't solve the issue for the Taiwanese working class. In fact, it makes things worse.

Dixteel said...

I am not saying the government should not assisst when necessary. But government cannot be directed by corporations' interests. In fact that could be dangerous because large corporate interests do not always align with the country.

For example, if the companies got "cheated" in China, should the government help? The business made their own decision on where they invest and the risks they can take, and should take full responsibility for their decisions. If the government needs to whipe everyone' asses, can you iamgine what Taiwan would become?

Your arguement is also similar to the auto industry arguement in the US back in the 70s or 80s. And yea, they got their protection, but in the end, still cannot compete with Japanese car companies.

I see your point on capital-labour, and I agree Taiwan should strive for better investment climate, but there is a problem. For majority of Taiwanese, the Sillicon Valley startups simply are not an option. It is not because of talents issue, but language, culture and environment barriers. In other words, labour market simply is not that liquid. Furthermore, even some dudes and girls got hired by the US and Japanese companies in Taiwan and overseas, which in fact, there are many, that still does not help labour market in general, because there are different labour market segments.

John Herodotus said...

With growing tensions between China and her neighbors, as well as North Korea stirring up trouble, there are going to be a lot of dangers and opportunities in the coming years. I doubt anybody can identify what they will be exactly. My recommendation is that Taiwan have an Asian policy that is the exact reverse of North Korean policy but imitates its tactical focus. Taiwan has been perceived as a pain in the neck, but China has graciously adopted that mantle now. It is rather perverse, but the greens should have a status quo foreign policy. Taiwanese diplomats should have a mantra of "peace, stability, and dialogue" any time there is a crisis in Asia. It is an unassailable position, and it is the right one for Asia now. It might put the KMT in something of an awkward position, too.

jerome in vals said...

“I think on the strategic overview, Taiwan's best China policy should be "passive," and active engagement with Japan, Korea and the US. This is because, I think, paradoxically, the critical point in China policy is not China, but the US.”

Dixtel’s comprehensive grasp of the issue won my vote and prompts me to elaborate further.

The best posture the DPP could adopt vis-à-vis China is aloofness without having to admit to it. How is it done?

In the next elections cycle, the DPP should shun the exiled ROC zongtong election altogether. Why is that?

Ask yourself whether an Indian could become head of the exiled Tibetan government? Why, then, should a Formosan fill the position of head of an exiled Chinese rebel faction?

The exiled Chinese zongtong may claim a say on how things are done on his territory of origin, but not on Taiwan. The exiled Chinese zongtong need be constantly reminded that he is only a guest of the U.S. on Taiwan.

It is unbecoming of a Taiwanese with his/her overtly Taiwan-centered psyche to pretend rule Taiwan from the position of head of a foreign government in exile that usurped its mandate. The exiled Chinese zongtong position should remain no-go for any Formosan. Poor Taipei Prison inmate 1020 is enough proof of it.

The DPP should focus on taking the LY. A DPP-led LY would focus on:


Once the DPP, through its command of the legislature, coaxes the exiled Chinese zongtong and his cabinet appointees to abide by their status per S.F.P.T./T.R.A., it will be easier to control the China policy of Taiwan without having to answer for it to the Chinese.

The L.Y. majority in DPP hands, the speaker position will be filled by a DPP member. He/she will strive to maintain all channels opened with the US executive through High Commissioner (A.I.T. head) Raymond Burghardt.

Use the exile Chinese zongtong as a fuse. If he is not to China’s taste, replace him by another Taipei Chinese. They are expendable human resource.

Thus shunted out of Taiwanese domestic and international politics, the exiled Chinese zongtong will be forced to address China’s ills. Short of that, the position will loose all credibility and appeal.

les said...

Now that Japan has come publicly to the conclusion that China is it's #1 security threat, a DPP administration should take concrete steps to repair that relationship and move under the defense umbrella Japan and therefore the US is offering.
I agree that calling their think tank domestic & China is short-sided, though it's in line with the stunted view many Taiwanese have of the world. DPP should be showing it is not limited in it's options.

Anonymous said...

"though it's in line with the stunted view many Taiwanese have of the world"

Really? I've found Taiwanese to be much more internationally aware than Americans. I've learned lots about Japan, Germany, Scandinavia, Singapore and Southeast Asia, places that people are just completely clueless about in the US. Feels like half the country has been to Japan before.

les said...

Yes. I meet a lot of Taiwanese who think there are three countries on the planet. Taiwan, China and 'guo wai'. Of course not everyone is this blinkered, but a mature and wise political party should be leading the way, not following the dullest citizens.