The DPP christened two think tanks this week, one to focus on domestic issues, and one on China issues. This is the sort of thing the DPP needs to be doing so that it has centralized policymaking and messaging, resources independent of the university and KMT-controlled think tank system, a place for its politicians to reside while not in office, and so on. DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen's speech is below:
DPP Chair Dr. Tsai Ing-wen’s remarks at the opening of the New Frontier Foundation think tank
On February 23, DPP Chair and New Frontier Foundation Board Chair, Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, officially inaugurated the New Frontier Foundation think tank. The think tank has a Security and Strategy Research Center and an Economic and Social Affairs Research Center.
Dr. Tsai’s statement:
I would like to thank everyone for coming today to witness the launch of the DPP’s think tank. When I began to conceptualize this endeavor, many people were curious as to why I would be engaged in such a task. My thinking was: the DPP cannot function without a think tank, and also this country requires the stronger presence of think tanks.
I understand that many people believe that a political party’s main task involves election campaigning. However, having visited many countries, I have seen that every modern political party either has its own think tank or has a close relationship with think tanks. This is because in a modern country, the government is responsible for pursuing continuing economic development, sustaining the accumulation and operational efficiency of commercial capital, fostering conditions for prosperity, and enhancing the capacity to cope with all sorts of risks. At the same time, the government must establish a fair and just society. It must create a fair and reasonable tax system that can support the government’s function in providing the necessary social services which satisfy the basic needs of the public, ensuring that the people can share the benefits of economic growth while consolidating their national identity. During the process, because each policy has its own complexities, it is necessary to obtain a balance among diverse opinions and goals in order to achieve the best interests of the people.
Today, the DPP must move to a more mature stage of development. Not only must the party concentrate on elections, polling and news events, it must also focus on thinking about and developing policy. Policy is not simply black or white, or left and right. As we face a society today that is more diverse and complex, the main objective of this think tank is to create policy blueprints that are even more sophisticated and comprehensive, with foresight and vision.
The responsibility of the DPP at the moment is to shoulder the responsibility of governance and to promote Taiwan’s progress. Only when we grow into a modern political party can we provide the country’s needs for modern governance. This think tank is to prepare ourselves for this goal.
The think tank has two research centers. The first, the Economic and Social Affairs Research Center, focuses on economic growth and distribution, industry and innovation, fiscal policy, regional development and national land planning, and social security, among other topics.
At the core of these topics are issues of development and distribution, and the challenge we face is the crisis of the growing wealth gap. The increasingly apparent trend in Taiwan is that people putting in the same amount of work produce strikingly different rewards. In particular, young people under the age of 40 missed the previous phase of growth, yet in the future they face fewer job opportunities with lower salaries and higher living costs, plus they must shoulder the nation’s debt from the previous generation.
In our earlier phase of discussions on our 10-Year Policy Manifesto, we already noted this trend, and we presented new thinking for the era of globalization, including the necessity of industries to focus on improving knowledge and innovation rather than cost reductions, having our economic emphasis on employment and income rather than growth numbers, the parallel need for both export and domestic demand industries, and a sustainable environment and social security as important cornerstones for growth.
However, these are not enough. Taiwan’s current social and economic challenges hold at least two difficulties that we must overcome. First, the momentum of economic growth is insufficient to create new jobs. Second, the unfair distribution of wealth has widened the disparity between social classes. To change the situation, we must not only introduce new thinking, but we also need to thoroughly review and restructure the “infrastructure” needed for implementing our thinking. We must develop a comprehensive reform project that would involve capital markets, the tax system, social security, government function, and fiscal efficiency.
Furthermore, the DPP as a major political party in Taiwan must outline our strategy for interacting with Europe, the US, Japan, China and other Asian countries. In particular, we have a responsibility to handle well the issue of China. Therefore we have also established the “Security and Strategy Research Center.”
When facing this issue, we cannot act as the KMT or the CCP, limiting ourselves to cross-strait structures or trapping ourselves in historical frameworks. Even more, we cannot allow “political preconditions” to narrow our space for handling cross-strait matters. Cross-strait issues must involve international strategic thinking, yet it is also an extension of domestic policy issues. If we continue to revolve around the cross-strait dimension only, it would not be possible to fundamentally resolve matters with China.
The present situation in the Taiwan Strait is the outcome of an international power structure and the evolution of modern history in East Asia. Therefore, we must place Taiwan within this international structure and focus on the construction of future relations, in order to expand the strategic space that is needed.
Firstly, from the standpoint of stabilizing Asian regional security, the DPP fully understands and identifies with the importance of preserving stability and peace between Taiwan and China. This is Taiwan’s international responsibility.
Secondly, the cross-strait issue is not just a bilateral matter between Taiwan and China, but an issue requiring consideration of the global and regional strategic balance. Therefore, we must engage with all countries, especially our Asian neighbors, to collectively deal with the rise of China.
Lastly, Taiwan must not only develop cross-strait interactions on a bilateral basis. In economic and trade engagements, Taiwan must utilize the international multilateral system as a framework for interaction with China. This is to avoid the current situation of the Ma government that is boxed in a frame set by China, even going as far as making political concessions in exchange for economic benefits.
Political concessions will obscure Taiwan’s sovereign status. The recent friction with the Philippines is evidence of such. When we are unable to clearly identify ourselves, how is it possible to demand that others recognize and support us?
Regarding developments between Taiwan and China, the KMT’s approaches are “peace toward unification” and “peace with inevitable unification.” Over the past three years, in economic, political and diplomatic policy, the Ma administration has made Chinese identity and Chinese values its core. In contrast, the DPP’s position is that in developing relations with China, we must start with Taiwanese identity and Taiwanese values as core; the two sides across the Strait must maintain a relationship that is “peaceful but recognizing differences” and “peaceful and seeking commonality.”
Taiwan and China are different in our histories, beliefs and values, political systems, and social identities. Yet Taiwan and China share common responsibilities and interests, which are to pursue a peaceful and stable relationship and to grasp the opportunity for prosperity and development. This is what we mean by “peaceful but recognizing differences” and “peaceful and seeking commonality.”
Therefore I appeal to China, as a large and powerful country, to re-examine the way for long-term development of cross-strait relations upon this understanding. If this could become the basis for building consensus between Taiwan and China, it would be a foundation for dialogue that best meets parity and expectations. We hope that our Security and Strategy Research Center will successfully facilitate research, interaction and dialogue.
The DPP today is striving toward the goal of governing again, so I have many expectations of this think tank.
Firstly, policy must be practical and operational. We are not an academic institution and all our members have extensive practical governing experience. The forward-looking blueprint for the country must be concrete and feasible. Secondly, the think tank must be capable of “dialogue” and not simply conceptualize ideas behind closed doors. We must constantly challenge ourselves to examine the global environment and the latest trends, conducting international exchanges while at the same time listening to grassroots voices. Thirdly, our vision must be forward-looking as opposed to being short-sighted. What we must face are the challenges of not only the next, but future, generations to come.
The think tank and the party will complement each other. Taiwan today is situated in difficulty, as if being in a tiger’s den. We must think and reflect, but we must also act. This think tank will take on the role of a “thinker that takes action,” and it will support the DPP in being a true “action-oriented party that thinks!”
I would like to express my deepest gratitude once again for everyone’s participation. I also hope that this think tank will be able to collect everyone’s wisdom and become a force for progress for Taiwan.
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