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KMT comics for ECFA insult Taiwan people
Taiwan News
Page 9
2009-07-24 01:06 AM
The Ministry of Economic Affairs delivered a multifaceted insult to the 23 million Taiwan people Monday by issuing a comic "question and answer" brochure to advertising the Kuomintang government's proposal for an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with the People's Republic of China. The MOEA cartoon characters, which were the inspiration of Economic Affairs Minister Yiin Chi-ming, were slammed Wednesday by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party as "extremely offensive" for the transparent use of ethnic and social class-based stereotyping of opponents of ECFA, which President Ma Ying-jeou has declared is a "national fixed policy."

The 12 four-frame comic strips featured a male character named Brother Yi and a female counterpart Sister Fa (combining to form "ECFA"). The male character is tabbed as a 45-year-old Tainan City native of Hoklo ethnicity who is a salesman in a "traditional industry" and opposes the ECFA because he is worried about his job even though he "knows nothing about" the issue.

Sister Fa is a 40-year old Hakka in Hsinchu who is a spokesperson for a trading company. Fluent in English, Mandarin, Hoklo and Japanese, unlike Yi who can only speak Hoklo and Taiwanese Mandarin, Sister Fa is well informed about cross-strait affairs and therefore strongly supports ECFA.

The set-up links opposition to ECFA with working class, Hoklo and southern backgrounds and assumes that critics "know nothing" about cross-strait issues or the proposed pact and conveys the impression that ECFA is more attractive to persons who are highly educated and lingually skillful, attributes which may be more likely to be possessed by "high-class" groups in Taipei than Hakka from Hsinchu.

In addition to the ethnic and class profiling, the content of the MOEA cartoon strips presents a caricature of the Ma government's propaganda for the ECFA that insults the intelligence of all Taiwan citizens.

The most questionable claims and rationalizations cited by the Ma government to promote the pact are presented as incontestable facts despite intensive criticism by numerous independent economists and former economic, financial and China policy officials, including Taiwan's first permanent representative to the World Trade Organization Yen Ching-chang.

For example, the MOEA comic claims the implementation of the free trade agreement between the PRC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next January will render Taiwan exports to China uncompetitive compared to ASEAN products, implies "Made in Taiwan" goods will face "5 percent to 10 percent" tariff levies across the board and that Taiwan bosses will move factories to the PRC to "stay competitive."

In fact, most of Taiwan's exports to the PRC, especially in leading informatics and telecommunications sectors, face zero or very low tariffs, while the main product areas that will be affected are petrochemicals, which will have an edge on ASEAN makers due to lower transportation costs. Besides failing to consider that economic competitiveness can be obtained by other paths besides lower tariffs, the MOEA comics vilify opponents to ECFA as can throwing protesters who inflict wounds on Sister Fa's bandaged head.

Besides failing to treat seriously any of the economic objections to ECFA, the 12 cartoon strips exclude the most critical issue of the potential impact on Taiwan's sovereignty and economic autonomy with a front page declaration that it "will only discuss economics" and the blind assertions that the ECFA "does not involve unification or independence."

Not surprisingly, no mention is made in the pamphlet of the existence of a growing movement for a national citizen referendum to require ratification by national referendum of any ECFA or similar pact with Beijing or why over 70 percent of Taiwan citizens have expressed support for such a referendum in various opinion polls.

The ultimate irony is the statement by "Sister Fa" that "we are a democratic country and in policy determination we must let the people fully understand."

This statement contains a grave misrepresentation of policy making in a democratic society as public input and consultation should be part of the process from the very beginning, a practice which the former DPP government attempted to adopt with uneven results.

Since regaining power, the KMT government has turned the clock back to the "decide first, explain later" pattern characteristic of the era of KMT "one party domination" during the 1980s and 1990s.

In its many "liberalization" moves toward the PRC, the KMT government has at most consulted with "enterprise friends" and has not felt inclined to "ask street peddlers" for their views, as Yiin personally told a Taiwan News reporter.

Needless to add, the MOEA comics make no mention of the real strategic alternatives to signing an ECFA with the PRC to "allow Taiwan to compete" or to "save our factories" and thus presents an intimidating "take it or leave it" choice to readers.

The intent of the MOEA to end the debate by reverting to ethnic and social class stereotypes and closing the minds of Taiwan citizens is the most despicable aspect of this most unamusing piece of propaganda, which should be withdrawn immediately.

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