Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-05-04 04:34 PM
Siew, who served as President Ma Ying-jeou’s vice president from 2008 to 2012, made the remarks during a speech in Taipei about economic freedom and democratic transformation at the invitation of the Taiwan Democracy Foundation.
He said economic freedom and democratic freedoms belonged together and were the key element necessary to break through a stalemate. Political leaders needed to drop their prejudices and dissolve confrontation, Siew said. They should cooperate in a realistic manner to promote a new phase of democratic transformation together, he concluded.
Because Taiwan’s political culture had not been upgraded after the country became democratic, its politics were becoming more and more populist amid sharper polarization between government and opposition, between blue and green, he said, referring to the colors of the ruling Kuomintang and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party respectively.
One of the topics that needed to be addressed was the search for a consensus about the relationship with China, because its absence was deepening confrontation between two parts of society, Siew warned.
The former vice president and trade official said that only if the two sides in Taiwan politics set aside their differences and faced the nation’s major problems together could there be progress.
After the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian was elected president in March 2000, he formed economic committees trying to find a consensus on key policies, Siew said. Because economic progress was important, Chen wanted to reach a consensus across party lines for the good of all citizens, according to Siew. At the time, Taiwan succeeded in joining the World Trade Organization in 2002 after attempts which took 10 years, he said.
The experiences of that era showed that economic openness and democratic reforms could work hand in hand to improve the country’s situation, Siew said. Even though everybody knew that economic liberalization was the way to go, the process was difficult, while in politics, the public regarded democracy as a core value even though it might have led to more social conflict.
Turning to Taiwan’s economy, Siew said it now faced its biggest challenge in decades with marginalization as a result of international elements and its overreliance on subcontracting for foreign firms. The former vice president insisted the government should follow the track of economic liberalization, but it should consult with the opposition and with local governments to determine its aim and strategy.
Democratic politics was the basis for economic liberalization and progress, while continued economic development was necessary for a deepening of democracy, Siew said.
Siew served as premier during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, and was considered as close to then-President Lee Teng-hui.