Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-10-15 02:55 PM
The "Ma-Wang Pact," superficial as it might be, is now a part of the “Ma-Wang Struggle,” and Tuesday’s rejection of the no-confidence motion in the Legislative Yuan means little has changed in Taiwan’s political scene. But a word of caution is in order.
The charges hurled at Wang and other officials revealed serious internal struggles in the KMT and a challenge from the Legislative Speaker to the President that bordered on a constitutional crisis. Signs of chaos in the highest levels of government, growing suspicion that no one is in charge and dwindling faith in the Ma administration – indeed, in officials at all levels of government – are fomenting unrest that is spilling over into industry and business. Before getting too excited about a reconciliation between Ma and Wang, we need to take stock of what transpired during the ‘September struggle’ and what people said to and about each other, as well as the rifts that have been exposed in Taiwan’s political make-up.
While the September struggle began with the President and Legislative Speaker, as the days went by and talk became more caustic it drew others into the fray. As relations between Ma and Wang soured, the caustic effects ate into people around them, and now that inklings of a resolution have appeared, it is time to see how much damage has been done to an administration which was in low esteem even before the skirmishing began.
The first thing to be examined is whether the pact between the two men is genuine or simply a matter of expediency in a situation that was out of control. The political dispute uncovered many questions that need to be answered. Was Wang involved in illegal influence peddling in the Ker case? Were Huang and the SID caught red-handed doing wiretapping and other operations beyond what they were authorized to do? Did Ma Jiang and Luo overstep their authority in acting on what was essentially leaked information that should have been handled by another branch of government? How much damage has been done to Taiwan’s constitutional system?
Follow-up investigations and hearings must not be half-hearted attempts to cover-up or disguise the truth. The people want hard answers, and they need to know that rule of law still applies in the halls of government.
At the same time, it is useful to look at Ma Ying-jeou’s National Day speech, in particular his claim that "Chinese people on both sides of the strait believe cross-strait relations are not international relations." This is the first time Ma has made this argument, and the setting – a National Day speech – makes it doubly deserving of attention.
Ma’s reasoning that "cross-strait relations are not international relations" stems from Article XI of the Constitution plus an upgrading of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. In the past Ma has said the two sides are involved through what he terms "non-state relations,” a concept now broadened to "non-international relations."
But if the two sides are not engaged in "international relations," what precisely is the relationship? Is it the "domestic relations" that the KMT tacitly agreed to in the so-called "1992 consensus," which said the two sides belong to "one China," with Taiwan called the Republic of China and Beijing called the People’s Republic of China? That is convenient but bogus logic. The great majority of nations in the international community recognize that "one China" means the People's Republic of China, and Taiwan is a part of that “one China.”
Throughout his first term President Ma hewed to the 1992 Consensus and the concept of “One China, two interpretations" in defining cross-strait relations. Since last year's elections, however, there have been fewer and fewer references to "two interpretations" and a growing stress on the idea that cross-strait relations are "non-state relations." When Wu Poh-hsiung met Xi Jinping in June, he injected the concept of "one framework" into the equation of cross-strait relations, bringing the "One China" principle into play by excluding the possibility of two states. Now Ma Ying-jeou has re-defined cross-strait relations as "not international relations." This leaves the international community little choice but to accept the idea that borders between the two sides have been erased and Taiwan is already a non-state. But if Taiwan is not a country, why celebrate "National Day" in Taipei?
Taiwan has enough fish to fry without its president roiling the waters of the Taiwan Strait with talk of “non-international relations.” Prices are soaring and wages stagnating, with real average earnings in the first half sitting at levels last seen 16 years ago. Meanwhile the government is trying to put a better face on the relationship between prices and income.
Jiang Yi-huah and the CEPD cooked up a stilted "hidden pay" argument that says since 2001 statutory working hours have been reduced from 48 hours a week to 84 hours every two weeks, which it claims gives-workers a "disguised" wage hike of 12.5%. Secondly, in July 2005 the labor pension system hiked employers’ share of contributions to pension funds from 2% to 6% of employees’ salaries, which the council claims is equivalent to a 4% boost in wages. The government insists that if these two "hidden” factors are taken into account, real wages stand higher than 16 years ago.
The ‘hidden pay’ argument ignores the reality that domestic wages have stagnated for more than a decade. A look at wages in recent years reveals several domestic reasons for stunted growth, starting with a swing toward a business model that emphasizes "orders placed in Taiwan, production carried out overseas." Such an approach boosts revenue figures and GDP through increases in triangular trade, but does nothing to increase levels of employment or salaries. With prices rising faster, especially after 2008, price inflation has almost completely eaten up the nominal wage inflation that has occurred, The result – shrinking pocketbooks and more loss of faith in the government.
It’s time for Ma and Wang and the rest of the government to quit dancing and get back to work.