Taiwan Independence, R.I.P.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Taiwan independence is dead. It died, stillborn. Taiwan independence was the triumph of politics over economics. That is, until the iron laws of The Marketplace turned Taiwan independence zealots’ pipe dream to dust. In retrospect, no other result was possible, or should have been expected.

TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE IS DEAD

A funny thing happened to Taiwan independence. It died stillborn, and never saw the light of day.

On May 20, 2000, oriental despot Lee Teng-hui, in a brazenly fixed "democratic" election, "peacefully transferred" his imperial presidency to longtime Taiwan independence demagogue Chen Shui-bian.
"Taiwan’s Fraudulent Election"

By October 2000, five short months after Chen’s "historic" victory at the polls, Taiwan independence had been utterly discredited. A-Bian’s administration was adrift and rudderless. The public was dumbfounded and disillusioned. Anyone not wearing ideological blinders could see Taiwan independence was a bankrupt ideology and a spent political force. The TAIEX had plummeted to 5000 from a 52 week high of 11,000, for an entirely different set of reasons than the NASDAQ, leaving Taiwan’s shareholders, mostly small, individual investors, poorer by half. A quarter of all manufacturing facilities on Taiwan had closed their doors forever, or were in the process of doing so. Laid off factory workers were committing suicide by running hoses from their exhaust pipes into their cars. Those too poor even to own cars were hanging themselves from the rafters. A-Bian’s approval rating had plunged from a high of 80% upon his inauguration to a low of 35%. Voters who had cast their ballots for Chen were calling in to local TV talk shows to confess they regretted their choice.

Billionaire industrialist Wang Yung-ching, CEO of Formosa Plastics, a "native" Taiwanese Horatio Alger revered by millions as "The God of Enterprise," was demanding that A-Bian immediately acknowledge the "One China Principle" and open "Three Links" to the Chinese mainland ASAP, or else Taiwan’s economy would be done for within three years. "We’re all Chinese on both sides of the Strait after all," Wang affirmed, "what’s the problem?" "The Lee Period was not as good as the Chiang Ching-kuo Era," Wang added for good measure, "and the Chen Period is even worse than the Lee Period."

Academia Sinica Chairman and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Lee Yuan-tseh, head of A-Bian’s own hand-picked Brain Trust, was sternly admonishing Chen, "Time is not on our side," echoing the New Party’s long-held cross Straits policy stance, and sounding remarkably like a pro reunification opposition spokesman.

A surprisingly cohesive alliance consisting of the ROC’s three major opposition parties, the Kuomintang (without Lee Teng-hui at the helm, naturally), the New Party, and the People First Party, all solidly pro reunification and representing 61% of the voting public, was loudly demanding Chen Shui-bian’s recall.

Former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh wryly noted that "It took Lee Teng-hui twelve years to divide the KMT into three [rival parties, the KMT, NP, and PFP], but Chen Shui-bian only five months to unite them back into one." Shih, along with former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsing-liang and former DPP PR chief Sissy Chen, three of the DPP’s brightest lights, had resigned from the party in disgust, repudiated Taiwan independence ideology and become the movement’s harshest and most effective critics.

Even the Dalai Lama had gotten in the act, and was cautioning Chen that in light of Taiwan’s close cultural and economic affinity with mainland China, it was unimaginable that the island could be separated from mainland China and become fully independent. Say what you will about His Holiness, he’s a lot quicker on the uptake than his counterparts on Taiwan.

Who could have imagined the tide would turn so quickly?

What happened?

THE TRIUMPH OF POLITICS OVER ECONOMICS

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

~ George Santayana

What happened was the great American historian George Santayana was vindicated, again, for the umpteenth time. The lesson of history it would seem, is nobody ever learns a damned thing from history.

The underlying cause of the Taiwan independence movement’s astonishingly swift collapse, at its apparent moment of triumph, was in fact glaringly obvious, at least to anyone not blinded by his own political zealotry.

"It was the economy, stupid!"

The trump card for Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo in their Cold War era struggle against Mao Tse-tung, just as it was for West Germany and South Korea, was the ROC’s capitalist economy. It was the free market ROC’s reward for putting economics ahead of politics. As Deng Xiaoping, "Capitalist Roader No. Two" would later put it, "White cat, black cat. As long as it catches rats it’s a good cat."

The mainland’s grinding poverty was Maoist hard-liners’ bitter harvest for putting politics ahead of economics. As the late Chairman Mao himself put it, "Better Red than Expert."

Putting politics ahead of economics would also be the reason for Taiwan’s alarmingly swift economic decline under petty tribalists Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian.
"A Brush-off for Business, Chen needs to rebuild confidence – fast"

Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian and the Taiwan separatist nomenklatura have never really understood how the vast wealth that fell into their laps was created in the first place. To nomenklatura everywhere, immense public wealth is like the air around them. "It’s free. It’s ours. And hey, there’s plenty more where that came from!" The late Senator Dirksen satirized the nomenklatura mindset with his immortal quip, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re getting into real money."

Stupifyingly naive Newsweek correspondents’ assertions to the contrary, "Mr. Democracy’s" most enduring "legacy" was to squander in a single decade what ROC taxpayers had diligently amassed over the previous four. Lee cavalierly frittered away the ROC’s economic advantage greasing the palms of tin pot dictators, foreign arms merchants, and rabid anti-China hawks in The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. All in a extravagant and quixotic effort to lay the groundwork for a "Republic of Taiwan."

Lee Teng-hui’s "checkbook diplomacy," in tandem with his "Avoid Haste, Be Patient" cross straits policy eventually hollowed out the ROC economy.

Does Lee, who does not consider himself Chinese but rather Japanese, give a damn? Hardly. If nullifying the ROC’s hard won economic miracle was the price of manipulating Taiwan Chinese into hating mainland Chinese, to the strategic advantage of unrepentant Japanese expansionists, so be it.

The only people Lee has ever identified with are the Japanese. Not peace loving Japanese individuals of conscience, such as Professor Saburo Ienaga, candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, but war criminal Hirohito and neofascist Shintaro Ishihara.
"Nomination of Professor Saburo Ienaga for Nobel Peace Prize."

As New Party legislator Fung Hu-hsiang astutely observed, to understand Lee Teng-hui’s perspective on any issue, simply imagine how a right wing Japanese militarist would see the same issue, and you will have your answer.

The irony of course is that Lee’s "Taiwan independence now, Taiwan independence forever, to hell with the cost" policy left his own hand-picked successor without the means to carry on his holy crusade. Lee’s Taiwan independence chickens have come home to roost in Chen’s coop.

Chen’s dilemma can be stated quite simply.

If on the one hand, 23 million living, breathing human beings on Taiwan are to survive, let alone prosper, A-Bian must boldly sweep aside his predecessor’s artifical barriers standing in the way of economic, social, and yes, political reintegration with the Chinese mainland.

If on the other hand, the constipated, small-minded, petty insular ideology of Taiwan independence is to survive, A-Bian must not only keep Lee Teng-hui’s barriers in place, he must erect even higher ones, committing economic suicide. Taiwan will then devolve into an impoverished island backwater unable to afford the cost of political independence.

A-Bian has arrived at a fork in the road. Both roads lead to One China. Take one and arrive before dusk, warm, dry and refreshed. Take the other and arrive at the same destination after midnight, cold, wet and exhausted. The route is optional; the destination is not.

One almost feels sorry for A-Bian. Almost.

Read more by Bevin Chu