Propaganda does not feed a country
Soup makes for a pleasant meal with friends and family. You can even make a large batch and store portions in the refrigerator for two or three days or for a few months in the freezer. Reheating soup is equally simple; just get it to the right temperature to satisfy both safety concerns and your taste buds. The same is true with political propaganda: you can prepare a large batch and store portions for later use. Reheating is even simpler, just get the right people in order to build your storyline and satisfy your long- term goals. Take, for instance, the members of the Black Island Nation Youth Front (
) , a pro- independence organization behind last year’s student- led Sunflower Movement ( ) , who tried to storm the Presidential Office late Tuesday in protest against the government plan to join the China- led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank ( AIIB). They are masters of such political propaganda who hyperventilate whenever they hear the word “China.” But do we have to adopt their “wait and see” attitude for all that? Should we still consider cross- strait relations, and by extension triangular relations between Taipei, Beijing and Washington, as a zero- sum game for old times’ sake? Of course not; that would be like reheating the same old political stew about “declaring independence” or “retaking the Chinese mainland” at the expense of democracy.
The die- hard independence activists don’t see it that way. They chanted “Refuse to have our sovereignty dwarfed!” and “Make the procedure public and transparent, forge societal consensus!” on Tuesday night while military police and security guards foiled their attempt to enter the Presidential Office. Their wellorchestrated ( social) media campaign again tried to kick- start a tide of emotional responses that recalled the aforementioned occupation movement at the Legislative Yuan and the failed attempt to take over the Executive Yuan that unfolded between March 18 and April 10, 2014. Yet, we are convinced that it is the same old strategy of labeling “the policy of a democratically elected government of conducting peaceful negotiations with an undemocratic country” as “the under- the- table negotiations between an unpopular government and an undemocratic country to undermine democracy.” That is obviously political propaganda aimed at reframing the current state of cross- strait affairs as a good old zero- sum game, namely a Cold War- like system in which the sum of the winnings and losses of the various players is always zero, and the losses are being counted negatively. We can see this in the activists’ ongoing campaign against joining the Beijing- led AIIB, which is part of mainland China’s efforts to create new financial and economic institutions to boost its international influence. So far, more than 30 countries have applied to join the AIIB, which was initially capitalized at US$ 50 billion, with 50 percent coming from China. But should Taiwan decline to participate because the project was initiated by China in the first place? That is the wrong question.
The right question is to ask weather Taiwan and China, as well as other participating countries, can benefit from such participation. The answer to this question is clearly yes. The new bank will be offering loans to countries willing to build infrastructure while rewarding those who share their foreign currencies. As a rival to counterbalance the International Monetary Fund ( IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank ( ADB), the AIIB could also be a chance for Taiwan to reach out to other foreign countries for the sake of development. That would be beneficial to all parties involved, meaning that the outcome of such collaboration would be greater than the sum of all resources put into establishing the new bank. The AIIB will be an opportunity for more investments, as well as more prosperity and peace among nations, unlike a typical zero- sum game, in which it is not in the interests of any party to let others create an entente or rapprochement. As long as Taiwan receives equal treatment with other participating countries and foreign institutions, we are convinced that the AIIB is a great opportunity for moving beyond the status quo and slowly settling the cross- strait issue for the benefit of the people, and by the people. Propaganda never feeds a country, and it is time for independence activists to stop interfering with democracy and face their own contradictions.