Pro­pa­ganda does not feed a coun­try

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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