First, by way of disclaimer, I won’t pretend I understood or cared about everything that was said. I skipped over Soong’s minutes. I did understand what I did understand though.
Han belongs in the loony bin, not on the debate stage. But I think he did ultimately bring up some good issues. Here are some clashes I deem worth mentioning.
Economy. Tsai claimed that Taiwan was first among the Tigers for the first three quarters this year and will be first next year. It’s quite obvious she’s talking about GDP growth rate. In response, Han pointed to some statistics, including about wages, to demonstrate how bad things are. One time he said, “Let me tell you a scary statistic. In 2019, the average labor annual wage for those under 30 was only $392,000.” In concluding that segment he said, “How dare you say we’re doing the best among the tigers!” Although GDP growth rate, isn’t be-all, end-all, it is an aggregate measure. Furthermore, Han made no comparison to any other country. Hello, everyone is doing bad. Han argued that the most oft-used words to describe their situation during her term were:
Clever, but ultimately meaningless.
- Budget. Tsai noted that she balanced the budget, and brought the debt down from 36% of GDP to 31%, with other countries noticing. I think pension reform had a lot to do with a lot of it. She didn’t mention it outright, obviously because those who had their pension cuts would still be pissed. So she talked about the benefits instead. In order to bring down the debt, one needs to have an annual surplus. So I’m guessing that the contraction in debt-to-GDP ratio was due to the budget being balanced and GDP rising.
- Tourism. Tsai championed the fact that tourism levels are at an all-time high, in spite of the fact that Chinese tourism has fallen. Han made this outrageous claim that Tsai was counting anyone who set one foot on CKS airport as a tourist. That means a layover at CKS counted as tourism. And Tsai didn’t attempt a rejoinder to such an outlandish claim for some reason. Han also said, instead of looking at just tourists, we should look at tour buses and talk to street vendors. Tour buses in Gaoxiong decreased from 128 to 1, highlighting a fact brought up by Brian Jones that Japanese and Korean tourists tend to stay in Taipei. Tsai again did no rejoinder, other than saying that she won’t sacrifice our long-term sovereignty for short-term economic benefits.
Trade. I felt that this was the area the Fish was most useful. He displayed a Venn diagram of countries in the RCEP, and countries in the CPTPP, with Taiwan as the odd man out, the “orphan,” in his words. He charged Tsai with the fact that during her term, she did not have a single breakthrough in the arena of free trade agreements, and the Ma and Abian both did better. He also explained that everyone else had zero tariffs to sell their goods in certain countries, and we didn’t.
In response, Tsai listed the following:
(a). We are seeing great improvement in Taiwan’s integration in the global economy (no specifics).
(a). There is historically high support for nations of the world for Taiwan to join international organizations (no specifics).
She also said she won’t sacrifice Taiwan’s sovereignty for international space. I wished she had talked about the path to greater free trade.
Some other things Tsai said:
We apologized to aboriginals, and Han was racist in his remark about “Marias,” an allusion to Filipina workers.
The best way to scare China, the best way to protect ourselves is to be united.
China is changing the status quo, not us.