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Beef war's only casualty is Taiwan

Publication Date : 20-06-2012


Su Tseng-chang, the newly elected chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, adopted a “scorched earth” strategy to continue to ban American beef and beef products containing the leanness-enhancer ractopamine, though he certainly didn't seem to know what that strategy actually was.

A scorched earth strategy, made world-famous by Joseph Stalin who applied it to stop Nazi Germany's invasion during the World War II, is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from any area.

Su considered the Legislative Yuan a battlefield, ordering his underlings, who are our lawmakers, to occupy the podium of the nation's highest legislative body to preclude the final deliberation and a vote on an amendment to the Food Sanitation Act that aimed to allow the importation of American beef that contains a maximum-allowable level of the leanness-enhancing feed additive.

All 40 opposition party lawmakers, plus three of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, thought “theirs is not to reason why, theirs but to do and die,” carrying their sleeping bags onto the floor of the Legislative Yuan to camp there in turns for five days and nights — during three of which thousands of people were evacuated and countless millions of dollars were lost in damage to farms and factories in devastating floods — ready to repel an attack from their Kuomintang majority counterparts, which, however, never came. The operational method worked, albeit the general didn't know his wasn't a scorched earth strategy. But that doesn't matter. For all's well that ends well. He won the battle.

But the war is lost.

The battle was won, not because the scorched earth strategy worked. The enemy became a little wiser. The opposition party did the Kuomintang-baiting, which used to work well, for a parliamentary melee would always follow, which has come to be identified as a hallmark of our Legislative Yuan. Not this time.

The Kuomintang didn't take the bait, knowing all the time that the Cabinet can just issue an executive order to end the American beef ban without the Act being so amended. The opposition knows it, too.

That's why the Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus agreed at the beginning of the just-ended parliamentary session with its Kuomintang counterpart that the executive order shouldn't be issued to allow the imports if the beef issue cannot be solved at an early date, the only difference being what that early date might be. The ruling party believes it's the end of the session but the opposition might think otherwise.

So there was no expected free-for-all on the floor, a spectacle that has never failed to earn points for the Democratic Progressive Party to appear as the defender of the “oppressed” people against the mighty Kuomintang and its government. The purpose of the beef war wasn't accomplished.

Nonetheless, the Kuomintang didn't win the beef war, either. It made the non-issue an issue in the first place. The one thing it should have done was to tell the people there was an irresistible pressure from Uncle Sam to lift the ban, which the previous Democratic Progressive Party government had decided to end but didn't because President Chen Shui-bian wanted to avenge his slur by Washington.

Of course, the ruling party has to explain why it opposed the American beef imports while in opposition before 2008 — which they should apologise for — and go right ahead with an executive order to lift the ban. Instead, it chose to amend the Act and lied that there wasn't any American pressure and there wasn't any timetable for allowing the imports in exchange for resuming renegotiations on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States, which has been suspended for five years and has to be concluded as soon as possible now that the US-South Korea free trade agreement has gone into force.

The people of Taiwan, most of them non-habitual beef eaters, would have been easily persuaded to accept the lifting of the ban, no matter how the opposition party might try to oppose, if the government had told them that South Korea and even the once mighty Japan couldn't stand up against the American trade onslaught.

The Kuomintang government lost the facade of an honest administration capable of handling a touchy problem like the American beef imports. And even worse, it has decided to have the Legislative Yuan hold an emergency meeting to pass the amendment to the Act “as soon as possible.”

Negotiations start today for holding a brief one-mission session on Wednesday and/or Thursday to adopt the government-sponsored amendment bill, which practically no politician of any political party represented in our parliament wants to attend after the five-day confrontation from which no one has emerged a victor. Has it ever occurred to the Kuomintang decision-makers that the emergency session certainly will end like the regular session that adjourned on Friday if the opposition resorts to Su's scorched earth strategy again?

Now, let all politicians be honest for just once. They are more than ready to call fiddle-de-dee to the emergency session. They simply couldn't care less about how the ractopamine residue in American beef and beef products may or may not be a health hazard to the people of Taiwan.

Of course, they are not going to own up to it, for they are politicians and all politicians are supposed to be crooks. They only care about how many votes they may garner by what they say or do. But there will come a time when all of them have to stop and think how much damage their beloved Taiwan will suffer if the ban continues.

They may hate bossy Uncle Sam and tell him to go to hell for forcing the people of Taiwan to eat the “poisonous beef” — which they dare not — but they simply have to come to their senses and acknowledge that the ban will be lifted sooner or later and any delay will only cause the people even more damage economically and otherwise. The beef war has to end, NOW.


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