Locals news orgs are reporting on the spat between the American Chamber of Commerce and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), the more radical of the pro-independence parties. The China Post reports:

The executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham) Richard Vuylsteke yesterday stood by an editorial in the chamber’s magazine critical of the hard line pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) — despite a strong backlash from the minority party.

The editorial in AmCham’s latest issue of TOPICS magazine criticizing the TSU’s opposition to closer economic ties with the mainland yesterday infuriated TSU politicians, who warned the chamber against interfering in Taiwan’s internal politics.

The editorial even provoked comments from former President Lee Teng-hui according to local news reports.

Vuylsteke said the chamber’s stance on closer ties with China was similar to views held by the majority of the public. He warned that too much economic isolation would make Taiwan a nation similar to North Korea or Burma.

The AmCham editorial is online. The nasty bit is here:

The second dose of reality is that the conference – even given the limitations of its awkward structure – could have accomplished far more to assure a brighter economic future for Taiwan. Unfortunately politics got in the way when the tiny Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) held the meeting agenda hostage to the party’s ideological bias against closer economic ties with China. As a pan-green ally, the TSU commands more influence with the government than the number of its supporters warrants, and the party’s “spiritual leader,” ex-President Lee Teng-hui, still has a following because of his past contributions to building Taiwan’s democracy.

But on purely economic grounds, Lee and the TSU are off base. Without an ability to tap fully into the regional and global business activity that flows through China, Taiwan will be just another medium-sized market of limited interest to international corporations (and to their business-minded governments). By deferring to the TSU and failing to adopt further opening to China through expanded industrial investment and the opening of banking connections, the government is weakening, not safeguarding, Taiwan’s competitiveness.

It’s comical to accuse the TSU of having an “ideological bias” while remaining silent on China’s ongoing campaign to crush the island’s independence and democracy. The TSU has one of those weird and unexplainable aversions to being shot at, bombed, and invaded. It also has a strange and inexplicable desire to make Taiwan’s economy grow, and to grow Taiwan using Taiwan’s capital, not to develop the island’s worst enemy. It looks churlish — nay, ideological — of AmCham not to at least concede that the TSU has a point. Such writing wins no hearts and minds. Quite the opposite — it has needlessly caused a flap. Imagine if AmCham had instead written:

The second dose of reality is that the conference – even given the limitations of its awkward structure – could have accomplished far more to assure a brighter economic future for Taiwan. We understand that many in Taiwan fear that more openness to China will result in the “hollowing out” of Taiwan’s economy. However, we beg to differ. Taiwan cannot begin to move up in the international supply chain until it becomes part of that chain. It cannot develop more global, international outlook unless it joins the international economy. And for better or for worse, that economy will be focused on China in the future. With its lingustic and cultural affinities, physical proximity, and decades of experience in international trade, Taiwan is ideally poised to grasp another kind of economic future, one that involves it closely with China. Taiwan businessmen know this; that’s why there are a million of them just across the Strait.

The way to deal with fear is by facts and reassurance, not contemptuous dismissal and accusations of closemindedness. The TSU may be a minority party, but it represents a large segment of the populace that fears closer ties with China, and for good reason. You catch more flies with honey…..

If it couldn’t forthrightly acknowledge uncomfortable facts (I thought businessmen were realists), AmCham would have been better off to remain silent and instead concentrate on things like Taiwan’s entirely unreasonable visa laws, the lack of international schools for the children of expats, and sundry other issues that make Taiwan so painful to the outside world. It is pointless to open up to China if foreign businessmen cannot settle here with ease and assure themselves of schools for their children.

AmCham’s topical writings are often highly informative, if you can get past the right-wing bias (the well-known right-wing nut poster at Forumosa, “Fred Smith”, is actually an AmCham official), and I recommend reading the back issues. The cover story of the most recent issue, Power Supply Blues, for example, does offer a few facts about Taiwan’s power situation, but evinces that unreasoning real-men-love-nukes passion for nuclear power that causes people to write all sorts of nonsense about them while denigrating renewables. Also interesting is the advertizement/editorial on the problem of fake fertilizers in Taiwan (If You Don’t Penalize the Infringers, You are Penalizing the Law-abiders), a problem I was not aware of. Also of interest is their take on a US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement, which seems unlikely at the current juncture.