Another New Year is upon us and we should take advantage of this annual fresh start for a new batch of New Year's resolutions, including some commitments to one or more personal goals and projects or dedications to change some habits. If you wish to lose weight, spend more time with family and friends, fit in more fitness, enjoy life more, quit smoking (if applicable) and get better organised, it is never too late to make some promises to yourself that will produce long-lasting results.
In addition to our suggestions from last year to Taiwanese politicians that still apply today - avoid making empty promises about the country's expected economic growth, stop trying to please everybody and accept instead that it's impossible to please everyone, as well as never put off until tomorrow what you can do today - here are two new ideas for them to consider as they set their agenda for 2014.
To begin with, politicians across the political spectrum should further write down their promises in order to offset their short-term memories. This principle is common sense to most people, except for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose visit to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine for its war dead on Thursday is poised to anger neighbouring Asian countries and dampen Tokyo's new attempt to ease restraints on its military placed upon it by the country's post-World War II pacifist constitution. When he succeeded Junichiro Koizumi in 2006, he was inspired to stay away from the controversial temple during that term, helping to repair frayed ties with Beijing through a summit meeting. There is little wonder that Abe is now heading toward more confrontation with his Chinese counterpart for the months to come.
In the same vein, President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) recent announcement that he would like to meet Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General-Secretary Xi Jinping at the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Beijing sounds like a major political gambit that could also backfire against the ruling party as the country is preparing for local, not national, elections. Even though we cannot expect our leaders to always adhere to the long view when their goals are pegged to the election cycle, we might worry that the president would agree to meet Xi without any prior gesture of goodwill from mainland China. We are not arguing here that politicians' views should be short-sighted, but they should certainly try to limit their promises to what they can actually give. After all, whether the president will be able to visit China doesn't depend on him but rather on calculations made by the Chinese leadership. The problem is that there is little hope that what benefits Chinese leaders will benefit the president and the people of Taiwan as well.
Don't get us wrong here. Our goal is not to malign politicians too much with our New Year's resolutions, arguing that they always fail to understand the nature of their contributions to society. We must agree that politicians from Taiwan, Japan or (even) mainland China tend to stick their necks out to make things better for us. There are the black sheep of course, but we also hope that they could be more than large simplistic brush strokes. The real truth is that politicians have challenged us by seeking our support and it's time for them to stick to their election promises. By keeping these two new resolutions, we hope they will play well for themselves and Taiwan in 2014. Happy New Year.