Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Taiwanese politics

Before I get back to angry foreigners and rap music references, I want to make my first real Taiwanese politics post. This is done with a bit of hesitance, as the blogging community that talks about Taiwanese politics has...shall we say...vehemence. Enough vehemence to go around.

And they are vehemently Green in many cases. I already got chased into a street by a foreign this week and anyone calling himself "Maddog" is not on my list of people to tick off.

Anyway, I am writing this as a novice to Taiwanese politics, but someone who has been reading it a lot. Most of my news comes from the BBC, RFA, and UDN, all of it in Chinese (but I go over it with my teacher to make sure I am reading things right). I avoid the Taipei times, but I read the Taiwanese blog community at length. I have picked up somewhat of a blue perspective, which is only notably carried by one other blogger that I often see active.

Both The Other Side and Maddog resort to name calling, which makes them kind of hard for me to read. It becomes a little too Rush Limbaughesque for me . The fact is that 馬英九 (Ma ying-jiu or as I friendly refer to him in my no Chinese class, Horse English 9) is not "Mao without the O" but he is not some gilded warrior coming to save Taiwan. The fact is that 陳水遍 (the President) is not completely inept, but he does not seem to be knocking them out of the park.

The biggest problem is that this government needs radical reform. Its not really an issue about blue and green, the battle between blue and green is so sticky that it prevents any real reform. The government has two extra branches it needs trimmed. The constitution is antiquated and poor. The system does not really function, and it does not matter who is president, someone really needs to fix it.

Yet the only talk the last two weeks was getting rid of a bureaucracy that has stopped meeting and has a yearly budget smaller than what I have in my wallet right now (and I am living off cereal right now). Michael Turton's extensive writing on all of this is the most moderate (albeit Green, he consistently is a voice of reason) and the most interesting (though a bit extensive for those with a passing interest).

Anyway, the reason I care about all of this is mostly that whole World War III thing. I don't want it, and don't need it. So I tend to be pragmatic about it. Is Chen ensuring that there is not World War III? No, I don't think he is. Albeit he is not directly causing it, he is playing a really dangerous game, and I am not sure why he is rolling the dice this turn anyway. It looks a little like a terrier biting a doberman.

Nixing these bureaucratic artifacts helps the budget some $1,000 NT, but at the cost of a significant bruise to the economy (which may have rebounded, I have not heard new news about that) and the frustration of the two countries most important in the fate of Taiwan. The biggest thing that ticked me off is that he never seemed to give the public a good reason why he wanted to to do all of this. It is no question that "stopping" these things, in some way, hurt Taiwan. But how did it help? I really am not sure.

If 陳 wants to start freezing things, why not start at the truly corrupt or inept branches of governments? The obvious response is that these bureaucracies are too entrenched. Perhaps he is doing this so that he can get momentum going towards reform. However, I think if he makes a truly bold move now, it would just look like a pattern or a trend, one that might inspire China to feel it should be even more aggressive towards Taiwan.

To elaborate on my no World War III position. That is not at the cost of Taiwanese democracy. Taiwan's government is a disaster, but it beats the hell out of Red China. I think optimally Taiwan could be apart of China in the sense that Puerto Rico is apart of the US. Perhaps I am being naïve and idealistic, but that way China's government does not lose face (honestly, I think that is the main reason they care about Taiwan) and Taiwan does not get blown up.

The sense I have here is that most people, the average Taiwanese, don't really care about joining China, and they don't care about becoming independent. Even in the supposedly greener side of Taiwan, people just seem to only really care about the economy, getting a job, and maintaining their current freedom. Many seem almost shockingly apathetic to the idea of being apart of China or being independent. Their lives just don't revolve around such things.

For the most part, I agree with them. The status quo is not that bad. The anti-secession law is babying and pandering, but it is only truly a problem if Taiwan goes independent. The missiles are insulting and scary, but if the status quo is preserved, its hard for China to launch them anyway. If they just went ballistic now, that would be a political disaster.

Lets not be silly enough to think that China needs these missiles anyway. If China did not have those missiles in place, it could get Taiwan in under a week with a breath. The US government could not get its head out of its ass to save lives in Katrina and that was on US soil. Do we honestly think that they could run in and save the day along the Taiwan strait to prevent one of their biggest trading partners from hopping islands to Taiwan? The missiles are just a symbol of a danger that is clear from just a world map.

China has all the cards except the political one. If they just throw down with Taiwan, they would have political hell to pay, especially with an economy that is breathing foreign more. But its not really practical to think that Taiwan and the US are going to prevent that throw down militarily (I love this idea of Taiwan buying twelve subs and suddenly China disappears). The only thing I see saving this island is really good politics, and I don't see Chen being a really good politican.

Horse English 9's opinion seems to waver with the days (or who he is speaking to), but more often than not I agree with what he says. I think most people hold against him the very dirty history of his party (which as Maddog is fond of pointing out, did Kill Many Taiwanese). However, he seems to be pretty pragmatic about bi-costal relations. For instance, he has said that he is open to independence if the people choose that. I don't know how much that is true, however, he does not sound like Mao without the O. Even if it is political pandering, it does not seem very strictly party line.

The best line I have heard from MA was something to the effect that for Taiwan to even go to the table over unification, the missiles would have to go down and steps towards democracy would have to be made. This I thought was the best approach. Make it clear you are open to peace, but attach conditions to the deal. Again, that opinion was later down graded, but the fact that he said it makes me believe he is not a mouth piece for the government. In America, a politician that just follows opinion polls is seen pretty negatively, but that might be the best for Taiwanese democracy.

Really this is all in vain. Unless Chen really flips it, I don't think World War III is going to go down. That said, when he started yelling "Did Chen make a mistake?" off script during a memorial speech, I instinctively thought "Yes, Chen made a mistake; 阿扁真的錯了.“


Erica H said...

是 陳水"扁",欠水扁! 扁:beat; hit
you know I think that's because you are in Tainan, so that's why you meet a lot of "green people", but in Taipei you will meet a lot of "blue poeple". And BBC news is from China, so do you think what they said are objective? (I don't know the other two.)

And by the way, I suggest you to read "Taipei Times" and "China Post", you will find out how different they are. That will be very interesting.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks for calling me moderate! But TOS would disagree. The most moderate and sensible of us is David over at jujuflop.

UDN is a pro-Blue newspaper and the other stuff tends to be pro-China. The suggestion that you read the Taipei Times and the China Post is a good one -- it will give you an idea of how horribly slanted the China Post is, and how bad the Chinese News is.