Monday, March 31, 2008

Lonely Planet's history of Taiwan

Well I've received an overwhelming response to my first really political blog entry. I thank all the contributors.

I just want to make a few remarks. First, about the suggestion that some real scientific polling ought to be done rather than just going on my informal poll. Great idea! However, easier said than done. Anyone willing to try it? I thought so.

My informal Blogger poll is definitely to be taken with a grain of salt. I can't say with any certainty that this is only a judge of 'foreign' sentiment as some of my readers are Taiwanese and, of course, are very welcome and interesting contributors.

Besides, I think a real poll would have to be ran very careful in order to determine if the voters were Taiwanese living in Taiwan, Taiwanese living abroad or everyone else (or maybe there are some other groups that might be considered). Just who comprises a foreigner would also have to be determined. So that would rule out the first category. Essentially, it would require some real thinking out in order to be authoritative in any way.

(BTW, I have read a lot about polling done in Taiwan to judge Taiwanese positions in the papers. However, I have yet to receive a call asking to do a survey. None of my colleagues or local friends, upon asking them about being polled, responded that they have participated in such polls. So it makes me wonder if anyone has had the experience and who does the polls and how they are administered. If anyone knows, please share the experience with us here!)

As my original post was primarily centered on the 'everyone else' I have also started to wonder about another source of default foreigner sympathy towards the Greens: the Lonely Planet. I recall reading Robert Storey's Lonely Planet Taiwan as a newbie to Taiwan. As anyone who has a copy of a Lonely Planet knows, there is always a historical backgrounder in the guide. It is probably the first time a lot of people get acquainted with Taiwan's culture and history.

I also recall being left with a strong sense that the KMT were a bunch of baddies and it definitely colored my view of them. Subsequent reading of Sterling Seagrave also left me with this impression. This, however, is in strong contrast a great number of people in Taiwan who lived through these times and who may largely have put history behind them (I am by no means am saying that these people are, however, in the majority).

I don't deny a lot of the past KMT wrong doing but I do know this: political parties can and do change. Witness the flip flop of the then slavery supporting Democrat party with President Lincoln's Republicans in the late 1800s to the Democrats and Republicans of today. This change was accomplished well within 100 years. By today's standards the 1800 Democrats might seem extremely repulsive to a lot of voters. Today, however, that backwards party has long been forgotten and has been replaced by a new political animal. The KMT may just have reinvented itself as well.

Ma really gets the female vote of support

One of my blog readers sent me this link to a loyal Ma YingJiu supporter.

Man, President-elect Ma is a total chick magnet! If I had a dollar for every woman who professed interest in Ma, I'd be a millionaire (albeit a Taiwan millionaire!).

You've got to hand it to Wretch to offer the inside view of what the youth of Taiwan are up to in their free time...

Here's the link. Who knows how long it will be up or open now that I've posted it so catch it while you can...
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Still in the dark about the KMT win?

Don't worry. You're not alone. I guess a lot of foreigners in Taiwan are too (as indicated by some of the Taiwan political blog comments I have recently read). What you can't understand is why Taiwanese would choose a party that seemingly doesn't support independence. The reason is simple: although we may have our own Western democratic sympathies, we still do not understand what really drives the Taiwanese to vote the way they do.

I have long wanted to blog about why foreigners' political sympathies seem to naturally lean towards the DPP (my informal poll in the image below would seem to back this up). Here's my take on the situation.

Let's face it. By and large, the foreign contingent in Taiwan are newbies, with varying levels of Chinese understanding as well as various levels of culture shock. I can tell you from my over 10 years living here that I wish I knew stuff when I arrived that I know now. And I have seen and heard remarkably uninformed positions about how Taiwanese should know this or that or should do this or that. What's missing is visitors to Taiwan reading a lot of situations correctly, something that not even I will boast that I can do with 100% accuracy.

Furthermore, we are mostly a China bashing lot, mainly since we do not see China as necessarily important to our well-being. There's not much to like about China, is there, with their dismal human rights record. Taiwanese and China, however, are linked in a political and economic love-hate relationship which cannot be denied. As a Canadian living next to the giant United States, that would be like denying that America has no effect on Canada.

So, coming from countries with backgrounds of independence movements and an emphasis on freedom, we tend to equate independence with our freedom. However, is this the case in Taiwan? For all extents and purposes Taiwan operates as independent even though the UN does not recognize her as such. Secondly, I'm not so sure that Taiwanese equate their freedom with independence. I have found that there is more of a connection between freedom and economic mobility in the Taiwanese mind.

As a foreigner living here in Taiwan, I love the freedom and the independence that my country offers and would not understand why Taiwanese in their right minds wouldn't either. But I'm really just imposing what I would want on the way Taiwanese think. Maybe they already feel they have these things.

There is also the matter of the losing party itself. Over the past few years, the DPP could be considered to be somewhat of a party of idealists. They are 'cause' fighters. The people who support the DPP strongly are independence activists to the core.

The DPP's Frank Hsieh's 2008 Campaign Platform was called "The Pursuit of Happiness in Taiwan" and is a reflection of the happy, happy, joy, joy attitude the party has taken when faced with a serious economic situation. The rejected drive to enter the UN under the name Taiwan is largely this kind of "'heart's in the right spot" policy which didn't really have a realistic chance to pass considering that people are currently preoccupied with making ends meet.

They have also tried a rectification campaign by using the name Taiwan on passports and in government offices which has resulted in alienating a lot of people. They have even gone after national monuments such as CKS Hall and changed the name of Taiwan's main airport from CKS to Taoyuan International. They would like to reverse historical wrongs which is often no easy job (look at the fruitless efforts in Burma or Tibet) by using symbols and school textbooks. These kinds of changes truly come from the bottom and are better not imposed from the top by governments. Lots of observers say that Taiwanese are brainwashed by the past but I disagree. What we think is brainwashed is just the Taiwanese saying they need more time to come around and be convinced (being fairly conservative in the first place).

The past 8 years plus have been years of introspective while the world outside has been globalizing at a furious pace. Taiwanese are obviously fed up with being isolated and impeded by silly protectionist restrictions (a mutual fund I own was discontinued because it didn't meet the correct content restrictions, that is, no China content). Not only this but relations with with once friendly countries have been sullied by dirty remarks (I recall "snot" and "China's got them by the balls" being used in diplomacy).

The DPP has also screwed up their chances by not setting a good example, which would have been a good idea on a first outing in power. First, they have been the pots calling the kettle black. They have proven themselves as corrupt as the KMT in Taiwanese eyes. I will not deny that both parties have corruption issues. However, President Chen has been disgraced by his family's embroilment in corruption which doesn't help the party image.

Added to this, there is a strong streak of playing one part of society off against another, turning friends into enemies, even within families. It was very evident last election with staff being divided into camps, not talking to each other and being suspicious of other's intent. This is the Taiwanese first policies that are directly squarely at people who supposedly do not love Taiwan or consider themselves Taiwanese (read Mainlanders). At times, this really felt like the DPP was getting their revenge after all those years. I think of CKS Hall with the mockery of the monument and efforts by some to bring the sins of the father upon the son (going after the Chiang family).

I find this ethnocentrism personally distasteful. In fact, when looking at history, this is what we might expect from the KMT. It is ironic to see the current KMT doing a better job at championing unity of all the people in Taiwan. If Taiwan is to stand a chance against China then people need to unify, not to divided and labeled and even sometimes demonized.

Overall, my point is this: Taiwanese march to a different drum than we do. What is important to us foreigners is not always as important to them. And though I might make the strong connection between things like achieving independence and earning freedom in our own minds, we should not just assume that these things are necessarily connected for or as important to Taiwanese. And that is why Taiwanese seem to consistently defy our political expectations.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Questions raised by this election...

Watching the coverage for the election, a few questions come to mind...

1) How many Taiwanese hold foreign passports and also have citizenship in Taiwan?

Technically this is illegal since Taiwanese and citizens of countries such as America are not allowed to hold more than one passport.

In reality, authorities seem to loook the other way about this but it does sometimes ignite political trouble if officials and their families do this. It becomes a question of loyalty. But let's be honest, people of all colors do this.

And why do they do it? Well, there's an expression in Chinese: "A cunning rabbit has three (burrow) holes." That is to say, make sure you have a few escape options should something happen.

In the end, it's kind of a game deciding which passport to use upon entry into Taiwan. Boys have to be particularly careful what they do in order to avoid being enlisted in the military.

2) How many people will give up their votes because they will not return to the place of their household registration?

Taiwanese, according to the law, cannot vote by proxy, that is, distance vote from places other than the place they are registered. The impact of this is a mass pre-election movement of people back to their original homes.

The north of Taiwan has a distinct political advantage due to this since many people gravitate to cities like Taipei in order to get jobs or to live. As the northerners most likely stay put, they are more likely to vote. These days the north is predominantly Blue (KMT).

The southerners have two choices: return home or stay put. If they stay put (to save the time or money or both returning), they lose their vote. If this happens in large numbers, it could have an impact on the election.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Who loves Taiwan more? VS. It's the economy stupid!

Who loves Taiwan more? It's really a ridiculous rhetorical question, isn't it? And it may not even get a definite answer when Taiwan votes tomorrow. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I believe Blue is going to win. However, it is far from certain that Blue can deliver.

Some really solid Greens that I know are having second thoughts about voting Green again. I think this is representative of Taiwan in general. People are fed up with the political manoeuvering and are looking for some action on the economic front.

And there is a distinct difference in the election strategies of the two parties. Greens are still in their big love-in with rainbows and peace-niks (while at the same time demanding more defence spending). They are the party of dreamers and idealists. They covet a seat in the UN using the name of Taiwan. Dream on! Their leader, Hsieh, has suggested to postpone the election in order have a sit-in for Tibet. Hey DPP, the 60s called. They want you to return your tie-dies!

The KMT or the Blues have very correctly read the situation. Taiwanese are feeling the economic pinch. They are arguing to get the economic house in order. Everything else comes second. The business of Taiwan is business! That's what made Taiwan great! That's what made Taiwanese rich! Taiwan has languished as its Asian neighbors have surpassed, especially Korea. It's a realistic and pragmatic approach and I believe Taiwanese are listening. They may just place their hope in the KMT to restore the good old days. What remains to be known is if the KMT can deliver the goods.

So, this election, Taiwanese will vote with their pocketbooks and not their minds. Will Tibet influence the election? Well that's what Western thinking would argue, isn't it? The truth is that Taiwanese are less international in outlook than the average Westerner. Taiwanese, in the end, are very Taiwan-centric. The economic question will overrule any other political concerns they may have for the time being. And that will be a refreshing change!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Another badly thought out Taiwan Beer campaign

Combining COSPLAYers with Taiwan Beer. Frankly, it seems like a strange match but I assume Taiwan Beer is trying to cash in on that ever-elusive teen and pre-teen beer market.

Maybe better luck outside of Taipei, which tends to be on the dry/tame side when it comes to alcohol drenched fun among the high and university aged crowds...

Open some of the alternatives here. So cute! So lovely! So strange!

Hey, I'm not a prude and I have been known to have given my nieces and our cats a sip of the good stuff once and a while but, c'mon, alcohol and little kids don't mix.

Remember Deuce Bigalow 2???

French man:
"And then what is next?
Take wine away from my children?
I put out this cigarette.
God bless America."
Posted by Picasa

Share IslaFormosa on Facebook


Haven't found what you want?


Total Pageviews

RSS Subscribe Now!