Ma Ying Jiu Wins Taiwan Election

Ma Ying Jieu has won what has been a tough and closely watched election in Taiwan.  Emphasizing close relations with the mainland, Ma celebrated the victory as a victory for the people of Taiwan. The DPP, with charismatic (and “native Taiwanese”) Tsai, gave stoic (and “外省人”) Ma a much bigger challenge this time (characterization by my deep-green family-in-laws), losing to Ma by what looks like a 51.6 to 45.63 margin  (compared to the 58% to 42% margin in 2008). While the issue of independence has been much toned down this time, relations with the Mainland still dominated the election, with issues of the economy also a major issue.

Personally, I have actually been quite surprised that the election has been as close as it has been the last month or so (nevertheless it still resulted in a resounding enough of a loss to compel Tsai to step down as DDP Chair). While few believes Tsai could or would do much to damage Mainland relations had she been elected, I am still glad Ma won because I see, as a bottom line, Ma focusing on continuing to forge boldly tighter relations across the strait and working for a better future for the people of Taiwan while Tsai trying her best to prey on people’s fears and the uncertainties of the times.

Here is a Bloomberg report of the election results.

Ma Wins Second Term in Taiwan as Voters Back Ties With China

By Tim Culpan, Chinmei Sung and Michael Forsythe
(Updates with comment from the U.S., China in seventh paragraph. For more Taiwan election coverage, see EXT5)

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) — President Ma Ying-jeou was elected to a second term as Taiwan’s president, giving him a renewed mandate to press for closer ties with China that have eased decades-old tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

Ma, the 61-year-old leader of the ruling Kuomintang Party, defeated challenger Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party candidate, by 51.6 percent to 45.7 percent, with more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, the Central Election Commission said. James Soong, the People First Party chairman, received 2.8 percent of the vote. Taiwan has 18 million eligible voters.

“This isn’t a personal victory, this is a victory for the Taiwan people,” Ma said at a rain-soaked victory rally in Taipei tonight. “The people have approved our efforts to shelve disputes and strive for peace across the Taiwan Strait.”

Ma’s victory is an affirmation of his effort to improve Taiwan’s relationship with China after years of strained ties under his DPP predecessor and previous Kuomintang governments. Former U.S. officials said members of the Obama administration viewed a Ma victory as more conducive to maintaining good relations with China, as the U.S. seeks help from the leadership in Beijing in containing the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

Smoother Relations

People in the U.S. administration “will feel the victory of President Ma will be advantageous to maintaining smoother relations with China,” Bruce Jacobs, a professor of Asian languages and studies at Monash University in Melbourne, who was in Taipei for the election, said by phone. “The Chinese will also be pleased.”

The U.S. welcomed efforts by Taiwan and China to improve ties in recent years, the White House press office said in a statement that congratulated Ma on his victory.

“We hope the impressive efforts that both sides have undertaken in recent years to build cross-Strait ties continue,” the White House said, according to the statement. “Such ties and stability in cross-Strait relations have also benefitted U.S.-Taiwan relations.”

‘Taiwanese Compatriots’

A statement from the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs office in China said Ma’s victory shows that better cross-strait ties are the “correct path and have the support of the Taiwanese compatriots.” The statement was released via the Xinhua News Agency.

Ma was backed by executives of Taiwan’s biggest companies, who said his policies, including a 2010 trade agreement with China, have boosted investment and helped the island’s economy grow.

“The stock market will rally on Monday,” Terry Gou, chairman of Apple Inc. supplier Foxconn Technology Group, said in an interview with local television station TVBS in predicting a Ma victory earlier today.

Markets may have assumed a Ma victory. Option traders placed increasingly bullish bets earlier this month on an exchange-traded fund tracking Taiwan stocks. The ratio of calls to buy the iShares MSCI Taiwan Index Fund versus puts to sell rose on Jan. 6 to the highest level since March 2008, two months before Ma was sworn in for his first term.

Let People Down

“We’re very sorry that we let the public down,” Tsai, 55, said in a concession speech, where she also offered her resignation as head of the DPP. “The cross-strait relations is a complicated matter and cannot be treated in the naive way that the KMT is doing now or it will become a source of conflict for Taiwan people later.”

In his first term, Ma ended a six-decade ban on direct air, sea and postal links and signed 16 trade agreements with China, arguing that better ties with the mainland would create stability attractive to investors who feared the political risk was too high to put their money into Taiwan.

Jacobs said some members of Ma’s KMT were concerned that Taiwan was too dependent on China. In his victory speech, Ma pledged to “strengthen ties with the international community.”

Ma, who has law degrees from New York University and Harvard University, soothed Chinese leaders when he came into office in 2008 with his vow of “no unification, no independence, and no use of force.” China had criticized a push by the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian to seek sovereignty during his 2000-08 tenure as president. Chinese officials had warned that relations would suffer if Tsai had won.

Criticizing Others

“You can argue Ma overlooked some of the domestic issues, but it’s easy to criticize others,” said graphic designer Eric Wang, 27, who voted for Ma in 2008 and this year. “I don’t think Tsai can do a better job than Ma given such challenging global conditions.”

The Chinese government, which itself will undergo a leadership change later this year, has never ruled out the use of force to reunite with the island. Taiwan has been governed separately since 1949 after KMT forces were defeated on the mainland by the Communists in a civil war. China had as many as 1,200 short-range missiles deployed opposite Taiwan as of December 2010, according to an annual review by the U.S. Defense Department.

“I will use my life to protect the Republic of China’s sovereignty and dignity,” Ma said, using the formal name for Taiwan. “This is my solemn vow.”

Taiwan’s Legislature

Taiwan’s voters also elected members of the Legislative Yuan, the island’s parliament. The Kuomintang Party won 64 of 113 seats, the Central Election Commission said in a faxed statement, 17 fewer seats than the party won in 2008. The DPP won 40 seats, a gain of 13, while the nine remaining seats went to three other parties and an independent candidate.

Turnout for the presidential election was 74.4 percent, the commission said in a separate statement.

Taiwan’s economy will slow to 4.05 percent this year from 4.5 percent in 2011 and 10.7 percent in 2010, according to economists’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. China’s economy grew at a 9.2 percent rate in 2011 and its expansion will slow to 8.5 percent this year, the data show.

Ma vowed to learn from the criticism leveled at him during the campaign by Tsai, who said Taiwan was losing jobs to China and that the gap between rich and poor was increasing.

“I hope in the next four years the wealth gap will narrow and we will take care of the underprivileged,” Ma said. “I want Taiwan to continue to have a stable environment for growth.”

–With assistance from Andrea Wong, Yu-Huay Sun, Janet Ong and Adela Lin in Taipei. Editors: Nicholas Wadhams, Peter Hirschberg

47 thoughts on “Ma Ying Jiu Wins Taiwan Election

  1. I am actually pretty worried for Ma because it is going to be a very close run election with Song taking 2.77% of the vote. He is now free to pursue a more concrete agreement with the mainland. I was surprised it has the lowest voters turnout since 1996. This is also the 1st election that combine with the legislative council, it seems people in Taiwan is feeling cooler towards election. The only hot topics in this election is about economy and relationship with the mainland (both are interlinked actually).

    In my opinion, Ma did a decent job despite the economic downturn. His biggest spoiler being his “Getting Better” campaign slogan in 2008. He seriously disappoint many voters hence the low turnout. Tsai depends on the hard core green support from the South. She lost many points to the fence sitters by being ambiguous on too many issues. Song did a great job, unfortunately party politics still trump all in Taiwan at this stage. He is probably the best administrator of the three. However, I must say that Ma has the best charisma, and being the most eloquent debater of the three.

  2. I watched my mom spent a good part of today watching Fenghuang TV on the Taiwanese Election. Its an interesting perspective because she’s a Ma supporter. What is interesting is that she lives in Thailand, and was in fact born in Malaysia. So we are actually outsiders to both Mainland China and Taiwan. So why does she care? Partially its because my parents are ethnic Chinese nationalist, but even more so because a strong China benefit us directly and indirectly even as Overseas Chinese. A separate Taiwan does not serve our interest (but probably doesn’t affect our lives a great deal as having a strong China is more important, and China will be strong with or without Taiwan).

    From the close elections results, we can see Taiwan is a very ideologically driven society. My greenie Taiwanese friends on Facebook go on about freedom of speech, human rights, and the idea that ‘commercial gains are not worth ‘selling out’ Taiwan to ‘evil forces’ or to ‘become Chinese’. Never mind that Taiwan companies are in China exploiting and treating Chinese workers very badly to the point that Foxconn workers have threaten mass suicides. If they want to put money where their mouths are they should pull out all businesses from China, and don’t trade with China period. Other people would be happy to fill up their roles. That is the true meaning of independence.

    In some way Taiwanese independence activists reminds me of the red guards in their illogical fanatism.They want to elect a ruler to an entire society based on one single platform of independence. Never mind that Taiwan is by no mean a very wealthy island with plenty of natural resources. Would you still be so proud of being Taiwanese if Taiwan was as poor as the Philippines? Interestingly, a green Taiwanese friend once declared proudly that her great grandmother is a Taiwanese aboriginal, and used this to assert her Taiwanese identity. I commented, so that meant she was basically like a Filipino. She was insulted. “No!! Taiwanese are related to Maori in New Zealand and Hawaiian!!”. She wasn’t wrong about the relationship, but she was being very selective about the facts. Taiwanese aboriginals, Filipinos, Maoris and Hawaiian are all Austronesian, just that the the Filipinos happen to live in a third world country. It was sadly an ironic form of racism, we all want to be associate with the rich and powerful, and not the poor and incompetent, even if we happen to share blood with them. She grudgingly accept this after I explained it to her, saying that she thought Filipinos are a “dodgy” people after their awful handling of the Hong Kong shooting. I also wanted to add that although as a Chinese we have many achievement to be proud of, but despite all the bragging about dominating the economy of SEA countries, you only needed to go around Chinatown in Bangkok to see that their are plenty of Chinese descendants only irking out simple living selling road side stalls, no difference from the ethnic Thais really. Nor are they living substantially better life than the poor in China today. Economic issues is as important as ‘political freedom’ and perhaps even more so in many ways.

    Taiwan also demonstrates some of the issues of modern democracy. Often the entire society become obsessed on one single issue i.e. independence and allow the politicians to gain power based on this one single factor. It doesn’t matter if Tsai have no experience and in all likelihood can’t do a good job even if she’s elected. She have even resigned from her post as Chairwoman from the election defeat, that just tells me she really doesn’t have the tenacity for leadership, compare Deng Xiaoping who was thrown in jail, prosecuted thrice and yet still survive to lead China in a new direction. Tsai is just pathetic and reminds me more of Japanese politicians who resign and give up as soon as they fail. So now we are left with Ma even if his performance is mediocre. How meritocratic is this approach really? Does the democracy truly represents the people’s interest?

  3. @Nihc
    i understand the sentiment; even though i don’t hold PRC citizenship, i do understand that a more powerful and prestigious China inspires more respect from Westerners who have never shown much respect for Asians, save respect inspired by fear.

    i’m even seeing some Taiwanese or ethnic Chinese Australians proudly calling themselves Chinese, which is pleasing; especially when it comes to the CNSA/Chinese space program; it also explains why there almost seems to be a frenzied desperation amongst the strategic establishment of the US/West to contain China or channel its power for western interests the way brezinski wanted

  4. @Ray

    I may not get the full gist of what you want to say, but maybe you should do a post on it.

    I may do a piece later this year on what one has to do to get elected here in the U.S. – using materials from this election year – and discuss whether this most important type of democratic discourse really leads to an articulation of the “voice of the people” at the polls…

    To be more blunt: is the results at the polls a result of a carefully deliberated people’s town hall meeting or merely a result of a popularity contest or reality t.v. show?

    Perhaps you had a similar idea for Taiwan?

  5. Frankly, predicting election in Taiwan is not easy due to the many wild card scenario. Different segment of the society also have different expectation. To win in a universal suffrage election, the candidate must make sure he gets the largest number of votes but giving up some.

    To be more blunt: is the results at the polls a result of a carefully deliberated people’s town hall meeting or merely a result of a popularity contest or reality t.v. show?

    I believe it is a combination of all of the above plus some more. In the US being pro-gun, pro-same sex marriage or pro-choice would win or cost the candidate many votes. In the US, one must give up some states but capture some to win. They actually have specialist doing the statistic to determine what issues to concentrate on or to give up.

    In Taiwan simply being a proclaimed native son or daughter (as in Lee Teng Hui, Chen Shui Bian, Tsai etc) would guarantee you a solid 30% of the green voters. Running on the Nationalist ticket would also guarantee a candidate around 20% of the votes. Song lost badly because he has none of those. But I still remember he won 37% of the votes cast in 2000 as an independent. How time has changed! Did Ma score any extra point by dressing up to please everybody? I simply can’t imagine Hu or Wen dressed as Ma did. Ma strongest suit is his Mr.clean image. By trying to please the light green, he actually alienated a lot of hard core blue. I am just glad that the election is over and there’s no surprises. I guess that’s what most Taiwanese voters thought too.

  6. @Allen
    Anyway, did you see the Taiwan campaign ads. I am very impressed by DDP’s, it focus on the economy and supposedly the welfare of the common people and refrain from attack. Ma’s is very subdue too, playing a Minanese song as a background and showing him as Mr.clean family man and the very popular Mrs.Ma is in all pics. Song tried to paint himself as the viable alternative.

    Ma and Tsai ads are shown.

    In contrast the campaign ads in the US look like something out of the cultural revolution era.

  7. “is the results at the polls a result of a carefully deliberated people’s town hall meeting or merely a result of a popularity contest or reality t.v. show?”

    As long as the people at both end accept the result, it doesn’t matter.

  8. @Rhan

    “is the results at the polls a result of a carefully deliberated people’s town hall meeting or merely a result of a popularity contest or reality t.v. show?”
    As long as the people at both end accept the result, it doesn’t matter.

    Yes – perhaps you are right. And that would definitely be the realistic way of looking at things. But I suppose it could apply to the CCP as well. Who cares if it is truly democratic or not, as long as most people at different levels of society accept their dictates, it doesn’t matter…

    But if democracy really rests on no more than people’s acceptance, then it’s no better than any other government in power. So long as the mass accepts it, it’s ok, even if the process were to amount really to more to a mass opiate than anything else.

    Democracy is no longer about getting people involved, about getting people to take responsibility, about people being engaged, about liberation …

  9. Allen, rv wrote a good piece in the open forum on Han Han recent writing about freedom, democracy and revolution, one that really impress me is when Han Han said that CCP is now with 80 million member, I agree with him that it is too simplistic to claim that CCP are just one party or one class, in fact CCP did represent the people from all walks of life. My personal view is that democracy was not about election process or how many parties we have, it is whether the government does represent the people or not, thus in this context, I think I am with you.

    I always have this question in mind for you but never dare to ask because I find your retort can be very direct and harsh at times :), as a Taiwanese and if given a choice, would you prefer to live under a one party state under Chiang KMT or the democracy as practice by Taiwanese now?

  10. I think just about everyone who does business with China is happy with the outcome, especially businesses from Taiwan and the US.

    That said, Ma isn’t doing all that well. If the economy doesn’t pick up I think DPP will have a good chance to win next time. Even if DPP wins I don’t think things would change much due to pressure from the US and other nations, however I think the hardliners in PRC will be far more aggressive. Realistically I think the status quo is the best for everyone, even the diehard Taiwan independence folks.

  11. @Allen

    I am still glad Ma won because I see, as a bottom line, Ma focusing on continuing to forge boldly tighter relations across the strait and working for a better future for the people of Taiwan while Tsai trying her best to prey on people’s fears and the uncertainties of the times.

    Why do you think Ma will boldly forge closer relations with China? He’s been very timid, I would say, in the past 4 years. Even while he was forging economic links with China, Ma was always very careful to stress Taiwan’s de-facto independence. You can see he is not a risk-taker by looking at his speeches and his campaign platform. What makes it different this time? I do hope there will be progress in the political arena, but I don’t see it.

  12. Rhan :
    Allen…as a Taiwanese and if given a choice, would you prefer to live under a one party state under Chiang KMT or the democracy as practice by Taiwanese now?

    While I’m not Allen, I did live in Taiwan in both those periods and I can say without a doubt it’s so much better now.

    To put it simply, during Chiang’s KMT era, we had so many friends and family leaving Taiwan and immigrating elsewhere. But in the past few years, more and more of them are returning to Taiwan.

    So I think that says a lot about the quality of life and how it has improved.

  13. @Rhan #10

    if given a choice, would you prefer to live under a one party state under Chiang KMT or the democracy as practice by Taiwanese now?

    I may write a post on this. I haven’t because it touches very personal aspects of my life.

    My family (minus my Dad) emmigrated to the U.S. because my family – again minus my Dad – was very, very anti-communist and very, very fearful of the communists. The gov’t eventually wanted my Dad for trafficking drugs (drug form them = Chinese herbal medicine). He became a fugitive – and it ruined his life.

    One can blame everything on KMT – or an authoritarian gov’t – or lack of democracy – but I blame it on hostilities beside the two sides.

    Given the choice, I want to live in a Taiwan that is reunifed or has open relations with the Mainland. Don’t want to live in an environment of hostilities of Chiang’s era but don’t mind living under Chiang’s gov’t per se…

    Many “Taiwanese” like to portray KMT’s rule as suppression of the Taiwanese people. That’s just politics. Sounds to me as foreign a concept as DL’s biggest lies. It’s not a narrative I subscribe to at all…

  14. The stability benefits of democracy is suppose to able to ” close the loop” on issues,
    i.e. the people will base their choice on the most pressing issues of the day. thus ensuring the will of the people is reflected in the leadership choices.

    But elections in TW (or much in anywhereelse) is basically about domestic/local issue. “foreign policy” or “china factor” doesn’t and really factor in as big as the actual consequence of that decision.

    TW just averted 4 years of good work with ML going down the drain and another 4 years tense relationship with ML… all because of local economy.

    The system is pretty dysfunctional if you ask me.

  15. @silentchinese

    While I agree that there are flaws to this system, I think it’s still better than the alternatives.

    The elections allow people to publicly air their grievances and forces the candidates to address them directly.

    It just happens that this time the economy was on most people’s minds.

  16. @Nihc

    Sure, of course the economy is a major factor. And if you want to call outsourcing to China as mere exploitation you’re free to do so as well, but I consider it to be more complicated than that.

    But the fact remains that during the one-party rule, there were many folks who were afraid to go back to Taiwan because they just didn’t trust the government or were involved in certain student groups.

    And I’ve also heard many stories from friends and family in Taiwan who were afraid of speaking out against certain government practices as well.

    However that’s not the case today. No one’s afraid anymore because of their past affiliations and they’re able to call out the government when they see fit.

    It’s an entirely different attitude. Like I said, I have many friends and some family who swore they would never return, now moving back to Taiwan permanently.

  17. @JJ

    Hmm I am not sure if Taiwanese owning a manufacturing plant that severely abuse the workers is a good definition of outsourcing…

    As for being able to speak out against the government that is certainly an important point. That is necessary.

    However, I am not sure if I would be able to call out the government on all corrupted practices though in Thailand or Malaysia, gross misconduct and abuse of powers are known to occur. (I would not mess with people in high places in either country). But perhaps that is still better than Taiwan? (Do you consider Thailand and Malaysia ‘democratic’?) Without comparison its hard to say if Taiwan under KMT was a lot more oppressive than other countries.

  18. @Nihc

    Ha, well I don’t know enough about the Foxconn-situation to say that it’s exploitation, but I will say that many folks in Taiwan feel there’s too much outsourcing going on and not enough jobs in Taiwan as it is. And many people would prefer those jobs come back to the island.

    But yeah, the main reason that I say “things are better now,” is just a general sentiment and attitude that I see in my friends and family here.

    – – – – – – –

    I don’t know much about the politics of Thailand or Malaysia to make a judgement, but I would say that there’s absolutely no fear of any types of reprisals in Taiwan when calling out corrupted practices.

    Now, there might be fears of people resorting to gangsters or even lawsuits, but there’s no fear from the government anymore.

    But back under the one-party rule, my parents always cautioned their friends to avoid joining various Taiwan student groups that were supposedly under surveillance. There was a genuine fear among the overseas students that they would be arrested if they mingled with the wrong crowd, so a lot of them simply weren’t involved in politics.

    And in fact they all knew of an fellow student who was a political activist that was locked up in jail when he returned to Taiwan but is now a high ranking government official!

    So the general sentiment has definitely changed. And while I wouldn’t say the one-party rule was oppressive (at least during the time I lived in Taiwan before the first elections), I was definitely told to be cautious.

    But these days, even the stuff they dare say on TV will make me gasp 🙂

  19. “But these days, even the stuff they dare say on TV will make me gasp”

    JJ, if whacking president is one gauge of democracy, I think Taiwan can be one of the most democratic countries in the world 🙂

    I think the immigration have much to do with the fear political climate of war breaking out between KMT and CCP, again. It seems almost every Oct 10 Chiang will start his rhetoric of invading China, if I am Taiwanese, me too would flee.

  20. @Rhan

    Haha! Good point 🙂

    And yeah, definitely one of the biggest reasons for so many people leaving is the uncertainty of war. I just hope things progress nicely and both sides can resolve the conflict in a mutually beneficial manner.

  21. JJ :@silentchinese
    While I agree that there are flaws to this system, I think it’s still better than the alternatives.
    The elections allow people to publicly air their grievances and forces the candidates to address them directly.
    It just happens that this time the economy was on most people’s minds.

    So it is just a outlet for vent frustrations.
    as oppose to a mechanism to govern or get things done.
    symptoms instead of getting the causes.

    in a slightly more vulgar term.
    masturbation instead of getting into a serious relationship.


    “So it is just a outlet for vent frustrations.”

    Or to put it in a slightly less vulgar terms: Carrying out a Farse for “Stability”.

    Because frankly, the People all know what they need to do, but just can’t bring themselves to do the hard decisions.

    Instead of using frustration as motivation for real change, they just vent it into hot air in elections.


    Well I would say that actual changes are being made.

    For example, a very evident experience is the attitude of the government workers. In the past, since it was an Iron Rice Bowl ( 鐵飯碗 ) job there were many times they were either unhelpful or even rude.

    However, after Former President Chen Shui-bian took office, he went about changing the “customer service” of the government workers since it was quite a big issue at the time. Nowadays they’re typically extremely helpful and nice. Also, many of the places I saw had these buttons that you press to rate them for how well they did!

    In addition, things like the amazing National Health Insurance were modified and improved along with increased “social security” payments. Also during the elections period there’s a lot of improvements in public works, like better roads.

    Essentially each party wants to show the people why they are better. So they really will listen to what a large group of voters say.

    Of course some commenters might see this as “buying votes,” but at least something is getting done 🙂

  24. sc / rv, Not really get your point, how election prevent the elected doing the right thing in the case of Taiwan?

    Nihc, We were often told that Thailand Chinese is very well blended or assimilated into Thailand society, is that true? Race is no more an issue in Thailand?

  25. @Rhan
    I am not saying election prevents things getting done.
    At some levels the feedback mechanism does work to converge on the goals (pols wants to get relected so they improve social services); But it is not necessarily true that the feedback mechanism will converge on the will of the people. I would argue majority of time it doesn’t. (witness how many democracies are in sinkholes; PIGS for example)
    or that the will of the people is necessarily the right thing. sometimes what people wish for are diametrically opposite to each other, for example the long term goal of economic and social growth vs short term pain of economic reform (budget cuts and mass layoffs) .

    also, democracies are not the only mechanism that gets things done and cater to the wish of the people.
    Mobs in Sicily gets things done too.
    so does communist in government in china.
    both of their leaders don’t came from an general electoral battle.
    When you talk about breaking the iron rice bowl.
    Primier Zhu RongJi probablly broke more Iron Rice bowl in China than any politican was able to do in Taiwan. He laid off some thing like 20 million workers. against death threats. People of entire factory towns was cursing him. guess what he turned China’s state sector from one of money bleeding rust bucket to a money making machine that people are making complaints that SOE are too profitable!
    who elected him? If he is elected do you think he could have done it in such time?

    and those buttons that has “rate my service”? they don’t only exist exclusively in Taiwan. Shanghai’s municiple government is known for its efficiency. political swings not withstanding. it is almost exclusively a functional bureaucracy.

  26. @Rhan

    Sometimes, the election is a way for the People to “pass the buck” to an Elected to do what they don’t want to decide to do, ie. the difficult choice.

    And by same logic, the Elected, who wants more terms as politician, want to pass the buck and NOT do the unpopular thing.

    Even though EVERYONE in the system knows that the decision is difficult, no one wants to face it.

    It is a system that does not want to confront itself, which is pretty much all political systems.

    But in this system, no confrontation with its true self, also means no action on the most difficult decisions.

    Also, for a system that derives its working principles on “confrontation” between different candidates and political philosophies, we see the “democratic” process avoiding confrontation on some of the most “sensitive” issues. Ie. Occupy Wall Street, etc.

    In that, the system is failing itself, for the sake of stability. Then, its “confrontational” core principle is nothing but a facade.

    Democracy does NOT confront problems, as it is supposedly design to do.

    Now, it avoids serious problems. Then what is the point of all the “confrontation” and negative ads in Elections?? Nothing but mere glitter of fake gold.

  27. Hey guys,
    I think you are bogging yourselves down in a circle. How does one define “democracy”?

    Philippines by western defination is one but not one in my book because the will of the majority of the people is not the prime concern of the government.

    And who is to say the mainland is not one? Sometimes it is meaningless, if you choose a momment in time or just a small subject pool to push an argument. All I can say is this is not the end of history as we know it.

    History, culture and present situation dictate how things will go. A classic example is Iraq, the lives of most Iraqi turned for the worse after “democracy” arrived. And also when will the UN, IMF, World Bank be decided by one person one vote? If democracy is a keyword here, then all those organization is a farce!

  28. Other than some aspects such as the collegial voting rules, the American system (not the British, French, Italian or German ones), is largely wholesale copied by Taiwan. In a way, Taiwan has outsourced the US for its political system, collective memory, social norms, moral code, etc., which is no different than the Chinese communist revolution if you think about it. If this is not the end of the history as per Fukuyama suggested, much like the communist utopia eventually turning into a pipedream to the mainland Chinese, when the Taiwanese wake up, I am afraid the reality will not be pleasant.

    BTW, if anybody insists the true Chinese culture can be only found in Taiwan, I wish to pull a virtual gun over the virtual world and shoot the SOB. What Taiwan retains better compared to mainland China at this point in time, is the residual Chinese culture prevalent in China between the 1920s and 1940s. As to rediscovery and enrichment of the all aspects of the Chinese culture during all eras, nothing is as invigorating as what’s ongoing in mainland China now.

  29. jxie, culture is very wide so I don’t know specifically what you are referring to, however, solely from feedback of Chinese Malaysian that visit both Taiwan and China, the impression is that Taiwan preserve many of Chinese culture as compare to China (台湾的乡土味比大陆浓的多,现在的中国给人一种不东不西的感觉), in fact, many Southerner culture were still broadly observed and practiced in HK, Malaysia and Singapore that are forgone in China, but I agree with you that the revival is vigorous.

  30. Ray, i think there is different from no democracy to unvoluntary imposed democracy (Iraq) as compare to democracy (Taiwan). This thread is suppose to talk about Taiwan.

  31. sc / rv, I agree that democracy system have the tendency to implement populist policy, but we can’t conclude that populist policy can only have bad and no good. Take the recent pay cut of Singapore minister and to make the working out more transparent, and the public declaration of asset from Penang (Malaysia) state executive councilors as case for reference, which I think were practiced in Taiwan as well, is not an indication of accountability and transparency after reading the feedback from election?

  32. While I agree that a democracy can have it’s flaws if it’s not properly managed, my point is that Taiwan today is better than it was under the one-party rule.

    For the simple fact that today, an individual has the power to speak out against the government—on the record—and not fear reprisals. Whereas back in the day, very few people dared.

    That is the biggest change that has happened. People are no longer afraid of the government. Instead, they feel the government is here to serve them. It’s an attitude issue.

    And I’m not saying that a democracy is required for that type of attitude change. I saw all those protests in China and how the Central Government there is trying to appease them. But my point is that Taiwan chose this route, and they are the better for it today.

  33. @Rhan
    I have to go with Jxie on this. To say that somehow Taiwan retained Chinese culture better is a stretch. To compare Shanghai to Taipei is like comparing apple to grape. Shanghai has old european influence plus modern Chinese culture, Taipei has Japanese legacy plus it is shaped mainly by immigrant from the mainland sixty years ago. Beijing, Nanjing, Xian, Luoyang is also different in its own way.

    The mainland is a huge place with 1.3 billion people. By visiting the major cities and proclaiming that somehow something culture is lost is also inaccurate. The sounthern Min, Cantonese and Hakka people who made up most of the overseas Chinese and Taiwanese have uniques tradition of their own. Yes, I agree more in certain aspects but it is not necessary more Chinese.

    If you go to remote villages in Hunan, Hubei (old Chu state), Shanxi (old Jin state) you will find ancient Chinese custom there too that is no present in the southern states. If you know martial arts, you will realize there are two types of lion dances, the northen lion and the southern lion. Frankly, I don’t know which is more Chinese. Chinese culture and the various dialect evolved, and will continue to evolve.

    Democracy in a way is a failure in Taiwan. Especially when 90% of the people who are supposedly citizens of the ROC do not even recognized their own constitution while engaging in a narrow minded we vs them mentality. That’s why pretty much all overseas Chinese want the KMT to win, the DPP try to practice an exclusive policy which pretty much alienate most Chinese. They don’t have much of a future if they keep on playing this 本省人 bs.

  34. Ray, both being a Malaysian we of course know what the native/bumiputra bs is about, but I don’t think everyone that support DPP are into this political clown tricks. I also don’t quite agree when you claim pretty much all overseas Chinese want KMT to win, if you do read the commentary from many Chinese Malaysian from the ‘alternative’ Chinese media, we were very clear on the needs of two party system, the reason many incline to reject DPP is due to their independence stance. Whether Taiwan democracy is a failure, there is nothing wrong to state our opinion, but the final say is still up to Taiwanese.

    I don’t disagree with jxie, it is a very personal experience and that is why I said culture is wide, possibly the major reason is because Taiwan has great influence toward Malaysian that were born in the sixties and seventies, the 乡土味 is possibly our own imagination growing up watching and listening to Taiwan movies and songs.

  35. @Rhan
    I know Nihc (see his first comment) and us here do not represent all the overseas Chinese. But I doubt anybody here want the DPP to win. The DPP is sort of like TGIE now. No sane Chinese will support their exclusive political policy. They could get a minority support from the like of FLG etc.

    Like I have said, the current politic in Taiwan involved too much jingoism and no respect for the constitution. The ROC states that it govern the whole mainland China plus you know what. However, most politicians keep on pretending that is just the affair of the Taiwanese. As you’d said, if only Malay Muslim is classified as Malaysian who would have faith in such an exclusive country. That’s why those race base parties are going to die out, the like of UMNO, MCA, MIC etc. Like the DPP, they played on alleged past griviences to gain popular support but is detrimental to national developement. Sad too say, most people are too stupid to realize it. Onn Jafaar realized the racial/ethnic bs in the 1950s but he was ousted!

    I agree Taiwanese/ROC pop culture influenced overseas Chinese the most in the 1960s-1970s. My grandfather and those from his generation considered ROC as the real China, he send my dad and uncle to school in Taiwan. At that time Taiwan was much poorer than Malaysia and my dad live like a prince there. However, Canto pop from HK sort of beat those from Taiwan in the 1980s-2000s. Today, Taiwain pop again made a comeback but is still under the shadow of HK and the mainland. As some point out, only the three combined can they challenged Hollywood in any way.

    As for 乡土味, I think you can get more of that in Penang than many places in Taiwan. Compare to even small town in Taiwan, Penang is a city that seems to stand still in time.

  36. @Rhan

    Yes, I would say they are both well assimilated and well integrated especially in comparison to Malaysia. You can easily find ethnic Chinese who identify far more with the Thai culture than the Chinese culture. This is not to say that there have never been historical anti-Chinese policies in Thailand. During the rule of Plaek Pibunsongkhram (who interestingly is half ethnic Chinese himself), implemented nationalist economic policies discriminating against Chinese business as well as collaborating with Imperial Japan during WW2. However, these incidents have been mostly forgotten by the public consciousness, especially in the younger generations.

    Today, the relationships between ethnic Chinese and Thais are pretty good. Especially because many ethnic Thais themselves have partial Chinese ancestry. When I was doing this University student developmental project in rural Thailand teaching English, many of the teachers and students were flirting with me. Compared to Malaysian Chinese girls, Thai girls appear much more passionate and romantically outspoken whereas Malaysians are more conservative. (But I think they are more conservative even compared to say Taiwanese as well). I don’t know enough about Mainland Chinese girls to make a comment though.

    My first experience with hostile racism ironically was from white people, those living/travelling in Thailand no less.

  37. Rhan :jxie, culture is very wide so I don’t know specifically what you are referring to, however, solely from feedback of Chinese Malaysian that visit both Taiwan and China, the impression is that Taiwan preserve many of Chinese culture as compare to China (台湾的乡土味比大陆浓的多,现在的中国给人一种不东不西的感觉), in fact, many Southerner culture were still broadly observed and practiced in HK, Malaysia and Singapore that are forgone in China, but I agree with you that the revival is vigorous.

    what ML did a reset on Traditional China. KMT is rooted in traditions more than CCP.
    that’s also part of the reason why they failed at leading China as a whole into modern world. or failed to marshall any military prowess. (don;t forget before CCP came to power china lost almost every single major foreign wars since 1840.) or failed to stung or mobilize/industrialize china in the inter-bellum years as soviet union did to face the inevitible invasion by japanese empire.
    Tradition weighed it down.

    CCP is a strong drug that jolted china into modernity. as with any drugs there are side effects.
    was it worth it? (IMHO) absolutely.

  38. My maternal grandfather was a KMT officer belonging to an army that surrendered to CCP. After 1949, he became a high school history teacher. Needless to say, the CR was very harsh to him, then into his 60s. When I grew up, my family often sent me to live with them once in a while. After the CR, he was compensated with his lost pay, which was quite a sum then. He spent a good chuck of the money on books, especially books on Chinese history. The books were quite a treat to me.

    Then most of the history research types of books, came from Taiwan. Nowadays, virtually all of the topics that may interest you, are vigorously debated in mainland, not in Taiwan.

  39. @Ray

    “As for 乡土味, I think you can get more of that in Penang than many places in Taiwan. Compare to even small town in Taiwan, Penang is a city that seems to stand still in time.”

    Heh, I am actually in Penang right now visiting the relatives for Chinese New Year. Yes, a lot of the old colonial shop houses still exist here, some preserved, many decaying.Whereas in places like Hong Kong, it has all been torn down. (In fact from reviewing travel programs in China, I would say China have preserve much more historical architecture than Hong Kong, even in places like Qingdao with lots of Bavarian style mansions. I have also visited Shanghai and they definitely have maintained more the European architecture from the concession.

    The Brits weren’t engaging in hubris when they said that Penang was the “Pearl of the Orient”, it was for its time one of the wealthiest places in SEA/ Asia, far wealthier to say Korea (China and Taiwan too) at that time. It was one of the places Sun Yat-sen visited repeatedly to ask for funds from wealthy merchants to overthrow the Qing dynasty. But since Penang joined the Malaysian Federation, it has gotten stuck in time while the rest of the world moved forward. Singapore is a good example of what Penang could have been, since they were roughly on par with each other at independence. Old photos of shop houses in Singapore (which is also much better preserved than HK) are almost indistinguishable from Penang.

    I haven’t been in Taiwan for more than 10 years, but having seen videos and photos of the places, I would say there isn’t a great deal of heritage stuff even compared to China. China is still the place with most grandeur historical sites and architecture. Everywhere else is like folk culture stuff, but China despite the cultural revolution still possess substantial high culture. Only the National Museum in Taiwan possess the treasure troves of the Chinese high culture, although, visiting major museums in China can provide similar experience.

    Even though Hong Kong is rich, their newly built temples are rather tacky. They holds no candle to the architecture of Putuoshan (in Zhejiang near Shanghai), one of the Four Holy Mountains of China.

    What is missing in China however are the small shrines to the gods you see everywhere in front of shophouses in Penang. Sometimes in HK you still see some random road side hole in the wall type shrines as well. I believe they are also present in Taiwan. They are all absent from Mainland China in any major city however, but I believe there are some left in the villages. The Mazu temple in Thailand for example that my clan brought with us, is apparently much larger than the original village one. And even that temple in Thailand is really small (I think only our family worship there).

  40. @Nihc

    Very interesting observations! I didn’t realize that Thailand had a Mazu temple, as this goddess is a very prominent figure in Taiwanese culture.

    One of the better temples that I volunteer at in Taiwan is Tzu Chi. I really think this organization has fundamentally changed certain beliefs and attitudes in Chinese culture in Taiwan.

    For example, the idea of donating your body to science (e.g. medical cadavers) is something that’s very shocking in Chinese culture. But due to the good works by Tzu Chi, there’s actually now a waiting list of people willing to become “Silent Mentors.”

    In addition, Tzu Chi often goes for a “who can you help” attitude in Buddhism compared to a “find enlightenment from within” approach.

    Anyway, I know this is going off topic for this post, but I guess my opinion is that it’s pointless in trying to argue who retains true Chinese culture.

    The fact is that culture evolves—so I don’t think it’s fair to say that only those in the Mainland or Taiwan or the overseas Chinese have kept it. And it’s this diversity that makes our culture rich.

    Haha, hope my post isn’t too sappy. I’m in Taiwan now visiting with my relatives. Happy Chinese New Years to everyone 🙂

  41. @Nihc
    Although I believe that ethnics Chinese has assimilated pretty well into Thai society I feel that there’s actually something wrong when Thailand use force to assimilate. Plaek Pibunsongkhram (who is part Chinese) was taking a pre-emptive step so that other Thai nobles would not be able to take advantage of perceived Chinese influence in Thailand to attack himself. At that time, Thailand is the only country in Asia not colonized by outsiders.

    The force assimilation program means that all minority language school and culture was sidelined if not banned outright. The minority own language school or newspaper were closed down (it was relax a bit today), they were no longer allow to use their own native language. I agree that ethnics Chinese assimilate quite easily into the society but this is discrimination nonetheless, granted it is not against just the Chinese but again all “non-Thai”. At that time most Chinese were Taoism/Buddhist making the change easier. The Malay Muslim in the south has big grievances with this issue and they have been fighting to this very day. That’s why I feel that any policy which has to use force will eventually back fire.

  42. @Nihc
    Actually those are not colonial shop houses but southern Chinese shop houses built before WWII. If you go to those coastal town like Jinjiang, Qianzhou, Xiamen etc you can find them there too. And in order to get around you need to be able to speak the Minan dialect. Of course you can also hear Mandarin, Cantonese sometimes and Hakka, Hainanese once in a blue moon.

    Yes, Sun Yat-Sen spent lots of time in Georgetown, Penang. His Dong Meng Hui HQ is in Penang. He even founded a newspaper there in 1910, which is still in circulation today.

    Wang Jingwei’s wife is born in Penang. The Chung Ling High School in Penang produced both generals for the communist and nationalist.

    This is the pre-New Year celebration in Georgetown. Frankly, I don’t think you can get any more乡土味than this. You can see the shop house Nihc mentioned in the video.!

    Nihc is very right in that Georgetown is stuck in time. I always tell my friend “If you want to know what Singapore looked like 40 yrs ago go to Penang.” However, to be fair, Penang has the 1st free trade zone in Malaysia and MNC like Intel, AMD, Bosch etc have set up shop there and hire over 100,000 workers. So the per capita GDP is a respectable $15k. Unfortunately, to most Chinese from HK, Singapore and big cities on the mainland like Shanghai, Shenzhen the Penang Chinese are now country pumpkin. A HK friend who visit me there said that Georgetown is not exactly a city but rather a big village. And here’s the shocking fact. The landed property price costs as much as Toronto, although a far cry from Singapore and HK.,_Penang

  43. Nihc,

    Thanks, I always want to know more about Thailand besides Hat Yai and Golok 🙂

    Malaysia unlike Thailand and Indonesia never embark an assimilation policy, that is why from the outlook, we are relatively more ‘Chinese’ as we speak, write and live a Chinese way of life, we are even more Chinese than China under the CCP during the past century. However race issue is our main setback and until today, the political topic is stuffed with either race or religion matters, the interesting part is that the call on united base on race and the numerous race based political parties never really brought us into the turmoil like what happen in Thailand and Indonesia. I am eager to find out but I think most probably one of the reasons is the inclusiveness of Malaysia government.

    I believe Thai girl are more open because your country is one of the most preferred destination for travel, and Malaysia are basically a Muslim country, however, the less religious type are mostly quite ….hmmm… friendly. I think most Chinese Malaysian is not much difference from Taiwan, HK and Singapore as the education and values is more or less same, a mixed of Confucianism with Western system, and of course there is the extremely Westernise group, a legacy from the colonization era, that want to be more Western than the Westerner.

    Just curious, I don’t think a non-Thai like me can tell apart an ethnic Chinese and Thai besides perhaps the skin color, am I right?


    I think by listening to our 新年歌, you might know what I am talking about pertaining to乡土味.


    I bought my first China Literature by a Chinese author in the earlier 80 and almost every topic he wrote cited back to Marxism and Maoism, I have little choice but revert back to Taiwan and Hong Kong edited books. 河殇 is the first breakthrough and follow by 余秋雨 work on culture, I know some of his writing can’t stand the critique of scholar but at the least, he draw our interest to read, and that 二月河 as well. In term of music, movie and literature, Taiwan and Hong Kong remain as main source, I also notice my kids now know who Han Han is, but compare to 九把刀,he is still a nobody.

  44. I just wanted to add that I’ve learned quite a lot reading this thread 🙂


    I’ll be going to Malaysia next week to attend a friend’s wedding (they’re Hokkien & Cantonese) and it’ll be interesting to see how their wedding customs match up with those in Taiwan.

  45. Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. NOW is the correct time to study contact your local University also check for an interesting article called High Speed Universities on web.

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