I typically don’t comment that much on populist politics since they are fleeting, shallow, and often end up, when on look back, just dust in the wind.
Here are some of my takes:
- Ma Ying-Jiu’s policy the last few years of “no reunification, no independence, and no war” has actually stoked a pro-independence psyche in Taiwan in the sense that people has become used being fearful getting “sucked” into the mainland orbit. Ma had been so careful about getting closer to China, keeping it focused only technically on “trade,” that people feel being “technical” about Mainland is only right. Taiwan’s Sunflower movement feels very similar to the Hong Kong‘s Umbrella movement, both being spurred by fears of the “native” economy, culture, and political system being overwhelmed by the mainland’s.
- The DPP has not made independence an issue. They can’t. But, they have made themselves out to be “champions” of the average Joe in Taiwan, watching out for their interest in the face of the rich … of Mainland China. Yes, they are still the pro-independence party. But if you hear what they say in public, if you look at the reason people in Taiwan are supporting them, it’s the assertion that they are “guardians” of the interests of the “average Joe” in Taiwan.
- Hung’s unpopularity (thought I’d provide a link to her facebook page for those interested) is more due to frustration of many who feel that there have been decades of economic stagnation. The economy has been tough for the youth especially, with many college graduates not being able to find jobs. Mainland China’s rising is the scapegoat. Black Phoenix in a recent post cited a NYT op-ed that described how China is growing only at the expense of the U.S. (I’ll write a response to that op-ed soon.). The logic there feels very similar to the logic I hear often in Taiwan now about Taiwan’s future … how if Taiwan is to have a secure economic future, it must insulate itself from the Mainland economy.
- If DPP were to win, no doubt the leadership would try to play the Japan card. Koo had this interesting “factoid” about there being 2 million people of Japanese descent in Taiwan … who might have a feeling for the notion that Japan is the “motherland” of Taiwan. I don’t think that’s true. I mean if people feel that way, it’s not due to people of Japanese descent. The 2 million people seem a little high. Based on this source, Taiwan’s population circa 1945 was 6.94 million, and circa 2015 24.301 million. That’s a growth of 3.5x from 1945 to 2015. Koo gave the number of Japanese descent in 1945 to be 300,000 and 2015 to be 2 million. That gives a growth of 6.67x from 1945 to 2015. I don’t see how people of Japanese descent can grow twice the rate of Taiwan’s total average. Further I doubt people of Japanese descent married only Japanese, hence their descent would not just be Japanese, but Chinese as well. (I myself, by the way, is one of those Japanese descent, my Great Grandmom on my Mom’s side being Japanese herself.) In the end I don’t think there is that kind of Japanese conspiracy. There may be Japanese sympathy due to political expediency. There may be Japanese interference. There may even be a feeling of Taiwaneseness that excludes Chineseness, but I don’t think most people are going to be having a feeling of Japaneseness.
- Taiwan may be a good place to study the U.S. strategy in Asia of using its allies in containing China. Tsai would never have been able to visit Obama. But she could get to visit Abe’s brother, perhaps even Abe himself. If China complains, U.S. could say, well, it’s just Japan – a nation China would have little leverage over, because ultimately the U.S. is the protector – economic, military, diplomatic, and political – of Japan … and “Asia.”
- My personal feeling at this juncture in time about Taiwan politics? I actually agree with Hung on many things. The future of Taiwan is with Mainland, so let’s start the unification on Taiwan’s term, now, when Taiwan as a whole is still economically and technologically considered more developed than the mainland. I also agree that populist politics in Taiwan is so shallow. But … the truth is also that I don’t think the KMT – with Ma – had been a party of leadership either. Ma is a chicken that is so technical and careful with everything he says, when it comes to the path to re-unification. The KMT is often referred to as the pro-China party and the DPP party as the anti-China party. I feel if in power, both are the anti-China party in the sense that both are pro-status quo. When I see reports that people of Taiwan are for the “status quo,” I don’t think the people are really for status quo in the sense that’s their decision. No, it’s more a deer in the head light type reaction. People don’t know what to think. What the people of Taiwan need is leadership. They can choose leadership for re-unification, or for not. If they are for stats quo, then they are really for quagmire. As S. Korea and Japan continue to move ahead, Taiwan will merely plateau, and let history pass by.
- I find it ironic that there seems to be a pro-TPP sentiment in Taiwan when in the Sunflower movement, students had protested how “secretive” cross-strait trade negotiations had been. If that was “secretive,” the the TPP is “secretive” on “steroid.” With the TPP documents still sealed more than two weeks after its negotiation, where are the students complaining about “secretive” negotiations? By the way, ironically, if the TPP should be implemented (big if), and if Taiwan shall join, Taiwan’s joining of the TPP could give additional push to integration of Mainland and the island’s economies. Made in Taiwan will be Mainland’s backdoor into the TPP market…! Same logic goes with Vietnam … and all other regions that have separate “trade agreements” with Mainland China…
- Finally, if DPP shall gain control of the government of ROC, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad. I don’t think any party could do better than KMT had done in terms of economic management. So very soon, people will get sick of the DPP as well. Perhap this is a good thing? Perhaps only then will the people of Taiwan wake up and see how superficial and partisan and stupid the politics of Taiwan have been the last 20 or so years…