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The Ouster of Hung Hsiu-chu

Over the weekend, the KMT nullified Hung Hsiu-chu’s nomination and selected party chairman Eric Chu to lead the ticket in the Jan. 16 election.  George Koo wrote a piece about it last week.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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…
  8. 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…
  1. raffiaflower
    October 21st, 2015 at 02:52 | #1

    “ ultimately the U.S. is the protector – economic, military, diplomatic, and political – of Japan … and “Asia.”
    Yup, just take a look at the front page of Japan Times, which is iNYT, the leading Washington propaganda organ: the juxtaposition of the stories send a sublime message.
    On the left is the visit of the Internal Affairs and Justice ministers to Yasukuni. On right is Abe on board USS Reagan, ` signal stronger bond with US’.
    The message is that Japan can do and act as it likes, whatever the protestations, because Washington gives it cover.
    As for Taiwan. it has been pointed out that voters in the last election were driven by bread-and-butter local issues, not cross-straits reunification matters. So it does look that, as you say, Guomindang has done as well as it can with Taiwan’s economy. But the politics of fear (China) seems to have overcome the “citizens” of Taiwan!

  2. raffiaflower
    October 21st, 2015 at 02:54 | #2

    The newspaper headlines of JapanTimes are on the Oct 19 issue.

  3. N.M.Cheung
    October 21st, 2015 at 06:32 | #3

    I agree that DPP is likely to regain power after the next election, and it’s not really bad for China. For someone who’s born in mainland and share their viewpoint I think the Chinese policy of essentially bribing people in Taiwan and Hong Kong is short sighted and a failure. China under Xi has been flexing her muscle and asserting her right in the world stage. In the sovereignty issue such as South China Sea Islands, Tibet, and Xinjiang, China is right to be inflexible. Hong Kong and Taiwan both fall under the same category, and should be treated as such. Unlike Arab spring movements, the Umbrella and Sunflower movements, thought similarly are from younger generations, differ being much shallower and likely a flash in the pan and wilt with the coming economic realities. DPP may move closer to Japan for leverage, yet the political reality is still on U.S.. I suspect the election of 2016 in U.S., probably the election of Hillary Clinton whose rhetoric may be antagonistic toward China, but I expect in reality may be more closer to China. DPP in the coming years may find governing, given the expectation of people for better lives very difficult.

  4. October 24th, 2015 at 11:13 | #4

    Ma is actually a man of integrity that try to please everybody but end up alienating everybody. He is being blamed for everything that has gone wrong in Taiwan. Of course, if he has not given such high hope during his election campaign (馬上就會好!)he would not be in such hot soup. Hey, isn’t that what politicians are supposed to promise during election campaign? To be fair, he has done quite a lot during his terms. For example, there is no direct flight before him and tried to sign a free trade agreement favourable to Taiwan.

    DPP now has degenerated into a political platform that thrives on confronting the mainland, or “mainlanders in Taiwan” on the pretext of protecting the average Taiwanese interest. They used to have this real ideal of breaking up the KMT military dictatorship. However, it has since lost its ideal and now survive on Cultural Revolution style politics.

    Last year, I actually foresee Chu as the best possible candidate for the KMT. He has the right bloodline, having parents of so-called Taiwanese and mainlander. He has not been hit by major scandal and is seen as competent. Unfortunately, he did not pick up the mantle after the KMT lost badly in the last regional election. Hung did that instead and is now dropped unceremoniously. This type of behind the door politics is what has pushed the KMT to the dust bin of history. KMT has now become a by words of compromise and back door dealings. This showed that Chu is like Ma in that he can be easily hijacked by populism.

    I agree with Allen’s opinion that both party are both “anti-China” as they promotes separatism and encourage the “we vs them” mentality. I also agree that regardless of who win, they would not do better due to the yoke they put on themselves. Truth to be told, these two major parties have pretty much marginalize themselves to be pawns of petty politics. They have no vision for Taiwan’s future. Not even a workable one for an independent Taiwan. For the later to work, a real group of visionary with ideals would need to come into power. And if present politics are to continue, Taiwan will fall further behind 1st tier development on the mainland.

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