Sunday, August 28, 2005

Political Analyses of Different Stripes.....

Recently the various papers have been kind enough to offer several different types of political analyses....

Apple Daily chimes in courtesy of ESWN with the first....
In a separate story, Apple Daily provided a re-iteration of the worst cases of "Black Gold" politics in Taiwan, showing that the local legislatures and governments are run just like in Sicily.

- In 1996, the Changhwa County Legislature Vice-President was the first elected representative to be shipped directly by helicopter to Green Island under the Chihping Anti-Gangster Program. However, he was found innocent during a re-trial and regained his legislator status. After ascending to the position of Legislature Vice-President, he continued to monopolise public works projects and directed his subordinates to shoot and kill others.

- In 1994, the former Pingtung County Legislature President ignored the fact that his friend's mother was kneeling in front of him and begging him to spare her son's life. In cold blood under the full light of day, he fired dozens of bullets into his friend, just like in a gangster movie.

- The Kaohsiung City Legislature President was involved in an election bribery case as well as a tax evasion case for several hundred NT$ million, and fled overseas. Even so, he was able to control the elections and enabled his children to be elected.

- In 1998, the Chiai County Legislature President was the subject of a manhunt under the Chihping Anti-Gangster Program, but he was still re-elected as legislator in the election.

According to an academic scholar, "Black Gold" politics is a characteristic of local elections in Taiwan. For one thing, these elections cost far too much and campaign donors (especially corporate owners with gangster backgrounds) must surely have ulterior motives. This was the cause for the prevalence of politician-business-gangster collusion.

The "analysis" presented at the end in ESWN's summary is the usual fact-free horse manure. It's quite true that local politics are completely corrupt, an issue I have discussed both on my website and on my blog. But the idea that Black Gold exists because of elections is asinine. Black Gold exists because the KMT forged links with gangsters to control local elections and murder political opponents. Money influences elections everywhere, no question. There are even gangsters involved in elections elsewhere. But the particular widespread and systemic juxaposition of money, gangsters, and politics in Taiwan is the result of KMT policies that included erecting a construction-industrial state where money flowed to construction companies through public works projects and filtered down to gangsters, who in turn supported the ruling party. The worst examples of Black Gold are not even on Apple Daily's list -- they include things like the murder of writer Henry Liu in the US by gangsters working for the Taiwan government in 1984, and the use of gangsters to break up protests and discredit the democracy movement. But then Apple Daily probably thinks history began about 1990 or so.

ESWN thinks he is insulting Taiwan by comparing it to Sicily, but the comparison is apt, though in a way that ESWN probably doesn't realize. Unlike the facist KMT in Taiwan, Mussolini crushed the gangster state in Italy as a rival political force. It was the US that revived it as part of a cold war CIA project to use the mafia to eliminate the Communists in Italian politics. It is probably not a coincidence that two US puppet/allied governments carried out exactly the same political program of linking the ruling party to local gangsters in a move ostensibly aimed at Communism....

The second piece appeared in the Taiwan News...We're going to contrast it with a similar but opposite piece in the Taipei Times that appeared the followed day. The first argues that Taiwan's politicians lack maturity. It writes:

Instead, the bulk of the news media and politicians are feverishly occupied with trying to deceive the people or keep them in the dark about the real motives and issues at stake in our political life through activities that smack more of fundamentalist revival meetings than rational or substantive political discussion or discourse.

As a result, Taiwan society remains deeply ideologically divided between dogmatic "blue" or "green" quasi-religions that mask the nature of the real interests, problems and questions that our citizenry must decide.

In this state of affairs, politicians are either using the media or being manipulated by the media. In any case, what neither the bulk of the media nor most politicians are inclined or able to realize is substantive policy discussions on issues.

Politics is Taiwan is mostly for show and fails, no matter how extremely views may be offered, to be "radical" in the sense of dealing with fundamental matters.

It is easy to see why my students write so poorly, since their mentors do. No evidence is given for these charges, and there is no use of history. History-free writing is a hallmark of bad analysis. But contrast this with an analysis of Mayor Ma of Taipei that appeared in the Taipei Times the other day:

The person who is pointing straight at the KMT and calling it an alien party is a former KMT chairman -- former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). In 1993, when Lee met with a Japanese author to discuss the tragedy of being born in Taiwan, he frankly pointed out that "the KMT is also an alien power." Lee pointed out a historical fact that Ma now is afraid of facing up to and recognizing.

If Ma is to connect the KMT with Taiwan, he must not be afraid of recognizing people such as Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), a Taiwanese social activist during the Japanese era. But let's not talk about what Ma doesn't say. If the Qing government in the end was maintained by Zeng Guofan (曾國藩), Li Hongzhang (李鴻章), Hu Linyi (胡林翼) and other Han Chinese, then why did Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) continue to call the Qing dynasty foreign? Ma says that it was because Sun made a great mistake. Ma is holding up Sun's premiership, but how can he justify doing so?

Note the references to history, to a tradition, to shared ideas.....nothing like the first one. Regardless of the political position of each, the second is basically a much better piece, because it is cognizant of history and puts forth concrete facts in support of its argument. The first is trash.

Observe too how the first one, having renounced history as a source of understanding, ends on a remarkably stupid note:

We hope that factional politics and dogmatic ideological strife can "wither away" from Taiwan political life, along with related maladies such as quasi-religious mobilization, vote buying and "voting for the winner."
Be serious. Taiwan presents the unique case, totally unlike Japan, of where one political party is dedicated to the destruction of the nation as a democratic political entity and its absorption into a large neighboring country. Given this basic fact, how then can Taiwan's politics be expected to "mature?" How can politicians serve 'the country' when one set of them believes that there is no country?

So let this be a lesson to you, chilluns: when writing, there are only three rules:

1. Be concrete.
2. Be concrete.
3. Be concrete.

It's surprising that Taiwanese aren't better writers. I mean....concrete is just so widespread in Taiwan.....


i r i s said...

Good point about "concrete" throughout Taiwan! haha...And thank you so much for writing for our little magazine. :)

Keep good points coming!


Jason said...

Pave the world, man!
I was pretty impressed by the TT editorial you referenced too, but was surprised that it didn't go after the claim Sun ever viited Taiwan. Have you ever found any concrete proof of SYS's visit to Taiwan? I haven't been able to find anything that doesn't smell like fabricated history.

As for the writing side of things I would tell my Taiwanese and Korean students not to write "turd essays", i.e. where your main thesis circles round and round the bowl before completely disappearing at the end. What's so hard about teaching someone to write a good ol' 5 paragraph essay, anyway?

Anonymous said...

You say :" one political party is dedicated to the destruction of the nation as a democratic political entity and its absorption into a large neighboring country"?

The KMT proposes a 50 year freeze on the cross-straight situation:
This would ensure peace and prosperity for a long time and buy time for China to turn to democracy. This is no surrender. The KMT already defended Taiwan 47 years ago in Kinmen. Without then martial discipline, we would be (so-called) communists now, much poorer and less free.

The DPP, on the other hand, wants, but dares not, formal independence. At the hand of government for over 5 years, they have achieved no breakthrough or any major improvement compared to KMT led governement. Taiwan is still only supported by approx 30 African and Central American countries.
Should there be such a move, this would call for war and destruction.

I don't say KMT is white. No political party is. But its grey is getting lighter: democratic election of its chairman.

Michael Turton said...

I'm delighted to see reform in the KMT...but the basic problems remain.

Michael Turton said...

What's so hard about teaching someone to write a good ol' 5 paragraph essay, anyway?

What's hard about it? Thinking of something to say! I always teach that in my writing classes, and the students just can't think of anything that is not a "turd" paragraph (man, what a great analogy. I definitely have to steal that!). They just repeat and repeat, until they run out of steam like a wind-up doll slowly coming to a halt.

No, I don't really know if SYS visited Taiwan.


Budding Sinologist said...

Can you recommend a good source--or maybe you know the answer--about the origin of the KMT-gangster relationship in Taiwan? Was it a leftover of the KMT's alliance with Big-Eared Du (Du Yuesheng) on the Mainland or was this started anew in Taiwan?

Great post, by the way. I learn something new every time I surf over here to The View. This time, for example, I learned about the Henry Liu thing, which I never heard of before. I'm reading more on the subject now.

Jason said...

Try a book called "Heijin" by Chin Ko-lin. A fantastic overview of the origins and machinations of patron-client politics. Here's its Amazon page: