Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Taiwan's Fading Independence Movement

As I've noted before, one of the things that we can expect as the 2008 Presidential election draws near is a big push for Ma Ying-jeou and against Taiwan independence in the foreign, especially US media, echoing the similar push for James Soong that occurred in the 2000 election prior to the revelation of the missing millions of KMT dollars. I still remember with especial fondness John Pomfret's fall-down-laughing pitching of Soong as a "democratic reformer" in the Washington Post these many years ago, which generated an indignant letter from this writer.

This drive to put Ma in the Presidency in 2008 seems to have opened with Robert Ross' article in this month's issue of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan's Fading Independence Movement. Unfortunately an e-text is not yet available, but you can view the first few hundred words online there. This looks like one of the saddest articles on the Taiwan situation yet to appear in a major journal. Just glance at these two paragraphs here:

After 1996, the situation remained tense, and the repeated steps toward independence taken by Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's president since 2000, fanned the flames. Although the independence movement enjoyed a high profile internationally, it never won widespread domestic support. The increasingly unpopular Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the driving forces behind the independence movement in recent years, have suffered several electoral defeats, and advocates of greater cooperation with the mainland have gained ground. A new, calmer era in cross-strait relations seems to be dawning.


Taiwan shares a culture, language, and heritage with mainland China. But after Taiwan's half century of autonomy, economic progress, and democratization, and the resulting contrast between Taiwan and authoritarian China, many on the island have developed a strong sense of "Taiwan identity," and they believe that Taiwan now merits international recognition as a sovereign country. By the mid-1990s, the "Taiwan identity" movement had become a major force in Taiwanese politics. But it has not resulted in widespread calls for a formal declaration of independence. Voters, reflecting Beijing's military and economic hold on the island, have preferred to accommodate China's opposition to Taiwan's independence. By 2000, thanks to its accelerated missile and aircraft deployments, Beijing had developed the capability ...

ROFL. I can't wait to read the rest, if it is as slanted and as entertaining as this. "Never won widespread domestic support." Is there anyone out there who really believes that if Beijing did not threaten to ignite a regional conflict, that the Taiwanese would choose to become a satrapy of Beijing? Here's an understanding basic to grasping the situation here: not everyone who votes DPP does so because they favor independence, and not everyone who votes KMT does so because they are against independence. This is especially true of elections at the local level, which for all intents and purposes take place in an alternate universe. And further, that Chen Shui-bian and the DPP are not the end-all and be-all of the independence movement.

As pundits are wont to point out, the public strongly supports the status quo. In case the Robert Ross-s of the world haven't yet noticed, the status quo is a Taiwan that is independent of Beijing. Even the good Mayor Ma, Chairman of the KMT, who is not exactly noted around these parts for his political acumen, has apparently noticed that the great middle is solidly pro-independence, which is why he has played down unification and at times toyed with the idea of recognition of Taiwan independence as an alternative for the island.

Looking forward to seeing the rest next month.


Michael C said...

I hate to admit it, but this may be the popular view for the uninformed, including the world press. I came across a similar piece, dicussing Chen,the bad boy, doing futile things to provoke China, the peaceful giant. What’s sad about it is that the author is professor of international relation at the University of Puget Sound. If people like that can be uninformed....

I think DDP and the Foreign Ministry should both seriously step up PR work worldwide. Taiwan needs to feed the world press daily doses of its long term agenda just like China, rather than only doing damage control and remaining on the defensive.

shavenpope said...

A friend of mine came over a month ago to shoot a TV documentary which was was supported (and probably sponsored) by the GIO. The GIO official who was appointed to accompant the crew was continually bending his ear with claims that only a tiny percent of the population supported independence, the majority wanted 'reunification' and so on, the whole pan-blue propaganda spiel. It makes me sick to my stomach that this bastard's salary is paid from my taxes, but it comes as no surprise that these low-level apparatchiks, deeply loyal to the KMT, are still embedded in the system.
If there are even people in government employment that are spewing the CCP's crap, then what hope is there of getting the straight story out? This is the other edge of that double-sided sword that is free speech.

STOP_George said...


You took the words right out of my mouth.

That is why I think it is critical that the KMT and PFP be exposed for what they are. Pro-China and anti-Democracy.

As difficult as this is going to be, these parties need to be given an electoral ass-kick. Only then will a strong unified voice come out of Taiwan to effectively deal with these inaccuracies spewed by the corporate international media.

I don't think a complex situation where an official opposition party is regurgitating Chinese propaganda is going to ever reach the international masses in a clear objective way.

As Michael mentioned in an earlier post -- the media's decision to equate lies with the truth (as being the other side of the story) is what the corporate media does time and time again.

ChairmanYao said...

So where exactly is the independence movement in Taiwan headed?

If the middle voters are "solidly pro-independece" as you suggest, where were they during the last elections?

Regardless of what political pursuation you adhere to I don't think you can deny the de jure independence idea is fading.

George, what is your definition of "anti-democracy" in the KMT or PFP? Last time I checked they were *democractically* elected by the people of Taiwan in the legislature and town/county polls.

In case you haven't nocticed the only parties getting an "electoral ass kick" are the greens.

shavenpope said...

"If the middle voters are "solidly pro-independece" as you suggest, where were they during the last elections?"

Voting on local issues, since they were local elections.

"Regardless of what political pursuation you adhere to I don't think you can deny the de jure independence idea is fading."

Let's imagine I walk up to you in a dark alley and suggest you give me your wallet. You scream your head off, then I pull a gun on you. You shut up, right?
Does that mean you're happy to hand over your wallet? If I put my gun back in my pocket, you're probably going to start screaming again, no?

David said...

Michael, I think you're stretching a point linking 'Ma 2008' to one-sided articles like the above.

I don't doubt the KMT are busy trying to get their perspective on things over to all Western media - but they've been doing that (pretty effectively) since the Soong Mei-ling era. *Every* political party tries to push their vision on reporters, nothing unusual there.

Oh sorry, did I say every party? I mean every party apart from the DPP. If newspaper reporters have a KMT (or China) slant, then blame the DPP for not getting their message across, and the newspaper reporters for not researching properly.

You're right to slap that article down - it's pretty piss-poor. However, I'd suggest the big issue is that reporters need to get a clue about Taiwan (and the DPP need to get a clue about marketing).

STOP_George said...


I don't think the reason there is a KMT slant is because the KMT are better at marketing -- one word: Hitler-Chen. It's more to do with the fact that they are an opposition party that have strong support in Taiwan.

And the reason they have such strong support is too complex for the international media to bother with.

Michael Turton said...

Time, I think, will tell on the "Selling of Ma 2008." I remember Soong's anointment from the laudatory Newsweek article, the fact that he was the candidate CNN interviewed first and alone, whilst they interviewed the Lien and Chen and Soong together later, the laudatory articles in the Washington Post, and other things. I decided that next time around I would watch more carefully. In '04 Lien and Soong joined forces, so it was redundant to ask which was favored. In '08 I'm going to watch very carefully how the international media handles Ma vs the DPP challenger.


Joseph Chen said...

if it's fading, it's because local media like is doing a really good job at selling the point to the public that taiwan independce is poison for everybody.

Tim Maddog said...

If TI were "fading," why would the pan-blues constantly be crying their eyes out over it! I think their behavior reveals a lot.

The UDN editorial linked above distorts:
- - -
- - -

My translation:
- - -
"First, Taiwan independence supporters praise the end of the ROC: their goal is to eliminate it altogether. In light of this, their goal is the same as that of the PRC."
- - -

What a load of crap they spew! The goal of both the PRC and the KMT's ROC party-state was/is to swallow Taiwan whole. Neither of them recognize Chen Shui-bian as Taiwan's democratically-elected president, neither will hold any kind of talks with him, and both believe that Taiwan is part of China. How much further from the truth could the UDN get?

Joseph Chen is right that UDN is equating TI with poison. I wish that someone could constantly inform the public about the UDN's poisonous lies.

STOP_George said...

You know, according to the latest poll, the independence movement would benefit greatly if it is constantly tied in with the notions of "democracy" and "freedom".


An overwhelming majority of Taiwanese believe that maintaining democracy and freedom is MORE IMPORTANT than economic development!

This flies in the face of this "pragmatism" we hear so much about lately.

Jimmy the Stud said...

I think the bottomline is a mix of few elements. Most of the "current" generation KMT politicians had the funding to go abroad to US or other country on the expenses of the people. So of course KMT is going to look more "media-appealing".

The problem of the false perception that the Taiwan Independence Movement is fading is mostly contributed by the media, which are pan-blue. The direct result of the media propaganda is the polarization of Taiwan; northern Taiwan feels proreunication is the way to go, and sounthern Taiwan knows the media is full of sh-t.

Remember, KMT was the one to claim, "反攻大陸" or Attach Mainland. They are the one who taught millions of kids, "三民主義救中國". But now they are kneeling and bowing to communism. Here is the thing, KMT never envisioned losing political control of Taiwan. With the election result of 2000 and 2004, Liang and KMT, including Ma, are desperate to gain the control back. Hence, the whole "pro-reunication" movement.

I like to tease my KMT friends, "Go wake up Chiang Kai Shek and ask him if reunification is okay." That old tyrant would go nuts on Ma and Liang.

Another view is that currently China has all the intention to rage war against Taiwan, hence making China an enemey of Taiwan; same theory goes for US versus Iran. The general consensus in the US is that no one likes Iran, democrats or GOP. KMT cannot recognize the fact that China is an enemy of Taiwan, moreover brown-nosing China. KMT even broke the rules of engagement to establish an Taiwan organization (KMT Party) to foreign country forum, of which is highly illegal and in contempt of treason.

Why don't ya'll Americans try to establish similar forum with Iran or North Korea? Let's see if NSA, CIA, FBI and DHS will be knocking on your door tomorrow.

Get real. Stop looking at the superficial media for answer and "general consensus". Think before you act, and the crowd, especially on the streets of Taipei protesting, are blind.

Taiwan has no need for independence movement. Taiwan is independent in and of itself. The movement should be international recognition movement. Taiwan has its own consistution, its own armed forces, its own President, its own legislator body, and moreover its own people. The key is how to break away from the old-fashion thinking of KMT's ROC and establish Taiwan as a country, rather than ROC.

Taiwan doesn't belong to ROC. Look at San Fransisco Treaty, Taiwan was supposed to be of itself and the support of the international body to help Taiwan become a country. But KMT lost the Chinese civil war and came over as a hostile takeover, moreover proceed with genicide. These are international war crimes that everyone is forgetting. If you know Chinese, read Southnews.

I'm fed up with KMT. Can I ask Osama bin Laden to bomb the KMT headquarter in Taipei? Especially that sickening porn star Ma....

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with this article. I don't think the Taiwan independence movement is fading. This of course comes from personal experience and observation, but, frankly, the TI movement was never popular to begin with.

I don't know who you guys are or who you think you are. I have lived in Taiwan for 15 years and I think I may have some basis to say that the TI claims are way too detached from the daily lives of the average Taiwanese people. Why a declaration of TI? Even if the CCP promises not to use force, the majority of the people I know would still not pursue an out right declaration of TI. Why? What's in it for them? What would they gain? What's going to change when you switch ROC to ROT? A change of name? What would be different if Texas becomes Tejas tomorrow? Nothing. The Tejanos would still not likely vote Republican.

Please don't tell me about how great TI is and how the Taiwanese have suffered. The people have heard that for decades now, ever since the local elections in the 1980s. Those slogans were kind of interesting at first but tiresome by now. What else is new? What if the KMT was corrupt in the 1950s? We have voted for the DPP several times now and the DPP doesn't seem to be much better. At least KMT was doing much better on economy.

I suppose if you only read Liberty Times and Taipei Times, you'd get the impression that the green is running the show and the Taiwanese are dying for TI. But let's not kid ourselves here...these newspapers are not exactly known for accuracy. If you want to know what the people really want, please talk to the average folks (not the folks from the green gatherings, please), but the average, day to day, grassroot individuals and persons. I think they'll tell you why Mr. Chen Shui-Bian's approval rating is at 24% and why the DPP loses elections repeatedly, even in traditional green areas.

Michael Turton said...

I don't know who you guys are or who you think you are. I have lived in Taiwan for 15 years and I think I may have some basis to say that the TI claims are way too detached from the daily lives of the average Taiwanese people.

Catch that poll that came out yesterday on what the Taiwanese think of having control of their own future? I guess your 15 years of observation just went up in smoke.

What if the KMT was corrupt in the 1950s? We have voted for the DPP several times now and the DPP doesn't seem to be much better. At least KMT was doing much better on economy.

ROFL. Get an education, kid, on Taiwan's economic history. And threemore KMT city council speakers were just indicted on corruption charges -- but KMT corruption was a thing of the 1950s.


I think they'll tell you why Mr. Chen Shui-Bian's approval rating is at 24% and why the DPP loses elections repeatedly, even in traditional green areas.

If this is the best analysis 15 years of living here can do for you, you'd best go home. Things are a lot more complex, especially at the local level, then you appear capable of apprehending.


Jimmy the Stud said...

Amen, Mike my man!

Anonymous said...

Yep, the Taiwanese people think they should take control of their own destiny, and they did! By using their votes, they clearly and unequivocally informed all of us: they ain't that interested in DPP and their slogans. Thank you for supporting my position!

Get an education on Taiwan's economic history? I am sorry, but on this issue, you are the apprentice. Please take some time to read Thomas Gold, Alice Amsden, and Simon Kuznets. Read their observations on KMT and their role in the development of the Taiwan miracle. And, please, please, please, don't base your conclusion from the things you read from green newspapers and books. The guys listed above are from real colleges (Harvard and Berkeley by the way; and, they are economists and sociologists, not English teachers) who have spent time researching and analyzing the true reason behind the Taiwan economical miracle. Let me assure you: it ain't caused by the DPP.

Oh and, yeah, the DPP is known for transparency I suppose? Don't know if you can read Chinese, but if you do, you should consider that the following list of things aren't done by the KMT:
Yeah, not everyone from DPP is corrupt. Some are pedophiles too.

The above is not my analysis, and frankly, I haven't even begun yet. I tried very hard to keep it simple so that even you can understand this:
The DPP is not better than anyone else. They came from the same background as all other political parties. They are not gods or saints. They are wrong a lot of the time too.

Please be very, very careful when you talk about the TI movement and how it's the voice of the Taiwanese people. It's not. The Taiwanese people have told you that, in fact, repeatedly.

Michael Turton said...

Child, I was reading Alice Amsden while you were still figuring out how to unhook your girlfriend's bra in the back of your father's car.

But I was also reading Susan Greenhalgh, and Danny Lam's wonderful little piece on guerilla capitalism, and industrial districts and flexible production and much other stuff. The "KMT led Taiwan's growth" is strictly a bit of propaganda that helped to legitimate KMT rule in the 1980s. We're all grown up here, and we know that life is more complex than that.

BTW, my doctoral work is on Taiwan's economic history. About which I know a heck of a lot more that Simon Kuznets or Thomas Gold, for that matter.

I don't make the elementary mistake of confusing DPP and TI, and I certainly am not stupid enough to believe that one pedophile a disaster doth make.

More later.


Anonymous said...

I'm just curious what makes some Americans think they are the ones who know best about what Taiwanese people want.

What's TI all about for ordinary Taiwanese people? Other than a bunch of slogans?

Michael Turton said...

I guess if you can't answer that question yourself, anon, then nothing any of us can say will be able to make you undersand.

Anonymous said...

I guess if you can't answer that question yourself, anon, then nothing any of us can say will be able to make you undersand. _______________________________

Mike, I'm not sure which one of the questions you meant - the "what makes some Americans think they know it all" one or "what's TI about other than a bunch of slogans" one.

If you meant the latter, well, I do have my own answer for that - TI means nothing but a bunch of slogans to ordinary Taiwanese people. What are your thoughts on this one?

And BTW, I'm still curious about your anwer to the first one.

Michael Turton said...

Sorry, anon, I've been five years an admin and moderator on several different boards -- like Infidels ( where smart people hang out. Rhetorical questions like "what makes some Americans think they know it all" are just games. I'm not going to play. If you have specific criticisms of specific claims -- and many people do, and I always note when I make errors -- by all means post them.

As for the second question, I see no way to move you off of the "TI = slogans" position, judging from the rhetorically loaded first question and the rhetorical load you placed on the second as well. By all means please consider TI a bunch of slogans, it will spare you the hard work on puzzling out what it means to the locals, and me the trouble of explaining the last century of Taiwan history to you.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you have the self consciousness that no one can claim to be a self-designated opinion representative of Taiwanese people.

And talking about history, if you have some knowledge of the region's history since the first Opium War, with basic understanding of relevant geopolitics, it won't be hard for you to see that Taiwan Independence, no matter what rhetorical color it's been paint, is just dead end. It will never happen, period.

Michael Turton said...

it won't be hard for you to see that Taiwan Independence, no matter what rhetorical color it's been paint, is just dead end. It will never happen, period.

Then relax! Your superiority is manifest.


Anonymous said...

Your superiority is manifest.

Well, I'm just stating a fact, with no condescension intended.