Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Election Commentary round up

It's quite wrenching to read the disjunct between what is being said around Asia about the election and what is being said in a tiny handful of western media outlets. VOA became the latest to promulgate the idea that the election results provide support for Ma's China policy:
Local election victories appear to have given Taiwan's pro-China Nationalist Party a head start in holding onto the presidency in 2012.

The Nationalist Party's victory in mayoral seats in three Taiwan cities gives it exposure that could be crucial to the presidential campaign in 2012.

Political analysts here say Saturday's election results indicate voters approve of the party's new economic links with China, despite political hostilities between Taipei and Beijing.


However, there are plenty of voters in Taiwan who worry the Nationalists will bring the island too close to Beijing. That was evident in the vote tallies: the Democratic Progressive Party overall won nearly the same number of votes in the five races as the Nationalists did.
It's fascinating to watch reconstructive surgery being performed on reality right before your eyes. The DPP won more votes overall than the KMT, not "nearly the same number.". [UPDATED: VOA has now fixed this particular error]. The vote results were, as Aussie scholar Bruce Jacobs noted in his recent interview (Jacobs also in Taipei Times today), disappointing to both parties, and far from giving the KMT a head start on 2012, appeared to damage its chances. Commentators on the island and around Asia regard it is a warning to the KMT. As the pro-KMT China Post noted in a discussion today:
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secured 400,000 more ballots in terms of overall vote-share than the KMT. Many pundits, and even KMT politicians, are viewing the results as a red flag for the party's China stance, because this is the second election after the 2009 local government race that puts the DPP's popularity ahead of that of the KMT.


In Hong Kong, several newspaper editorials dubbed the KMT triumph a “catastrophic victory” and urged the party to thoroughly examine the campaign and its overall performance.
Finally, unlike many commentators here and in China, VOA says that the results show that the public approves Ma's China policies. I don't understand how in a nation where no credible poll has shown majority support for those policies, and in an election where the opposition outpolls Ma's party by a 5% margin, these results can be read as supporting Ma's China policies. Heck, ECFA hasn't even kicked in yet. Again the pro-KMT China Post:
Many pundits, and even KMT politicians, are viewing the results as a red flag for the party's China stance, because this is the second election after the 2009 local government race that puts the DPP's popularity ahead of that of the KMT.
To understand how the election is being seen outside that tiny western media bubble, the Straits Times of Singapore, which is hardly a pro-Taiwan paper, had an extensive and somewhat glum discussion of the election.
Taiwan's ruling party Kuomintang (KMT) may have retained three of five seats in Saturday's municipal elections. But in terms of overall vote share, it lost to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) -- a sign for both the China-friendly KMT and Beijing to take heed.

In winning the three seats by slim margins and losing two by larger margins, the ruling party garnered only 45 per cent of all the votes -- lower than the DPP's 50 per cent.

It would seem that the goodwill displayed by Beijing and 'rang li', or 'granting of benefits', allowing an early harvest of cross-strait trade liberalisation efforts, have not translated into votes for the KMT and the China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou .

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ecfa) is due to kick in only in January, but liberalisation of some aspects of trade, including allowing mainland Chinese tour groups into Taiwan, has helped the Taiwanese economy to recover quickly from the global financial crisis.
The tourists from China have had a relatively small economic effect, and ECFA hasn't kicked in yet. The reason Taiwanese haven't felt any benefit from ECFA is because none has arrived; the current export boom to China is largely the result of policies put in place under the DPP. But never mind that. Clearly the Straits Times reporters didn't get the memo that the election ratified Ma's China policies. Quite the opposite, they see it as a notification that those policies are not working for ordinary people. Imagine that!

Meanwhile the "wisdom" of the DPP "elders" was on display this week as a few heavyweights within the DPP called on Tsai Ing-wen to resign. Although the DPP performance was disappointing in that it didn't get that third seat, there were many positive aspects, not the least of which was the powerful recovery the party has made and the big gains at the local level. The Taipei Times reported:

Despite the setbacks, most DPP lawmakers said they would continue to support Tsai, pointing to fairly substantial gains in the popular vote nationwide. The DPP caucus officially said it would speak against any proposals to remove Tsai from power.

“I don’t see the reason why Tsai should have to resign. There’s no reason at all and we all oppose it,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said. “If she were to resign, it would probably make President Ma very happy.”

Deputy caucus whip Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that if any member of the Central Standing Committee were to raise a proposal calling on Tsai to step down, the entire caucus would unanimously oppose the motion.

The DPP is in the midst of a generational transition, away from the activists of the glory days. Annette Lu, despite her pontificating at the beginning of the article, will never be let near a serious candidacy. Lin Yi-hsiung is out of politics. Hsu Hsin-liang and Shih Ming-te turned traitor. Chen Shui-bian is in detention and likely to stay, silenced. Of them only Chen Chu is still in office, having found her niche in K-town. Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-Chang are still around, but you have to wonder whether Su will take the high road and retire to the position of revered elder to help groom the next generation. He's relatively young, however, though the poor showing Taipei seems to have given his presidential potential a huge hit. Hsieh seems unlike to contend for any major position any time soon. Hopefully these calls to resign are simply echoes of this intergenerational and factional discomfort with handing the reins over to Tsai. Despite the breathless headline, the article actually indicates widespread support for Tsai.

I really respect the work Tsai has done for the DPP. The DPP needs her to stay where she is and continue to build the party toward 2012. This election, despite its disappointments, has boosted her credibility as a 2012 presidential candidate. At this point, a ticket with Tsai at the head and either Su Tseng-chang or the surprising Su Chia-chuan as Veep seems like a powerful ticket.

UPDATE: Don't miss J Michael Cole in The Diplomat's excellent take on the elections.
UPDATE II: David on Formosa comments.
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Anonymous said...

The question begs asking, "Who does Mr. Jennings really work for?"

It may sound fantastic or hyperbolic, but I can not fathom how this reporter could twist this election into a set of KMT/Chinese talking points as if working under some other mandate than simple journalism.

It is not uncommon for foreign governments or other interests with stakes in a certain political outcome to plant assents in foreign countries that may pose as journalists, teachers, business people, missionaries and tourists, with the goal of carrying out the a means for desired political ends.

The factual contortions Jennings employs in this article to deliberately craft this piece into a validation of KMT/CCP cooperation is astounding and leads me to this bizarre, but valid question.

justrecently said...

As far as I can see, Mr. Jennings is working in Taiwan on a permanent basis, not only for the VoA, but for other news organizations such as Reuters, too.
If this entry is by him, it may help to explain why he looks the other way on the popular vote.
Mr. Jenning's actual blog links there, saying "More from Ralph".

Then there's another aspect. The Chinese "Don't be too CNN" campaign of 2008 has apparently left an impact on news organizations such as the BBC, VoA, etc.. The more they broadcast to China, the more they want to be readable there. It's one thing to emphasize human rights (something they do), but another to make "splittist" remarks "unacceptable to 1.3 bn potential" listeners, readers, consumers... you name it.

Not only business people are pussy-footing when it comes to a rapidly-growing market with totalitarian characteristics.

Oh, and one more thing as an additional explanation: sluggishness is nothing foreign in international broadcasting. ;)

Michael Turton said...

Jennings has left Reuters. The VOA piece was extensively edited.

That's all I'm going to say.

Anonymous said...

After being notified on the vote total error, VOA story has been corrected.

Michael Turton said...

I decided not to write VOA. Not much point. Did they correct their error of interpretation?


Anonymous said...

No. Addressing that now.