Lots of commentary out this week. First, the good.
Jon Sullivan of the U of Nottingham has an impressive review of the 2016 election in the National Interest. Much of it parallels things that have been said on this blog and elsewhere...
If Tsai’s moderate rhetoric is sufficient to convince the electorate (and opinion polls suggest it is) that the DPP’s China policy won’t be a dangerous liability, the KMT has nothing left to fight with. Outside of championing the “1992 Consensus,” the KMT is bereft of ideas.Sullivan recognizes that the KMT's last card is the China card, and the failure of ECFA and tourism and other policies to deliver economic growth has trashed its claim to competence in economic matters. However, Sullivan sees the KMT's downturn as cyclical. A number of us see it as the beginning of the long end of the KMT, as I've observed elsewhere. Anything could happen, but I can't recall a time since I've been involved with this island when things were this bad for the KMT.
While President Ma delivered ECFA and a number of other practical, mainly economic agreements, the hopes that the CCP put in him to bring Taiwan and China closer together face a substantial setback. Suspicion of the KMT’s quick embrace of China and the failure of promised dividends coincides with surveys showing record (and increasing) levels of self-identification as Taiwanese and support for preserving Taiwan’s autonomy and continued separation from China.
Ma’s presidency has not only poisoned the well for the KMT, it has poisoned it for China’s integration-unification project (not that there has ever been a clamour for unification in Taiwan). No wonder the CCP is eager for a face-to-face meeting with KMT Chairman Eric Chu—the only man who has a chance to dig the KMT out of the hole it is in. Having retained his position as mayor of Taiwan’s largest metropolitan area, Xinbei City, by the skin of his teeth, during the carnage of local elections last November, Chu is the only KMT candidate with at least a chance of beating Tsai to the presidency. He is the only candidate with sufficiently broad support in both his party and the electorate. To date, Chu has been steadfast in his refusal to run.
Michael Danielsen, a Danish commentator and Taiwan observer, had a piece in the Taipei Times today that was a nifty follow-on to Sullivan's commentary. Danielsen is well aware that international media, which always hypes this stuff, is wildly out of touch:
No matter how significant it might appear in the international media, the meeting between New Taipei City Mayor and KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in China tomorrow is a meeting of the past.The sure-handed competence of Sullivan's piece was offered a glaring contrast by the Australian scholar Kerry Brown, who simply riffed on Establishment nonsense in The Diplomat about the "historic" meeting between Chu and Xi Who Must Be Obeyed.
The cross-strait bubble burst more than a year ago with the Sunflower movement’s occupation of the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber, and any attempts to go back to the good old days are destined to fail due to a new reality.
The fact that President Ma himself will not be traveling north means this meeting has attracted less attention than it deserves.[It doesn't deserve much attention] Despite Chu’s lower protocol level, this is a major historic moment. [It's a routine meeting that reflects a vast framework of ongoing contacts between the KMT and CCP] It marks the culmination of almost a decade of gradual cross strait détente [Not a culmination but a routine continuation. Not detente but an alliance between two parties dedicated to annexing Taiwan to China, in which the KMT's only chip to play is Taiwan itself. Moreover, the two parties have been talking since the late 1990s openly, and before that in secret, it is rumored. The DPP instituted the mini Three Links in 2001. That's more like two decades. But why talk about history when a meeting is historic?]. And it also heralds in a time when Taiwan and China have started thinking about their relationship with each other in a very different way.[No, the trends were clear two decades ago, the Taiwanese don't think about China in a different way. Taiwanese want economic benefits but do not want to be part of China, and its been that way for the last twenty-five years. Since no benefits have materialized, they are rejecting the KMT's China policy in droves. Its the KMT that is attempting to leverage China to stay in power in Taiwan, and hence thinking about China in a different way.]Brown's presentation simply ignores the pro-Taiwan side, and all the negative elements of the KMT-CCP kiss-and-make up -- like the fact that it could only take place over the dead body of Taiwan democracy and independence. Indeed, the CCP-KMT forums are a blatant end run around democratic procedure and government-to-government relations, as anti-democracy a system as they come. I'd look at everything in Brown's piece but it is a complete waste of time to fisk it. To cap it off, Brown even tweeted about the historic visit of the nationalist party Chairman...
While Xi will be the person hosting Chu in Beijing, the very fact the visiting dignitary will be there at all is due to efforts initiated by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao.[and to the DPP and to other actors who encouraged and pushed for cross strait interaction but they don't exist here.] Hu’s star seems to fade by the day, and he runs the risk of being consigned to the same forgotten nook of elite politics as Hua Guofeng, Mao Zedong’s chosen successor three decades before and someone who enjoys scant historic influence and recognition today. Like Hua, Hu is perhaps being dealt with a bit unjustly.[Yes, it is terrible that a mass murderer, expansionist, and general authoritarian shit whose government repeatedly threatened to murder Taiwanese and steal their island, is dealt with unjustly. I feel for the man]. The space he opened up to speak to Taiwan, to negotiate the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010, and to mandate on the Chinese side direct air and postal links, securing opportunities for more Chinese to visit Taiwan, wholly changed the fractious relationship that prevailed before [The space was also opened up by the DPP, which negotiated numerous agreements with China. Beijing stopped talking to the DPP, and later the KMT picked up the low hanging fruit. No mention of that here, of course. The fractious relationship that prevailed before, and still prevails today, is wholly the result of Chinese decisions and China's desire to annex Taiwan]. Ma Ying-jeou showed plenty of courage in pushing forward these closer links with the mainland, but Hu provided the reciprocating chances.[Ma pushed forward because he thinks he is Chinese and wants to serve Chinese history by annexing Taiwan to China, and because his big business backers want greater access to that market, not because he has political courage. Is Brown really that naive?]
Er... what nationalist party is that?
You can contrast Brown's paean to the greatness of two authoritarian parties with the sturdy reading of the pro-KMT China Post:
Chu has repeatedly stressed that he will not run for president in 2016. The chance of his presidential bid seemed even less likely last week when the Chu-Xi meet schedule was confirmed. Announcing his candidacy after the meeting would make it seem that he was seeking the Chinese leader's blessings. (here)....which is what he was doing, of course. He was probably asking for a bailout as well: China's intervention in the 2016 elections in the KMT's favor. The two parties will coordinate strategy, and it won't be for "historic" reasons of "detente" but for naked territorial expansion on one side and desperate need to stay in power on the other. Or vice versa.
Lee Teng-hui, a father of Taiwan's democracy, put Chu's "historic" visit neatly in perspective:
Asked how he views the visit by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) to Beijing and Chu’s scheduled meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) tomorrow, Lee said Chu went to China “to represent the KMT, [so] it has nothing to do with me nor with Taiwanese; it’s the KMT’s own business.”Lee also said there was no such thing as the 1992 Consensus, and that Ma should stop talking about it. The KMT's constant talk of it is designed to create a box that the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen can be shut up in, to prevent her from crafting an independent cross-strait policy by insisting she adhere to the non-existent Consensus. Sullivan put it well in his piece above when he said she sounded more confident and secure in her presentation of her status quo position. Gerrit van der Wees has a great commentary in the Taipei Times about it, including how it is driven by domestic changes:
This new “status quo” is also characterized by a strong sense of participatory democracy. Transparency, democratic procedures and adequate checks-and-balances are key concepts. Input from citizens will be loud and clear, and it will not be possible anymore for a government to push key decisions through the legislature without ample debate...echoing Danielsen's points above. Indeed, my friend Drew, a potent observer of local politics, remarked tonight over beers that the rising Taiwan identity is also in many respects a social class identity that is wiping out the KMT identity, one reason that so many of us think the end of the KMT is now in sight.
Vice President Wu Den-yih for the first time said he wasn't running for the Presidency, destroying my fantasy KMT ticket. Meanwhile former President Lee Teng-hui puckishly said that Wang Jin-pyng has the qualities one would expect in a leader when Wang showed up at a conference where Lee was present. Lee's endorsement may be the kiss of death in Deep Blue KMTer land.
- Ma's irritant policy: recall that I have written many times about Ma's policy of irritating key neighbors to keep them from becoming too close to Taiwan. The latest move has the Taiwan government banning certain Japanese food imports.
- Daily Bloom reviews labor issues in Taiwan
- Phils offers cheaper ESL courses. So far hasn't affected us in Taiwan
- Steve Crook, the great travel writer, looks at a Bunun restaurant in Kaohsiung
- Seven Reasons China will start a war by 2017
- The Washington Post urks up an error-strewn commentary on our nuclear power plants.
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