Saturday, December 19, 2015

Richard Bush on the Sunflowers

A teacher prepares an elementary school class for an outing.

Longtime US government Taiwan expert Richard Bush's latest paper from Brookings is insightful, informed, knowledgeable and well written: perfect for 2007. I'm not going to bother to fisk the whole thing, since it constructs understandings and assumptions about the future and the strategic situation that are out of date, but one claim in this paper caught my eye:
The public has apparently preferred the KMT’s approach to China (economic engagement) over that of the DPP, about 55 percent to 45 percent (in a favored Mainland expression, “the Blue camp is larger than the Green camp”). For example, a poll conducted in late February 2014, right before the Sunflower Movement students seized the Legislative Yuan, found that 45.7 percent of those surveyed favored the KMT’s approach to engagement with China, while 31.4 percent preferred the DPP’s (the rest did not know or had no opinion). This result was all the more interesting because the poll was conducted by the DPP and suggested that the Sunflower Movement did not in fact reflect a majority opinion.12
Of course, it is basically absurd for anyone to claim, even using weasel words ("suggested"), that the Sunflower Movement "did not in fact reflect a majority opinion", since all polls at the time and since show that it did. You have to work really hard to find this one poll (it's here) that is obviously incompetent, out of all the myriad polls, and then cite it as if no other polls existed at the time or after it (Dave Brown used that poll in his uninformed letter to the Nelson Report on the Sunflowers). This approach is misleading in two ways.

First, the issue was not Ma's China policy (however construed) but the Services Pact and Taiwan's democracy. The Sunflowers opposed the Services Pact and the undemocratic way the KMT attempted to slip it through the legislature. They were not opposed to China trade and repeatedly said they would welcome a fair trade agreement. Was this position out of whack with the public mind? Heck no. In a Businessweek poll, the pact had 22% support. In this poll from the pro-KMT TVBS the pact has 32% support. The pact never had public support.

Second, what was the real public perspective on the Sunflowers? Well, over 500,000 came out in support of them and the island's democracy in one of the largest protests in the island's history. The pro-KMT TVBS poll above on Letters from Taiwan found that 65% thought the Sunflowers had helped Taiwan's democracy. Similarly, 63% saw the students as protecting Taiwan's democracy in this staidly pro-KMT TISR poll from March of 2014. In that same poll 54% saw the KMT as going against democratic procedures. In this TVBS poll from March 31, 59% supported the student demands (61% supported a public referendum on the Services Pact). This March 24 TVBS poll had 51% support for student occupation of the Legislature, with 38% against, while this March 20th poll from TVBS had 48% supporting the occupation, 40% opposing (support for the students actually rose over time), and just 21% supporting the Services Pact.

Taiwanese have incorporated democracy into the Taiwanese identity; threats to it are dealt with harshly.

What was public support for the Sunflowers? One need only look at subsequent events in which the public had the opportunity to repudiate the Sunflowers at the ballot box. The KMT was crushed in the Nov 2014 election and it is going to be beaten again this January. The public has had ample opportunity to repudiate the Sunflowers; it hasn't. The Services Pact is DOA, and the KMT is heading in that direction.

If the public supports Ma's China policy, why are his approval ratings so low? If Ma's China policy is strongly supported, why is Eric Chu's support as low as Ma's? The answer is simple: Ma's China policy is not popular, and since Eric Chu is basically Ma 2.0, his support tracks Ma's approval ratings.

Of course, Bush's characterization of Ma's China policy as "economic engagement" simply removes the political thrust of Ma's policies from view...
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an angry taiwanese said...

Quite a few American politicians, especially among China experts, are very hostile toward the Taiwanese whenever we wants to be Taiwanese.

i consider these names, h kissinger, d paal, r bush, the state anony for finantial times, untrustworthy.

Anonymous said...

It's as if Richard Bush is stuck in 2007 and the Sunflower Movement never actually happened. Taiwan has moved on yet some supposed experts remain stuck in the past.