Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stephen Nelson with another excellent piece

Stephen Nelson has another hard hitting piece in Asia Times on what's happening here....

In a world rife with deadly terrorist strikes in India, anti-government riots in Thailand and civil wars in the Middle East, it may be hard for the rest of the world (even in Asia) to see Taiwan's struggle for democracy as anything more than a tempest in a China teapot. And certainly a worldwide economic crisis has eclipsed concerns for Taiwan's future possibility as a separate state with de facto independence from China.

For many "China experts", last year's return to power of the old Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT) in Taiwan was seen as a return to peace, order and good government by Taiwan's natural governing party. The restoration of the ancient regime was largely hailed as a good thing in Beijing, Washington and the international community.

To them, KMT President Ma Ying-jeou has "the right stuff". And the new trade and transportation agreements with China are viewed as "one small step" for Taiwan but "a giant leap" for regional peace and prosperity - despite consternation from Japan.

Even the KMT government's raft of arrests, detentions and imprisonments of senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials - especially former president Chen Shui-bian - is seen as a campaign designed to root out corruption and bring evil-doers to justice.

But other Taiwanese and critics say that Ma and his inner circle of senior KMT officials - most of whom have close ties to China - have made too many concessions and have already surrendered Taiwan's sovereignty to Beijing.
The whole piece is excellent and even cites me at one point. Nelson's previous piece, originally for the CBC, is hosted in the Taipei Times here.


Michael Fahey said...

An interesting analysis. Nelson's source seem to be rejecting the oversimplified narrative that Ma is leading Taiwan back into the dark ages of martial law. Despite a lack of transparency for the negotiations, Taiwan's liberties remain basically intact.

The following paras seem to incorrectly suggest that the Control Yuan has something to do with apponinting judges:

Keating said that during the Chen years, KMT legislators stifled the Control Yuan "allowing no appointments and thus paralyzing that body".

As a result, the vast majority of judges in Taiwan - especially senior judges - came up through the old political vetting process during the martial law era and is profoundly pro-KMT. In short, they were appointed by (and beholden to) the KMT.

The Control Yuan investigates and disciplines civil servants in the executive branch. The Judicial Yuan recruits and appoints judges.

Also, I am not sure there is much evidence to support the proposition that James Soong is behind the prosecutions of the DPP leadership. Nor that Soong is part of Ma's inner circle. As far as I can tell, Soong is a political has-been at this point.

Taiwan Echo said...


I agree. I was scratching my head when I read that Control Yuan has something to do with the judges. I was also surprised why James Soong's name suddenly jumped out. To my knowledge he has faded out of Taiwan's politics years ago. Maybe Nelson knows something we don't ?

skiingkow said...

Thank goodness the Asia Times has another reporter (Canadian, at that ;>)) that is of the same caliber -- if not better -- of Lawrence Eyton!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. Now that you've been mentioned in external media, your blog deserves a wikipedia page, since their supposed criterion for wiki-worthiness is attention from outside media.

Stephen A. Nelson said...

And certainly a worldwide economic crisis has eclipsed concerns for Taiwan's future possibility as a separate state with de facto independence from China.

Note: this is an interpolation from editors in Hong Kong.

Taiwan HAS de facto independence.

De facto independence is not a "future possibility"

De jure independence may be a "future possibility"

So is complete unification.

But de facto independence is present tense.

And any other factual errors or interpretation errors... I'm gonna blame on editors. ;)

The Author

Tim Maddog said...

Great quotes in there from you, Michael -- and from Jerome, too.

On the other hand, Dean Karakelas starts off well but ends up (I'm quoting Nelson's paraphrasing of him here) "disagree[ing] with the idea that Taiwan is slipping back into a dark night of martial law." (Feiren calls it "an oversimplified narrative," but I need to speed up my editing and post a huge, complicated narrative on it ASAP because it is indeed happening.)

Karakelas then tells us that "[Ma] is inadvertently doing the DPP a huge favor." 哎唷! By cutting off their legs, Ma is making their arms stronger -- even though they may no longer be able to even stand.

I can't tell if it's Karakelas or Nelson when the article says that "For years, under Lee Tung-hui [sic], and later Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's government enjoyed a positive reflection in the international press [...]." Can whoever said that say "renegade province" or "troublemaker"? That's what a lot of the press said about those two.

In stark contrast, take a look at how the international media flattered Ma as being "Harvard-educated" or "handsome," even when reporting on his corruption trial. 哎唷!

Bruce Jacobs (usually much better than this) also seems as if his eyes have been ripped out of his skull when he claims (similarly to Karakelas) that "Taiwan has clearly not returned to the bad authoritarian past" and foolishly implores Ma to "please act soon!" -- kind of like saying to a cobra that is poised to strike, "C'mon, let's discuss this." Sorry, but it's not in either the cobra's or Ma's nature to listen to such pleas.

Tim Maddog

Anonymous said...

On page 2 of his “A return to dark days in Taiwan”, Stephen A. Nelson writes:” “Karakelas also disagrees with the idea that Taiwan is slipping back into a dark night of martial law."Although the events taking place under Ma's watch are undeniably undemocratic, he is inadvertently doing the DPP a huge favor," he said.

What's more, Karakelas said, the anti-democratic moves of the KMT may spark the rebirth of a pro-Taiwan, pro-democracy DPP.

"By taking the steps he is taking, Ma's KMT is forcing the DPP back into its old role as rebellious, persecuted protest party," said Karakelas. "He's turning them back into guerrillas. [The DPP] was originally formed as a force to oppose the KMT's one-party rule ... and it lost its path when it took the reins of power. Ma is pushing the DPP back to a position in which it is comfortable, and where it operates best."”

According to Dean Karakelas, the Ma administration can be depended upon for taunting, prodding the DPP into action. But with Formosans of this (連 ,吳,王,阿扁,统统都是中华奴, 台奸) dismal caliber, to what extremes of brazen lawlessness and in your face evil will Ma's administration have to descend before the populace feels offended enough to give Gov. Ma the reward his endeavors deserve him?











『日本之声』 Big5漢文


HeiShouDang 黑手黨 said...

While Nelson's piece catches the current situation well. It is a bit of a stretch to compare him to Eyton, who's analysis and understanding of Taiwan's political scene remains unsurpassed by any writer since him in my opinion.
Lien and Soong part of Ma's inner circle?
Where did that come from? Lien and Ma cannot stand the sight of each other.
And as for Soong pulling the strings?
Where's the evidence?

Michael Fahey said...

I'll look forward to Tim's arguments in favor of the proposition that civil liberties in Taiwan are deteriorating under the Ma administration. For now I'll just say that I think that the civil liberty and problems in the judicial system that have come to the fore recently are holdovers from the martial law era. In other words, they are not new, but rather persistent.

For example, the laws covering pre-trial detention and the need for permits to demonstrate were with us--and were used and abused-- during the DPP's period in power. They are not new.

I of course recognize the grave threat posed by the prospect of unification with China and the chilling effect on public discourse especially in the traditional media that the Ma administration is already having. Fortunately, the Internet and other digital technologies are providing some balance.

It's always worth looking at what is going on in Korea, Taiwan's north Asian doppler. South Korea's new president has reversed 10 years of of accommodationist 'sunshine policies' toward the North. Ma is trying to reverse the effects of 20 years of bentu policies in Taiwan but his successor could easily reverse Ma's policies as well.

Anonymous said...

Under the DPP the rule of law and the rules of criminal procedure were strengthened to protect the innocent. I DO think political interference in the judiciary is: (a.) not necessarily new and does have its root in the flawed construction of the ROC Constitution. and (b.) is regressing back to a point before 2000 and possibly even before 1992.

I don't think we will see a wholesale repeal of civil liberties, but I think civil liberties and the democratic process will be increasingly circumvented through existing "legal" means to help the KMT maintain power. History has shown that power is really the KMT's driving incentive and it is not beyond imagination to consider the possibility of the ruling party using its influence at all levels of Taiwan's social structure to ensure it maintains its power. The KMT has the machinery in place to do this. They have the media, they have organized crime, they have local politicians, they have capital and liquid assets, they have the civil service and the education bureau... and they have China. I think the coming recession of liberties and freedoms will look something like the way Public Television was re-politicized. The central government convinced/pressured the station director to sign away his station's political autonomy from the government and reorganize it as another political organ under the GIO. These high level, executive agreements between individuals is where the changes are going to happen and completely free from oversight.