Saturday, January 09, 2016

Rounding up again: Post Coloniality on the way!

A pro-KMT concert here in Taichung. Billed as a nostalgic visit to the past through song, nothing describes the KMT better than a bunch old singers crooning tunes from the 70s and 80s. Many thanks to Drew K for sending this around, as he noted, looking backward to the glorious and idealized past is very Confucian. 

THINGS TO COMEThis piece from a Canadian academic on the elections is first class. It correctly describes the DPP as pro-Taiwan and ends...
But while the KMT (and the Pan Blue camp) has weathered several political crises in the past, it has never faced the very likely prospect of losing control of the Legislative Yuan and the presidency. Simply put, the party is on its heels. Though the party’s organizational basis endures and its financial assets remain more or less intact, the fact of the matter is that the leadership is deeply split, the rank-and-file are defecting, and its historical claims to economic development and cross-Strait stability are increasingly untenable and unbelievable among Taiwanese voters. How the KMT will react to its defeat in the 2016 elections and how it rebuilds afterwards are crucial developments in Taiwan’s democratic evolution.
Notably it outlines the bleak outlook for the KMT, one of the few pieces that forthrightly explains that development. The KMT probably won't be able to rebuild, which will be very good for the evolution of democracy in Taiwan. The party's financial assets are going to be hit by DPP legislation and the KMT has already started to sell them off. But the infighting over the Chairmanship and the direction of the party is going to be fierce. Former Presidential Candidate Hung Hsiu-chu has already indicated she is thinking about a bid...
Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) yesterday said that she is still seriously pondering whether to vie for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) chair, a post that would likely be left vacant by KMT presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) should he lose the election on Saturday next week.


“First, it depends on whether Chu, the KMT’s incumbent chairman, would step down following the race,” Hung said.

In the event that Chu loses by only 200,000 votes or the KMT manages to maintain a satisfactory number of legislative seats, some party comrades might think that Chu should remain on the post,” Hung said.

“After all, Chu has only led the KMT for a relatively short period of time and has yet to have enough chances to reform the party,” Hung said.


Hung said the KMT’s charters favors a KMT president doubling as party chair.

“That means Ma could assume the party chairmanship after Chu’s customary resignation and hold a chairmanship election after the new president is sworn in on May 20. By then, Chu could also compete for the post if he wants to,” Hung said.
Hung is the darling of the Deep Blues. Note the scenario she posits in the last paragraph: Chu steps down after losing, Ma becomes chair since the Party rulz say the president must be the chairman (har dee har har), restores grip on the party, then there is an election in May after he gives up the Presidency. With that kind of control, the likely outcome is a Ma-backed ideologue like Hung herself versus a "centrist reformer" like Chu or former Taipei Mayor Hau Long-bin, themselves both conservatives and rightists. Whatever happens, it's going to be brutal internecine combat over a shrinking resource base of money and voters.

Jon Sullivan at U of Nottingham, who puts out a steady stream of top-notch writing on Taiwan, observes how the Old Guard struggles with today's youth in SCMP. Since the November 2014 election there's been quite a bit of media notice given to the identity issue...
There is no democratic tradition in Chinese culture. Some have argued that many Taiwanese came to understand democracy via the idea of minben (民本 ) “guardianship democracy”. The attitudes towards authority that support for this notion of government are not widespread among young Taiwanese.

Those aged 19-35 are more supportive of democracy as a political system, and accepting of the noise and contention that accompanies it. And while they are more likely to call themselves Taiwanese, identification with democracy is a crucial part of this trend.

Those who have grown up under a democratic system take for granted liberal democratic norms like freedom of speech, accountability and transparency to a much greater extent than their elders, who had to “learn” them. This attitude change represents a significant challenge to the foundations of “guardian democracy”, which is magnified by the popularisation of digital and social media.
Democracy is a key part of the Taiwanese identity, and one of the important differences between Taiwanese and Chinese. Most of the discussion of differences in culture between Chinese and Taiwanese focuses on things like food and language, and fails to take into account the differing historical experience of Taiwanese, especially colonialism and democracy...

Workers were out there demonstrating against the major parties, because they've been comprehensively betrayed, as Brian at New Bloom writes:
Though mostly members of labor unions, notably also a number of students also demonstrated despite the fact that this was finals week. On stage, before the start of the march, students at performed a skit about the dilemma of overworked, underpaid laborers now denied their holidays. Amusingly, at its starting point at Freedom Plaza, the march strangely coexisted with a KMT rally. Shortly after the start of the march, the author remembers seeing a woman from the KMT rally shout, “I’ll show them!" and then wave the ROC flag at passing labor demonstrators. That much may evince the KMT’s view of labor, lip service aside.
Let's see what the Third Force does when it is in office...

CHINA DOLLARS: Walis Perin, the aboriginal candidate (photo above shows an ad for him in Hualien), alleged that China money was going to aboriginal candidates...
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative candidate Walis Pelin yesterday said that some Aboriginal lawmakers seeking re-election in the polls on Saturday next week have committed vote-buying offenses by resorting to Chinese influence, presenting Aboriginal township mayors with vehicles and offering voters favors in China.

Speaking at a televised policy event organized by the Central Election Commission (CEC), Pelin said that a number of candidates apparently secured cars from China and distributed them to township heads for their personal use in an attempt to win their support.

Some of them also took voters to China to accept favors there, Pelin said, calling on Aborigines to vote for candidates like himself, who are challengers to “incumbents” and do not have access to improper influence in China.
China has put much effort into cultivating connections with aboriginal politicians in Taiwan, perhaps the most famous example being Kao Chin Su-mei, who believed herself to be Chinese until she reinvented herself as an aborigine when she found out she was half-aborigine, and got in trouble a few years back for taking Chinese money. It just goes to show that people talking about China's influence on the election often can't find where it really is...

A KMT campaign ad.

IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM: At the CPI blog Consolidating Taiwan identity and its impact on cross-strait relations says:
The result of Taiwan’s popular elections and multiparty political system has created a unique social experience that is different from the social experience of mainland Chinese. The consequence of the formation of the democratic social experience in Taiwan is the creation of a unique Taiwanese identity that is different from the dominant Han Chinese identity in mainland China. This perhaps explains why an increasingly dominant number of people in Taiwan think of themselves as Taiwanese instead of Chinese despite the future prosperity of Taiwan being highly dependent on mainland China. Although the current KMT President Ma Ying-jeou has helped create an unprecedented level of peace and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait, including a historic direct meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 7th, 2015, the majority of Taiwanese voters may still choose the pro-independence DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen as the next president.

It seems that people in Taiwan have consolidated their unique Taiwanese identity. No matter who wins the election on January 16th, policy makers in mainland China must rethink how to deal with this new Taiwanese identity as part of their overall Taiwan policy.
...and not just China, but also, the United States, where many commentators are evaluting this election as if they are stuck in 2004. I think many foreign observers are treating the KMT as if it were a western conservative party that people will switch to when they get older and have money. Not gonna happen -- the KMT's base ideology is a pro-China ideology and identity that no one in Taiwan will subscribe to in a decade except a few very old people and younger weirdos. The KMT might be able to remake itself as a Taiwanese party that is the KMT only in name, but the immense power of the Old Soldiers will likely prevent that for some time to come.

Candidate signs outside the Hualien Airport

FOR AMUSEMENT PURPOSES ONLY: Ted Galen Carpenter at CATO has learned nothing from years of "writing" and "thinking" about Taiwan. Still singing the same TAIWAN OMG WAR tune, still the same misunderstandings from a decade ago...
Just how futile Beijing’s strategy is of trying to neutralize pro-independence sentiment on Taiwan by increasing economic links between the island and the mainland can be gauged from recent polling data. Support for the DPP—and for a more assertive policy toward China—is strongest among young Taiwanese. We need to ask what happens when Chinese officials figure out that their entire Taiwan strategy is based on a faulty assumption and that there is almost no chance that they will ever get the island back peacefully.

It is more than a matter of academic interest to the United States. Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, Washington is pledged to regard any coercive moves by Beijing against Taiwan as a grave breach of the peace of East Asia. We need to reexamine that commitment now, when there is not yet an acute crisis, and ask ourselves if, given the long-term geopolitical dynamics, it is a wise commitment in terms of America’s best interests. Mounting evidence suggests that being caught in the middle of a potentially bloody fight between Taiwan and the mainland is a growing danger. And it is a prospect that is definitely not in America’s best interests.
Carpenter, like others in the sellout crowd, writes as if Earth was planet where only China, Taiwan, and the US existed. But Japan has already signaled its quite happy with Tsai Ing-wen and Taiwan will likely move closer to Japan after Tsai becomes president, further enabling its incorporation into US strategic policy in Northeast Asia. Every Japanese thinker knows that after Beijing eats Taiwan, Okinawa is next. Hence, Taiwan is potentially important in Japan's defense -- and the US has a treaty with Japan (interesting how the CATO loon brigade never recommends selling out Japan). Fundamentally, when someone writes on Taiwan but does not mention Japan (or the Philippines or the South China Sea) they are writing nonsense and should be ignored.

Not that worried. I expect CATO will discover the joys of foreign involvement when its owners, the Kochs, ramp up their defense industry investments...

PS: Support for the DPP is not support for "a more assertive policy towards China". It's support for a more Taiwan-centered policy. Nice try there, Ted.

SERIOUS: Meanwhile, for those who crave understanding rather than amusement, David Gitter and Robert Sutter at NBR have long paper on Taiwan's National Power. There's a precis at The Diplomat. It's solid up to the end, where it veers into misunderstanding...
Notwithstanding all of the above, the greatest threat to Taiwan’s survival comes not from without, but instead lies in the deeply rooted political divide within. Despite the fact that both the KMT and DPP seek to avoid military conflict with China and to sustain the Taiwan government’s sovereignty, partisan wrangling has hobbled a consistent policy to address the island’s precarious position. During President Chen Shui-bian’s tenure, Chen’s ability to gain legislative approval for billions of dollars of offered U.S. arms met protracted opposition from KMT leaders controlling the legislature. Similarly, during Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency, Ma’s de-emphasis of military preparedness in favor of effective accommodation of China to ensure Taiwan’s security has encountered strong disapproval from the DPP, which instead favored greater defensive preparations to bolster the island against the growing Chinese threat. Such gridlock along party lines on sensitive issues of national defense are emblematic of a larger weakness in Taiwan’s infrastructure capacity — specifically the ability of the governing authority to set goals supported by elites and consolidate enough power to see those goals through. Because intense political competition has been viewed in zero-sum terms, neither the DPP government of Chen nor the KMT government of Ma has been effective in reaching consensus about what should be done to strengthen Taiwan, and each side continues to seek political advantage by focusing on the perceived shortcomings of the other’s policy proposals. Should a DPP government that is unwilling to accommodate and reassure Beijing come to power, it is not at all clear that a united ROC response would be mustered to deal with increased dangers from across the strait. Taiwan can ill afford to muddle through another four years, with bold policymaking addressing Taiwan’s demographic trends, international position, and national defense being sabotaged by fractious partisan debate.
There are two problems here. First, the greatest threat to Taiwan is not the "divided" politics, but China. The "divided" politics are part of the China threat: it's the pro-China party, a party of Chinese colonialism and Chinese colonists, that is preventing progress, blocking arms acquisition and meaningful defense moves, attempting to deliver the economy into Chinese hands, and disrupting Taiwan's relations with its neighbors. The KMT is merely the major manifestation of the China threat in Taiwan's domestic politics.

Note that while Gitter and Sutter assign the blame to the "partisan divide" the two examples they give are both those of the KMT blocking meaningful defense moves. Since both writers are very far from stupid, this is likely deliberate, a message for insiders. Someone needs to start pointing out that if the US wants to position Taiwan in its defense network in Asia, it needs to back the DPP, not the pro-China KMT. There's no point in having a defense treaty with Japan if your policy is to hand Taiwan over to China as a forward base.

Second, there is no "partisan divide" in the sense that we've known it since 1990. That era is drawing to a close. Instead, the Taiwanese national identity is steadily taking form, and those locals who identify as Chinese nationality are disappearing. The fact that some people identify as "Chinese" is reflects not the identities of locals but the manifold meanings of the word "Chinese". A new politics is emerging as the old "partisan divide" is dying.

This means that the post-2016 period is going to be the first true post-colonial period in Taiwan's history. Taiwan's politics since 1945 have been the politics of 20th century nationalist modernity. Now what we'll have going forward is the politics of post-coloniality.

Haven't been to Taroko Gorge? You're missing out.

MEANWHILE, THE ECONOMIST STILL LOVES THE WRONG SIDE: From the longtime cheerleader for Beijing and the KMT:
The last time Taiwan chose a DPP president, Chen Shui-bian, in 2000, cross-strait tensions escalated. Given China’s increasing assertiveness in the region under Mr Xi, things could be even more dangerous now. China has been piling pressure on Ms Tsai. Mr Xi says he wants a “final resolution” of differences over Taiwan, adding that this is not something to leave for the next generation. China is demanding that Ms Tsai approve the “1992 consensus”, a formula by which China and the KMT agreed there was only one China—but disagreed about what that meant in practice. Ms Tsai has long said no such consensus exists, though when asked about it in a presidential debate, she called it “one option”.
That's hilarious. "Cross-strait tensions escalated". You know, because tensions just escalate, without human agency. All the Economist had to say was "China ramped up tensions" -- sad, because some of the other reporting in the article is pretty good, especially on identity issues, but this paragraph is just one long cri de coeur of KMT propaganda, right down to asserting that the 1992 Consensus, which Beijing has never accepted, actually exists, instead of being a merely a rhetorical cage to imprison the DPP.

The Economist added:
Taiwanese politics is famously raucous, and the DPP’s radicals seeking formal independence might yet cause problems.
Yes, if you want to live peacefully in an independent state, you're a radical. Indeed, such individuals "cause problems". But if you're Mr Xi, a mass murderer and dictator who has threatened almost every country bordering China, including Taiwan, with territorial expansion and war, you're "assertive" and the problems are caused by those resisting you. Occupy two neighboring states, claim the territory of others, threaten war, seize fishing vessels, and play potentially lethal games across borders -- hey, you're just being assertive. Want to live in a democratic and independent state? Shut up, you radical! Nothing better illustrates the banality of failure in our mainstream media discourse.

The tragicomic part of the Economist's "analysis" is that it supports the territorial dreams of two Leninist Socialist/Communist parties that nationalized their economies and retained a large state sector even after permitting private capitalism, despise the West (except as a place to retire to once they get their rake-off), and would never let a magazine like The Economist be published freely in a state they controlled.

"But... I'm not good-looking!" she said. I thought she was.

SHORT SHORTS: Frozen Garlic says rally culture is declining, but the Tsai campaign plans a week of rallies, after Frozen Garlic comes down to a rally in my district. The New Party Chairman said Tsai was dangerous because she was single. Meanwhile an association of pro-China Chinese wives lashed out at the KMT for not making it easier to become a fifth column naturalized:
Chang said: “The KMT has lost its party soul; [the people of] the KMT do not dare acknowledge that they are Chinese. The party’s soul is with Hung.”

“The KMT wants our support, that is fine, but it has to promise that after we send its candidates to the legislature, the party would grant Chinese spouses equal rights to the four-year requirement for obtaining national identity,” Chang added.

“With the KMT in office, the requirement for the Chinese spouses has been lowered from eight to six years,” Hung said, adding that the two additional years is “discriminatory” and “unequal.”
I remember years ago when many of us warned that the spouses would become Beijing's little operatives in Taiwan we were dismissed as paranoid or racist. Well, there it is: which party are they rooting for? What identity do they hold? Note the first paragraph I've bolded there: "The party's soul is with Hung". Like I said, she's the darling of the bitter-enders and those who consider themselves the True Chinese tm.

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Anonymous said...

I am an American spouse of a Taiwanese and I "demand" that if foreign spouses from China are not required to give up their PRC citizenship to become Taiwanese citizens, all other foreigners should not be required to give up our original citizenship either.

Anonymous said...

After reading this:

I wonder if US really has any strategy in Asia.

Anonymous said...

KMT truth (pic)

Mike Fagan said...

"The KMT probably won't be able to rebuild, which will be very good for the evolution of democracy in Taiwan."

I agree that a dying off of the KMT would be very good in certain respects, but I'm not sure it makes any sense to attach values to the "evolution" of something. It makes sense to talk about good or bad plans, good or bad designs, good or bad developments as these can all be judged against one or another set of objectives. However, an evolution is itself without any aim or objective. It is just a series of changes with no "end" in sight.

Similarly with "democracy"; and correct me if I'm wrong here, but you carry the view of democracy as basically socialism against both free markets and against capitalism, yet as you know this is not the only view of "democracy". There is also the more limited procedural view; that democracy encompasses electoral mechanisms and some constitutional limitations on government, and that that's basically all there is to it.

Your sense of democracy would be aided by the de-facto death of the KMT as there is as yet no conservative or liberal (UK sense) alternative to the KMT, which would leave all politics in Taiwan dominated by leftists; yet the loss of the KMT would be bad in the procedural sense of democracy, as the only opposition to a DPP government would come from other leftist parties, who basically agree with the DPP on everything except that they want more speed and less direction. This would leave a substantial section of the electorate unrepresented.

So your point would have carried better by simply saying that the death of the KMT would be very good for "progress" or for "social justice" or for "leftist ideology" or some other bollocks.