Twofish's Blog

August 29, 2009

Making connections between Taiwan and US politics

Filed under: china, taiwan — twofish @ 3:11 pm

Part of the reason I’ve been thinking a lot on how the Republican party collapsed between 2004 and 2008 as that people have been talking about Ma Ying-Jeou’s response to Morakot and W’s response to Katrina, and I’ve been thinking about how to make sure that the same thing *doesn’t* happen.  Fortunately so are people within the KMT.  We’ll see how things look like in a few months.

One thing I do find interesting is that the Western media has characterized the PRC’s response to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Taiwan as “angry.”  It really isn’t.  I’ve seen the PRC angry, this isn’t angry.  It’s also interesting to me that all of the official mention of it is in the English media.  So far the PRC has not mentioned it at all in the Chinese language press.  Also there isn’t a huge amount of coverage in the Taiwan press (either pro-blue or pro-green).  The pro-blue press is trying to forget the story.  The pro-green press is trying to do what they can to make Ma look bad by suggesting that he cooperated with the PRC in handling the public response to the visit (and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he did).

The other thing that I find interesting is the parallels between politics in southern Taiwan and those of the southern United States.  A lot of the notion of “independence” is rather similar in both places.

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April 18, 2008

Climbing Mount Nebo and reading Chinese GDP figures

Filed under: china, finance, globalization, taiwan — twofish @ 8:55 am

One odd thing about globalization is that you end up with different ideas hitting each other.  Every time I read GDP projections about China, I always think about a passage from the Bible in Deuteronomy 34, which I learned when I was very small.

34:1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan 2. all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord,

Even given the most optimistic growth rates, the GDP and standard of living of China is not going to reach developed world status until at least the second half of the 21st century.  With all of the talk of China’s rise, people forget these constraints which were known by Deng Xiaoping when he started all of this in 1978.

The result of this is that I can see the promised land, but I’m not going to ever live in it.  It’s interesting to be part of a massive historical drama that started long before I was born, and is going to continue long after I die.

April 11, 2008

In other news…. Hu and Siew at Boao

Filed under: china, taiwan — twofish @ 3:42 pm

In other news, Hu Jintao is probably going to meet the Taiwan vice-president elect Vincent Siew at the Boao Forum in Hainan. This is the highest level semi-public contact between the PRC and Taiwan ever, but of course, it’s much, much less important that the olympic torch.

I’m thinking about a magician’s wand. The thing about people is that you can only keep track of a limited amount of information that people can absorb at once and if you make people focused at issue X, issue Y disappears. One really interesting thing is that while everyone is talking about Tibet, people have stopped talking about Darfur or food safety. My guess is that in about a month, people will have lost interest in Tibet, and there will be some new “let’s bash China this month story.” China has so many problems that its easy to choose the latest problem of the month.

The trouble is that giving all these problems a month of fame sells newspapers but doesn’t really solve any of them. What’s happening in Darfur, now? Remember those Burmese monks from a few months ago? What about Chinese coal miners? Chen Guangcheng is still in jail. What about the North Koreans refugees? Or the people in house churches? China’s role in Africa?

The thing I find somewhat annoying about press coverage is that I think it raises expectations a bit too high. One thing that the Chinese government realizes is how short people’s memories are. Will most people care about Hu Jia six months from now? A year from now? Ten years from now? I don’t think so. And Tibet? China has 56 ethnic groups and within the Han there were probably hundreds of sub-ethnic groups. There’s enough groups so that you can have the “oppressed ethnicity of the month” show going on for years.

March 30, 2008

Media relations

Filed under: china, journalism, taiwan — twofish @ 8:11 am

It’s interesting that no one ever complains that the press is biased for them.

What happens is that for the most part, the media is looking for a “good story.”  A good story has drama, it has good versus evil.  Also people who go into journalism are usually “we want to help the world” type of people.  There are certain groups that naturally fit into the “good” category and certain groups that naturally fit into the “evil” category.  Suppose you have a conflict between an 80-year old widow and a $100 billion multinational corporation?  Which party is going to get more sympathy.

The jarring thing comes when a group that you are sympathetic to becomes part of the “evil” category, and that’s when you end up with charges of “media bias.”  And it is true that the media is biased.  It’s biased toward simple, interesting stories, that have drama and human interest, that ultimately gets the target readers to read.  Newspapers are designed to cover “events” and not “processes.”  For it to get into a newspaper, something has to happen.  “Today was just like yesterday, and everything is fine” is not an interesting story.

One thing that is the case with articles is that for the most part, they tell the reader things that don’t make the reader feel too uncomfortable, and that do not challenge the reader’s fundamental beliefs in any serious way.  “Your religion is non-sense” is something that you are unlikely to read in any newspaper.  “Their religion is non-sense” is something that you find implied all of the time.

The thing that I’ve found is that it is a bad idea to try to find the mythical “unbiased source” and try instead to find lots and lots different viewpoints.  The other thing that I’ve found to be useful is trying to learn something about situations which I have no particular emotional attachment to.  I’m never going to be unemotional about Tibet or Taiwan, but I think I’ve learned more about the the dynamics of nationalism by studying Hungary and Syria.

Why Hungary and Syria?  It’s because I *don’t* have any connection with Hungary and Syria.  So when the media says something about Hungary, I can get some idea of what it looks and feels like to a Hungarian when I say something about Tibet.

The very uncomfortable feeling that you get when you look at things from someone else’s viewpoint is that maybe “they” have a good point, and that “they” are nasty, evil, stupid people.  This is uncomfortable because it brings up the possibility that maybe you are the nasty, evil, stupid person, and this is uncomfortable.  And to get readers, newspapers don’t want to make the reader feel uncomfortable.

But you learning things is an uncomfortable process.  Thinking is hard.  However, one thing that I’ve learned is that the side that “wins” in the end is usually the side that is willing to be made a little uncomfortable.

March 22, 2008

Notes on Taiwan elections

Filed under: china, politics, taiwan, tibet — twofish @ 4:49 pm

It seems that all of the talk about Tibet affecting the Taiwanese elections turned out to be wrong.

Economist

China Tensions Could Sway Elections in Taiwan

Ma won 58% to 42%. It’s interesting one factor as to why the newspapers got it wrong. Newspapers usually deal with “spin” by interviewing multiple people that try to spin in different directions. So when the NYT interviewed someone from the DPP, it was about how they thought that Tibet would cause the elections spread to narrow. When the interviewed someone from the KMT, they probably got the same story about how they thought that Tibet would cause the election spread to narrow.

However what the real situation was was that Tibet didn’t change people’s opinions. If people’s opinions don’t change then you win by turnout, and if you are ahead, your big danger is that people will think that you will win and stay at home, and telling people that the election spread is narrows gets people to vote.

This is different from the typical US primary election. In this case you want to argue that you are winning, because if people doubt that you are winning then the money starts running out.

This statement shows a lack of background

Both parties’ polls showed an increasingly close race in the final days of campaigning, in contrast with the last polls by media organizations nearly two weeks ago, which showed Mr. Ma ahead by 20 percent.

This is likely true but misleading.  Media polls in Taiwan are always biased toward Blue candidates.  There are a number of reasons why this could be.  Language plays a part.  If the poll taker speaks in Mandarin or Taiwanese this greatly affects the degree to which the respondent is willing or able to answer questions about their politics.  The likelihood that you reach someone with a phone also affects the numbers.  Finally because the DPP started out as an illegal party in a one party state and the KMT started out as the ruling party in that state, people who support the DPP are just less likely to tell strangers that they are voting for DPP.

The formula that I use is to subject 10% from the lead of the KMT.  The formula which ESWN uses is to assume that 70% of people that are undecided will vote for DPP and 30% will vote for KMT.

My theory as to why the internal polls indicated a narrowing spread is that as you get closer to the election, people who vote DPP are more likely to admit that they vote DPP.  I’m sure that both the DPP and the KMT knew that this was happening, but they weren’t about to tell the New York Times this, and they both had reasons to talk how Tibet could be affecting the elections.

The other issue was Tibet has been a high priority for Western reporters last week, and it’s natural (and wrong) to assume that if you care a lot about something, someone else will care a lot about it. People mentioned Tibet, but it wasn’t a large factor in the elections, because most people in Taiwan care about Taiwan and they don’t care that much about events in Tibet. You can get them to care about Tibet if you link Taiwan and Tibet, but that takes more than a week.

What was interesting is how politically adept the KMT was. Over the last few weeks there were some character attacks against Ma Ying-Jeou, and the KMT dealt with that by saying that they were worried about a “last minute dirty trick”. This caused people to remember the events of 2004 when President Chen was shot a day before the election. One fun game was “guess the dirty trick” and people were guessing about the last minute revelation that would throw the election. Ma Ying-Jeou was gay. He had a mistress. He had a secret son. He was getting money from the CCP. Etc. Etc. It was actually a very fun game. This had the effect of neutralizing any of the attacks against Ma, specifically the idea that he was a permanent resident.

The DPP was handicapped by several things:

1) Martial law is over. The KMT was a nasty and somewhat brutal one-party state, and most of the core leaders of the DPP started out as rebels against the authoritarian KMT. The trouble for the DPP is that anyone who is less than 20 was born after martial law, and lived at the time in which the DPP ran the government. Thus while martial law is an emotional issue for people within the DPP, it means absolutely nothing to younger people.

2) Beijing is not run by marketing idiots. The DPP would have loved to run against Beijing, but over the last few years Beijing has learned to keep its mouth shut. The other significant fact about younger voters in Taiwan is that they were born or raised Tiananmen. Increasingly, the Mainland is “the place you make money” rather than “evil, nasty dictatorship threatening the homeland.”

The big person responsible for the mess was Chen Shui-Bian. He was running a very, very bad campaign. He stopped after the massive defeat in January, but that didn’t leave enough time for the DPP to develop a new message. In fact, I really have no idea what the DPP message is.

Frank Hsieh however was much more graceful in losing than Soong was.  One good thing about Taiwan is that as time passes, both sides are learning that losing an election is not the end of the world.  I know what people in the DPP are feeling because I felt exactly the same thing in 2000 and 2004, and I will no doubt be on the losing end of a campaign many, many more times in my life.

At some point the KMT will be hopeless corrupt and will need a stern reminder of who is in charge.  My role as a KMT support is to make sure that this happens in 20+ years rather than in 20 days or 20 months.

This is why a constitutional democracy is different from a revolutionary democracy.  In a revolutionary democracy, you overthrow the bad, evil guys and then hold power forever.  In a constitutional democracy, you win or lose an election, and you adapt for the next election.  The people on the other side of the aisle, aren’t bad or evil, they just think that they world should run in a different way than you do, and you have to deal with them.

Anyway enough about the election, now comes the hard part….. Governing….

January 17, 2008

Please keep talking President Chen….

Filed under: china, taiwan — twofish @ 3:48 am

It seems that Chen Shui-Bian is trying to destroy whatever little chance Frank Hsieh has of winning the March Presidential elections.  Whatever Hsieh does, he needs to develop his own voice and own policies, so while Ma Ying-Jeou is going on think tank after think tank talking about what he would do if elected President, Frank Hsieh isn’t saying anything because the moment he tries to say something, Chen Shui-Bian opens up his mouth and drowns him out.  Personally, I have absolutely no idea what Frank Hsieh is going to do as President.  All I know is what Chen Shui-Bian would like him to do, but I don’t know anything about Frank Hsieh.

The other thing that Chen is doing is just convincing everyone that he really can’t be trusted.  He’s been quoted in the China Times as saying that he has gotten an invitation to visit Washington after 5/20 by the head of the American Institute for Taiwan.  This may be the case, but I doubt that AIT would have wanted that news released to the press right now.  It’s this sort of thing that’s losing Taiwan allies and potential friends.

It’s also that Chen is rather out of touch with the situation.  He points out that he won the election with 50.1 of the vote while the DPP won only 34 in 2004 and the DPP has increased its vote totals this year.  All true, but the TSU had 9% of the vote in 2004 and got demolished this time.

Anyway, it’s already late in the day, and converting a defeat into a victory is going to be a challenge for Frank Hsieh.  He has to articulate a vision for Taiwan, overcome organizational chaos among his supporters, and take advantage of any missteps by the  Kuomintang.  Difficult, yes.  Impossible, no, and if it one thing that I learned in 2004, it’s that anything can happen in an election, and not to assume you’ve won until after the votes are counted.

However, the more Chen Shui-Bian talks, the harder the job it’s going to be for Frank Hsieh to pull off a miracle.  Chen has made it extremely difficult for Frank Hsieh to portray himself as a moderate.  He is also making it very different for Frank Hsieh to set the agenda for the election.  For example, Frank Hsieh *could* point to his administrative experience as mayor of Kaohsiung, or campaign as the “nice candidate”, but Chen is closing those avenues off for him.  Also by saying anything, Chen is making it difficult for people to imagine Frank Hsieh as President.  Frank Hsieh really needs to be out there, shaking hands, giving speeches, and looking like a leader.

So keep talking President Chen…..

January 15, 2008

The Wrong Conspiracy

Filed under: china, finance, globalization, new york city, taiwan — twofish @ 6:11 am

http://tenementpalm.blogspot.com/2008/01/coming-attractions-in-china-threat.html

Something that I find rather amusing is how people focus on the wrong conspiracy and miss things that are happening under their noses.  Tenement palm talks about a “China threat” writer that warns about the Chinese conspiracy to attack the West via nanotechnology, while missing completely the true devious and underhanded plans Beijing really has.  The real conspiracy is that China plans on becoming a great power by convincing people that they will become very rich and benefit them personally if they help China become a great power.  The most devious and sneaky part of the plan is that the easiest way that Beijing can convince people that a rich and powerful China will make them rich and powerful is to undertake policies that will actually make people rich and power if China becomes rich and powerful.

Beijing figures that if most people have their interests aligned with China’s, that there will be much less resistance to China becoming a great power.  So it is useful to Beijing to have lots and lots of cash to shower on people.  Now in order to have lots and lots of cash, you need a good economy, so part of this underhanded and devious plan is to restructure the economy so that China generates lots and lots of wealth.  This is where Wall Street comes in.  Since people on Wall Street know how to make money, China is bringing in lots of expertise so that it can figure out how to create wealth that will make lots of people rich.

Of course the China threat theorists would have us believe that China is really intent on using military force on destroying the West and taking over the world.  This notwithstanding the fact, that China is in no position to undertake an arms race with the United States, and history has shown that more weapons often leads to less security, both by diverting money that could be used to fund civilian ventures, and by scaring away your potential allies.  By contrast, you make more friends by smiling and throwing around a lot of cash, and if your friends can figure out ways that you end up with even more cash…. Well so much the better….

China does have this advantage of having had people think about how to structure a state for several thousand years.  The notion that the basis for a powerful state is strong economy rather than a strong military can be found in pretty much any writer from the Warring States period.  There has been several thousand years of discussion on exactly what economic and political policies are most beneficial and the latest discussions are part of a conversation that has been going on for a long, long time.  There is a similar body of knowledge in the Western canon, which unfortunately seems to be unused.  All of the stuff that is happening in the news today would have been familiar to Confucius, Sun Zi, Aristotle, and  Thucydides.  The difference is that in developing and thinking about grand strategy, the Chinese leadership does try to make use of history, while I don’t think that similar discussions are happening in Washington.

January 12, 2008

Wow….. News from Taiwan Elections

Filed under: politics, taiwan — twofish @ 4:55 pm

Wow……..  The KMT won 86 seats in the legislative elections.  That’s absolutely amazing.  Much better than I imagined.

Politics is a hard thing.  It’s hard when you lose.  It’s even harder when you win.  Now comes the hard part of trying to figure out how to turn an electoral mandate into something that benefits society.  So why did the KMT win big?

1) The new electoral system was wildly biased in favor of the KMT.  Taiwan just moved to a single member district system.  This benefits the KMT is a lot of different ways.  Single member districts magnify small differences.  The rules are set up so that every county has at least one seat which gives the KMT 10 seats for free.  Northern counties tend to be 60% in favor of KMT whereas southern counties are 90% for DPP, and a single member district magnifies that.  The KMT was able to marginalize the PFP whereas the DPP was less successful with the PFP.  The electoral system that was used in this case was so wildly in favor of the KMT that had the KMT been in power all of this time, the DPP would have (rightfully) been screaming.  However since the DPP agreed to this, they don’t have any grounds to complain.

My guess as to why the DPP agreed to this electoral system is that Chen Shui-Bian seems to want to make policy without consulting technical experts, and this is an example in which it was disastrous for the DPP.

2) Chen Shui-Bian would not shut up.  Chen has a popularity rating of 20%.  In this situation, the logical thing to do is to have Frank Hsieh portray himself as a “new fresh start” and to distance himself from Chen.  The trouble here was that Chen would not let him.

3) Taiwan has changed in the last eight years, and the KMT recognized how Taiwan has changed whereas the DPP has not.  The DPP under Chen has been stuck in the late-1990’s or even the late-1980’s and taking about themes that make no sense to Taiwanese voters today.  The DPP’s theme was about KMT oppression and corruption, and they haven’t had the recognition that they have been in charge the last eight years.  You have a new set of voters that were born completely after the KMT authoritarian period and when they think “corrupt party” they think DPP not KMT.

This extended to the independence theme.  One trouble with talking about Taiwan independence is that in a polarized political context, people will try to change the meanings of words and define terms to mean what is most political favorable to them.  It’s a neat trick in political debates, but it makes trying to figure out what people really want to be difficult.  Different people want different things, and people want complex and often contradictory things.  My sense of the Taiwan electorate is that most Taiwanese really don’t care that much about a seat in the United Nations.

They do care about self-government and they really care about “Mainland arrogance” but Beijing has been very quiet and careful about this.  Every time Beijing opens its mouth, something stupid comes out that makes people in Taiwan angry so in most situations the best thing for Beijing to do is to just shut up.  That’s what they did in this situation.  Also what has helped a lot is the communications between the KMT and Beijing.  I’m pretty sure that people from the KMT were quietly advising people in the Taiwan Affairs Office on what to do and say and what not to do and say, and Beijing was listening since the KMT knows more about the electoral politics of Taiwan than anyone in Beijing does.

Personally, this is one reason I do like multi-party parliamentary systems.  It’s a bad thing if you have a single group of people in power for a long period of time and that goes for any group, and the nice thing is that Taiwan has come up with a system in which power can shift without anyone getting killed in the process, and that’s a tremendously difficult thing to bring about.

It makes life difficult for politicians and people who are passionate about politics.  One reason to enjoy moments of victory is that they don’t last for very long.  I remember how dark things were for me in 2000, and I also remember how scared and depressed I was in 1996 during the Taiwan straits crisis.  There have been moments of shear defeat before, and they will happen again, but as much as I disagree with the DPP, knowing something about how they *feel* right now makes me act in nice ways since I hope they will return the favor when the KMT gets defeated in a massive landslide at some point in the future.

One thing that helps me think about politics is to think about people playing roles as actors on a stage.  I turned out to be an ardent Chinese nationalist and reunificationist largely because of who my parents were and because of events in my life and their lives that were almost random.  Change history, then I turn into a different person.  The side that you play in a historical drama is something that you can’t control.  What you can control is how you play it, and that’s where being honorable and gracious comes in.

Another thing that politically passionate people forget is that most people don’t think like them.  The reason *I* support the KMT is that I’m a strong Chinese nationalist with emotional attachments to the cause of Chinese reunification.  People that think like me make up a very, very small fraction of the Taiwanese electorate so one thing I have to do is to come up with arguments and ideas that appeal to much larger numbers of people.   I don’t hide what I believe and what I want to do, but I do realize that it is irrelevant for most of the people I try to convince.  One thing that makes me different from a lot of the people in the DPP, is that I don’t think that people “naturally” believe things.  You have to spend a lot of work thinking about how to package your ideas and present arguments that people care about.  One of the hardest things for someone who is politically passionate to do is to *SHUT UP AND LISTEN*, but listening to people is the most important part of what you need to do.  Even the simple act of listening to someone and taking what they say seriously helps you to get their votes.

About Chinese reunification, one thing that makes me strongly supportive of Taiwanese democracy is how much closer we are to Chinese national reunification than we were in 1980.  We aren’t close, but we are much closer.  The process of national reunification involves undoing damage that took decades and it’s going to take decades, and in the mean time the world changes.  Taiwan is much more firmly integrated into the greater Chinese economic community than it was in 1980, and as long as no one panics, we could see a “temporary agreement” that freeze things while people make the necessary political and economic understandings to make things happen.

A lot of conversations that I’ve had with people involve “Ha!!! Ha!!! This poll shows that Taiwanese are against you so *give up*.”  I don’t react this way to polls, since what I believe is too important to me to give up even if everyone  else disagrees.  If it turns out that 30% of the people in Taiwan agree with me, then I’ll think of ways to turn that into 35%.  If 5% agree, I’ll think of ways to turn that into 10%.  If only one other person in Taiwan agrees with me, I’ll find that one person and see we can turn two to three.  Yes, it feels lousy to be in a room when everyone else things you are crazy, but you get used to it.  It’s in defeat that you have to think about what you really believe and why.

Anyway I’ve been thinking what I would do if I were a DPP supporter.  I have some ideas on what Frank Hsieh should do, but I don’t want to give away too many ideas to the other side, but I’ll mention something obvious.  The big challenge he has right now is to avoid demoralization of his supporters and to outline a vision that prevents organizational collapse.  He has to do this and he has to do this quickly.

As for me, I’ll have to spend the day thinking about how this fits into my own plans…………..

October 16, 2007

Another note on the 17th Party Congress

Filed under: academia, china, taiwan — twofish @ 11:19 am

Just one point that has been missed. Hu in his speech about Taiwan said that Beijing would negotiate with any party under the condition of that there is “one China.” Something about the DPP candidate Frank Hsieh is that he has in the past mentioned his theory of the “one constitutional China” which is that the ROC constitution states that there is one China and while the DPP doesn’t think that this is the way things should be, these are the way things are. That I think is enough for talks to begin if DPP gets elected.

The problem that DPP has right now is that there are two people trying to run the campaign who don’t seem to agree on what to do.

http://news.chinatimes.com/2007Cti/2007Cti-Focus/2007Cti-Focus-Content/0,4518,9610160141+96101609+0+174729+0,00.htm

Here you have Frank Hsieh explicitly not requiring Beijing to drop the insistance on “one China” whereas Chen Shui-Bian insisting that Beijing does.  (Again, you have the problems here of media lensing.  China Times leans toward the KMT so obviously they are going to highlight any discord in the DPP.  I tried to look for these statements in the pro-Green press and I couldn’t find them.  Pro-green has been really quiet, which I think is a good sign being pro-blue.)

As far as why the condition of “one China” is important to Beijing it has to do with the details of international law. Under international law, it is legitimate to use force to prevent internal secession but it is a war crime to use force against another state. One can get into deep arguments as to whether Taiwan is a state or not, but as long as Beijing or anyone else important doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a state, then one can argue that the situation is ambiguous. Once Taiwan does something that clearly indicates that it is a state and Beijing does not object, then Beijing loses any ability to try to argue under international law that the threat of force is state self-defense. As it is, it is some thing you can argue about, but if Beijing says Taiwan is independent then there is nothing to argue about anymore.

It also works the other way. If Taiwan were recognized as under the sovereignty of Beijing (as is Tibet), then arms sales to Taiwan by the United States would be a violation of international law.

This comes up with one difficulty of dealing with law. When you do something legal, you have to understand and respect a different legal theory while at the same time promoting your own. One problem in getting into nationalistic discussions involving international law, is that people tend to regard arguments that support their side as “obviously right” and those that support the other as “obviously wrong.” However, this is bad approach, if you are trying to use the law to get something done. In that case you have to respect and understand other people’s arguments, and in many situations actively work with people who you disagree with in order to come up with a solution to a problem. It’s this sort of thinking that I think does a lot to promote what I think of as “democracy.”

In this particular situation, since I think that talks between the Mainland and Taiwan are a good thing (since they promote economic interaction which I think will contribute in the long run to national unification), part of the challenge is to arrange the situation so that neither side has to compromise their legal theories to talk to each other. This actually is quite a bit more difficult than it sounds since even the act of being publicly seen talking to someone has legal and diplomatic ramifications.

July 9, 2007

Chen’s interview in the Washington Post

Filed under: china, taiwan — twofish @ 12:48 am

A pretty good interview which illustrates what Chen Shui-Bian thinks

http://taiwansecurity.org/WP/2007/WP-080707.htm

Personally, I think it is very illustrative of how out of touch he is with the various trends that are going on in the world.  He seems to have an intense desire to make Taiwan a “normal nation” which ignores that fact that the world is becoming one in which there are no “normal nations” and that places that do the best are those with contradictory, confused inclusive identities.  He seems to define “Taiwanese” as “not being Chinese” which is hardly a way of creating an inclusive unified identity on Taiwan.  There is no doubt that Taiwan-centered has become more important in the 1990’s and in the last eight years, but it is far from clear that Taiwan-is-not-Chinese thinking has become more prevalent since 2001.

Also, his poll numbers confuse two different polls.  Questions on national identity are very sensitive to how you ask them, and the poll series that I referenced earlier show no major shifts since 2001.  There was a recent poll that showed a huge amount of Taiwanese-not-Chineseness, but I suspect that this was the result of asking “who would you support in a war” along with the question.

Also one thing that has come out in the polls is that people in Taiwan don’t consider national identity to be the most important issue, the economy tops that.

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