All China understands is power
One party has diligently invested in, researched and deeply thought about the best way to influence the minds and votes of the Taiwanese people: the Chinese Communist Party.
\nMany Taiwanese people will vote for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) simply because they are upset about how bad things are now and they blame President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
\nSome uncurious and politically uninterested KMT voters are unable to offer positive reasons that they believe the KMT is more capable of dealing with the issues they complain about. They even find it difficult to identify what Chen did or didn't do to cause the malaise (that is, unemployment) they believe this country is suffering from. In fact, they may not know a single relative or friend who is genuinely having a hard time finding a job, but they believe unemployment is more serious and widespread than it is because they have heard it from some media sources and take it as fact.
\nBut not all votes for the KMT are devoid of any attempt at logical thinking.
\nOne of the most reasonable rationales I've heard for voting for the KMT is that it will create stability with China, which is claimed to have been shattered by Chen. But frankly, I don't see how any legitimately democratic nation's desire to exercise its freedom of expression and state its independence could complicate relations with any other legitimate country. If there is a crisis or danger of instability, it clearly comes from China and its threats.
\nBut KMT voters prefer to blame the object of China's illegitimate threats (that is, movement toward independence) rather than putting the blame where it rightfully belongs: China's illegitimate threats.
\nIt is amazing how these threats have worked in the way China cleverly intended for them to work, and how Taiwanese people seem unaware of or unbothered by this tampering with their voting freedoms (the ultimate freedom of expression) by China . Many voters seem resolved to vote for a certain party, not according to reason or the logic of any argument set forth by any candidate, but rather because of an unhealthy fear of China.
\nFear is an effective weapon commonly used in dictatorships and communist countries to curb the free, genuine expression of their people. It outrages me that China can have the power to use threats (which are used to control the "opinion" of its own people) in this democratic country so as to influence the voting behavior of many Taiwanese people. This should not be so.
\nIf there were no threat of military action, most Taiwanese people would have no reason to oppose statements about the country's de facto independence. But their freedom to vote for what they would logically desire has been seriously impaired. They really don't have the freedom to vote if they fear the possibility of China's authorities bringing them back into line for voting the "wrong" way.
\nThat isn't freedom.
\nBut for many of these voters, China, with its crude intimidation and fear tactics, has been allowed to take away their freedom to express this nation's self-identity.
\nMany people talk about China as if it were superior to Taiwan and unstoppable. They talk of a China that is solely responsible for Taiwan's future job market and economic success. Therefore, the thinking goes, stability must at all costs be maintained, even if it means forfeiting national pride and sovereignty, if Taiwan's economy is to be maintained or built. Aren't Taiwanese people sufficiently innovative and haven't they shown themselves to be economically successful in the past without China's help?
\nTaiwan should start seeing itself as its own asset instead of looking to China, the US, the UN or any other agency for legitimacy or economic success. Many fear that Taiwan would be hurt economically due to a severed relationship with China, but often fail to realize how much more it would hurt China, which is just now beginning to experiment with free market ideas in limited areas.
\nIn order to negotiate with an authoritarian government successfully, a democratic nation must be as strong as or stronger than the dictatorship. The failure to work toward and envision a strong Taiwan has handicapped the nation's capability to negotiate with China on an equal or superior footing.
\nOne area that creates superiority (or equality) is a strong, robust national defense. This is indispensable if Taiwan wants to reduce tensions with China, enjoy the right to express self-identity without fear or manipulation and foster a healthy pride.
\nChina won't negotiate logically like a democratic nation unless it is forced to. It doesn't have to -- it has more weapons with which it can bully, and no accountability to its own people in the form of elections with which it can be restrained.
\nThe only type of logic that authoritarian countries like China will listen to is force, and that is the only effective argument that Taiwan should offer to China.
\nThe US has been pushing Taiwan to spend more on defense for a long time.
\nThis has also been one of Chen's aims, but it has been blocked by the KMT. Until Taiwan has military assets sufficient to express its opinions about its own sovereignty without fear, it will be forced to rely on the opinions of other powerful nations like the US and China, who do have these assets.
\nThe KMT would apparently attempt to create stability by throwing up the white flag. It would curb the expression of Taiwan's people by caving in to China's demands. In essence, the KMT would link the prosperity, victory and future of Taiwan to the success or failure of relations with one country.
\nIf it does that, it implies that the other country is superior. Is that such a noble platform?
\nJeff Hockett is a freelance writer based in Taipei.
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