In the six months leading up to the Taipei and Kaohsiung municipal elections, pro-China politicians and media outlets relentlessly attacked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), prompting its approval rating to plunge to an all-time low. Despite that, the DPP still managed to make some progress, even in Taipei.
This is evidence that voters have been hardened by the political turmoil over the past six months. After defeating the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in the 2000 presidential election, the DPP has abandoned its old campaign style. The party's Taipei mayoral candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) made great contributions to future campaign strategies through the integration of different factions and handling of several opponents.
The most important part of Hsieh's concession speech was his pledge to continue to support Taiwan's core values and work for Taiwan and its people in different areas. Voters were able to see through the smoke-screen laid by the anti-corruption campaign and make the right choice because they insist on core Taiwanese values. They understand these values better than the "pro-green" academics and "reformists" calling for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) resignation.
Throughout the electoral campaign, one of the pro-China parties' gimmicks was to bury core Taiwanese values under its anti-corruption campaign and mislead the public. However, it failed to present a vision for its policies in Taipei and Kaohsiung and avoided discussing values altogether.
If the nation loses its core values and identifies with the "one China" concept, it would fall into the corrupt hands of the Chinese government. Without core Taiwanese values, the city government's political accomplishments would be seen as China's accomplishment, regardless of how good these policies were.
Taiwan certainly needs to fight corruption but must do so safeguarding its sovereignty and core values. Such a drive must not only be targeted at individuals, but also at systemic corruption and special privileges. Unfortunately, few people have a clear picture of the Chinese forces behind the pro-China parties.
A Beijing-based academic analysing the election results said that although the KMT lost the Kaohsiung mayoral race, the total number of votes it won there had increased, indicating that centrist voters in southern Taiwan are beginning to identify with the pan-blue camp and favor unification.
However, quite a few academics predicting that the pan-blue camp would do well were obviously disappointed. The illusory hopes of these hired academics show that Beijing saw the elections as a battle between independence and unification forces.
A recent survey conducted by the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University, the University of the Ryukyus and the University of Hong Kong showed that if Beijing "allowed" the Tai-wanese to decide Taiwan's future, 62 percent of respondents would seek formal independence.
A further 54 percent said that even if Beijing did not "allow" Taiwan to pursue independence, that independence should still be the goal. The survey also found that the percentage of respondents who consider themselves Taiwanese had increased from 56 percent to 60 percent.
This shows that Taiwanese are no longer as strongly influenced by China when debating the issue as they were before. That is why political parties representing core Taiwanese values will remain popular among voters.
If, however, core Taiwanese values are to conquer the country as a whole, the pan-green camp must first maintain its own core values. If parties and factions remain hell-bent on protecting their own interests, agendas and short-term thinking, they will one day be abandoned by their supporters.
Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taipei.
Translated by Daniel Cheng
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