A crisis of democracy looms
On March 20 last year, Taiwan’s democracy was ranked 35th in the world and third in Asia by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.
However, Taiwanese are not enjoying the fruits that democracy brings; on the contrary, they are suffering social unrest, political paralysis and poor democratic decisionmaking. The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, pension reforms and corruption have broadened the distrust of the government by its people.
Political paralysis regularly occurs and political standoff becomes the norm. For instance, a referendum is to be held to decide the fate of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant because political parties’ ideology has surpassed reason and they are unable to make the right decision. A nationwide protest was held by civic groups to express their anger, but still the issue has not been settled.
Not surprisingly, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant has become a political issue, not a security issue, to politicians, contrary to public opinion.
Pension reforms have increased social unrest and they are full of contradictions. To the politicians, this is another battle ground. Each party represents a social class wrangling over scarce resources. Not only were civil servants’ pensions cut, but so were those of ordinary workers. No one was satisfied with the outcome.
Then, once influential interest groups ask for more, the government withdraws, proliferating hatred and dissatisfaction that shatters social harmony and divides the classes.
Then the government’s much touted anti-corruption policy collapses.
Recent corruption cases involving Nantou County Commissioner Lee Chao-ching (李朝卿) and Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如), who are suspected of taking bribes, have clearly shown that there is still corruptions at the decisionmaking level.
Corruption at such a level leads to poor and harmful decisions that damage the public interest.
Clearly, there is little public trust of the government. Although the president, lawmakers and mayors are elected democratically, they are not making proper use of the power that electors mandate.
A crisis of democracy is looming. Trust and confidence is built through mutual dialogue and understanding. Less decisionmaking and more communication between the government and the people is the only way to avert the crisis.
Wang Chien-ming, or not
Why is Wang Chien-ming’s (王建民) name in US newspapers and on US TV sports networks written and spoken out loud as “Chien-ming Wang” in the wrong order?
According to usual Taiwanese style, he should be known as Wang Chien-ming, even in the West and even in English-language newspapers.
When Wang first went to play baseball for the Yankees in New York many moons ago, he was always called Wang Chien-ming in the English-language newspapers in Taiwan and the US, but after a few years, newspapers in the US gradually started writing his name as Chien-ming Wang. TV newscasters followed suit.
The New York Times’ and the Washington Post’s sports pages and all US TV sports channels now write and say his name “Chien-ming Wang.”
From some e-mails I exchanged with a Washington Post sports reporter last year, I was told that this new order was the way Wang wanted his name to be used in the US, so “the Washington Post and the Associated Press wire service are just following his wishes,” to quote the reporter.