The election of Ma ironically proved to be the final tipping point in Taiwan’s shaking off Stockholm syndrome. Ma was first elected president in 2008 by a large majority; he was supposedly going to put together a savvy economic team to master Taiwan’s situation and he allegedly stood for clean anti-corrupt government. The coming years helped remove these scales from blinded Taiwanese eyes.
Ma chose Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) as his vice president and if anyone allegedly could master the economic threats it would be him. Four years of Siew proved to be futile. The KMT faced a whole different situation from the past when they not only were able to control the media to hide mistakes, embellish successes, but also could imprison dissenters.
The KMT also could no longer rely on aid from the US. The myth of economic prowess was being shattered, and as it broke, so did Ma’s image. His incompetence became evident, as did corruption as key figures in his administration proved guilty of abuses.
The current Sunflower generation represent a new chapter in Taiwanese history. They began elementary school when the Consensus of 1996 and free elections of the president were in effect. These students may not be that schooled in Taiwan’s past history of the White Terror and Martial Law, but they do know what democracy and free elections are.
Listening to the people is a cornerstone of democracy and these students recognized that though Ma could talk the talk, he did not walk the walk. Their current creative artwork in critical posters and derogatory sayings about Ma is evidence that they are free of any illusions about him and the KMT. They uphold the values of democracy and have no empathy with Taiwan’s “past captors.”
Looking at actions not words, the students have been able to call a spade a spade. They have quickly seen through Ma and the KMT’s promises and image of anti-corruption. When the notorious former gangster and pro-unification advocate Chang An-le (張安樂), the “White Wolf,” came out to endorse Ma’s cross-strait pact, he also tried to chastise the students. Chang said they were not good, obedient Chinese. The students’ answer was swift and to the point: Of course we are not, we are Taiwanese. Taiwanese have shaken off the last vestiges of Stockholm syndrome.
Jerome Keating is a commentator in Taipei.