Hundreds of Chinese thronged the Taipei 101 yesterday, braving a blustery wind and intermittent drizzle on the eve of the nation’s fifth direct presidential election. For most, it was the first ringside view of an open election.
“It seems so extreme here. This campaigning is something that would never be allowed in China,” said Wang Liping, a 42-year-old from Chongqing in central China, at the cloud-shrouded observatory deck of Taipei 101.
“China’s way is better in that the new leaders are those selected for their experience, in a systematic manner ... I don’t think it’s a good idea to elect someone who has no experience just because they have more votes,” Wang said.
Taiwan’s boisterous election campaign is broadcast live by more than half a dozen news channels throughout the day, with candidate pledges, motorcades, firecrackers and rallies covered in excruciating detail.
“It’s pretty good to have democracy, but it wastes a lot of time and resources,” said another tourist from Jiangsu Province in eastern China, who wore a leather jacket with a camera around his neck.
He gave only his family name, Wu (吳), reflecting a nervousness among many Chinese to discuss democracy and politics. Many Chinese refused to comment on the elections.
One who started to do so was pulled away by his wife.
However, Wu, who was holding a shopping bag as he walked around Taipei 101 shopping mall with two friends, said: “China’s democracy is different from Taiwan’s.”
“Taiwan’s democracy is loud and explicit, but China’s is more subtle and low key. The style is different, you wear a suit, we wear jeans,” he said.
The measured warmth is a far cry from the anger and tumult of the nation’s first direct presidential election in 1996, which an infuriated China saw as tantamount to a declaration of independence as it fired missiles into waters near the nation.
“I want [KMT presidential candidate] Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is seeking re-election] to win tomorrow,” said Li Jinhui, from Liaoning Province in northeast China, watching the changing of the guard in front of a giant statue of Republic of China founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), along with scores of other Chinese tourists.
He shrugged off the historical enmity between the two sides with a laugh.
“The Nationalist government and the Communist Party are both the same now, they’re both Chinese. The past doesn’t matter,” he said.