As with every major display of public dissatisfaction in recent years, yesterday’s demonstrations in Taipei and Kaohsiung against the policies of the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration led to wildly variable speculation about the number of people who showed up. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which organized the protests, claims 600,000 participants in Taipei and 200,000 in Kaohsiung, while law-enforcement authorities put those numbers at about 50,000 and 30,000 respectively.
Different parties inevitably seek to manipulate, and thereby politicize, the estimates of turnouts at demonstrations. Accurate or not, crowd numbers nevertheless serve as indicators of the level of proactive, popular opposition to government policies — in this case, the opposition sees them as endangering the sovereignty of Taiwan.
The National Police Agency (NPA) said on Sunday that it deployed 2,000 police officers in Taipei and 800 in Kaohsiung (excluding forces on standby).
The deployment on Sunday was therefore relatively low-key. (The ratio at Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve is usually 1:20 and was 1:17 during anti-war demonstrations there in 2003.)
This illustrates that the Ma administration, the Ministry of the Interior and the NPA have learned from their mistakes during the November visit of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), when a large police presence — 2,000 at the airport, 800 at Chen’s hotel and 7,000 altogether — served as a catalyst for public anger.
As a result, demonstrations over the weekend were for the most part orderly and both sides respected the rules of engagement.
Both camps issued clear instructions and cautioned against overreaction and provocative behavior. Notwithstanding an incident involving a police vehicle, both performed commendably and showed that with restraint, public discontent can be freely expressed in a democracy.
Memories of bloody clashes in November may also have subdued passions on both sides.
Ironically for the DPP, the orderliness that characterized the demonstrations could make it easier for the Ma administration to ignore its efforts and downplay the importance of the rallies.
The last thing Ma and others want as they forge ahead with their cross-strait policies is more international attention.
By making sure that things would not get out of hand, the authorities ensured that the demonstration remained a very local one in news terms — and this they accomplished with brio.
By claiming that far fewer demonstrators showed up at the protests than the DPP expected, the Ma administration will again be in a position to say that the majority of Taiwanese agree with his policies on China and that there is no need for more transparency or referendums. In other words, May 17 will be easy to sweep under the carpet and Ma can stay the course.
The DPP and police played by the rules. The Ma administration did not bite. Democracy worked to perfection, but in so doing it muted the opposition’s voice. The DPP will have to think of something else if it wants the world to hear its message.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Forward Forum in Taipei, former Singaporean minister for foreign affairs George Yeo (楊榮文) proposed a “Chinese commonwealth” as a potential framework for political integration between Taiwan and China. Yeo said the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait is unsustainable and that Taiwan should not be “a piece on the chessboard” in a geopolitical game between China and the US. Yeo’s remark is nothing but an ill-intentioned political maneuver that is made by all pro-China politicians in Singapore. Since when does a Southeast Asian nation have the right to stick its nose in where it is not wanted
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has released a plan to economically integrate China’s Fujian Province with Taiwan’s Kinmen County, outlining a cross-strait development project based on six major themes and 21 measures. This official document by the CCP is directed toward Taiwan’s three outlying island counties: Penghu County, Lienchiang County (Matsu) and Kinmen County. The plan sets out to construct a cohabiting sphere between Kinmen and the nearby Chinese city of Xiamen, as well as between Matsu and Fuzhou. It also aims to bring together Minnanese cultural areas including Taiwan’s Penghu and China’s cities of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou for further integrated
During a recent visit to Taiwan, I encountered repeated questions about “America skepticism” among the body politic. The basic premise of the “America skepticism” theory is that Taiwan people should view the United States as an unreliable, self-interested actor who is using Taiwan for its own purposes. According to this theory, America will abandon Taiwan when its interests are advanced by doing so. At one level, such skepticism is a sign of a healthy, well-functioning democratic society that protects the right for vigorous political debate. Indeed, around the world, the people of Taiwan are far from alone in debating America’s reliability
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and