Recent news reports have shown an interesting contrast. As President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) seeks re-election, big company bosses have been praising him and encouraging people to vote for him. The scene at the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is very different, as ordinary people line up to hand in piggy banks stuffed full of cash donations to support DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) presidential campaign.
These contrasting scenes highlight the class division between the two parties and mark the key issue at stake in January’s presidential and legislative elections — social justice.
For many years, the question of independence for Taiwan or unification with China has been the principal issue in Taiwan’s elections, not just at the national level, but even for town and county council candidates.
Ma claims stable relations across the Taiwan Strait as a key policy achievement of his administration, and he keeps attacking Tsai’s cross-strait policies as being too vague. Tsai has stuck to her “Taiwan consensus” and avoided getting dragged into a war of words over cross-strait issues. The KMT’s assault has failed to make much of an impact and cross-strait issues are not playing the essential role in this election that they have in the past.
Meanwhile, questions of social justice have been brought to the fore worldwide, from the revolutions in Arab and North African nations to the Occupy movement in the US and Europe and demonstrations against social inequality provoked by the European debt crisis. Now this wave of protest has finally reached the shores of Taiwan.
Questions about livelihood and social class have never been favorite topics for mainstream parties and politicians in Taiwan, who talk about them only when pressured to do so. However, the two main parties do clearly differ in their social class makeup. The KMT has always been close to big business, so its policies naturally tend to favor the interests of the wealthy and corporations. The DPP was born out of the middle and lower classes, and gets most of its support from the middle class and small businesses, so its policies tend to prioritize the needs of the less advantaged.
During the second presidential debate, Ma presented plenty of figures to illustrate his achievements in office. As impressive as the numbers sounded, they barely register in most people’s lives. Much more familiar and moving for the general public were Tsai’s stories of her encounters with people at the grassroots level.
The election is still three weeks away and we cannot be sure who will win the presidency. However, what is clear is that various controversies that have cropped up, such as the legal status of DPP vice presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan’s (蘇嘉全) Pingtung farmhouse, the NT$215 million (US$7.15 million) cost of the government-sponsored rock musical Dreamers (夢想家), Tsai’s involvement in the TaiMed biotechnology company, Ma’s alleged acceptance of a political donation from the Fubon financial group, and so on, will soon be forgotten. What will be remembered is that this election has been centered on issues of social justice.
It is not just a contest between Ma and Tsai — with People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) trailing far behind. It is a battle between the KMT and the DPP, the bourgeoisie and the middle/lower classes, one of the world’s richest political parties and one that relies on piggy banks, dollar bills and the ballot paper.
The choice voters make will influence Taiwan for a long time to come.
In Chinese author Lu Xun’s (魯迅) novella The True Story of Ah Q (阿Q正傳) — one of the earliest works of modern Chinese fiction, first serialized in 1921 — the story’s hapless protagonist, Ah Q (阿Q), is a poor itinerant worker from China’s peasant class, living during the part-feudal, part-colonial dying embers of the Qing Dynasty. Ah Q is a feeble and psychologically flawed individual who bullies the meek and cowers before the powerful. Despised and regularly mocked by villagers, after every episode of public ridicule and failure, Ah Q consoles himself that he has won a “spiritual victory.” Utterly
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) chairman Mark Liu (劉德音) said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would render the company’s plants inoperable, and that such a war would produce “no winners.” Not only would Taiwan’s economy be destroyed in a cross-strait conflict, but the impact “would go well beyond semiconductors, and would bring about the destruction of the world’s rules-based order and totally change the geopolitical landscape,” Liu said in the interview, according to the Central News Agency. Bloomberg columnist Hal Brands wrote on June 24: “A major war over Taiwan could create global economic
Washington’s official position on US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is that nothing has changed: The US government says it is maintaining its “one China” policy, that Pelosi is free to arrange international trips with congressional delegations independent of the government and that she is not the first US official to visit Taiwan even this year. Yet there is no denying that the fact and the optics of the second-in-line to the US presidency speaking with lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan about inter-parliamentary discussions and learning from each other as equals are hugely significant, as were
Amid a fervor in the global media, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her congressional delegation made a high-profile visit to Taipei. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) awarded a state honor to her at the Presidential Office. Evidently, the occasion took on the aspect of an inter-state relationship between the US and the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, despite no mutual state recognition between the two. Beijing furiously condemned Pelosi’s visit in advance, with military drills in the waters surrounding coastal China to check the move. Pelosi is a well-known China hawk, and second in the line of succession to