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Jun 3, 2009

I know that I write on the cross-strait relationship so frequently I'm starting to sound like a skipping CD. But there is a reason it is so prominent a topic here: it is the only seriously contentious political issue in Taiwan, and Taiwanese politics are the focus here.

Take some of the controversies you see in the US and compare them to how people react here. Abortion? Sure, occasional protests, but really nothing at all. Virtually everyone is comfortable with legal abortions. Guns? Bad. Social health care? Great. Public schooling? Needs constant reform, but no partisan divide on how to do it. Military spending? Everyone promises 3% of GDP even if they don't deliver. Welfare? What little there is is good spending. Government funded construction? Pour the concrete. Bail outs? Bring them on. Foreign interventionism or reform of the criminal code? Are you kidding?

The truth is that aside from the independence issue, people here are very much in agreement about how they want the country run -- more or less as it is now, but with no corruption and greater competence. No drama. Just let us get on with our very free lives.

Feel free to contend with my analysis in comments! But I just wanted to explain my seeming obsession with the handful of topics that even enter the sphere of public debate here.


David said...

I see the problem resting in that the KMT still operates as a party-state rather than accepting the norms of a plural democracy. This is further compounded by the fact that the two opposing sides have very different conceptions of what the nation is.

The DPP really needs to be able to govern for two terms with a legislative majority before the system can be properly normalised. The problem is this is not going to happen in the near future and Taiwan may be irreversibly in China's grip when and if the DPP return to power severely limiting the DPP's capacity to reform the state.

Gilman Grundy said...

There are plenty of issues which need addressing, the problem is that so many of them are seen only through the lens of the cross-strait issue. Take minority rights, for example, or immigration, or demographics, or gambling, or the death penalty, or the state owned enterprises, or the unions, health care, education (in what languages?) etc. etc. etc.

I found the Taipei Times interview with Ma back in February extremely disappointing. There they with a chance to ask the President of Taiwan (as far as I know) any question they liked, but instead of any variation, they just bashed on about the cross-strait issue.

The whole thing reflects a ridiculous level of monomania - yes, the issue is important, but when the main policies of the day are not going to have that much of an impact on them, and when you already know what the answers will be, why waste the entirety of an interview asking about them? Furthermore, even this issue is not quite so contentious as you make out, as at least a plurality of people can agree on the status quo.

阿牛 said...


I certainly agree there are other issues that need addressing, but they are either off the political radar (until a street protest) or have no real partisan differences.

However, come to think of it, it would be helpful for me to get more information out there on the other issues which sail below the attention threshhold most of the time.

Formosan at Heart said...

Yeah, actually I would like to add to what FOARP is saying. I do believe the cross-strait issues to be of the high importance, because it's fundamental. However, there are many issues in Taiwan prior to 2008, and the cross-strait issues have just shadowed these issues. Some of the issues I'm particularly interested in are education, equality, and minority rights. I want to know the success of the Mother Tongue programs and how that detracts from other subjects, how Taiwan's high schools compare internationally, etc.