Saturday, July 10, 2004

The place I call home

Police hunt Taiwan shooting suspect

I remember when Shui-bian got shot. It may sound silly, but it felt a little like 9/11. Taiwan is my home and Shui-bian is, now at least, sort of my national leader.

It was only a mild flesh wound to the gut. But the bagwa, or gossip, immediately was that he set up a shooter to wound him and swing the pity vote his way. (From what I gather, Shui-bian is not the most savory of fellows.) The election was ridiculously close, a Taiwanese version of the Bush-Gore naughty chad fiasco.

Shui-bian's party is the "Green" DPP (Democratic People's Party) and Shui-bian is a notably vocal supporter of Taiwan's full autonomy from China. The "Blue" KMT (Kuomintang) candidate, Lian Chan, was furious about the "election scam," and fomented a few uproarious, fist-waving rallies here and in Taipei, but Shui-bian's still the president and it's been pretty quiet for a few months now.

The KMT was de jure fully in charge of Taiwan's political scene until 1986 when the DPP, as an opposition party to the KMT and originally aimed at Taiwan's sovereignty, officially made Taiwan a two-party nation. Of course, the KMT, the richest party in the world, was still in charge de facto until Shui-bian's first presidential victory in 2000. Prior to that, no one really had a fighting chance to overcome the KMT's benign inertia over Taiwan. Now that Green is encroaching on Blue, it's a pretty crazy time here. No riots or anything. But this is a momentous, perhaps epochal, political shift.

Since 1989, the KMT and DPP have spawned a few splinter parties, so now there are six official parties in Taiwan. The NP (New Party) split from the KMT in 1994 for fears it was drifting from reunification with China. We might thus call the NP the far rightists of Taiwan. Although I don't know the date, the TAIP (Taiwan Independence Party) split from the DPP for fears it was downplaying separation; thus it stands at the so-called far left of Taiwan politics.

In 2000 the PFP (People First Party) was formed from the KMT as a kind of middle-ground draw between the DPP and KMT. Conveniently enough, PFP membership is open to sixteen-year olds (!). (No constintuency inflation here.) Finally, there is the TSU (Taiwan Solidarity Union) the explicit goal of which is to ensure Taiwan's prosperity and will side with whichever side, Red Beijing or Green Taipei, best achieves that goal. As a result, the TSU tends to draw heavily from both the DPP and KMT.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not simply a case of pan-Green forces fighting for full autonomy vs. pan-Blues fighting for full unification with mainland China. Rather, Blue is more sympathetic to Beijing primarily in order to protect a system that's worked well enough since Chiang Kai Shek came over (in the spirit of Sun Yat Sun) in 1949 to establish the ROC (Republic of China, aka Taiwan) out from under the red thumb of the PRC (People's Republic of China, aka China). Chiang Kai Shek ruled the ROC as as a marshal-law state under the "Emergency Decree" until his death in 1975. Afterward his son, Chiang Ching Kuo, continued the marshal rule of Taiwan until he helped lift the Emergency Decree in 1987. Green, by contrast, sees Taiwan's great economic potential as its best hope and resents China's envious economic meddling. The DPP is only pro-separation as a means to protect and prolong Taiwan's success and identity, not for hardcore dogmatic anti-China reasons.

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