China · Taiwan

Taiwan goes to the polls tomorrow

The next presidential election in Taiwan/ROC will take place tomorrow Saturday and yet, it hardly feels like it. Things seem so calm, so normal, and even boring. The news has been full of regular polls, the entry of Johnny Soong as a third candidate, and expected gimmicks like Ma Ying-jeou’s home-stays at the homes of regular people and the DPP’s piggy bank fundraising campaign. The polls show Ma and the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen to be running neck-and-neck, with Ma slightly ahead on most counts so it’s not like the result is already in the bank. Maybe it’s because my expectations of political craziness and ludicrousness haven’t materialized and people are behaving rather normal and reasonable, as they should be for any developed democratic society, that I find this electoral period to be sleepy. I admit this will be the first ROC presidential election that I’ll experience directly and I have no idea whether there were any craziness in the last one. However, in the last elections that were held- the municipal elections in 2010, a son of a KMT heavyweight got shot in the head at a political rally, not that I want things like that to happen again. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any scandals or mudslinging, but persimmon-gate, accusations of KMT spying on the opposition, and a 5-year conflict of interest issue aren’t exactly major crises. On the other hand, China and the US seem to be quite concerned, especially the former for which a DPP win would make its leaders apoplectic. I don’t know, I think that given the way how mellow this electoral campaign has been, Ma will likely win on Saturday. It won’t be a landslide because there are a lot of people who feel uneasy over increasingly closer relations with China, but a lot of these people are likely pragmatic enough to realize what better alternative exists. This NY Times article looks at the Taishang, the Taiwan expats who work and live in the mainland, and who are heavily pro-KMT.

Anyways, I feel there are tough issues that go beyond the usual fuzzy and paranoid political talking points that people on both sides of the political spectrum here should consider. Those who favor independence need to really think about if that will truly benefit themselves and Taiwan. A cross China, leaving aside the possibility of military action which I think is likely only in the most extreme of circumstances, bodes very unwell for future economic prospects and independence will mean cutting away a good part of historical and cultural ties that have lasted for centuries as well as the political and cultural base that has defined Taiwan since 1949. Meanwhile, those who support the KMT and the status quo should think of the future beyond economic and cultural ties, and realize that the status quo, while the most pragmatic political status for now, will only leave Taiwan in limbo mentally. Will growing ties with the mainland be mostly negative and consume Taiwan, or instead propel Taiwan into a completely new era?

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