22 March 2008

Taiwanese elections

Following the example of South Korea, Taiwan has chosen to turn its politics to the right, both in the parliament and in the presidency, handing both to the Nationalists (KMT) - the presidential vote being today. The margin of victory was 17% for the presidential election.

The main issue was the outgoing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s nationalist streak, trying to carve a more independent path for Taiwan, breaking away from the past, which had been dominated by KMT and its mainland politicians for decades. DPP's pro-native politics struck the wrong nerves with Beijing, negatively affecting the cross-Strait relations and hurting Taiwan's economy, which is increasingly relying on cheap mainland labor. KMT, being more pro-mainland due to its heritage, benefited as a result.

It's ironic though, considering that KMT had driven a hardline anti-communist policy for much of its existence and past rule (to a point of helping fund the Moonies), but is willing to work more with the mainland today. It's also worth remembering that KMT's rule was hardly democratic, with many Taiwan natives suffering at their hands (or at least losing their representation, due to KMT being made up of mainlanders).

DPP was not only pro-natives, but also pro-LGBT (the most LGBT-friendly political party in East Asia, in fact) and supportive of other disadvantaged groups. It's regrettable that its message of inclusion could not stand up to the looming threat of mainland China.

I wonder what the responses are in Chinatowns across the US, but considering that mainland exiles, as opposed to Taiwan natives, make up the bulk of the Taiwan contingent in Chinatown, I expect strong support for the new KMT government. At least I hope they do not become the partisan hacks that the Korean and Vietnamese communities have become. The one thing going for Chinatown: mainland China, despite Communist Party leadership, loves capitalism, and the Taiwan contingent sees mainland China as a strategic partner and money maker, instead of a lethal enemy like Vietnam or North Korea, lessening a need for McCarthyist thinking.