Friday, February 25, 2000

Taiwan Independence and the 2-28 Incident

Taiwan Independence and the 2-28 Incident
Bevin Chu
February 24, 2000

February 28, 1947

Executive Summary: Four days from now it will be February 28th, 2000. Fifty-three years ago, in 1947, the infamous "2-28 Incident" began as a street riot and ended with the death of thousands. With the ROC's presidential elections scheduled for March 18, a mere two weeks later, you can bet your life the Taiwan separatist elite is going to milk the tragic occasion for all it's worth.

The only problem is, the Taiwan separatist elite is going to be milking the wrong date.

What am I talking about? Read on.

The Vaclav Havel of Taiwan

Former political prisoner Li Ao, Taiwan's foremost scholar and historian, hosts two nightly political talk shows on cable TV. A few years ago Li, a cross between Vaclav Havel and Rush Limbaugh, published a history of the 2-28 Incident, entitled "The 2-28 You Don't Know," in which he turns the conventional wisdom surrounding the tragedy upside down, or more accurately, rightside up. During Chiang Kai-shek's White Terror Li was a guest of Taiwan's "Club Fed" for eight years. He was imprisoned for "subversive activities," i.e., authoring or publishing op-ed pieces denouncing the late Generalissimo as a dictator. Li spent his time in prison reading voluminously, and became a walking encyclopedia of Chinese history, including the history of post WWII Taiwan.

Fomenter of Taiwan Independence?

One of the charges levelled against Li was "fomenting Taiwan independence." The charge was utterly ludicrous. Li has never harbored anything but undisguised contempt for both the Taiwan "independence" leadership and its ideology.

Li however has alway harbored a deep and abiding respect for untrammelled freedom of expression. While the current crop of opportunistic, Radical Chic Taiwan separatists were hiding out in America, safe from Chiang's White Terror, the iconoclastic Li stubbornly remained in Taiwan and fought tooth and nail for the release of political prisoners, including former DPP Chairman Shih Ming-teh, former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsing-liang, and former DPP Taipei Mayor Chen Sui-bian.

Even militant Taiwan separatists dare not treat Li Ao with anything but respect and deference. They owe him, big time, and they know it. No, the opinionated, obnoxious, egotistical Li Ao cannot be dismissed as an apologist for the Chiang Kai-shek/Chiang Ching-kuo controlled KMT, much less a "holocaust denier."

Me Too!

Currently three of the four former political prisoners: Li Ao, Hsu Hsing-liang, and Chen Shui-bian, are candidates for president of the Republic of China.

[Note: I later learned that Chen Shui-bian was never a "political prisoner." He was convicted in civil court of falsely accusing a rival of plagiarism. He later spun his conviction as "political persecution."]

Chen Shui-bian is the separatist DPP's candidate. Chen now pays hypocritical lip service to reunification in public in order to deceive moderate voters whom he desperately needs to win. Meanwhile, away from the attention of the international media, surrounded by rabid Taiwan independence crowds, he shouts "Long live Taiwan independence!"

Former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsing-liang, who once colluded with KMT Chairman Lee Teng-hui to eliminate the Taiwan Provincial Government, in flagrant violation of the ROC Constitution, has since undergone a genuine "Road to Damascus" conversion. Hsu now denounces Chen Shui-bian's obsession with Taiwanese separatism as a menace to Taiwan's economic future and East Asian regional peace and stability.

Li Ao is the reformist and pro-reunification New Party's candidate. Li and the New Party have long advocated a wide range of eminently sensible and far-sighted cross-Straits policies, which the rival political parties on Taiwan have only recently come to realize they must endorse, however reluctantly. Li and the New Party's thanks for being ahead of the curve? Kneejerk demonization as "traitors to Taiwan."

The 2-28 You Don't Know

Li's book, available in Chinese only, is entitled "The 2-28 You Don't Know." In it he supplies critical key missing pieces of "lost" history concerning the 2-28 Incident which DPP propagandists and Taiwan independence websites conveniently forget to mention. Li Ao reveals that the 2-28 Incident is a misnomer. The militant separatists who want to play up Ming Nan Taiwanese victimization are playing up the wrong date, and hence the wrong name for the incident.

2-28 Everthing

Chen Shui-bian, former DPP Mayor of Taipei, upon asssuming office promptly declared that henceforce February 28 would be known as "2-28 Memorial Day" and played up the victimization of "Taiwanese" with a "2-28 Memorial Museum" and "2-28 Monument" in a "2-28 Memorial Park." The Taiwan separatist elite alleges that 10,000, 20,000 or even 30,000 "Taiwanese" died at the hands of Chiang Kai-shek's KMT troops. Well, Li Ao asks some rather pointed questions about this factoid surrounding 2-28.

An Incident by Any Other Name

An event termed the "2-28 Incident" most certainly did happen. During this 2-28 Incident thousands of innocent people most certainly were murdered.

The problem is that the 2-28 Incident should be commemorated not by the Taiwan independence victimologists, but by the surviving family members of "mainlanders." Mainlanders, not "Taiwanese" were the primary victims of the 2-28 Incident.

"Taiwanese," so-called, were the main victims of a subsequent incident which began on March 10, and which ought to be termed, but is not, the "3-10 Incident." That's when mainland troop reinforcements from Fujian arrived to suppress the rioting and began a My Lai/Tiananmen style massacre of rioters.

Cigarettes May Be Harmful to your Health

Between February 28 and March 10, 1947, Taiwanese separatists, including fanatical diehards of Japanese descent who resented giving back Taiwan to China, went on a rampage murdering mainland" Chinese. The mindset of these Japanese diehards was remarkably similar to that of fanatical holdouts discovered decades later holed up in dark caves on remote South Pacific islands.

What touched off this massacre was an attempt on February 27 by a "mainlander" policeman to confiscate black market cigarettes from a elderly "Taiwanese" woman street vendor in Taipei, who resisted. The policeman and the woman scuffled, and an indignant crowd gathered. The crowd surrounded the policeman and threated to overpower him. He pulled out his handgun and fired a warning shot into the air to force them to back off. The shot went wild, accidentally killing a curiosity seeker who had emerged from a neighboring house to see what the commotion was about. Contrary to usual tellings of the story the woman was not the person shot. The crowd quickly turned into a mob, chased the officer to his precinct station and surrounded it. They demanded the precinct captain hand him over to be lynched on the spot. The captain refused.

Bitter Irony

In yet another bitter irony, the cigarette and liquor taxes which played such a central role in sparking the riots, were an unrepealed vestige of Japanese colonial rule. China traditionally never had government restrictions on either the private manufacture of tobacco products or alcoholic beverages. For thousands of years it has been completely legal for private citizens in China to make their own "homebrew" or "moonshine."

Rodney King and Reginald Denny

Prior to this, mutual resentment had simmered for two years, somewhat akin to the undercurrent of animosity between Korean merchants and African-American store customers in Los Angeles. The February 27 altercation was all it took to ignite the fuse. For four straight days angry Taiwanese rioters ran beserk through the streets of Taiwan's major metropolitan areas, somewhat akin to the way rioters ran beserk through South Central L.A. following the Rodney King verdict.

Like the L.A. rioters who dragged truck driver Reginald Denny from his vehicle and smashed him over the head with bricks merely because he was white, Taiwanese separatists accosted anyone on the street who couldn't speak Japanese and was, ipso facto, considered a "mainlander." They murdered them and threw their bodies into the then ubiquitous drainage ditches.

Some ultramilitant Taiwanese Quislings and Japanese diehards even donned occupation era Japanese uniforms, samurai swords, and wafted Japanese battle flags with sunray designs through the streets, while rounding up mainlanders to be slaughtered.

Ann Frank and Oskar Schindler

Decent Taiwan Chinese who chose their friends on the basis of personal affinities (the "content of their character") and not primitive tribal affiliations, hid mainlander friends and neighbors in their closets, the way sympathetic Gentiles hid Ann Frank and her family from Nazi house to house sweeps, and Oskar Schindler saved the lives of Jews assigned to his factories.

Ingratitude Defined

Following Japan's unconditional surrender, Koreans wreaked perfectly understandable vengeance against their former Japanese overlords, thousands of whom were killed by angry mobs who had lost loved ones during Japan's brutal occupation of the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, in a gesture of extravagant and in retrospect, ill-considered magnanimity, forgave defeated Japan for all her war crimes. Former Japanese colonial occupiers on Taiwan were given a choice. Be repatriated to Japan, or stay on Taiwan, only as immigrants. The choice was theirs. Either way, they would remain unmolested.

Some Japanese chose to return to Japan. Some chose to stay on in Taiwan. Among those who chose to stay, many Japanese, instead of being grateful, turned to fomenting Taiwan independence.

When mainland troops finally arrived on March 9 to quell the riots and saw what was going on they were apoplectic. They had just endured a war of naked Japanese aggression during which fascist Japan had slaughtered 30 million Chinese, including 300,000 civilians in a single prolonged incident, the infamous Rape of Nanking.

To now be confronted with the sight of Chinese Quislings and Japanese Fifth Columnists brazenly flaunting Japanese uniforms while murdering fellow Chinese was too much to take. Some of them reportedly opened fire with machine guns "My Lai/Tiananmen style," on sight, on every suspected Quisling they encountered. Some shooting victims may even have been mainlanders. Chaos was complete.


The ROC Bureau of Justice has been actively soliciting surviving family members to come forward and claim wrongful death compensation for the last decade or so. Just over two thousand families have applied for and received compensation. So where are the tens of thousands of casualties routinely cited? Some militant Taiwan separatists allege that the low number, by several orders of magnitude, merely mean that survivors are terrified of reprisals.

Reprisals? From Taiwan separatist President Lee Teng-hui, who considers himself Japanese? Spare me.

A Darker Explanation

An alternative, darker, more plausible explanation, one considerably less palatable to Taiwanese separatist victimologists suggests itself to Li Ao and former Justice Minister Ma Ying-jeou. Namely that the remaining alleged 8,000, or 18,000, or 28,000 victims were mainlanders, many of whom were unmarried laborers from Fujian, without relatives in Taiwan. Once their corpses were dumped into the Tamsui River and floated out into the Taiwan Straits that was the end of it. Family members on the mainland assumed they died in the "fog of war" against Japan. Number inflation may well be a double-edged sword. If that is indeed the case, for manipulative Taiwan separatist demagogues like Chen Shui-bian to add mainlander victims to the column labelled "Taiwanese" victims is insult added to injury.

Just the Facts, A-Bian, Just the Facts

If Chen Shui-bian, known to his acolytes as "A-Bian," had any intellectual integrity whatsoever, he would publicly acknowledge his historical ignorance, innocent or otherwise, and make correct his mistake.

Chen can do any of the following.

One: He can retain the names "2-28 Memorial Day," "2-28 Memorial Museum," "2-28 Monument," and "2-28 Memorial Park," but reverse the role of victim and victimizer. If you believe Chen Shui-bian would do this, I have some land in the Everglades I'd like to interest you in.

Two: He can change the names of "2-28 Memorial Day," "2-28 Memorial Museum," "2-28 Monument," and "2-28 Memorial Park" to "3-10 Memorial Day," "3-10 Memorial Museum," "3-10 Monument," and "3-10 Memorial Park."

What do you imagine the odds of this are? After all, this would require Chen to concede not simply that he had gotten a date wrong, but again, that his smug Good versus Evil dichotomy was inverted. I wouldn't want to hang by a rope while Chen considered this option.

Three: He can keep doing what he's been doing. Continue to foment ugly hatred against all "mainlanders." Pretend that "mainlander" Li Ao, who visited Chen in prison and brought him books to read, never exposed the 2-28 Incident for what it was, a Joseph Goebbels Big Lie.

As 2-28, 2000 approaches, we shall see soon enough whether Chen and the Taiwan separatist elite take the high road, or the low road.

I'm betting on the latter. Any takers?

Appendix: The 2-28 Incident
by L. J. Lamb, J. D.
Attorney-at-Law, USA

Author's Note: This article contains data from "A Tragic Beginning" and other sources. It was never intended to be an academic article, but is balanced and shows both sides of the issue. No one was lily white during the period. Chen Yi has been blamed, but he may not be the one at fault.

On December 1, 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed to the Cairo Declaration, which stated in part: "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China."

Even before the Cairo Conference, the ROC central government had established a Taiwan Study Committee to collect information and begin to develop plans for governing Taiwan. General Chen I, former governor of Fujian province, was eventually chosen to head the government team in Taiwan. In September 1945, General Chen told reporters that he would "act in accordance with the teachings of the Republic of China's founding father to carry out the Three Principles of the People, liberate our Taiwan brethren from slavery, and then persevere to build a strong, healthy, prosperous Taiwan."

Taiwan was officially retroceded to the Republic of China on October 25, 1945. Unfortunately, General Chen's stated intentions proved extremely difficult to put into practice. Conditions on the both Chinese mainland and Taiwan in late 1945 were abominable, at best. In many ways, the situation on Taiwan mirrored that of the Chinese mainland, with high rates of unemployment and inflation, shortages of basic necessities and raw materials, widespread destruction, and a dispirited populace.

With major Japanese naval bases and up to 65 Japanese air bases on Taiwan and the Pescadores, Taiwan had been a prime target for allied bombing during the latter stages of World War II. In addition to the military facilities, the transportation infrastructure was high on the hit list. Even before the central government took over Taiwan, prices had begun to increase rapidly. By 1945, food grain prices had increased over 20 times their pre-war levels. Between 1944 and 1945 alone, prices increased over three times.

Initially, the local people welcomed the new government, but this was soon to change. Mainlanders and Taiwanese had difficulties in communicating with each other, often aggravating misunderstandings and animosity between groups. Military personnel regularly got into arguments with local shopkeepers and refused to pay. Soldiers were accused of stealing bicycles and otherwise disturbing the populace, undermining any goodwill that existed at the beginning of the new government.

With the departure of the Japanese, the Chinese government authorities had the responsibility of taking over Japanese-owned lands, factories, mines, houses, etc. Local Taiwanese were seriously disappointed, when administrators from the Chinese mainland took control or outright ownership of the former Japanese possessions, which Taiwanese saw as their entitlement. Taiwanese further accused the mainlanders of corruption, nepotism, diverting what was left of Taiwan's wealth to the Chinese mainland, and profiting from their positions in the new government at the expense of the local people.

Whereas the Taiwanese had referred to the Japanese as dogs, they referred to the mainland Chinese as pigs, on account of their greed. Conversely, many mainland Chinese saw the Taiwanese as willing collaborators with the Japanese, who had devastated China, beginning in 1931. In fact, some Taiwanese, perhaps with nothing more, still wore their Imperial Japanese Army uniforms, adding fuel to the discord.

On an even more serious level, crime increased dramatically. Taiwan's cities and coastlines had long been home to hoodlums and gangsters (liu-mang), and one estimate indicates that their numbers had increased to 100,000, shortly after the departure of 11,000 Japanese police and approximately 200,000 Japanese military personnel, who had kept tight social control on Taiwan.

Although social unrest was smoldering just below the surface, the minor province of Taiwan was hardly a major concern of the central government of China, which was engaged in a full-scale civil war with the Chinese Communists in the late 1940s. Most Chinese military personnel, who had been initially sent to Taiwan, had been withdrawn, and those that remained were stationed outside the cities. Less than 8,500 policemen and 5,000 troops were left to maintain order in a population of 6.25 million.

One observer stated that there was factionalism and bitter struggle everywhere, including within the provincial administration. Regardless of any good intentions, the Governor-General was out of touch with the rapid economic deterioration and the growing social violence.

Governor-General Chen's interpretation of Sun Yat-sen's Principle of People's Livelihood, was highly socialistic, favoring state control. Unfortunately, the government authorities were in unfamiliar territory and were not particularly efficient in administering the newly obtained state enterprises and promoting economic stability. The public was constantly complaining about real and imagined corruption among mainland officials sent to Taiwan.

Thwarting market forces further complicated the economic situation, multiplied shortages, and increased inflation. Not surprisingly, this led to rampant smuggling, which, combined with a variety of other social and economic ills, touched off the debacle known as the "2-28 Incident," occurring on February 28, 1947.

Although the 2-28 Incident has often been referred to as a taboo topic, perhaps no event in the history of Taiwan has been more discussed both publicly and privately. The 2-28 Incident is still used to this day as a major motivating force of vote-seeking politicians to incite controversy and antagonism between ethic groups.

The 2-28 Incident actually started on the morning of February 27, 1947, when the Taiwan City Monopoly Bureau received a secret report that cigarettes and matches were being smuggled on board a boat near the post of Tamsui. Investigators found only five boxes of cigarettes, but a later report indicated that the missing contraband was being sold at the Tien-ma Tea Store on Tai-ping Street, an area known to be a frequent hangout for smugglers.

By the time investigators arrived at the tea store, the smugglers had fled, but a 40-year old widow was peddling what investigators thought were smuggled cigarettes. When investigators attempted to seize the cigarettes, the woman resisted, and she was hit on the head by the investigator with his pistol. An angry crowd gathered and began to taunt the investigators, one of whom, trying to flee the scene, fired his pistol and killed bystander Chen Wen-hsi, thought to be the brother of a major hoodlum.

Although the investigators escaped to a nearby police station, their abandoned vehicle was burned. The crowd converged on the police station and demanded that the investigator be summarily executed. Soon, a crowd of six to seven hundred went to the Police Bureau and again demanded that the investigator be executed.

The head of the Monopoly Bureau told the crowd that the matter would be dealt with in accordance with law, but the crowd was not satisfied. They began chanting, "The Taiwanese want revenge now" and "Anyone who does not come out and assemble is not a real Taiwanese." On Friday morning, February 28, the animosity further increased. The characters for "China" on the China Hotel and the Bank of China were removed, and a banner in Japanese appeared: "Down with military tyranny."

The situation continued to deteriorate, and by noon a mob attacked a branch of the Monopoly Bureau, beat two officials to death, and burned stocks of cigarettes, matches, a vehicle, and some bicycles. The radio station was occupied and broadcasts were made to assemble at the Taiwan Provincial Executive Office. Two more people were shot, as police tried to disperse the crowd.

Taiwanese began questioning people in Japanese or Taiwanese, and anyone who could not speak the language was beaten, often to death. Shops, hotels, and even a hospital were attacked, and furniture and goods were burned in the street. "Resolution Committees" were set up by disaffected Taiwanese in various cities and towns.

Initial efforts at conciliation failed and violence continued to mount, resulting in over 1,000 deaths and serious injuries to mainlanders. After a conciliatory radio broadcast by Governor-General Chen, Resolution Committee member Wang Tien-teng broadcast a rejection of the message and praised as "revolutionary martyrs," those who died attacking stores owned by mainlanders or while beating or killing them. Meanwhile, the violence spread to other cities, where mainlanders were beaten and killed.

Some Resolution Committees moved to set up a "self-defense corps" or made increasingly bold demands on the government, including the disarming of troops when outside their military camps. In Panchiao, Taiwan provincial councilmen led crowds in attacking the government. In I-lan, squads of students attacked an air force warehouse. Military camps and weapons depots were attacked in Lotung and Suao.

In Tainan, activists took over police weapons and seized the radio station. They passed resolutions that all students should form the No. 1 Fighting Team and any Taiwanese hiding mainlanders should be taken to the student military units immediately and have their households searched.

A plan by activists and ex-Japanese military personnel to attack the Makung police bureau and seize weapons failed, when the district police chief ordered all weapons placed in a storehouse.

In Taichung, mainlanders were rounded up, and an encampment of provincial government troops was attacked. Calls were made to "Organize a Democratic Army," as military bases and police stations were attacked and weapons stolen. One of the few known Communists Hsieh Hsueh-hung led attacks against the Taichung police bureau, seizing 28 rifles and 100 knives. She then ordered the takeover of the Taichung Radio Station and forced the surrender of the Third Aircraft Factory.

Taichung activists of the "27th Militia Corps," an armed unit that repaired weapons and vehicles for an eventual battle with government forces, left the city and set up headquarters in the Puli elementary school to fight the government.

In Chia-yi, activists organized fighting units of aborigines, gangsters, and a variety of other people. They threatened to attack the airport if their demands were not met: that ROC military units should surrender, the airport radio system should be handed over to the Resolution Committee, all police weapons should be surrendered, and military police weapons should be given to the Resolution Committee.

The uprising, violence against mainlanders, and calls by radical elements for the overthrow of the government, were all too similar to the Communist rebellion that had plagued the Chinese mainland since 1927. The Governor-General called for reinforcements from the mainland.

On March 9, troops arrived in Keelung, two divisions arrived in Kaohsiung on March 10, and troops were airlifted to Chia-yi on March 11. Military forces quickly put an end to the uprising after a few days of pitched battles and intermittent skirmishes. When news of the impending arrival of troops from the mainland began to circulate, the Resolution Committees quickly toned down their inflammatory rhetoric, retracted some of their more outrageous demands, or simply disbanded. It became quickly apparent that once superior force was established, the uprising was over.

Typical was the situation in Ilan. Attacks had occurred on military installations began on March 3, but, when government troops entered the city on March 13, ROC flags soon filled the city. All fighting had ended by March 21, with a total of 6,317 listed as killed and wounded, a figure apparently includes those who had been arrested and executed, after the uprising was put down.

A significant number of people were later arrested, and trials dragged on for extended periods of time. The subsequent repression of political dissent, directed particularly against the Taiwan independence movement and communism, is known as the "White Terror" and continued under a weak form of martial law until 1987.

Some politically motivated groups have stated that up to 100,000 people were killed, and the government wiped out the Taiwan elite... A total of 46 members of Taiwan's elite, including doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, professors, councilmen, principals, and other government officials were listed as killed, and 34 other members of the elite were known to have been arrested.

Regardless of how many mainlanders and Taiwanese were killed in the fighting or how many Taiwanese were arrested and executed or imprisoned afterwards, the 2-28 Incident soured relations between native Taiwanese and first, second, and even third generation mainland Chinese to this day. Although the government has made significant efforts to ease the tension by promoting understanding and reconciliation between the ethnic groups, it appears that many more years will have to pass before the incident is either forgotten or forgiven.

Friday, February 18, 2000

The Least of Three Evils

The Least of Three Evils
Taiwan's Year 2000 Presidential Election
Bevin Chu
February 17, 2000

The Presidential Hopefuls

Two weeks ago The Strait Scoop put former Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian (DPP) under the microscope, focusing on his humiliating public retreat from his former, hardline Taiwan separatist campaign platform.

This week we examine, very briefly, the ongoing mudwrestling contest between the two other leading contenders for the Presidency of the Republic of China, former Taiwan Provincial Governor James Soong (Independent), and current ROC Vice-President Lien Chan (KMT).

A Three Way Race

According to every poll conducted since James Soong officially declared his independent candidacy, the pro-reunification, reformist Soong has led by a comfortable margin. Until recently Soong's ratings remained well above 30%, while Chen's ratings hovered in the low 20% range, with third-ranked Lien Chan trailing in the 10 to 15% range. Former political prisoner and China scholar Li Ao (New Party), and former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsing-liang's (Independent) ratings have remained in the 1 to 2% range.

The ROC's Y2K presidential election is unlikely to result in a president elect with a clear popular majority. Instead the contest is going to be a three way race, with the winner squeaking by with a narrow plurality.

May the Least Evil Man Win

Dark horse candidates Li Ao and Hsu Hsing-liang have a "Chinaman's chance" of winning. This is sad but hardly surprising, given Taiwan's thoroughly corrupt, vote-buying, "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours," political culture.

Idealistic reformers Li and Hsu, who have announced their intention to take a firehose to Taiwan's Augean Stables, and in the process smash scores of iron ricebowls, can count on almost zero support. Through no fault of their own, they are unelectable.

No, the best man will not emerge the victor in Taiwan's upcoming March 18, 2000 presidential election. At best the least of three evils will win. What ROC voters are being offered is a choice between three more or less rotten apples. The best deal ROC voters are going to get, the only deal ROC voters are going to get, is the opportunity to select the least rotten one among them.

That, to many ROC voters fed up with the two major parties, means voting for independent candidate James Soong, whom Li Ao refers to as a "reformed whore" who finally saw the light and bid adieu to the KMT brothel.

James Soong's Grassroots

Soong's status as front-runner in the upcoming 2000 presidential election is his payoff for years of responsiveness to the needs of grassroots constituents in the Taiwan province's three hundred odd counties and villages.

Governor Soong was reknowned for being Johnny on the Spot every time any sort of natural disaster struck the island. Soong could be counted on to be right there, every time a typhoon struck, standing in flood water up to his knees.

Soong's political enemies accuse him of "putting on a show," not without some justification. Soong is a past master at milking photo ops for every drop of political capital they're worth. Reagan spinmeister Ed Rollins would have little to teach Soong.

With Soong however his photo op is merely the prelude. Soong, in contrast with Lee Teng-hui, actually delivers the goods. Soong's job performance rating when he was unconstitutionally forced out office by "Mr. Democracy," was well over 80%. Soong is so well-liked even 30% of the pro-separatist DPP has committed to supporting Soong rather than their own nominee, the abrasive and fanatical Chen Shiu-bian.

Lien Chan's Silver Spoon

Vice-president Lien Chan on the other hand, has never managed to climb out of the ratings cellar. And no wonder. Mr. Democracy's "hand-picked successor" is dismissed by every betelnut vendor and cab driver on Taiwan as a "fu bu chi di Ah Do," which roughly translates as "a loser who can't get it together."

Let me be clear, Lien is no dummy. Lien is plenty shrewd. He is a billionaire, among the wealthiest men on the island. How did Lien, nominally a civil servant for his entire adult life, accumulate such a vast fortune? Lien claims his mother made some shrewd real estate deals.

I'll bet she did. She and Hillary Clinton should sit down over afternoon tea and discuss real estate and cattle futures.

Lien Chan often travels across town to lunch with his extremely affluent mother. KMT sycophants cite this as evidence of Lien's "filial piety." How does Lien pull off this admirable act of Confucian virtue in gridlocked Taipei? His two hundred man motorcycle police escort blocks off Taipei streets along the entire length of his travel route so his limousine can reach his restaurant without slowing for a single traffic light.

Ordinary working stiffs attempting to cross the street for a NT $70 (US $2.00) "bian dang," or "lunch box," a cheap proletarian lunch consisting of rice, meat, and two veggies, must patiently wait for his Royal Highness to pass before they can attend to their own hunger pangs. Is it necessary to discuss the feelings Lien's imperial arrogance evokes in Taiwan's common folk?

Lien's public demeanor during Taiwan's 9-21 Great Earthquake hardly enhanced his image. When a hysterical, weeping woman whose child was trapped under a collapsed building clutched at the Vice-president, beseeching him to please save her baby, Lien's reflex was not to hold her and comfort her, but to tear himself away.

By the way, here's a question for Taiwan Lobbyists and China-bashers, or is that redundant? In what "open, vigorous democracy" does a "democratically-elected" president get to "hand pick" his successor?

White Terror, The Sequel

Lee Teng-hui, seeing Soong firmly in the lead, decided something had to be done. Lee initiated an all out, no holds barred campaign of state-sponsored libel and slander against Soong.

Lee went on television and openly accused Soong of embezzling KMT funds. I won't go into the Byzantine details of Lee's wild allegations here. They are readily available on the net. Singapore's Straits Times is an excellent source.

Suffice to say that Lee's charges actually backfire on both Lee and the KMT, because the funds in question originate from a huge KMT slush fund, controlled by none other than KMT Party Chairman Lee Teng-hui himself.

No matter. "Mr. Democracy" mobilized the immense political and financial resources of Taiwan's "democratic" government and aimed it like a howitzer at the hapless James Soong. Every ministry of the ROC Central Government, including those with no legal authority whatsoever to investigate private citizens like Soong, took part.

Lee Teng-hui did what former American president Richard Nixon did when he sicced the IRS and FBI on his political enemies. Only Lee Teng-hui made Richard Nixon look like a piker. Lee did everything Nixon did, only far more flagrantly, and on a far grander scale. The KMT, lest one forget, with assets very conservatively estimated at US$ 7Billion, is the wealthiest political party in the world, wealthier by far than even America's Republican and Democratic parties.

Lee's "White Terror, the Sequel" succeeded in generating enough ambivalence about Soong in the minds of less resolute, borderline Soong supporters. At this point Soong's numbers fell from the mid 30% range to the mid 20% range.

James Soong probably didn't know what Malaysia's former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim felt like being accused not only of corruption but of sodomy, apparently a felony offense in his country, by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed. Well he does now. In fact I'll bet Soong feels like he's been sodomized front, back and sideways.

The CEO and the General Manager

One perceptive woman political analyst summed up Lee's disingenuous allegations on a cable television talk show rather nicely.

What happened between Lee Teng-hui and James Soong, she said, was like what happens when a powerful but unfaithful CEO keeps a mistress, unbeknownst to his wife, his board of directors, and the general public.

Fearful of public exposure, the CEO orders his company's General Manager to make out the rent checks for his little love nest, i.e., his mistress' conveniently located luxury apartment. The General Manager, in no position to say no, not if he values his job, clicks his heels and obeys.

Sure enough, the affair comes to light. What does the CEO do? He points the finger at his General Manager, saying "Your name is on the checks! Obviously you were having the affair with that woman! What does any of this have to do with me?"

Taiwan's State Controlled Media

Taiwan's Big Three broadcast television networks are either owned or under the indirect control of Lee Teng-hui's corrupt but powerful KMT. The three networks are TTV, CTV, and CTS. TTV is owned and operated by the Taiwan Provincial Government, or what's left of it. CTV is owned and operated by none other than the Kuomintang itself. CTS is owned and operated by the ROC military.

Political dissidents' sole recourse, aside from the internet, is what is referred to locally as "The Fourth Channel" i.e., cable. The problem with cable is that even the cable market is dominated by two giant conglomerates, the heads of which are cronies of, you guessed it, Lee Teng-hui.

Programming containing editorial content critical of or displeasing to "Mr. Democracy" gets yanked off the air, PDQ. Recently pressure has come down on Li Ao, Taiwan's Vaclav Havel/Rush Limbaugh, for his acerbic on-air criticisms of Lee Teng-hui's flagrant corruption, covert separatism, and obsequious Japanophilia.

If you've been smeared by the KMT's Joseph Goebbels style propaganda machine, good luck trying to clear your good name.

One from Column A, One from Column B

Interestingly enough, wavering Soong supporters did not shift their allegiance to either Lien Chan or Chen Shui-bian, but to the "undecided" column. This confirms that many ROC voters, like many American voters this year, want no truck with either major party candidate.

The waverers would sooner boycott the election altogether, rather than cast their ballots for either of the two major party candidates. They are disgusted with Lien, the corrupt "business as usual" candidate. At the same time they don't trust Chen, the "Who's afraid of WWIII?" separatist fanatic.

Instead they have adopted a wait and see attitude about Soong, wanting to verify whether he's really guilty of the wild allegations levelled against him by the KMT propaganda machine before making their final decision.

Soong has recovered somewhat, although not quite to pre-smear levels. Some rather clumsy damage control by the Soong campaign committee has pulled Soong's support back up into the upper 20% range.

Sheer Desperation

Lee's gross violation of the principle of administrative neutrality has been roundly condemned on Taiwan as a regression to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's "White Terror," or for that matter, a Mao Zedong's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution "struggle campaigns." Taiwan Lobbyists and China-bashers, pay attention. "Mr. Democracy" has set back ROC democracy, such as it is, thirty years, in as many days.

What prompted Lee to risk undermining his carefully cultivated, and totally phony "Mr. Democracy" foreign media image, bought and paid for at enormous ROC taxpayer expense?

Sheer desperation.

Running Scared

Lee Teng-hui, the latest buzz from inside the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs has it, is running scared. Lee is about to wet his pants at the prospect of what might happen to him if James Soong wins. As dense as Lee might be, and that's pretty damned dense, Lee is not so dense he has forgotten what happened to sundry other corrupt Asian strongmen, specifically Chun Doo-hwan and Roe Tae-woo of South Korea, and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

Lee must step down in May 2000. He sure as hell isn't looking forward to it. He has no choice. When Lee decided he coveted the mantle of "Mr. Democracy," he got what he wanted. At the same time, he painted himself into a corner. He soon realized he had to keep up appearances. He had to LOOK like a bonafide democratic reformer. He discovered to his dismay he could no longer be himself; he could no longer be the petty despot he was meant to be. Don't you just hate it when that happens? Like our "reformist" GOP Freshman Class of '94, Lee's been having second thoughts. Damn those pesky term limits!

Li Ao has already announced on his television talk show that he intends to file reams of legal briefs against Lee Teng-hui for bribery and graft, the very day Lee Teng-hui leaves office and loses his Executive Immunity.

Vote Early, Vote Often

Last election my local barber's daughter ran for "li zhang," the rough equivalent of alderman. The next time I went in for my regular trim, I asked her if her daughter had gotten elected. She snorted with contempt, "Three thousand NT a vote!" That's about one hundred American dollars. "Voters came right out and demanded that much from us. We don't have that kind of money! We campaigned on the basis of my daughters' character and integrity. We were so naive. I felt like such a dupe."

One hundred American dollars per vote, for a lowly alderman's office. An "investment" to be recouped once one's candidate is strategically positioned to dispense government largess in the form of countless infrastructure projects. Many of them built to shoddy standards resulting in their collapse with the first earthquake.

Now try to imagine what kind of quid pro quo we are talking about for "Mr. Democracy" Lee Teng-hui, President of the Republic of China, and would-be Father of a Republic of Taiwan?

Think back to 1996. Remember how the Brahmins of our mainstream western media oohed and aahed over Lee's "stunning 54% electoral mandate" at the polls? Remember how they solemnly intoned, to the exasperation of knowledgeable historians, that their just-filed stories were of enormous import because Lee Teng-hui had just become the "first democratically-elected president in 5000 years of Chinese history?"

Who wants to be a Millionaire?

At one utterly surreal photo-op during last years' 9-21 Great Earthquake, Lee Teng-hui stood behind a folding table piled high with shrink-wrapped bundles of cash, doling them out for the benefit of the TV cameras. The scene was straight out of a John Woo gangster flick, except that the triad boss divvying up the loot was none other than Mr. Democracy himself.

This was prime Lee Teng-hui. To Lee anything is for sale and anyone can be bought. Lee paid over $4.5 million to the high-powered Washington, D.C. PR firm, Cassidy and Associates, to smooth the way in the GOP congress for his "private" 1995 Cornell University trip. Lee offered a $15 million dollar "contribution" to Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to dispatch two carrier battle groups to the Taiwan Straits in 1996. Lee offered a $1 billion dollar bribe to the United Nations for an observer's seat for Taiwan in the General Assembly.

The Least of Three Evils

The best candidates by far are New Party candidate Li Ao and Independent candidate Hsu Hsing-liang. Unfortunately, as I have explained above, they are flat out unelectable. They are as unelectable as Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne, who was far and away the best candidate during our own last presidential election.

The best candidate by far among those actually electable remains James Soong. Lien Chan is a distant second. The least desirable candidate by far is Chen Shui-bian.

If truth be told, "Mr. Democracy" Lee Teng-hui has been such an unmitigated disaster, even Lien Chan or Chen Shui-bian, if elected, would probably turn out better than their senile predecessor. Even Lien or Chen, assuming one of them were, god forbid, to stage an upset and win, would probably be pragmatic enough to lead the ROC in the right direction, toward eventual, gradual, peaceful reconciliation with the Chinese mainland.

Actually the best thing about the ROC's Year 2000 presidential election is not who's going to succeed Lee Teng-hui. The best thing the upcoming presidential election is that Lee Teng-hui is not going to succeed Lee Teng-hui. Blessed relief on the part of the public that one is no longer going to be taking up space in the presidential office. Helluva legacy for Newsweek magazine's "poster boy for democracy."

Friday, February 11, 2000

A New Millennium

A New Millennium
Bevin Chu
February 10, 2000

A New Millennium, Really

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have the remarkable good fortune to be alive and conscious during one of the most eventful eras in human history.

The human race has just entered a New Millennium, the third, reckoning by the calendar in use throughout the industrialized world. Is this a significant event? Yes it is. It would be easy to dismiss the millennium as an arbitary calendar event, which in a sense it is. But as the visionary transpersonal psychologist William Brugh Joy noted this New Year's Eve at a millennial celebration at Asilomar, California, such a naively rationalistic way of viewing the event completely misses the point.

The fact is chronological events are laden with enormous emotional significance to the human psyche, consciously and unconsciously, whether the rationalists among us care to admit it or not. Everyone in attendance was aware that the "true" millennium, as reknowned astronomer and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke made abundantly clear to movie audiences in 1968, is 2001, not 2000. They were also aware however that the human subconscious operates in a different manner than the rational mind.

Take birthdays. Whom among us would seriously argue that our 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays, for example, in our youth-fixated modern society, are not emotionally more traumatic than other birthdates?

A Sobering Exercise

Try this exercise. On a sheet of paper, write down the year of your birth. Say you're an early Baby Boomer and were born in 1946. Write down 1946. Add ten years to that and write it down, i.e., 1956. Repeat ten times, until you've reached the year 2046. Now next to 1946 write 0, next to 1956 write 10, next to 1966 write 20, and so on, until you've written 100 next to the year 2046.

What's the point of this? To remind ourselves that even when all we can see are trees, we're in the middle of a forest.

First, you will not live forever. One hundred years if you are lucky.

Second, you are locked into a specific timeframe. This is your place in human history. The chart reveals your life's stages, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and so on, and matches them to specific moments in mankind's history. SF novelist H.G. Wells to the contrary notwithstanding, you may move about freely in space, but you may not move about freely in time.

As the title of the daytime soap opera puts it, these are the "Days of Our Lives."

Our Cult of Youth

We in the industrialized world, Americans in particular, live in anxious denial of Life in its totality, which necessarily encompasses the mystery of aging and mortality, aka, Death. Few character templates for aging gracefully exist in our modern society. Veteran British actor Sean Connery, aka James Bond 007, who makes no effort whatsoever to deny or conceal his age, is an all too rare exception. A real Class Act. One upside of our Cult of Youth is our culture's irrepressible vitality and energy. Among its downsides is our culture's blindness to the possibility that any other stage of life besides youth could possibly have any value. Certainly not Eldership.

We, the Living Fossils

Already, one month's worth of human beings have been born whose birth year begins with a 2 instead of a 1. Every one of us, the WWII generation, post-war Baby Boomers, Gen-X'ers, even Gen-Y'ers, every one born in the Twentieth Century, every one whose birthyear begins with a 1 instead of a 2, belongs in a sense to the last century, to the last millennium. Assuming the first Y2K generation mindlessly adopts the dysfunctional, youth-fixated perspective of previous generations, the rest of us will be dismissed as "living fossils" or "relics of the last century," sooner than we care to imagine.

So. Anybody in favor of re-examining our values?

The Long View, the Big Picture

A pernicious corollary to our denigration of Eldership, is our myopic, almost infantile inability to delay gratification, to take the long view, to see the big picture.

China-demonizers for example, who have been itching for a showdown with Beijing, their latest nominee for the role of Son of Evil Empire now that the Soviet Union is no more, have been grumbling loudly that "Constructive engagement with China has failed! We tried it for seven years under Clinton and what does Beijing do? Round up a few more dissidents!"

Contrast this with an amusing real life anecdote, now a little shopworn from repetition, about the late Chinese Premier Chou Enlai. Chou was asked by a western journalist what he thought of the French Revolution. Chou paused, then remarked "It's too early to say."

Republican government, like Rome, wasn't built in a day.

These United States? Or The United States?

The United States of America used to be referred to, correctly, as These United States of America. Rare today is the American who refers to our great nation as These United States. This distinction may seem trivial, but it is not.

These United States of America came into being in 1776. By 1876 America was 100 years old. By 1976 she was 200 years old, and These United States, along with our Founding Fathers' prescient insights about human nature and human institutions, were a distant memory. America alas, is no longer a federation of sovereign states, but a federal Leviathan, with immense unchecked power concentrated perilously in our national capitol.

Millennial, centennial, even decade transitions have traditionally been occasions for human societies to reflect on the past, and having done so, resolve to do better. What does the New Millennium hold for America? A restoration of our great Republic, or further calamitous descent into decadent and arrogant Global Empire?

Be the Change you wish to See

America's Founding Fathers, contrary to the smug assumptions of modern day global interventionists, were way ahead of the curve.

Our Founding Fathers understood, as our post-Woodrow Wilsonian, post-Teddy Rooseveltian Beltway Bombardiers do not, that no good can come of a global Jihad waged in the name of "American values," "human rights," and "democracy."

Our Founding Fathers understood, as the late Mahatma Gandhi understood, but as China-demonizers Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, and John McCain do not, that "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," that "You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist."

Our Founding Fathers understood, as Henry Clay understood, but as Taiwan and Tibetan "independence" mouthpieces Jesse Helms, Frank Wolf, and Nancy Pelosi do not, that:

"By the policy to which we have adhered since the days of Washington... we have done more for the cause of liberty in the world than arms could effect; we have shown to other nations the way to greatness and happiness... Far better is it for ourselves... and the cause of liberty, that, adhering to our pacific system and avoiding... distant wars... we should keep our lamp burning on this western shore amid the ruins of a fallen and falling republics... "

Our Founding Fathers understood, as our interventionist nomenklatura does not, that expanding the power of ones' own government so that it might diminish the power of tyrannical governments abroad, is like attempting to extinguish a fire by dousing it with gasoline.

Government, lest we forget, is the problem. Government is not the solution. Never has been, never will be. Not in mainland China under Mao Zedong. Not in Taiwan under Lee Teng-hui. Not in America under almost any Twentieth Century president one cares to name.

Refraining from sanctimonious moralizing, refraining from foreign economic intervention, refraining from foreign political intervention, and above all, refraining from foreign military intervention, is not an sign of American decline, is not a disownment of moral responsibility, is not indifference to "American values," but the exact opposite.

A refusal to disown ones' own inner demons by conveniently projecting them onto alien "evildoers," is infinitely more responsible, ethically and morally, than pointing one's finger at distant foreign regimes in lieu of painful national soul-searching regarding our own transgressions. Political reform, like charity, begins at home. As Brugh Joy reminds us, when we point the finger at someone "out there," three fingers point back at ourselves.

The Government they Deserve

"People usually get the government they deserve."
-- Anonymous

Perhaps the only exception to this harsh assessment is non-mainstream radicals, including but not limited to classical liberals and libertarians who have explicitly rejected the status quo.

Under so-called "democratic" systems at least, one need not search high and low for those responsible for bad government, i.e., Big Government. If you voted for the leeches taking up space in Washington, D.C., if you voted for free lunches, if you voted to rob Peter to pay Paul, if you wrote indignant letters to your congressman demanding that "we" dispatch B-2 bombers or the Seventh Fleet "to teach them a lesson," you already know who's responsible for the tyranny Americans must endure at home, from our own federal Leviathan. Simply look in the mirror while you're shaving tomorrow if you want to see what he looks like.

The Unlearned Lesson of 1989

In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, without a shot being fired. Why?

Because the consciousness of a critical mass of the people of the Warsaw Pact nations transformed, apparently overnight. It was as if the populace of the Eastern Bloc woke up one morning, in unison, and said to themselves, "Hey! Socialism doesn't work! I changed my mind."

We know of course it didn't really happen that way. When Marxism-Leninism finally collapsed under its own weight, it only looked as if it happened overnight. In fact it took four decades for the realization that socialism is economically impracticable not to mention morally wrong, to penetrate the minds of enough people to bring the Berlin Wall crashing down.

Dream a Little Dream

Have you ever wondered why the movies Hollywood makes resonate not only with Americans, but with the rest of the world? It's because commercially successful popular movies originate in what the late psychoanalyst Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious.

Hollywood has been dubbed the Dream Factory. Those who conferred this appellation on La La Land are more insightful than even they themselves realize. Just as an individual's dreams reflect the state of consciousness of the individual, so collective dreams reflect the state of consciousness of larger society. Motion pictures are modern society's collective dreams. Popular films, especially Hollywood blockbusters with global appeal, constitute windows into the modern world's Collective Unconscious.

Like it or not, Hollywood, kneejerk liberal warts and all, is the modern world's Dream Factory.

The Dreamer Wakes

During 1998 and 1999, the final years of the final decade of the Second Millennium, a series of highly revealing "collective dreams" manifested themselves in the form of popular movies. They include but are not limited to:

-- The Truman Show (1998) Directed by Peter Weir. Written by Andrew Niccol
-- Dark City (1998) Directed by Alex Proyas. Written by Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer
-- The Thirteenth Floor (1999) Directed by Josef Rusnak. Written by Daniel F. Galouye and Josef Rusnak
-- The Matrix (1999) Written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski

Also extremely deserving of mention is:

-- Groundhog Day (1993) Directed by Harold Ramis. Written by Danny Rubin

Those who have seen all, or even some of these remarkable films probably know where I'm headed. All these films deal with a common theme: individual and/or collective awakening from mass delusion. All these films portray individuals rudely awakened from a collective spell, awakened to the fact that the existence they took to be objective reality, was transparent illusion, thinner than gossamer. In short, these films are modern renditions of Hindu, Buddhist, and Daoist parables of transformation and transcendence, of awakening from "maya," or "illusion."

That such a string of unprecedented films could be penned and produced at this moment in time, is no accident. Movies such as these would not have erupted into the Collective Conscious from the Collective Unconscious, unless a significant segment of our Information Age society had not attained a level of awareness where these films' underlying premise could be greeted without either blank incomprehension or undisguised hostility.

A Brave New Era?

Does the appearance of such films herald a New Era of raised collective consciousness? Is the internet a real-life version of "The Matrix," which will empower the public to see past the Big Lies of our state-managed media's own "Truman Show?"

I do not delude myself about the formidable obstacles looming before us. Social and political evolution is a painfully slow process which cannot be rushed, which of course is why relentlessly hectoring nations like Chile, Myanmar and China about "human rights" are counterproductive exercises in futility. I am however, a perennial optimist. I am bullish on the future, and suspect that just maybe an "upside surprise," as they are known on Wall Street, awaits those of us privileged to live through this once in a lifetime transition to a New Millennium.

Friday, February 04, 2000

Taiwan Independence beats a Retreat

Taiwan Independence beats a Retreat
Bevin Chu
February 03, 2000

Taiwan Independence dances to a New Tune

'DPP not to seek independence if Beijing does not use force: Chen'
Taipei, Jan. 30 (CNA) Presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said on Sunday that unless Beijing tries to invade Taiwan by force, his party will not unilaterally seek Taiwan independence or hold a plebiscite on the matter...

Chen made the remarks in response to questions about whether he accepts "one China" as part of an agenda for cross-strait dialogue.'

I Laughed, I Cried

When I read the above news article I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

I wanted to laugh because former Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian, one of the two most obdurate Taiwan separatists on the island, the other being "Mr. Democracy" Lee Teng-hui, felt compelled to publicly concede that advocacy of Taiwan independence is "piao fang du yiao" or "box office poison."

I wanted to cry because the far-sighted and idealistic pro-reunification New Party, which I enthusiastically endorse and support, has been subjected to years of outrageous villification as "tai jian," or "traitors to Taiwan," for urging the KMT and DPP to adopt precisely the cross-Straits policy Chen adopted, or pretended to adopt on January 30.

Ignorance is Strength

When Chen Shui-bian declared that, "unless Beijing tries to invade Taiwan by force, his party will not unilaterally seek Taiwan independence or hold a plebiscite on the matter... ," Chen was inverting cause and effect, and he damned well knew it. To anyone who knows the score in cross-Straits politics, Chen's Orwellian "Ignorance is Strength" declaration, is a joke missing a laugh line.

Chen's declaration should have read, "unless Chen's party (the DPP) unilaterally seeks Taiwan independence or holds a plebiscite on the matter, Beijing will not try to invade Taiwan by force," because that's the way it really is.

The Business of China is Business

Let's get real. Beijing has no desire whatsoever to invade Taiwan. Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongi, the "capitalist roaders" currently in charge in Beijing, unlike comic opera buffoon Lee Teng-hui, grok the Big Picture. They know "It's the economy, stupid!" The last thing Jiang and Zhu want is yet another pesky distraction from their Number One Priority, dismantling China's SOE's (State Owned Enterprises), which continue to bleed red ink at an alarming rate and stand squarely in the way of China's vaunting ambition to join the ranks of the world's economically and technologically advanced nations.

To Assuage Misgivings

Chen Shui-bian's exposure to the outside world is limited to a brief visit to Washington, D.C., a brief visit to Tokyo, and a brief visit to Europe. Total time away from the island of Taiwan? Less than one month. Nevertheless Chen Shui-bian, in contrast to senile buffoon Lee Teng-hui, probably understands China's priorities, however dimly. If so, why did Chen issue a policy statement which he himself knows is sheer nonsense?

Two reasons. Votes and face. Winning the former, and saving the latter. By paying high-profile public lip service to sound cross-Straits policy, Chen desperately hopes to win moderate support in the ROC's upcoming March 2000 presidential election.

As the CNA report put it, "Chen, trying to assuage misgivings about the party's stance on independence for Taiwan, also said that the DPP is open to discussing the concept of "one China" in cross-strait talks."

Chen's motive for caving in, at least for appearance's sake, is no secret. Not in Taiwan. The ROC public is seriously phobic about irresponsible Taiwan independence bravado. The ROC public knows a unilateral declaration of independence guarantees a shooting war with Beijing.

The bottom line? The fanatically separatist DPP has been pulled inexorably toward the center by their desire to garner votes from a public which might trust the DPP to govern at the local level, but simply does not believe the DPP is mature or responsible enough to govern at the national level.

As New Party cofounder and former legislator Wang Chien-hsuan has patiently pointed out to the DPP again and again, the nominally reformist DPP would have unseated the irredeemably corrupt KMT years ago, if only it had the wisdom to forsake the pro-independence plank in its party constitution.

The DPP is finally, belatedly, grudgingly acknowledging something which for them is a distasteful fact: Taiwan independence has no market in Taiwan. Chen has been trumpeting his "xin zhong jian lu xian" or "new centrist path" for the past year, and moving steadily toward the center. Correction, Chen has been making a public show of moving toward the center. Let's not get carried away, after all.

So much for all the sanctimonious hogwash from the Taiwan independence elite and their richly-compensated apologists in our GOP Congress, about Taiwan independence reflecting "the democratic aspirations of the Taiwan people."

One Country, Two Systems

Meanwhile, Lee Teng-hui's cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) alleges that 'the "one country, two systems" formula Beijing has put forward for reunification has no market in Taiwan. More than 70 percent of Taiwan's citizens oppose the model, the MAC said.'

This of course is patent nonsense. By the MAC's own admission, "... over 80 percent of the people of Taiwan are in favor of maintaining the status quo."

What is the status quo? The status quo is a state of affairs under which rival regimes governing the mainland and Taiwan regions of China both define themselves as "China." The status quo is a state of affairs under which both Beijing and Taipei claim be the sole legitimate government of all of China's sovereign territory.

This status quo ante already is, for all intents and purposes, "One Country, Two Systems," although it may not be exactly what Deng Xiaoping and his successor Jiang Zemin had in mind.

The Taiwan independence elite, needless to say, dismisses these claims, embodied in both the ROC and PRC's constitutions, as "unrealistic." The counterintuitive reality is that given the peculiar historical circumstances which have brought the two sides to their current "Mexican Standoff," these "unrealistic" claims are far more politically useful, and hence politically realistic than their own quixotic yearning for a cost-free, bloodless bid for Taiwan independence.

The Three Links

The Mainland Affairs Counicl (MAC) further argues that, "As Beijing has not renounced the possible use of force against Taiwan... those polled worry that direct transport links between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait would adversely affect the island's security... [and hence] do not favor the unconditional opening of direct transport links."

The MAC, like Chen Shui-bian, is being disingenuous. The political hacks infesting the MAC know full well the only reason Beijing has not renounced, and is not about to renounce the use of force against Taiwan, is that an elite minority of Taiwan separatists weilds power in Taipei. Absent an unambiguous and credible threat of force from the mainland, this elite minority of Stockholm-syndromized, Japanophile, Taiwan separatists would declare independence in a heartbeat, and shortly afterwards, hand Taiwan over to Japan.

Absent the potential for this separatist elite to sell out China's sovereign territory, Beijing would be perfectly content to concede the Taiwan region enormous latitude, socially, economically, even politically.

What about the so-called direct transport links? Links which if instituted would purportedly "adversely affect the island's security?"

For those unfamiliar with the Alice-in-Wonderland aspects of Taiwan's political culture, the "Three Links" refer to proposed direct commercial air travel, maritime shipping and postal connections between the island province of Taiwan and the mainland coastal provinces. Currently ROC businessmen and tourists travelling to and from the mainland must make money-wasting, but more importantly, time-wasting detours through Hongkong or foreign countries.

If you're scratching your head wondering just how the hell direct commercial airline flights to and from Taipei and Xiamen could possibly "adversely affect the island's security," you're not alone.

An Inordinate Fear of Communism

A couple of years ago my father, although officially retired from the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated as a senior consultant in a strategy summit dedicated to the question of whether to establish "Three Links." Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and a host of other ministries in attendance warmly endorsed the links as an unambiguous win/win proposition. At this point however a frowning spokesman from the ROC National Security Agency rose to his feet and solemnly intoned,

"But what if a commercial airliner were to land at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, filled with PLA troops? What would we do then?"

Dead silence prevailed within the conference hall.

At that moment Three Links died, stillborn.

In case you think I'm making this up, I'm sorry to say I'm not. Such is the intellectual level of political discourse in Taiwan today. All too many Taiwan independence fanatics are pathetically insular, in the worst sense of the word. They are "jing di wah," or "well-bottom frogs," whose conception of the sky is a round blue circle.

A Modest Proposal

My father told me afterwards he struggled unsuccessfully to think of an appropriate comeback to the utterly moronic suggestion that an invasion force might book passage on regularly scheduled commercial airliners.

I suggested he should have proposed that ROC airport officials confront the invading PLA troops with a phalanx of stern female immigration officers. You know the kind I'm referring to. They're identical all over the world. Pear-shaped figures. Unmistakable hints of moustaches. Picture East German prison camp wardesses. These fearsome figures would each be issued lethal-looking rubber stamps reading, "ENTRY REFUSED." Confronted with this intimidating array of bulldykes, any PLA Company Commander worth his salt would surely choose discretion as the better part of valor and order his men back on the plane and beat a hasty retreat, all the way back to Xiamen.

My father has assured me that if another ministerial level strategy conference is convened he'll make ample use of my modest proposal.

Que Sera, Sera

A mere six weeks remain before ROC's March 18, 2000 presidential election. The latest polls suggest that former Taiwan Provincial Governor James Soong is now back in the lead, albeit by the slimmest of margins, over second place Chen Shui-bian, and over Lee Teng-hui's hand-picked successor, Lien Chan by a wider margin.

But this is ROC politics, where "ming yi ru liu shui," or "public sentiment is like flowing water."

Under normal circumstances the upcoming ROC presidential election, involving a total population (not voting population, mind you) of merely 22 million citizens, would hardly merit such intense international scrutiny. But these are not normal circumstances.

The most important bilateral international relationship in the 21st Century is the relationship between America, the wealthiest and militarily most powerful nation in the world, and China, the fastest-growing economy and most populous nation in the world. Taiwan independence is the single biggest stumbling block in the way of a peaceful and harmonious relationship between these two global giants. Hence the ROC election has assumed an importance far out of proportion to its actual, intrinsic significance. Whether war breaks out between America and China in the coming years may well be decided at the polls in Taipei in six weeks.

Let us hope that ROC voters vote responsibly, by voting for any one of the three reform candidates: Hsu Hsing-liang, Li Ao or James Soong, and refusing to vote for either separatist fanatic Chen Shui-bian or Lee Teng-hui's puppet, Lien Chan.

We live in interesting times, and we shall see what we shall see.