Now don't get me wrong, Ma has been deserving of criticism from his time as Mayor of Taipei onwards, but the accusations thrown against him and his government from the pages of the Taipei Times have been excessive to say the least. The Taipei Times and its Chinese-language cousin, the Liberty Times, have even gone as far as suggesting that Ma "might even secretly sign a capitulation agreement with Beijing".
However, the latest editorial, comparing Taiwan, a democratic society since at least 1996, and one in which both the KMT and the DPP have won and lost power via elections, to the dictatorships of the Arab world, truly takes the cake. In an editorial written by Chang Yeh-shen, vice chairman of the Northern Taiwan Society, entitled "Taiwan also needs a Jasmine Revolution", Chang opens with a bleak portrait of the Taiwanese economic situation:
Prices have skyrocketed, putting pressure on the public, while the unemployment rate has seen a sharp increase. With a government that only cares about big conglomerates, Taiwanese live in hardship with no hope in sight, and the lower class passes their poverty on to the next generation.
There's only one problem with this description: it's total baloney. Unemployment has not "seen a sharp increase", in fact unemployment in Taiwan is now lower than it was at the time of the 2004 election, and Taiwan actually experienced deflation last year [Edit: Some doubts about the Indexmundi figures, see comments]. The picture Chang draws of Taiwan somehow suffering crisis-level poverty is rubbish, plain and simple.
Chang then goes on to accuse the Ma government of failing to defend Taiwan, with government officials being accused of allying "themselves with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against Taiwan". One wonders which government official Chang could possible be talking about, since Ma's government did (after years of KMT-led blocking) finally succeed in passing an all-important arms-procurement bill directed specifically against an attack across the strait.
It seems that in Chang's world no level of engagement with the Mainland can be allowed, with even the recent moves to allow mainland students to study in Taiwan being condemned as ". . . threatening to limit Taiwanese students’ educational and job opportunities". Even the visits of Mainland officials to Taiwan are described, in a mind-blowing exaggeration, as allowing "Chinese colonial rule in Taiwan".
Let me be clear on this: Mainland students visiting Taiwan cause little or no harm, will bring money into the Taiwanese economy, will create jobs in Taiwan, and may just allow some Mainland students to see that they have been lied to about Taiwan by the government-controlled media on the Mainland. Visits by PRC officials to Taiwan, far from being a harbinger of colonialism, are 100% necessary if relations between the two sides of the straits are ever to be normalised. Whilst the Taiwanese should certainly be careful to ensure that no compromises are made that might threaten Taiwan's democratic institutions and self-determination, there is no solid evidence that any such compromise has been made or is even being considered.
Having got this far, you might wonder if any further hyperbolae were even possible, but the kicker is in the last paragraph:
"Taiwan’s situation today is not much better than that of the Arabic countries in the throes of the Jasmine Revolution. We must use our votes to oust Ma to save Taiwan and rebuild the country, perhaps through a “lily revolution.”"
Let's keep this simple: Taiwan is a democratic society with levels of freedom of speech, judicial independence, and economic development and equality comparable to any country in either Western Europe or North America. As an example, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, Taiwan has a higher per-capita income than 15 of the 50 US states and 15 of the 27 EU member-states. To compare the situation in Taiwan to that of even the richest of the Middle-Eastern countries which have experienced unrest in the last month is an immense distortion. You wonder what possibly could have been going through the minds of the editors at the Taipei Times when they okayed this piece.