Monday, 2 January 2012

What the Taiwanderful poll tells you about the state of the Taiwanese blogosphere

In short: bad. The top two blogs (Free Taiwan and Letters from Taiwan) represent the polarised extreme of either side of Taiwan's political debate.

On the pro-pan blue side, Free Taiwan seems to specialise in accusing the DPP's Tsai Yingwen of being a traitor. Here's a sample:

"Tsai Ing-wen has proven many times that she is a traitor to the Republic of China – turns out she also betrays those of her supporters, who one day want to establish a so called “republic of taiwan” . What Tsai Ing-wen and her extremist clique of supporters have in mind is selling Taiwan to the United States of America."

And what was the catalyst for this rant? It was the appearance of a US flag amongst the crowd at a DPP rally.

On the pro-pan-green side we have the marginally more sane Letters From Taiwan, who carries on the time-honoured tradition of interpreting boiler-plate statements by KMT officials as signalling a program of surrender to the mainland authorities:

"Ma is sending a coded message that 100 years from now, ROC citizens will thank ‘you’ (read: ‘mainlanders’ and ROC loyalists) for having the wisdom and courage to push for a unified China once again under ROC, read KMT, patronage. Taiwan and Taiwanese will thank their lucky stars that they chose a President who had the courage to push for the only solution to facing an aggressive authoritarian neighbour - surrender."

What exactly was it that Ma said? Here's the offending paragraph:

“We are confident that when the next generation speaks of the marvel of Asia’s and mainland China’s rise, it will certainly also feel pride in the rise of Taiwan and the rise of the ROC. A century from now when ROC citizens think back on us, it will be wonderful if they can say: ‘How lucky that Taiwan had you.”

I guess the high degree of polarisation in the Taiwanese blogosphere can be excused by the highly polarised nature of Taiwanese politics itself, however, one does expect foreign observers to have a degree of detachment from local politics which is not actually apparent in Taiwan at the moment. Perhaps this explodes the myth that expat observers are likely to be more neutral or objective than their local counterparts. Whatever the cause, I think I can be forgiven for longing for more adult behaviour than what passes for political debate in the Taiwanese blogosphere at the moment.


Free Taiwan said...

Thanks for the review of our blog. You did not do your homework though. Please change your review a little as we did not criticize a US flag on a DPP rally, but one that was altered to include the shape of Taiwan - which makes it sort of a colonial fag of Taiwan under American rule.

Gilman Grundy said...

Yeah, that totally makes a difference . . . .

Free Taiwan said...

It does.

Imagine the following: on a Mitt Romney rally in the Republican primaries some guy in the crowd waves a Confederate flag. What does that one flag imply about the supporters of Mitt Romney?

Ben Goren said...

Thanks for the criticism. If I am honest I would have to say I was asking for it because that certainly wasn't one of my best. As long as folks like yourself can keep my feet to the fire, maybe I can keep more of the 'sane' in my posts and the batshit crazy out.
Roasted and noted.

Gilman Grundy said...

@Free Taiwan - Firstly, the US/Taiwan flag is not a 'colonial' flag. You have interpreted it as such, but there is no reason to believe that this is the meaning it intends to convey. The US is Taiwan's greatest ally, many Taiwanese live there including supporters of the DPP, and there is no reason not to believe that the flag was related to this historical connection.

Secondly - the flags supporters show at rallies shows only their allegiance. There is, quite simply, no reason to believe that the flag represents Tsai's allegiance - even if a definite meaning can be given to the flag (the meaning of which is unclear).

It is reasonable to raise questions about the kind of supporters a candidate attracts if they are actively doing things which attract a particular kind of supporter. You did not do this. Instead you engaged in an unsupported portrayal of Tsai as a 'traitor'.

I have on this blog several times criticised the pro-pan-green blogs for jumping on minor or insubstantial stories about Ma and the KMT as evidence that Ma is a "traitor" or an "agent" of the mainland planning on selling out Taiwan to the CCP. This is the reason why people like Michael Turton have in the past accused me of being a 'pro-China troll'. When I look at your blog, I see much the same thing but in the opposite direction.

TG said...
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RollingWave said...

Yeah, I definately agree that the blogosphere, espeically those in English are not exactly in good shape right now, though most of the online talk don't exist on that plateform anyway, it exist on BBS that most foreigners don't see. where while obviously a lot of the boards are also overran by nutjobs there are at least some that retain a sane degree of conversation.

RollingWave said...


Blogs written in English are not neccesarily written by foreigners, you might want to take account to that, I've spent all but 4 years of my live in Taiwan ;)

Also, the general polarization of foreigner's view on Taiwan is fairly easily indentified by who generally support what in Taiwan.

On a general level, nowadays the seperation of Blue and Green supporter is first in their occupation and then with some consideration of their backgrounds. the old addage of post 45 immigrants and Hakka / Aboriginals generally supporting the KMT remains true, though it also often matches with the reality of their occupation anyway, not to meantion the leaning of pre 45 Ming Nan folks are not THAT decsively green (otherwise the KMT would be crushed, since they represent well over 70% of the population at worst.)

The general seperation tend to deal with if the folk's career are more or less likely to be effected by opening to China in a positive or negative way, thus folks in commerce are almost always supportive of the KMT, while folks in agriculture are most likely going to support DPP.

But the interesting aspect is that non-economists / busniess related academic tend to lean heavier towards DPP as well, though it is not too easy to explain why, some are easier to explain such as doctors (because that profession has a strong degree of inheritence in Taiwan and back in the Japanese era they were big benifactors) but others not so much.

In short, I'd just like to point out that most foreigners in Taiwan tend to be more likely to be in touch with the pro-green type of folks, academics or folks working in more cultural related areas. than they are to be in contact with busniessmen working on both side of the strait (and the busniess type of foreigners are much less likely to be actively opinionated on local politics anyway). More over they are unlikely to be effected by cross-strait politics directly anyway. hence why we see blogs like LFTW or Micheal Turton's blog