Monday, 26 May 2014

"Things were better in Chiang Kai-shek's day"

From the annals of "WTF" comes this bizarre Op-Ed piece in the Want China Times claiming, amongst other things, that the Sunflower Movement "[placed] Taiwan's system of law and order in jeopardy", "usurped executive power", "hurt the . . . separation of powers", "divided Taiwan's society", "[destroyed] the values of hardworking people", subjected the national identity of the Republic of China to "unprecedented devastation", and would "eventually make Taiwan a rigid and isolated society". Whilst the title may have been the addition of one of the editors, it is not totally unrepresentative of the content of the article, where it is claimed that Chiang Kai-Shek and his son, Chiang Ching-Guo, the martial-law era dictators of Taiwan upheld the principle of executive power over legislative power - something of a under-statement given the extra-legal brutality handed out on the direct orders of the Chiangs, and who enforced an essentially single-party system under their personal control.

The author, Bert Lim, is president and founding member of the World Economics Society, a Taiwan-based think-tank whose existence stretches back to the martial-law era (1974), and has written rather more sane articles for publications including the broadly pro-independence Taipei Times, however this piece reflects simply a deluded and hyperbolic mind-set. The Sunflower Movement, at most, was a student demo that managed to temporarily occupy a few government buildings in Taipei through what appears to have been the typically bad policing of the R.O.C. police force, and which was then rightly removed, albeit in a heavy-handed fashion that is also typical of the police in Taiwan.

A simple student demonstration cannot jeopardise the system of law and order in a democratic country, and there is no sign that Taiwan is an more or less of a country under the rule of law this year than it was last year. Students occupying the legislature cannot be said to have strengthened that legislature. There is no sign that the separation of powers, a separation that simply did not exist under the Chiangs who controlled all arms of the state, is under significant threat. Taiwanese society is, depressingly, neither more or less divided than it was at the start of this year though the response to the occupation obviously exposed that division. The R.O.C. exists as a state only at this point, and has lacked any real national identity now, at least one distinct to Taiwan, for more than a decade now. The Taiwanese economy is not really threatened by this occupation, though the services treaty it protested against might bring some minor benefits to the economy.

Meeting this kind of extreme rhetoric point-by-point almost seems pointless given the way it seems to spring up all the time in political discussion in Taiwanese discussion. The best response to this kind of hyperbole is simply to ask the question that Ma Yingjiu posed in response to a question from the Taipei Times back in 2009:

Taipei Times: Do you think Taiwan is a normal country?

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九): The Taiwanese people elect their own president and legislature and govern themselves. Do you think that is normal or not normal?
Whatever you may think of Taiwan's democratically-elected president now, he was undoubtedly right then. Taiwan  remains an essentially stable, law-abiding, and above all, normal country, albeit one living under the threat of invasion.

[Picture: Former Taiwanese dictator Chiang Kai-Shek takes the salute at the Double-Ten parade in Taipei in 1966. Via Wiki]

No comments: