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China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Archive for November 2006

The Taiwan Situation: Updated

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In Taiwan you are either part of the problem, part of the solution or, more likely, both.

Taiwan has accomplished little in the time elapsed since the corruption indictments of top Taiwanese officials close to President Shui-bian. It has become clear to me that this entire facade of a revolution is in fact two separate but seemingly indistinguishable projects.

The first being that of the mass citizenry of the country. It has been reported in The Taipei Times that 60% of the country are in favor of passing a recall motion to finally put a democratic vote on whether or not A-bian should remain in office. These are the common folks. These are the people who have sat-in at the protests, and those whom have not. They are middle to lower-middle class Taiwanese who are tired of the years upon years of government corruption, inefficiency, and inadequacy.

The second project is that of the organized political factions who have entrenched themselves in this anti-Chen campaign. They have done a reasonable job of hiding their political interests. Yet, as time drags on and politicians banter back and forth, making accusations against each side, arguing who is more corrupt, who is the bigger cheat… it can be seen that the goal here is not to oust Chen because of a misuse of his allegedly “secret slush fund” for confidential state foreign affairs.

The goal is, and is succeeding in, deadlocking Taiwan’s legislature and political process, forcing a confrontation of ideals to be judged by the balance of a very frail judiciary. Thus, the people have taken to the streets. Not to impose mob rule. Rather they seek to engage and enact the democratic right to peacefully assemble and the right to freedom of speech. While noble, this movement has been pirated by politicians seeking smear campaigns and personal press, all the while shielding their inefficiency and inability to produce as representatives of this constituency.

Recent weeks have born the launch of an investigation into Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou’s use of his own private slush fund. The irony here being that every politician in this bloated political rat-house has his own slush fund. This is a product of years of authoritarianism which built up an obese political body of support through bribery and pay-offs from just such funds.

Ma is head of the KMT, which is in staunch opposition to most all of what Chen and his DPP party have attempted to do in office over the last six years. Most notbaly, this includes Constitutional reforms, economic restructuring, and military modifications. Ma is also considered the strongest political KMT candidate, and opponent to the DPP, in the 2008 election for the presidency.

The more I read and study Taiwan’s political past, the more I realize that Chen indeed embodies a break from the status quo. He has just failed to prove it.  After nearly 50 years under the authoritarian regime of the KMT party, Taiwan is emerging democratically. As nations tend to do in this process, they lack established fundamental democratic engines and institutions. The government is roughly comprised of five bodies, overlapping, and vaguely structured through a weak Constitution. It is a bureaucratic cesspool.

All of Taiwan’s political factions are sharply divided under two umbrellas. One being the pan-green alliance which favors eventual independence. The other being the pan-blue party which favors the eventual reunification with the mainland. Before this debilitating presidential debacle, Chen had set his agenda to rewrite this country’s Constitution, clearly idenitifying its system and process. To do so would mean potentially upsetting China. The country’s politicians split decisively over this… “this” being the current identity, direction and future of Taiwan.

I feel remoresful and saddened when watching the majority of Taiwanese citizens swing in the strings of political puppeteers. After 50 years of authoritarianism, the clutches of corruption still hold on this island. Now, to shatter the institutionalized manipulation of the people, Taiwan is left to decide between a president who has great ideas, seemingly weak morals, and a slew of opposition both on the island and the mainland; or a potential return to power of the authoritarian KMT, which appears no less corrupt but flies its banner of democratic reform in the blind mist of this “revolution.”

Taiwan has little chance of breaking this deadlock, whether or not Chen resigns. Interests are vested. The political-assassination-propaganda machine of the mainland is chuckling as it cripples this country’s budding democratic system. Lost in the mess of this protest is the essential realization that without knowing where it stands and where it wants to go, Taiwan will never make progress as a people, as a democracy, or as a nation.

Please check out the recent comment by Roger Lin!   And as always, check out Michael Turton’s blog… the man blows me out of the water with the time and knowledge he puts into his work.  Peace.


Written by Miles

November 22, 2006 at 2:17 pm

Dr. Smgklksjdfosidjslk

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I continued my brazen escapade into the heart of the Taiwanese healthcare system today. My cough is lingering. This I blame mostly on my erratic eating habits, a scant amount of sleep, and the little 5 year-old bacteria bugs that I teach every day.

(Side Note: One of my biggest pet peeves in Taiwan is when people wash their hands then proceed to open the doorknob sans the step of DRYING their hands, thus leaving me a dripping cold steel germ bath to discover again and again…)

So I mosied into a traditional Chinese herbalist.  It was right next to a McDonald’s.  The interior smelt like McNuggets and mushrooms.  The heat was sweltering.  I was not sure if this was part of the medication, since I could clearly see the fans hanging motionless from the ceiling.  People were scattered about in the most bizarre locations and positions.  The clinic had a mixed vibe, half sauna and half vergetable storage house.  Quite a sight.  Pins impeccably placed into people’s problem areas.  Little girls.  Old men.  One patient looking aimlessly at the ceiling, balancing a facial plaster.

The doctor spoke no English.  I was pleased to test my Chinese and pass.  He wore a wide grin and a patch of perfect white hair.  The diagnosis consisted of a couple of basic questions and a palm reading-slash-pulse checking.

The orders:  Swallow this magic powder three times a day.  No cold drinks.  No spicy food.  Nothing fried.

That makes for a boring, hungry weekend.

Written by Miles

November 17, 2006 at 1:18 pm

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

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I wrote and sent a group email shortly after I first arrived here. In it, I made a flippant comment about how my job in my first school was “like recess all day” (a testament to the dearth of discipline of this particular school). A cousin wrote me back something to the extent of, “Wow, and I was worried these Asian students were going to blow past us.”

I regret my comment. I regret it in the sense that I was very fresh and naive to the educational institution here. First of all, the pressure parents put on these kids is borderline unbearable. These kids bend and bend and bend, and I am not shocked that Taiwan harbors a very high suicide rate. People break.

It starts in kindergarten. For most of the foreign teachers, we provide a break. We come in and are present mostly for kids to practice pronunciation and listening. So, we are encouraged to play lots of learning games and uplift the spirits of these kids.

I also tutor privately. I tutor a 13 year-old boy, a 14 year-old girl, and a 15 year-old girl. The pressure on these kids is insane. They are the virtuoso-future-leaders-of-tomorrow-play-the-piano-play-the-violin-speak-four-languages-never-stop-studying type.

So here is the vocabulary list for my 13 year-old student. See how you do!

SET 1 = apocryphal, artifice, axiom, belie, contrived, duplicity, mendacious, postulate, precept, premise, putative, spurious, veracity,verisimilitude

SET 2 = aggregate, attrition, dearth, munificence, nominal, parsimony, paucity, penury, plethora, prodigious, proliferate, squander

Now there are a couple of gimmes in there, but honestly… he is 13!

Written by Miles

November 9, 2006 at 2:15 pm


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President Chen Shui-bian’s wife, Wu Shu-chen, and three “former” presidential aides were indicted today on charges of embezzlement, perjury, and forging documents!

There is an absolutely ludicrous rule in Taiwan that one may not be indicted while serving in office.  Therefore, Chen may still be indicted BUT this will have to happen only after he resigns or after his term ends in May 2008.

It made the New York Times… check it out here.

Written by Miles

November 3, 2006 at 1:27 pm