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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Garden Path: Connecting Bike Routes To Campaign Trails

Like any other season, election season in Taiwan is marked by certain changes that clue us in that change is afoot. Fall has the changing of the leaves and Spring is a vibrant flurry of rebirth.

In Taiwan we don't need groundhogs, robins or Poor Richard to tell us election season is upon us. We simply need to look for the first awkward signs of a politician astride a bike. This past weekend we got our first indication that this is an election year. Like Bambi taking his first, unsure steps onto the ice, Taiwan's president Ma Ying-jiu gingerly made his wobbly way out on his bicycle in an electioneering photo-op thinly disguised as public service.

Unlike the play acting and costumed fantasy in which he hoped to indulge, Ma was not the spry yearling full of boundless energy, hope and possibility. Rather, the ROC's president looked feeble, wooden and old. And unlike his carefully groomed popular image of vitality and virility, the KMT chief looked ghoulishly pale and weak.

This less than flattering image of the ROC's former golden boy as doddering, impotent and out of touch does not come as a major surprise when Ma and his cohorts continue to belch policy and ideology that fits modern Taiwan about as well as a woolen Mao suit.

According to a report from the China Post:
Ma joined the biking trip yesterday morning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China. He encouraged youths from around the globe to experience the beauty of Taiwan — the gorgeous scenery, delicacies and friendly people — on bike, saying that biking is a good way to discover Taiwan.
During his tenure as ROC president, Ma Ying-jiu has pursued an agenda that has primarily served corporate interests and the interests of the PRC at the expense of the environmental, economic and political interests of the Taiwanese people. Young people have felt the most alienated by rising inflation and stagnant earnings amid skyrocketing housing prices.

Moreover, Ma has led the country headlong into his reality distortion of a rabbit hole that is his own fixation and faith in his Chinese Nationalist ideology; the confluence of ethnic nationalism, racialism and historical fantasy that resembles the Cold War rhetoric spouted by the KMT Central Standing Committee during its heyday as the seat of power during Taiwan's four decades of authoritarian martial law--an era of which Ma was and still is an ardent defender.

Ma's ideology and his fear in its terminability is made clear by his frequent invocation of the "100 year" meme.

We have... and will undoubtedly continue to see the KMT drag out their beloved "centenary" prop during this election cycle capped by their curious denial of historical bifurcation that occurs whenever the slogan "Taiwan 100" is deployed.

It is evident that Taiwan and the ROC are mutually exclusive as one is the common name for the island and the other is the name of the state that extended its political domain over the island 66 years ago... at gunpoint.

To talk about "Taiwan-100" one would have to include Taiwan's experience as a Japanese colony with Viscount Kodama Gentaro and Goto Shimpei featuring more prominently than Sun Yat-sen. This is a fact that is often lost in the idealogical and slanted education system that is still structured as a colonial framework for transforming "backward" Taiwanese into "modern" Chinese and elevating the nationalist construction of the Han ethnic group onto the chauvinistic seat of hegemonic superiority... a charge that has often been leveled at Ma and his party.

The fact of the matter is that the KMT and the ROC are very close and for much of Taiwan's experience with them, they operated as a single party state. This is why we are now seeing such a drive to raise the ROC's profile, especially after 20 years of decline in Taiwan's popular nomenclature where simply "Taiwan" has supplanted "ROC" as the country's common name beginning at the dawn of the Democratic era in the 1980's when Taiwanese gained the space to reinterpret their own narratives.

Yes, Ma will continue these "ROC/Taiwan-100" events to do everything in his power to secure his exalted status as a "Descendent of the Dragon", but it will take a lot more than bike rides to breathe any more life and vitality into the tired political/cultural program he champions; a program that has already been subverted and transformed by Taiwanese while Ma was busy chasing a dragon.