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Monday, September 13, 2010

It Must Be An Election Year: Ma Ying-jiu Eats the Tour de Taiwan

Looking Into The Future

The CNA (Focus Taiwan) is reporting that the elected R.O.C. president, Ma Ying-jiu, would like to include the annual Tour de Taiwan in his planned festivities to ring in the centenary of the R.O.C.

Some highlights and commentary below:

"We hope that cycling, a sport that promotes energy conservation and carbon emissions reduction, will become a major sport among Taiwanese people, " Ma said.
The first issue is that the record shows Ma Ying-jiu, his administration and his party are no friends to the environment. Ma's government has spent NTD 3 million in taxpayers money to defend and cheerlead the expansion of the petrochemical industry in Taiwan. The latest is to build a new plant in one of the last wetlands along the western plain.

Then there was the unfair attempted expropriation of farmland aided by the president for the construction of an expanded Chunshan Science Park.

Ma's party has used its legislative majority to pass a law that would relax restrictions on land developers. Much of this law is aimed at paving Taiwan for Chinese tourists. The government seems bent on creating attractions for the sole purpose of drawing Chinese tourists, whether there is a need or not. It is a manufactured demand for attractions.

Let's not forget the 5th phase of the Sixth Naphta Cracker plant, which the government's Environmental Impact Assessment Committee determined to be too burdensome to require reduced carbon emissions.

The list goes on...

The Ma administration and the KMT is a tool for very few to become very rich at the expense of the very many. They are not concerned about the environment as long as it does not prevent them from maintaining power. Only when an issue threatens a politicians chances for holding office will the environment be a concern. Fortunately, since the democratic reforms ushered in under Lee Teng-hui, there is now some civil recourse. Unlike the days when the government simply did as it wished under the instruction of a dictator and maybe a little organized crime for the elbow grease. The Number 3 Nuclear Power Plant on a coral reef in Kenting and the 98,000 barrels of nuclear waste for the indigenous Dao people to sit on, are just two examples of this era.

Mr. Ma, you are no friend to the environment and your high talk of carbon emissions rings empty!

"Taiwan is a kingdom of bicycles, not only because it produces high-end bicycles but also because the people use them and have made them a symbol of Taiwan," Ma added.
In effect this quote highlights the fact that Ma Ying-jiu recognizes the fact that Taiwanese have constructed a new national and ethnic identity with their own shared symbols of meaning i.e. culture that is not a part of the Chinese experience. Symbols like the bicycle and its impact in helping Taiwanese imagine their community through shared experiences, in this case an economic experience forged between local, global and unique structural forces, has effectively created a dichotomy between Taiwan and China in terms of "one" vs. "other". The process of othering China under similar social, economic and structural circumstances has been the basis for the Taiwanese identity for over 100 years and an identity separate from Han people on the continent for hundreds of years. (I do not use the term China as it is problematic and anachronistic).

The most surprising quote from the article nearly knocked me out of my chair.
"You feel attachment to the land when you pedal your way over every inch of it," he pointed out.
Ever since the beginning of Taiwan's localization movement under Lee Teng-hui, Ma Ying-jiu has attempted to put on the face of a "New Taiwanese", or a person born in China who feels a separate experience on Taiwan and a shared historical trajectory and destiny binds all people to the land as "local" or Taiwanese. As a matter of fact, Ma was the first politician to openly deploy the term.

For Taiwan neophytes, the localization movement grew in tandem with the democracy movement in the 1970's and 1980's as Taiwanese rejected the Chinese Nationalist ideology that had been brought to Taiwan in 1945 by the Chinese Kuomintang, and enforced under a brutal system of martial law and a single party dictatorship. The KMT attempted to maintain power despite representing only a small minority of other Chinese Nationalists who fled China. Democracy was opposed as was the establishment and promotion of local Taiwanese languages and cultures. Instead, the KMT Leninist state used its power and various forms of intimidation to promote a single highly centralized "national" language, culture and ideology that reflected the philosophy of Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

Sunism is a conglomeration of various philosophies, but draws heavily from some of the popular ideas of the time, which also helped to inspire fascism. Sun sought to use the 18th century pseudoscientific beliefs in racialism and social darwinism to accomplish two ends; a) to delegitimize the Qing as "outsiders" and "non-Chinese" through "blood" descent, and b) maintain all the territories acquired by the Qing expansion that pushed the borders of the Middle Kingdom out to two non-traditional places--the desert, and the ocean (Taiwan). Sun classified "Han" as a "pure race" that was bred to be the rightful leaders of the "Asian races" ahead of the "brown and black skinned people" who Sun felt were degraded and "subhuman". Sun believed it was a Chinese nation that would lead the master race of Asia through its superior culture and breeding. The Chinese nation became a civilizing project and a colonizer. We can still see much of this at work in China today. Not only did Sun place Han as ethnically/culturally superior, but he determined that Han equaled modern as well. This gave the Republic of China the pretext to engage in transforming all people's within its dominion into Han and Chinese nationalists. This is how the ROC ruled Taiwan for 45 years; in the relationship of colonizer and colonized.

Ma Ying-jiu hails from this tradition. For his entire career he has advocated this brand of Chinese nationalism, and up until the early 1990's he was an ardent opponent of democracy and localization. Ma, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in one of the insular communities of other Chinese immigrants (refugees) who enjoyed benefits derived from their ethnic status as "Mainlanders", has always tried to oppose, suppress and deny the separate Taiwanese identity. As a student at Harvard he is widely believed to have been a student informer on the overseas Taiwanese who opposed the KMT's single party dictatorship.

Since becoming president, elected on an economic platform, Ma has made several moves away from the popular Tawan-centered model of his two predecessors, toward a Greater Chinese ideology. Furthermore, he has made little effort in upholding or asserting this identity, or any other for that matter, other than Taiwan as an ambiguous geographic location. For the first time in 20 years Taiwan is being led by a believer in the strong China centered identity espoused by Sun Yat-sen and the Chiang family dictators, the younger being Ma's patron in the KMT political world.

Over the past two years Ma has backed away from negotiating with China from a position of strength and switched to a position of acquiescence, in part to realize the Chinese nationalist dream of the united "fatherland". He backs every measure which erodes Taiwanese sovereignty over their land. Ma even asked Taiwanese to avoid waving their own flags in a sporting event against Chinese teams... in Taiwan, while the Chinese could do what they wished. Ma has twice refused to make even a symbolic attempt at joining the United Nations, he often refers to cultural and economic links between Taiwan and China as "domestic" or "region to region".

Lastly, I resent the use of a cycling event in the centenary of the ROC, as Taiwanese were in no way a part of its founding and only came into contact with the ROC in 1945 after being a Japanese colony for 50 years. For most of the Taiwanese experience with the ROC they has no access to its rights nor its privileges. Right and Privilege was left to people like Ma Ying-jiu... connected party insiders. The ROC is an entity that enables a system of ethnic disharmony and inherent inequality as some citizens are "Chinese" enough and others are not and can never be. The entire enterprise needs to be scrapped and rebuilt around Taiwan as a center and not a periphery. Only this can ensure equality for all people. Unfortunately, Ma is working hard to see this will never become a reality.

I can not look into Ma's heart of hearts to know how he really feels, but if his actions are any indication his words are empty words.