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Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm dreaming of a plastic Christmas

Amber poses with our new artificial Christmas tree, which is twice as tall as the one we had last year, and just as fake.

It's that time of year again, and this afternoon my daughter and I took our first tentative steps towards Xmas shopping by visiting the Taiwan Railways Administration 台灣鐵路管理局 shop located above Taiyuan Station 太原車站. Actually, we were supposed to go swimming today with my friend Steve and his brood, but seasonal colds got in the way of things (Amber is just getting over hers, and I'm still in the middle of mine). So the true purpose of riding the rails was just to get out of the house, and to show Amber the station, store and seating area, where it's possible to have a drink and watch the trains pass underneath (here's the link to my previous visit to Taiyuan). While we were there, however, my 波ちゃん saw something that she thought her mother would like for Christmas, so you could say we have begun.

Without giving away any of Santa's secrets, Amber can be pretty sure of getting want she wants for Christmas this year (her wish list, thankfully, isn't very long or demanding). The same can't be said for the leadership in Beijing, in the aftermath of the recent elections held in Taiwan. Hong Kong-based journalist Frank Ching's analysis of the results can be found in today's Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ ("The dead weight on Taiwanese aspirations"):

"The ruling party of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 — in an election carefully watched in Beijing — has managed to win three of five mayoral races in Taiwan, reversing a losing streak in legislative by-elections since Ma's presidential election triumph in 2008. Even so, however, the Kuomintang 中國國民黨 won far fewer votes island-wide than the opposition Democratic Progressive Party 民主進步黨, suggesting that the president may have problems in 2012, when he will run for a second term. A post-election poll conducted by the Global Views Survey Research Center showed Ma's public confidence index dropping to 47.5 percent, putting him behind Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文, chairwoman of the DPP, with 51.2 percent...

In last month's mayoral elections, however, while the status quo was maintained, with the opposition keeping two seats and the KMT retaining three, the DPP received 49.9 percent of all votes cast, compared to 44.5 percent for the KMT. The rest went to independents. The overall decline in KMT electoral support means that Ma will certainly not be able to accede to Beijing's desire for political discussions on relations between Taiwan and...China. With the vast majority of Taiwan's people favoring maintenance of the status quo, or de facto independence, there is little support for negotiations that Beijing hopes will lead to political reunification. Any sign that Ma is thinking of such talks in a second term could jeopardize his re-election prospects...

In Kaohsiung 高雄, the incumbent DPP mayor, Chen Chu 陳菊, won in a landslide, receiving 52.8 percent of the vote, while the KMT candidate came last in a three- way race, getting only 20.5 percent of the vote — sharply down from previous elections. This means that the DPP has deepened and strengthened its base of support. And even where it lost the races, the DPP showed impressive gains. This was particularly true in Taichung 台中, where KMT incumbent Jason Hu 胡志強 squeaked through with 51.12 percent of the vote. In the last election in 2005, Hu won with a 20 percent margin. In Taipei 台北, traditionally a KMT stronghold, the incumbent Hau Lung-pin 郝龍斌 won re-election with a decisive margin of 55.65 percent. However, the 43.81 percent achieved by the challenger, the DPP's Su Tseng-chang 蘇貞昌, was the highest level achieved by the DPP since Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁 ran for mayor in 1998. Xinbei City 新北市, formerly known as Taipei County 台北縣, was also retained by the KMT. The incumbent, Eric Chu 朱立倫, garnered 52.6 percent of the vote, defeating DPP chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, who nevertheless received over a million votes, making her a serious contender for the presidency in 2012. So there has been serious erosion in the KMT's support base while the DPP has managed not only to strengthen its base but to make inroads into traditionally KMT areas. If China wants to prevent the pro-independence DPP from regaining power, it will have to support the KMT by allowing Taiwan more international space. Although there has been a big improvement since the days of Chen Shui-bian, there is much more than Beijing can do."

Yes, Virginia, China had better watch out, because it has been far naughtier than nice this year (or any other year, for that matter):

"Even where nongovernmental relations are concerned, Beijing continues to impede Taiwan's participation. In October, for example, on the opening night of the Tōkyō Film Festival 東京国際映画祭, Chinese representatives demanded that the Japanese organizers change the name 'Taiwan' 台湾 to 'China Taiwan' or 'Chinese T'aipei' チャイニーズタイペイ. When this was not done, the Chinese withdrew from the festival. Such actions are unlikely to win for Beijing the minds and hearts of the people of Taiwan. For purely domestic political reasons, Ma may find it necessary to distance his government from China. China should understand that hostility does not win friends, in Taiwan or anywhere else."

Here's hoping the leadership in Zhongnanhai gets nothing more than lumps of coal in their stockings this holiday season. Ho ho ho...

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