U.S. and Taiwan Election Highlights
By Jin Zhong
Spring is the best season for planning the year ahead. This March, the biggest news is unquestionably the presidential election in Taiwan. Chen Shui-bian’s eight-year term has come to an end, and Taiwan now has the opportunity to change its ruling party. The election, set for March 22, has focused attention on its ramifications for both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Based on election surveys, this issue of Open Magazine compares the relative strengths of the pan-blue camp and pan-green camps, and analyzes the grey areas in the Ma-Hsieh contest. If the polling rate is high, the contest should be worth watching, even if there are no surprises.
From the perspective of the democratization of China, we value the development of Taiwan’s democratic system. If the system in Taiwan is maturing, then the outcome in terms of which individual is elected is not the most significant or only objective, unlike an election in a totalitarian dictatorship.
The recent progress of the U.S. presidential election is inspiring. Although the new president will not be elected until November, the primary campaigns this spring have already shown interesting trends. There has been a dramatic change in the fight for the Democratic nomination, with Barack Obama now in the lead over Hillary Clinton. Their contest in various states has focused attention on the possibility of America having its first female or black president. As in the case of the Taiwan election, the candidates are engaged in a knock-down-drag-out fight. Some offensive comments may result, but it helps voters learn more about the individuals who might govern their country before casting their votes. This is our most important right. Chinese people who yearn for democracy may think, “How wonderful it would be if our president could be elected in this way.”
There is, of course, a big difference in the democratic development of Taiwan and the United States, and likewise we cannot compare the quality of the election. At the very least, the U.S. does not have serious political disagreements over basic issues such as national identification to contend with. In any case, we can believe that the basic framework and faith in a democratic system has been established in Taiwan. In this respect, the system will not be subverted, no matter who is elected President. Taiwan voters will not accept Chinese rule under “one country, two systems” or unification by armed force.
The CPC National People’s Congress will hold its new session in Beijing in March. The official media refer to the upcoming “super-ministry reforms” as part of a larger political reform. Rumor has it that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao will prepare for five more years, and political reform will be launched once Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang come to power. This is a mere fantasy. Compared with the U.S. and Taiwan presidential elections, the Chinese government’s performance during the recent blizzard in Southern China leads to the conclusion that the inflexible political system of Communist China is too deep-rooted to be reformed. The main task necessary for the transformation of China’s political system is enlightenment, breaking through dogma, improving knowledge of the democratic system and acknowledging modern universal values. Without this, we cannot even make a start.
March 1, 2008
(Translated by Isabella Lam)