Saturday, April 5, 2008

It’s the economy, stupid.

TAIPEI, Taiwan--This is the platform that led Bill Clinton to the Oval Office in 1992. It is also the reason for Ma Ying-jieu’s (馬英九) convincing win in 2008.

Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) campaign focused on just a handful of issues. He beat them like a dead horse, but in the end he still couldn’t bring down the horse. It was a contest with Hsieh going on the offensive with negative attacks, while Ma played defense the entire time. His strategy was simply not to blow the big lead and just wait for the final buzzer to sound.

Hsieh camp: Ma still has a valid green card.
Ma camp: It became invalid after he applied for a US visa.

It’s a gray area. Ma couldn’t produce evidence that he formally renounced the green card (because he didn’t), but the unwritten rule goes that if you don’t set foot on US soil for a year it automatically becomes invalid. Why else do people go to Guam?

Hsieh camp: Taiwan will become the next Tibet.
Ma: Taiwan is not China. Neither is it Hong Kong.

While the Tibet crackdowns may have been good timing, Taiwanese people tend not to focus on international news. Rarely do big stories elsewhere get substantial airtime. Unlike Ju Rong-ji’s (朱鎔基) finger-wagging in 2000, this was not a direct threat. Double endorsements from Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Lee Yuan-tse (李遠哲) didn’t have much of an effect either. The Nobel Laureate’s credibility had gone down the drain after endorsing Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) the past 2 times.

Hsieh camp: One-party rule will be just like the old KMT days.
Ma camp: We will exercise restraint.

Hsieh faced an uphill battle. President Chen was elected on a platform of ruling out the “black-gold” corruption of the KMT, and he messed up. He should take much of the heat for this election loss, and kudos to Duan Yi-kang (段宜康) for finally coming out and saying so. It’s hard to have any sympathy for Chen and his family when you see them enjoying the good life. Not only was Chao Chien-ming’s (趙建銘) bank account getting bigger and bigger but so was his waistline.

Hsieh camp: A common market will be destructive.
Ma camp: It will improve the economy.

The Trojan Horse at the DPP’s 316 rally was a brilliant attempt at warning people of the dangers of a common market. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I’m no NAFTA expert, but I do know that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama want to touch that issue again with a 10-foot pole. In the 1990s, Americans sure found those nice, cheap Japanese cars hard to resist, leading to a huge trade imbalance. Though I’m sure parents will be less tempted to buy Made in China dolls, you know, those stuffed with used (but bleached) maxi pads.

President Chen asked the South to carry the DPP to victory again, but they actually lost the vote there. Free rides on the brand-new Kaohsiung subway didn’t help. Kaohsiung voters ditched their former mayor in favor of hopes of prosperity. That had to hurt. When you see the incredible leverage that China has in the world, it’s hard not to get jealous. Closer ties with China may be good for Taiwan’s lagging economy, but these are delicate issues that are beyond Ma’s abilities without selling us out. I can only hope that Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) is a brighter bulb.


flower said...

I feel that economy was one of the 'false' or superficial issues that let KMT won the election.

There are many issues deeper than just the economy.

Daphne said...

Certainly, a weak economy, raising prices and stagnant wages were not unique to Taiwan. It was bad luck for the DPP, but President Chen's response was inadequate. His game of musical chairs with appointing Cabinet members didn't help either.