Thursday, March 27, 2008

So what is going on in Taiwan

Taiwan just held an election in which the more or less pro Independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their standard bearer Chen Shui Bien who had been elected president in 2000 was defeated by the Kuomintang (KMT) or “Chinese Nationalist Party.” The Chinese Communists hate Chen because of his pro-independence beliefs. The Communists were happy to see the Ma Ying Jeou and CMT take Chen’s place. The CMT were defeated by the Communists back during the Chinese Civil War but they never lost their affinity for relations with China. China has always seen the CMT as more conciliatory and more likely to bring Taiwan “back” to China.

Given the poor state of the Taiwan economy and Chen’s lack of diplomatic success, Ma was heavily favored to win the election. However, even though Ma won a landside, the size of his victory did not match polling predictions. In the immediate run up to the election, China cracked down on Tibet, and many Taiwanese voters saw what was playing out in Tibet as a glimpse into their own future if Taiwan were ruled by China. Many independent voters who might otherwise sided with Ma to send out the DPP changed their minds at the last minute, wary of what China intends for Taiwan.

This is actually a very dangerous time in China. Tibet chose this moment to assert their nationalism since if ever the Red Army would be restrained it is in Tibet, immediately before the Olympics. If other restive provinces decide to press their dissatisfaction with the 300 million unemployed, vast income disparity, heavy handed and incompetent regulation of the economy, China will be faced with a dilemma. Crack down violently to maintain their control or risk being seen to lose the Mandate of Heaven. If China does crack down on these protestors with a substantial loss of life, there is a good chance that many countries will pull out of the Olympics, causing a loss of face that might in itself hasten the end of the dynasty. Then, the cycle will only worsen. Chinese communists will be all the more angry and fearful at what losing face and power would mean to them personally (thing Ceausescu and Mussolini) and all the more likely to take brutal reprisal. No one holds a civil war like the Chinese and the potential loss of life there could be staggering. A minor uprising prior to the Boxer Rebellion in western China killed 800,000. A minor rebellion. Something major like an uprising to depose the Communists would get very ugly. Do not expect them to fade away the Gorby and the boys in the Soviet Union.