Saturday, December 8, 2018

Taiwan ditches Tsai Ing-wen

I have not been to Taiwan for years. The last time I was there was in the mid-1990s when I had to accompany the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong of Genting to meet some leaders there. There was a crisis between China and Taiwan then; Tan Sri Lim wanted to play Kissinger. Of course, he couldn't do anything to help. We flew in and out the same day. Nonetheless, we did have time to share a meal of Taiwanese porridge in one of the hotels there!

When Chen Shui-bian became the country's president, I shunned Taiwan completely. I just could not understand how the people there could elect such a clown to be their president. And his vice president Annette Lu was equally obnoxious to me.

When Shen-yang (my son) suggested that we joined him for a visit to Taipei where he and his partner would be speaking in an international conference, I was not too keen at first, but being a harsh father to Shen-yang when he was young, I felt I should try to make up the wound that I had inflicted. Sure, let's go! I said to my wife.

I now hold a different opinion of Taiwan, thanks to the latest visit!

When we were there, the country was in the midst of electing new mayors to their cities. Freedom of speech is virtually absolute in Taiwan today; it is frighteningly democratic. Policies don't mean much. If you cannot deliver, you are out! Chen Shui-bian was promptly replaced by Kuomintang's Ma Ying-jeou. But Kuomintang lost ground in 2016 and Tsai Ing-wen was elected president. Democratic Progressive Party under her suffered massive defeats in these latest mayoral elections. She promptly resigned as the president of DPP, which means she is unlikely good for second term. Tsai is academically brilliant. And this is one example that great academics are usually not effective leaders. Politics in Taiwan moves in a pendulum fashion. Tsai is pro-Independence. But I think China should not gloat over the results!

The people of Taiwan are not embracing the Mainland anytime soon! They truly understand Realpolitik. The country's economy is not in great shape. Instead of counting on an erratic Trump, they know it is time to work with your own big brother, even though he is too patronising for your comfort.

Perfect co-existence in Taoyuan Airport...
Unlike many of our Mainland kin, Taiwanese by and large conduct themselves with a very high level of etiquette. The exhortations of Chiang Kai-shek have largely been forgotten. Today Taiwanese speak not only Mandarin, they are also at home with Mingan diaclect (similar to Fujian's Xiamen variety). They don't harbour hostility towards Japanese, for Japan had indeed been quite benevolent to the island when it was under its occupation. Mainland China therefore doesn't mean much to them, save for the investment opportunities they used to take advantage when China first opened up, and the large number of Mainland Chinese tourists that have been pouring in after it after China became rich. Be that as it may, Taiwanese are still steep in Confucianism in culture. Our driver-cum-tour guide says Taiwan can boast to be No 1 in these three things; most number of motorcycles, most number of temples and most number of 7-Elevens. A cursory look convinced me that he was not wrong!

The visit was not without disappointment, though. Saw Hwa and I thought we should revisit Sun-moon Lake. We tried the high speed train. The ride was perfect. But I just could not believe that the resort had degenerated so much. It looks more like a third-world holiday spot to me.

7-Elevens are everywhere
Taiwan is No 1 in temple counts...
So it is also No 1 in motorcycles...

Labour shortage in Sun-Moon Lake; only paper bowls and cups are offered.
Time to get rid of this  sheriff! A life-size statue in Grand Hyatt

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