The Big Lie of Taiwan’s Election
A Lie heard halfway around the World
January 18, 2002
“A lie gets halfway around the world before truth can even get its boots on.”
— Ken Duberstein, veteran Washington public relations expert and former Reagan Chief of Staff, quoting Sir Winston Churchill
Executive Summary: The tragic aftermath of our US led war against the Serbian people revealed one thing — our intrepid Fourth Estate got the story of Kosovo exactly backwards. Now the establishment media has reprised its sorry performance in the Balkans. It has gotten Taiwan’s 2001 legislative, county and municipal elections exactly backwards as well. You would never know it from the deluge of “expert commentary” by Taiwan independence fellow travellers, but Taiwan’s election does not represent a “mandate for Taiwan independence.” It merely confirms what genuine China experts have known all along — enthusiasm for political independence on the island continues to wane with each passing year.
The Big Lie
“There is no truth in Pravda (“The Truth”), there is no news in Isvestia (“The News”).
— Cold War era Russian joke
The Taipei Times has alleged that the 88 seats won by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), plus the 13 seats won by Lee Teng-hui’s Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), out of a total of 225 in the Republic of China legislature, amount to a clear and unequivocal mandate for Taiwan independence.
Editorial: Has Beijing got the message yet?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Taipei Times is the English language mouthpiece for the Taiwan independence movement. It is to the DPP and TSU what Pravda and Isvestia were to the Russian Communist Party. Just as there was no news in Isvestia, and no truth in Pravda, so there is little news and less truth in the Taipei Times. What the Taipei Times offers in abundance, is “dezinformatsiya,” the KGB’s term for deliberate and systematic deception as an instrument of official policy. [One irony of our post Cold War world is that today’s Pravda and Isvestia contain more truth and more news than the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.] Needless to say, the Taipei Times’ mendacious post-election spin control is being parroted by all the usual suspects, notably “Yellow Peril” China baiter William Kristol. What a surprise.
Embrace Taiwan, by William Kristol
For a good laugh, courtesy the Taiwan independence amen corner
Has China Seen the Light?
This slapdash bit of “expert commentary” amounts to an open admission of complete and utter ignorance concerning its purported subject matter.
The Hard Facts
Those who read Chinese and want to know the true significance of Taiwan’s 2001 legislative, county and municipal elections owe it to themselves to read an eye-opening article entitled “Who Won?,” by Sisy Chen, former Public Relations Chief for the DPP, now one of the Taiwan independence movement’s most feared critics. Chen is especially formidable in bare knuckles television debates with her former comrades, because as the DPP’s former “Minister of Propaganda,” she “knows where the bodies are buried.”
Those who can’t read Chinese, relax. Chen’s insights have been incorporated into this article.
Sisy Chen, along with former DPP party chairmen and “White Terror” political prisoners Shih Ming-teh and Hsu Hsing-liang were the DPP’s political superstars. Shih, who was imprisoned for three decades, is Taiwan’s Nelson Mandela. Because they were far brighter than the typical Taiwan independence True Believer, all three saw the light and repudiated not only the DPP, but Taiwan independence per se. They repudiated the the Democratic Progressive Party because it had betrayed its founding ideals: democracy and progressive government. They repudiated Taiwan independence because they realized, however belatedly, that Taiwan independence was not in the best interest of ordinary men and women on Taiwan. Together with former New Party Chairman Jaw Shau-kang, former New Party legislator Chu Hui-liang, they have founded a forward looking pro reunification thinktank known as “Shan Meng” or “Mountain Alliance.”
Sisy Chen has mentioned on her nightly TV program that she is one fourth Japanese. Legendary Ming dynasty Chinese hero Cheng Cheng-kung, aka “Koxinga,” was half Japanese. Let no one accuse this columnist of anti-Japanese bigotry. This columnist’s outrage has always been animated by moral/ethical considerations, never ethnicity, and has never been directed at fellow human beings of Japanese origin, only at Japanese militarists and colonialists who victimized China.
As Chen notes, the actual vote totals reveal something seriously amiss with Taiwan independence spin control. For starters, votes cast in favor of pro reunification Pan Blue candidates clearly outnumber votes cast in favor of pro independence Pan Green candidates.
Voter Turnout, Legislative Elections — 66%
Pan Blue — 50%
KMT — 29%
PFP — 19%
NP — 3%
Pan Green — 41%
DPP — 33%
TSU — 8%
I have purposely rounded the percentages off to the nearest whole number, making them easy to remember and track, even though it introduces a slight rounding off error.
As you can see, the DPP performed worse this year than it did two years ago. DPP legislative candidates received 33% of the vote, 6% fewer than DPP presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian received during the March 2000 presidential election, when he squeaked into the president’s office with an underwhelming 39% plurality.
At the grassroots county and municipal levels Taiwan independence suffered an even worse setback. Sure, the Pan Green parties captured 45% of the county and municipal level vote, up from 43% in 1997. But the Pan Blue parties captured 47% of the county and municipal level vote, up from 42% in 1997! Northern and central Taiwan are now in Pan Blue hands. Only southern Taiwan remains in Pan Green hands.
The Real Truth
So how did the Pan Green parties wind up with so many seats in the ROC legislature? Specifically, how the hell did the DPP, which received a mere 33% of the total vote, wind up with 39% of the 225 seats in the legislature? Thirty-three percent of 225 equals 74, right? How did the DPP wind up with 87 seats, 13 more than their vote totals warranted?
Simple. Taiwan boasts, if that is the right word, a peculiar voting system, assumed to be the only one of its kind in the world. In the US two or three candidates compete for a single seat in an electoral district. On Taiwan dozens of candidates compete for a half dozen or so seats in an electoral district. On Taiwan elections resemble an “every man for himself, the devil take the hindmost,” free-for-all. This system is not without merit, but also has drawbacks.
On the one hand it permits constituencies which might be totally shut out to achieve at least minimal representation. On the other hand it pits candidates from the same party and candidates from different parties but similar political platforms against one another. These candidates can wind up bumping each other off, leaving their constituents without representation. A candidate with a smaller constituency and dramatically different political agenda can then waltz into office over his opponents’ corpses. A larger constituency can go unrepresented, even as a smaller constituency winds up overrepresented.
This is exactly what happened on December 1, 2001.
The pro reunification Pan Blue parties, each struggling to maintain or expand their existing power base, each nominated far too many candidates. The pro independence Pan Green parties on the other hand, nominated an optimum number of candidates and successfully apportioned their votes among them. This apportioning of votes is referred to as “pei piao.”
The result was Pan Blue candidates averaged down each others’ vote totals. KMT, PFP and NP candidates got elbowed aside by DPP and TSU candidates in district after district, even though Pan Blue votes island wide outnumbered Pan Green votes. The sole exception was the PFP, which grew from 19 seats to 46 seats, primarily at the expense of the NP.
The squeaky clean, ethical to a fault New Party was virtually wiped out, a grotesquely undeserved victim of a combined “xi gua xiao ying” (“Watermelon Effect”) and “qi bao xiao ying” (“Dump/Save Effect.) Voters were shocked and dismayed when NP and KMT lawmakers rated among the top five in the ROC legislature lost their bids for re-election. Among them, Lai Shi-bao (NP), Hsieh Chi-tah (NP), and Ting Shou-chung (KMT).
Too many Pan Blue candidates plus faulty Pan Blue vote apportioning added up to Pan Blue disaster. The media even coined a name for the phenomenon — the “Lai Shi-bao Effect,” after the universally admired New Party legislator. By then of course it was too late. Farsighted and courageous NP lawmakers Fung Hu-hsiang and Fu Kuen-chen also fell victim. Overall the Pan Blue “alliance,” and I use the term loosely, decimated its own ranks with “friendly fire.”
Why Didn’t Somebody Do Something?
Somebody did. The New Party tried vainly to drag their larger Pan Blue allies to the negotiating table. New Party elder Wang Chien-hsuan vigorously championed a coordinated Pan Blue candidate nomination protocol to ensure that pro reunification votes were not split among two, three or even more Pan Blue candidates. New Party elder Yu Mu-ming went even further, and boldly organized and led a Pan Blue march calling for “San he yi, zhu zheng dang” or “Three into One, Form One Party.”
Little came of it, except the potential imminent demise of the idealistic New Party. Neither ambitious PFP party chairman James Soong nor selfish KMT local party bosses were willing to negotiate in good faith. New Party willingness to compromise for the sake of a Pan Blue victory was misperceived as a lack of political will. Many Pan Blue voters voted PFP. Others stayed home.
The outcome, widely predicted by everyone from political reporters to taxi drivers, was referred to as “Yu ong de li,” meaning “The fisherman benefits.” “Yu ong de li” refers to the Chinese fable about a stork and a clam. Each has the other in a death grip. Neither is willing or able to let go. A fisherman scoops them both up, the serendipitous beneficiary of their lose/lose struggle.
Taiwan’s election was no “mandate for Taiwan independence,” it was merely one more dismal repeat of “Yu ong de li.” It was the 1994 Taipei mayoral election, which saddled Taipei with A-Bian for four dreary years. It was the 1996 presidential election, which saddled the ROC with “Mr. Democracy” Lee Teng-hui for four more years. It was deja vu all over again.
The central challenge for the Pan Blue leadership is to reorganize the KMT, PFP and what’s left of the NP into a unified political force, either a trans-party alliance, or a single political entity. If they can pull this off, key political offices such the presidency or the Mayorship of Taipei, a stepping stone to the presidency, will never again be occupied by Japanophile Quislings plotting treason against the Constitution of the Republic of China. If Pan Blue leaders can’t find some way to work together, Taiwan independence opportunists will continue to exploit Pan Blue disunity.
One Country, Two Systems: The Will of the People
Now you know the real story. The December 1, 2001 election was not a “victory for Taiwan independence.” The vast majority of Chinese on Taiwan — Aborigine, Minan, Hakka, “mainlander” — have never opposed reunification, providing the mainland was no longer communist, no longer totalitarian. They never rejected China, they never considered themselves anything other than Chinese, they merely rejected communism and totalitarianism.
None of what Sisy Chen and I have written is news to Chinese people on Taiwan. You will never read about it however in the Taipei Times, which is not a newspaper, but a propaganda organ. Its raison d’etre is not to report the news, but to peddle a political agenda — Taiwan independence. Its primary weapon is Americans’ lack of facility with the Chinese language, who by default rely on the Taipei Times because it is written in English.
Support for cross Straits reunification has been climbing steadily since Chen Shui-bian was elected two years ago, and is currently at unprecedented highs. Independent polls conducted periodically since March 2000 reveal, to the dismay of Taiwan’s Quisling elite, that the Chinese people on Taiwan now want reunification, sooner rather than later.
Poll Results in Favor of “One Country, Two Systems,” in Chronological Order
United Daily News — 33%
China Times — 29%
TVBS Cable Channel — 31%
Fung Hu-hsiang (New Party) commissioned poll — 48%
CTN, China Television Network — 52%
The trend is hard to miss, wouldn’t you say?
Not long ago Chen Shui-bian’s own Mainland Affairs Council polled the Taiwan public regarding “One Country, Two Systems.” To ensure that they got the low numbers they desperately wanted for propaganda purposes, the MAC’s “pollsters” prefaced their questionnaire with a long-winded description of what constituted “One Country, Two Systems.” The only problem was the system the MAC was describing was not “One Country, Two Systems,” but “One Country, One System.” Their deception backfired when 16% of the Taiwan public in effect endorsed “One Country, One System.” Not exactly the result they were hoping for. The moral of this fable? Don’t ask questions unless you’re willing to hear the answers.
I haven’t even mentioned the estimated one million “Tai Shang” or “Taiwan merchants” and their families currently living on the mainland on an essentially permanent basis. They voted too — with their feet. That’s close to 5% of Taiwan’s entire population. Twenty years from they’ll no longer be “Taiwan Chinese,” they’ll be “mainland Chinese,” and they’ll have been joined by millions more. Taiwan has no provision for absentee voting. Imagine how they would vote if it did?
Taiwan’s Quisling Elite
The only segment of Taiwan society which categorically rejects reunification with the mainland is an invisible but influential Japanophile elite, comprised of ethnic Japanese members of Taiwan’s colonial era ruling class and their ethnic Chinese collaborators. This seedy “elite” is enamored of everything Japanese and contemptuous of anything Chinese. It never reconciled itself to Taiwan’s restoration to China, never came to terms with Japan’s surrender in 1945, and is obssessed with prying Taiwan away from China for a second time and reannexing it to Japan.
This Quisling elite would have Americans believe that the majority of Chinese on Taiwan yearn for a “Republic of Taiwan” separate from and hostile to the Chinese mainland. Sad to say, they have been largely successful. Their Big Lie has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by much of the American public. Just remember, the next time you come across Taipei Times “dezinformatsiya” posted on the internet, you are reading lies which have gotten halfway around the world before truth could even get its boots on.
An Idea whose Time has Come, and Gone
Remember how incredulous, how disoriented we were in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down? Who could have imagined that the “Evil Empire” had been on the verge of imploding and the Cold War approaching its oddly anticlimactic conclusion?
Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu may be greeted by cheering self-styled “Taiwanese, not Chinese” waving green and white “Republic of Taiwan” flags in Texas and New York. But back on Taiwan, political independence is an idea whose time has come, and gone.
In “Taiwan Independence, R.I.P.” I wrote,
“A-Bian has arrived at a fork in the road. Both roads lead to One China. Take one and arrive before dusk, warm, dry and refreshed. Take the other and arrive at the same destination after midnight, cold, wet and exhausted. The route is optional; the destination is not.”
Two years into his first and hopefully only term, A-Bian has chosen to take the long way around. Too bad. As I said, “The route is optional; the destination is not.” China will be reunified. Maybe sooner than anyone in 2002 can imagine.