Sunday, 28 July 2013

KMT Quake?

Today I had planned to drive up to Yunlin County to take a look at the new reservoir being built there - Hushan reservoir (湖山水庫), but even though I prepared everything last night I was just too tired and simply couldn't drag myself out of bed on time this morning. Caught in the middle of an REM cycle. I might drive down to Agongdian reservoir this afternoon instead as I want to re-locate a fantastic viewpoint from a farm hill I previously found by accident to the south of the reservoir. 

Anyway, in accordance with Lenin's "Who, Whom?" principle of political reconnaissance, this paragraph by J.M. Cole is noteworthy... 

"As those developments are causing serious harm to the image of the Ma government and becoming the subject of TV talk shows, we would imagine that the Presidential Office would seek to de-escalate, especially with local elections in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016. Instead, it escalated and chose an irrational path by rewarding the one person who has done most in recent months to hurt the KMT’s image, and who has become an object of hatred nationwide: during a party meeting on July 24, President Ma nominated Liu to the top of the list for the KMT Central Committee, as clear a sign as any that his government refuses to acknowledge — let alone address — public discontent with the whole Dapu affair."
The contrast between Ma's silence on the land theft protests, and his public apology over the death of Corporal Hung is striking; surely if he had a free hand, Ma would have slapped Liu down long ago, largely because of the damage Liu's actions are doing to the KMT's image and the electoral problem this implies a couple of years down the road; I would think the odds on a DPP electoral win in the next Presidential election would be shortened now.

So the question arising from consideration of President Ma's comparative silence is what "influence" does Liu have over Ma? It can't be something slight. Some kind of graft in the hundreds of billions of dollars, a la Lin Yi-shih? Or something worse? Perhaps Ma is worried that, upon leaving office he will be put through an ordeal similar to that of Chen Shui-bian? What is it, and what does Liu know about it? And what about the refusal of Liu to even give a pretense of properly compensating his victims - offering them a paltry NT$242,000 for their houses and then charging them the same amount for the demolition? Is that just pure, no-reason malice on Liu's part or is he doing it to embarrass and goad Ma?

If this story could be broken, what difference would it make? Obviously it would strip Liu of his power over Ma, and leave Ma free to act against Liu. Yet it would surely also be extremely bad news for Ma otherwise he could have had the story leaked already. So it would be bad news for the KMT all round; given that the stakes seem to be so high, it is remarkable that nobody seems to be willing and able to go public with what it is that Liu presumably has on Ma. The DPP and their myrmidons in the green-media must surely be scrambling to figure out what it is...


  1. The contrast between Ma's silence on the land theft protests, and his public apology over the death of Corporal Hung is striking;

    First of all, just how much (extra) damage to the KMT's image is Liu really doing? Although plenty of people care, it seems even more people either don't give a shit (Poor farmers living in small crappy houses, so what? I'm not like them nor do I ever plan to be like them.) or actually support the thefts. (Their own damn fault for not striking a deal when they had the chance. You can get on the progress train or have it run you over; if it's the latter, tough luck.)

    Secondly, I think Ma's apology is more interesting than his indifference to the thefts. Speculation on shady secrets aside, you have to wonder if the difference might not lie in the existence of a mandatory military service (and the non-existence of a mandatory farm service). You literally cannot live in Taiwan, not be a hermit, and not know people who have not been through a year of indentured servitude in the military. Assuming Ma never volunteered, then even he was once a conscript. Maybe this is just a large-scale demonstration of how empathy varies according to perceived similarity of life experience.

  2. " seems even more people either don't give a shit..."

    That is an assertion of comparative quantities, for which you really ought to indicate evidence; yes there are people who don't care, but on what grounds do you suppose there are more such people than those who do care?

    On the military, it's been obvious for a long time that a potential fault line in Taiwan would be mass refusal of families and their sons to be conscripted into the military. The possibility must surely occur to some Taiwanese families every year, and yet it never seems to be publicly expressed. I imagine this might be due to the expectation/hope that their son will not be one of the thirty or so every year that has an "accident".

    It's amazing to me how scared these people can be. Just the other day, a group of local dog-owners who know me decided to have a picnic in the park and invited me to join them (I couldn't due to time limitations), whereupon one of the local layabouts started shouting and cursing at them to get their dogs off the public benches. I immediately turned round and told the scrote to shut up whereupon my picnic-friends all descended upon me like cooing doves urging me to calm down and so on. I was calm; there's no reason to allow yourself to be bullied by some dopey little shit sitting around on a deckchair all day chewing bing-lang.

  3. I guess I want to say "as evidenced by the lack of even greater protests". As Turton put it
    The participation of a few high profile students in protests has overshadowed the fact that the vast majority of students aren't protesting -- they are too busy struggling to survive in the brutal economy their parents have created for them.

  4. Well yes most students and young people aren't protesting, but by itself that fact doesn't evince a lack of outrage, concern or interest on the part of the non-protesters.

    When, in late November 1989 in Prague, the protesters gathered in Wenceslas Square and elsewhere reached upwards of several hundred thousand people, the commies actually resigned en masse. Yet the number of people protesting was - at a maximum - half the city's population, which obviously means another half (or more) were not protesting (though perhaps that other half were the riot cops and sundry other government functionaries). Of course there were also international events for the commies to worry about too; the Berlin Wall had just fell a couple of weeks earlier and there was the internal collapse of the USSR. Taiwan's situation is not comparable in scale or scope or degree to what the Czech and other central European peoples went though under the Soviets, but there are some similarities, and I think it is wrong to suppose that all the people, or even most of them have to be on the streets to pull off a revolution or some sort of major shift in public consciousness. It might also be that the ongoing protests now and over the next few months might galvanize more people into joining them and demanding something or other; whether that be outright revolution or the mere repeal of certain laws is another thing, but the success of those demands might not even be a function of how many people they have out there protesting.

  5. Yes but just by comparing ratios you can easily get an idea of just how many people really aren't particularly sympathetic towards the farmers (or any of the other people who been forced off their land). Let's use three benchmarks: The Corporal Hung incident, who just tonight, managed to draw around 100,000 to 250,000 people. I think it's safe to guess that half to all of the population of Taiwan is sympathetic towards Hung. The second benchmark are the anti-Chen protests of 2006 which drew around 90,000 to 200,000. For obvious reasons, we can assume that at least half of Taiwan's population were, in their heart, supportive. Third benchmark, the nuke protests. That netted some 68,000 protesters this year. Let's say the actually number of people who care is somewhere around 25% to 60% of the population.

    Now I don't have exact numbers but as far as I know the Dapu protests haven't even broke 10,000 (arbitrary number I've chosen as a threshold). So I think it's much more probable that most people do not care to any significant degree*. (At least, not yet.) In fact, I personally think nowhere near half the population cares.

    Finally some personal, anecdotal reasons for believing this:
    1. Because most people really haven't given a shit about eminent domain in the past, why should Dapu be any different? Out of curiosity, I've asked some people what they think about Huaguang (people who live in Taipei mind you). I was met with an immediate "What's Huaguang?".
    2. I've know some people who are basically very cynical towards nail houses in general believing that they just want more money and couldn't get it. Turton has talked about this on his blog so I believe this view is probably not uncommon.
    3. I forgot to talk about this but the image of Corporal Hung is basically unassailable. (Slightly more so than fisherman Hung from a few months back who had that little issue of poaching.) That's probably why Ma has spoken out. On the other hand, there are more than enough ways to attack and ignore the victims of land theft. Like for starters, one could point out that the farmers in Miaoli had 3+ years of forewarning. Which is plenty of time to move out all their important possessions. So it wasn't really much of a surprise raid.

    *Sure I think people feel a twinge of sympathy but that's like how everyone feels a twinge of sympathy whenever they see something unfortunate. Is it enough to change the way they think or to make they ask for change in the way certain things work? Is it really going to make someone who was previously neutral or in favor of the KMT suddenly change their minds?


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