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Will Tibet Swing Taiwan's Election?

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on March 17, 2008

The death toll in Tibet is rising and unrest is spreading to neighboring provinces. Tibet’s Buddhists aren’t the only ones angry at being part of China. Farther north, in Xinjiang, the Chinese government is facing problems with Muslim separatists. There should be one bit of good news for Beijing, though. Probably the most sensitive breakaway region of all shows signs of coming to some sort of accommodation with the Communist regime: Taiwan has elections this Saturday and it seems likely that Ma Ying-jeou, the candidate of the opposition who favors closer ties with the mainland, will win big over Frank Hsieh, the nominee of the Democratic Progressive Party, whose term-limited leader, President Chen Shui-bian, has annoyed Beijing for years with his pro-Taiwan-independence policies.

But Ma’s party, the Kuomintang (aka the KMT, aka the Nationalist Party, which ruled Taiwan for decades from the time of Chiang Kai-shek until losing power in 2000), has managed to blow elections before. The KMT seemed a sure winner in 2004, for instance, and then blew it. And the Taiwanese voters have shown in the past that they don’t take kindly to provocations from Beijing. Might Taiwanese people see what’s happening in Tibet as a reminder of just why they don’t trust the Communist government? If so, that could drive people to vote against Ma, who wants to warm ties with China.

That’s an impression that DPP supporters seem to be pushing. Consider this editorial from the Taiwan News:

Could this happen in Taiwan, with our democratic political system and our modern society and culture? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Indeed, this process may have already started and may accelerate after the March 22 presidential election if Kuomintang presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou wins and returns Taiwan to the “China-centric” rule of the “formerly” authoritarian “Chinese Nationalist Party,” which remains the KMT’s official name.

And Hsieh himself has adopted similar talking points. “[O]nce we open up a gate for China, we may end up like Tibet,” the Australia’s ABC reported him saying. Ma has denounced the Chinese action in Tibet, too, but with milder words. Again, from the ABC, here’s what Ma’s comment: “We support autonomy in Tibet. They have their own culture and religion that must be respected therefore we strongly condemn China’s action.”

Ma has a pretty strong wind at his back. The KMT won a big victory in legislative elections earlier this year, and more and more Taiwanese recognize that the island’s economic health depends to a large extend on establishing normal relations with the mainland. If people could fly directly from Taipei to Shanghai without having to waste hours by transiting through Hong Kong, for instance, there were would a lot less incentive for Taiwanese to move to the mainland, for instance. Opening to Chinese tourists would also provide a big boost to local retailers. And voters seem genuinely tired of the DPP.

So most likely the Chinese crackdown in Tibet won’t create a big enough backlash in Taiwan to pave the way for a surprise DPP victory. But the election isn’t till the weekend. And as we saw in 2004, when a bizarre last-minute assassination attempt against Chen seemed to create a sudden sympathy vote for the incumbent, strange things happen in Taiwanese politics.

Reader Comments

Five Stars

March 17, 2008 6:13 AM

You are only another naive pundit, Do you really understand the politic in Taiwan, You American should take care of your own business.


March 17, 2008 10:53 AM

Bruce Einhorn,

You need make clear who attacked whom this time and who died!

In Chinese communities, people know what happened. Only the westerners who can only access western media are blind. You need remember: People on the Taiwan island are all using Chinese.

It does not take your effort to figure out who is behind China's issues. From Taiwan to Xizang (Tibet) and Xinjiang. Unfortunately for the country behind: Majority Chinese are united behind government.

Speaking of Taiwan issue, it does not matter too much that who is elected this time. The Taiwan independent movement has killed itself already. DDP killed the Taiwan's economy first, then the political system, then its relationship with other countries.

China's GDP today is about 10 times of Taiwans, that's a big jump from only 2 times in 1990s. China's economy is still running on the fast track. Taiwan's economy dependency on mainland China heaveyly. 1/3 of its GDP was exported to mainland. It also has 70 billion surplus each year with mainland China. Can it affords independence?

On military, Taiwan does not match at all. Mainland China has her own defense industry. Taiwan has to buy almost everything. Mainland China's defense budget is about US$58 billion for 2008, Taiwan? US$10 billion at most.

Politically, Han Chinese on Taiwan island takes about 98% of Taiwan's population, that's even higher than 92% in Mainland China. Taiwan's politics has been in chaos in 10 years. The society is severely devided. Any one want to die for the independence?

Speaking of election in Taiwan this time, KMT would have a overwhelming victory if the election is fair. But politics on the island is dirty. Who knows what kind of trick DDP will play this time. It won by shooting himself twice las time ( Do you familiar with Germany history? that's how Mr. Adolf Hitler won), they may drop 2 bombs this time? What happened in Tibet has little impact in the election.

You posted a lot of political reports here. All are bashing China. But you know little about China. Serious, even you may sit in Hong Kong office.


March 17, 2008 3:57 PM

Great post, but see also.

Ninja Assassin

March 17, 2008 5:00 PM

I think the crackdown in Tibet will solidfy the pan-green base and swing most of young and independent voters to vote for Frank Hsieh. This is an unfortunate situation for younger generation of Taiwanese to see the ugly side of a communist regime. However, for Hsieh to win this presidential election, he has to win with big margin in southern Taiwan, especially Kaoshiung city, where he was a mayor for almost 8 years.


March 17, 2008 6:59 PM

The censorship system works again.

Here is a report from Washington Post.


March 17, 2008 10:21 PM

Why everyone in the world is so afraid of China government? and sound like Bruce you're one of them.


March 18, 2008 2:03 AM

Taiwan should pay close attention, the warm embrace of mother CCP and father PLA is more of a strangulation.


March 18, 2008 2:52 AM


You should rename your "Eye on Asia" to "I hate China." Like many western media, you are only on one side - badmouthing China. Did you guys learn that at school?
American should stop killing Iraqis before caring about Taiwan, Tibet and China.

Chinese Thai

March 18, 2008 5:37 AM

Bruce, it makes no more sense to write a blog based solely on your 2nd hand readings. Last time you prayed for countrywide unrest following the snow storm crisis in China. But nothing had happened. I agree with Bigtisas. This column should be renamed to either 'Bashing China' or 'I hate China'.


March 18, 2008 11:58 AM

CCP should respect other's choices,no matter Taiwan or Tibet.

We people hv the right to decide our own lifes.

PRC should just take care of their own people.

If PRC wants to talk abt unification,fine,after Chinese people hv their own elective government.

Chinese people! Struggle for ur own DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM.CHEERS!


March 18, 2008 12:49 PM

There is nothing wrong to demonize a demon! The demon deserves to be condemned for its brutal handling of the Tibetans and Ughurs, its trading Darfur refugees' blood for Sudanese oil, and on and on.

Ninja Assassin

March 18, 2008 1:21 PM

This is why China supporters don't get it. China is one of few countries left still embracing communism. Any protests or public gatherings without the government's approval in China will lead to arrest, punishment, or even death sendence. The fact the we all can express our different opinions about your story is a true testimony to value of freedom of speech. Many overseas Chinese exercise their rights to express their support for the Chinese communist, yet do not advocate democracy in their homeland is the country's biggest tragedy. Keep up the good work!


March 18, 2008 1:55 PM

Hey guys,I am in china.the truth is 1.3 billion people in china support the chinese government to take actions against the separatists harshly,that is really democratic.huh?


March 18, 2008 1:57 PM

Hey guys,I am in china.the truth is 1.3 billion people in china support the chinese government to take actions against the separatists harshly,that is really democratic.huh?


March 18, 2008 2:15 PM


Are you suggesting that because Chinese government restoring order in Tibet will turn out to be a provocation to Taiwan, such that they will "punish" mainland China by electing DDP candidate again?

I'd say, go ahead, if you still have not had enough of DDP's rule in Taiwan. You think that's going to hurt China? Well, guess who's got hurt most by DDP rule in the last eight years? Another eight years' DDP rule will do Taiwan & Taiwan Independence in completely.

It seems to me that you're trying hard to find negative things about China, no matter how far-fetched they're. You should really reflect on yourself why you're taking this job as a reporter when you're so opinionated.


March 18, 2008 2:15 PM

If only China leave Tibet, and Taiwan alone, it will be a wonderful world!


March 18, 2008 4:28 PM


March 18, 2008 5:17 PM

Bruce: You CIA guys are really funny. You make a lie and convince yourself it is true. The peaceful, loving and smiling Dailai Lama is the creation of CIA. If you really want to know what Tibet was like before 1959. Read this unbias research at this link.
G:\Friendly Fuedalism - The Tibet Myth.mht
First, Tibet was not a unified country and never was. It was a land governed by Monastries and landlord much like the old Europe. There are four main sect in Tibet, each have their own army, land and slaves. They wages brutal war against each other all the time. Their favorite punishment is eye gouging and limb disemberment because buddish monks don't kill; they torture.
Young boys were routinely taken away from their family and used as sex toys by monks. Next time, Bruce, would you ask Dailai whether he has used boys for sexual pleasure before. Why are monks always taking the lead in rioting ? Simple, they lost all their power and have to cook for themselves. Dailai Lama does not represent the entire Tibet. Get this into your head. Now, they want to claim a land mask that account for 30% of the total area of China as Greater Tibet. What kind of leader in Beijing would give up three provinces on top of Tibet to some crazy old monks screaming cultural genocide. You may remember there used to be a country called Hawaii with their own queen and government. One day, somebody from the US went there to spread Gospel. Before you know it, Marine landed in Hawaii to protect US interest. A Governor was sent to Hawaii just like Bremer in Iraq. In 1970+, US government formally annexed Hawaii and made it a state of the union. Native Hawaii are a minority in their own country. Nobody speaks their native tongue any more. The culture is totally gone. That is what I call cultural Genocide. Would you guys give the island back to native Hawaii and move the pacific fleet back to the mainland. In Tibet today, there are Tibetan language TV station and schools. Tibetan culture is being practiced and celebrated everyday. The only thing not allowed is to associated with Dailai Lama who is a CIA agent funded by US Congress. China will never allow Dailai back so that one day, CIA and US army will have a free hand there like in Kosovo and Iraq. You really think China is that stupid to believe in what you call democracy and give up everything for it.


March 18, 2008 6:31 PM

If Taiwanese were crazy enough to elect Frank Hsieh then God help them. There would be at least another 5 years of economic and political chaos. And it is probably the most constructive contribution Taiwanese people could make to the reunification


March 19, 2008 3:03 AM

1. The recent Tibetan mob attacks caused 13 Chinese lives. Well, on the good side, it really rallied almost all Chinese to support their government.
2. I guess US and all other China ill-wishers hope Hsieh will come out on top. Well, for China, I don't think it matters much.


March 19, 2008 4:41 AM

is it possible for Frank Hsieh to win the election?is it possible for him as a Taiwan leader to support independence of TIWAN? then is it possible for mainland to use it as a good reason to attack Taiwai? if so,is it possible for U.S. to get involved in this case? and what would be the excuse for U.S.? is it possible for U.S. to go to war against CHINA while its economy going into recession and itself waiting for new president? who should be and willing to be responsible for the large loss of U.S. interests in politics and economy,BUSH or your new leader?

Bruce,it seems that you think Iraqi war brings great benefit to the U.S.,and you hope U.S. to have another such kind of case?


March 19, 2008 5:48 AM

Tibet does not matter much for Taiwanese because the problem is far, far away in Interior Mainland China. Taiwan is an island. It is the economy. What is Mr.Einhorn talking about?


March 21, 2008 2:53 AM

Stevens comments are humorous. I've lived/worked in both Beijing and Taiwan for over 10 years, and have studied this issue even longer. Steven has never sat foot in Taiwan and he knows that. Furthermore, if it were not for western/HK media, you would not even know there was SARS, let alone this struggle in Tibet, so give me a break.

I must set things straight here taking Stevens illogical, but predictable arguments one by one.

Ethnically Taiwanese are mostly descendants of Ming Dynasty era China (90% from Fujian), just as Americans (including myself) are mostly descendants of 16th Century England. And??? It does not make me British, anymore than it makes Taiwanese "Chinese". By your line of reasoning, Singapore and Malaysia are also part of China. If you were allowed inside Taiwan, you would see that less than 10% feel they are "Chinese" and less than 3% want anything to do with Communist China.

Militarily, Taiwan is strong enough to repel any first attack from Communist China, until such time as the US Pacific Fleet arrives and the Japanese Navy arrives. After that, it wont matter for China, because all Western Foreign Investment which has been flowing to China for 10 years will come to a sudden stop. Say goodbye to 60% of your GDP - Say hello to 1950's again.

Finally, don't bother speaking to fairness and openness in elections when you have no clue what democracy is. A communist Chinese speaking about democratic elections is like a mentally retarded child speaking about Quantum Mechanics, you're not convincing anyone, just stop before you hurt yourself.


March 21, 2008 1:10 PM

So how any innocent people have died in Iraq as a result of the US least China's not invading other countries and causing thousands of innocent death to look for fictional objects...


March 22, 2008 1:23 AM

when U.S.A. sells arms, it's call "For self defense" when soviet and China sells, it's call "arming the terrorist". If your a friend of U.S.A., your good guys even ur are a dictator, on the other side of the fence, your are the bad guys. remember the quote by Bush? just after the 9/11? if you are not with me, your with them. that's the arrogance character of U.S.A..and Bush display them all.

And as for mr.bruce einhorn you are no different. You write as if you are an expert on this issue, like you're there as an witness, Word of advise. read the history of the Tibetan,(I'm serious) the way they live and what industry they live on. and if you think they are better off without the chinese central gov't, then you go and join them. You know what, people like you try to divide every body or disintegrate them, USSR, Yugoslavia, now trying to encourage the tibetans, the uygur,and taiwanese... what a ploy.


March 22, 2008 9:17 AM

Bruce Einhorn,

KMT won, DPP ( a pro-indeoendence party) lose.

I need to remind you: That's a big win. In 25 counties, KMT won 20 counties.

But this maybe not a good thing for China. I don't want to talk too much here though.


March 24, 2008 10:36 PM

Bruce, your insinuation that China's action to restore order in Tibet will cause the DDP candidate to win is proven untrue. Ma not only won but won by a landslide! That's a slap on your face. Shows that the conceited western media are deluded by their own propaganda and lies!

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