Saturday, December 11, 2004

Election Day in Taiwan

Laurence Eyton, of the Taipei Times, provides the best of the articles summarizing the elction tomorrow. He explains how the wacky multi-member electoral district system works to the favor of the pan-greens because of their greater unity and ability to work cohesively together to apportion votes.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Times article on Taiwan Solidarity Union

"'I guess the fundamentalists are a bit disappointed in our administration' for not having moved Taiwan even further in the direction of independence, she said in an interview on Wednesday night. 'The T.S.U. has made him feel compelled to consolidate our traditional support.

It seems a rather important oversight to write an article about the T.S.U. and not mention the name of Lee Teng Hui. It was Lee who founded the party after the 2000 election, after an eight year presidential term in which he ushered in the democratic era in Taiwan. Originally intended as a kind of Taiwanese figurehead president fronting for mainlanders in the KMT, he developed his power base and ended up marginalizing the old guard. After the 2000 elections, the KMT dead-enders struck back with street protests that forced Lee to step down from his post as head of the party. He then formed the TSU. Remarkably, untethered by the weighty pressures of the presidency, he revealed himself as, indeed, a ferocious advocate of "Taiwanese Identity". It may or may not be true that democracy is brought about at the end of a gun, but it certainly is true that in Taiwan it was brought about -peacefully- by a brilliant piece of Machiavellian trickery.

The legislator quoted above is one of the rare public figures who insists on using the pinyin spelling for her Taiwanese name, rather than her Mandarin name. The Mandarin, (I believe) would be Hsiao May Chin. Don't bet against her being the first female president of Taiwan. Her father was the head of the Presbyterian seminary (same denomination as Lee) in Tainan in the late 70's. When the Kaohsiung Incident occured in 1979, her father harbored the dissident Shi Ming De, at considerable risk to themselves. Shi was later captured and imprisoned (he is also running for a spot in the legislature in this election), while Hsiao 's family barely made it into exile. If I remember correctly, she was raised in Alaska, and her mother is American. Charismatic, intelligent, and aritculate in several languages, she served as interpreter for the president early in his term, but clearly big things are planned for her.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Chinese Cinema

: "Mr. Wong's influence has reached around the world, inspiring imitators from Sofia Coppola to Lou Ye, the Shanghai-born director of the visually lush 'Suzhou River' and 'Purple Butterfly.' Even the brilliant Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien seemed to temporarily fall under Mr. Wong's spell a few years ago when he made 'Millennium Mambo,' about an emotionally adrift young woman. The Wong influence could be detected in that film's techno beats and slow-motion interludes, along with the desultory allure of the star, Shu Qi, a Taiwanese actress who started out by making soft-core movies. Like his fellow Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang ('What Time Is It There?'), Mr. Hou strips the veneer off of beauty, something he does to devastating effect in 'Flowers of Shanghai,' a masterpiece about a late 19th-century brothel. "

An excellent overview of contemporary Chinese cinema today in the New York Times. One of my great regrets is that the international copies (with English subtitles) are so difficult to get hold of here in Taiwan. I am getting convinced that it is worth the effort, however. Most of these art films are government subsidized, and spottily supported by the Taiwanese public, which is a shame. There is talk that the government may be switching their support to computer animation films, as well, which would be dire for Taiwanese art films. Follow the links on directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang and, like me, you can give yourself a pretty good primer from the Times's archives.