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.