Friday, May 06, 2005

China Fever II

Each of the three“goodwill gestures”by the CCP is likely to run up on the rocks of the mutually contradictory definitions of what this thing here in Taiwan is. In the case of the gift of the pandas, if the gift is a domestic transfer (China's position) it should be no problem, but if it is an international transfer (as Taiwan maintains) it would contravene quite a few existing laws concerning the international transfer of rare and endangered animals. Taiwan is quite concerned about the increased scope for espionage if Chinese were allowed to travel here in large numbers, and the measure might be blocked on those grounds alone. But Taiwan maintains that both the tourism issue and the lowering of tariffs for selected fruits should be dealt with (internationally, essentially) in the WTO. China, of course, wants them handled “domestically.”

But while China Fever is unlikely to lead to any great breakthroughs with China, it is causing earthquakes in the domestic politics of Taiwan. Seeing Lien descending the steps onto the tarmac and being greeted so fulsomely puts one in mind of Anwar Sadat's breakthrough trip to Israel. But,unlike that trip, there's no meat here. The KMT is able to reap the harvest of exciting, historic-feeling imagery, but because they are not in power, they enjoy this imagery with none of the responsibility to deliver something substantive. The truth is, Taiwan Consciousness (台灣認同) is still very much a work in progress. People who have not clarified who they are are not deeply offended by Lien’s putting the welfare of his party before the welfare of Taiwan. A TVBS poll indicated that about 60% of the people interviewed did not feel Lien sold out Taiwan while in China.

A Taipei Times editorial tries to make the case that the unfavorable polls for the DPP are the result of a media still dominated by the KMT:“When has an opinion poll by a Taiwan news outlet ever been accurate? Which poll has not had its results predetermined by political concerns?” Yet, the same paper's Jewel Huang, in her news story, makes the dismal situation clear:“According to the latest poll by the DPP, voter support for the party has slumped by 7 points to about 33%. Support for the KMT, meanwhile, reached about 34%, and increase of 4 points.”The truth is, for the moment, the DPP is genuinely at a bit of a loss about how to deal with all this. They're caught in a pincer movement: legislators from the pro-independence wing are insisting on a meeting with Chen and calling him to account for swinging from his pre-legislative election stance for Name Rectification and Constitutional Reform to his present accomodationalist stance. Meanwhile, while refusing to meet Chen, the CCP is encouraging middle and lower-level members of the DPP to make their own trips to the mainland. It has also not gone unnoted that the lowering of tariffs on agricultural products is a bouquet thrown to farmers in the DPP heartland in the south.