Showing posts with label chen_shuibian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chen_shuibian. Show all posts

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Appreciating Tsai Ing-wen's linguistic tightrope walk on independence

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The Ties

You are living on your own, financially independent and managing all of your personal affairs. You were estranged from one of your family members for a while - a step-parent, but they act like they're actually related to you. You didn't talk for years despite living fairly close to one another. You're pretty happy with how successful you've been.

But this step-parent, well, you've had quite a bit more contact over the past few years, and you're starting to remember why you were estranged in the first place: honestly, they're kind of a dick. 

For example, they keep insisting that you live with them, because you were forced to crash there for awhile a long time ago. They even keep your old room, and tell people you still live there (even when you did, it didn't really feel like your home). They try to tell you who you are allowed to talk to, and even make plans to renovate your home for you. Although they have a lot of money, parts of their own home are an absolute nightmare and you have no intention of allowing them to touch yours. But they just won't shut up about it, and even threaten to bring in a demolition crew if you don't do what they want. At best, they're deeply emotionally abusive.

But they also have a lot of power in the community - big donations to various projects, tons of connections, friends in high places. To fully disavow them would mean to cut yourself off from everyone else. You've tried talking about it to your friends, and they agree with you, but "don't want any trouble". Among acquaintances, if you say so much as a word against them, you’re shut out of community events. Sometimes people who are really friendly with this relative insist that their version of events is accurate. You're completely flummoxed that nobody else seems to see how crazy this whole situation is.

How does nobody find it weird that they insist I still live in my old room when I clearly don't?

So the best you can do under the circumstances is smile wanly and pretend you don’t hate this person, to keep things friendly with everyone else. When someone insists you and your step-parent must be blood relatives because you share the same surname, you don't respond. You considered changing it once and would still like to, but the last time you brought it up they threatened to set your house on fire. 

Publicly, you don’t argue, and you seem happy to keep things the way they are. 

In your heart, you are seething. 

The best you can do, whenever you get the chance, is to refer to your house and your life and encourage people to call you by your chosen name. 

Occasionally, someone will come along and remark that you clearly do want to keep things the way they are, because you aren't aggressively trying to change the situation (at great cost to yourself). You hate this, especially when your well-meaning friends do it, but you keep on smiling and don't contradict them. Technically, it's true. 

Some may ask if you plan to "make a decision" about whether to continue on your own or live in that abusive step-parent's house, and you gently point out that you don't need to make a decision because you are already on your own. They say "huh, but how will you ever be independent if you don't choose?"

How am I not already independent? you reply, because you are. Why would I need to declare otherwise? 


Defining "independence"

This is why no administration or dominant party in Taiwan has been able to consistently advocate for formal (de jure) independence for Taiwan: China has rendered that impossible. Similarly, the KMT can't advocate for the eventual unification with China that they so clearly desire, because the Taiwanese public will never accept it. On both sides, smaller parties take up harder lines on these issues, but they are unlikely to become major players for a variety of reasons. 

What's left is a tussle over the ideas that are still possible to negotiate: what the "status quo" and "independence" really mean. In other words, whether or not the Tsai administration is pro-independence or pro-status quo depends on how you define those terms.

If you define "pro-independence" as "must advocate for formal independence" and the status quo is "not officially pushing for formal independence", then I suppose you can say that Tsai and the DPP are "pro-status quo". 

However, there are a lot of other ways to define "pro-independence" - such as deciding that it means you believe the country is already independent. 

If you define "independence" as a future state you haven't reached yet, there's not much of a way forward. You are constrained by all of those angry voices who call you a troublemaker and shut you out if you try. But if you define it as the state you are already in - which is technically true - then it not only becomes attainable, but in fact is already attained. Any future changes - such as wider recognition - then bear on the status of your already-existing independence. 

This is exactly what Tsai has done.

"We don't have a need to declare ourselves an independent state," the 63-year-old president told the BBC in an exclusive interview, her first since the election. "We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China (Taiwan)."

How can anyone say that is not a pro-independence stance? She uses the word “independence” obliquely to describe it. 

What she's doing isn't pro-status quo, as it is commonly understood. It's re-defining independence as de facto attained. In this creation of meaning, the status quo is independence.

It also neatly addresses another concern of pro-Taiwan allies: that when we talk about "independence", a lot of people who are not familiar with Taiwan's status take that to mean "independence from the PRC". Then they hear "I'm pro-independence" and think oh, if you want independence it must mean you don't have it yet, which must mean Taiwan is a part of China. Oooh, that sounds like separatism. The media makes separatists sound like bad guys so I don't think I support that.

Explaining how "pro-independence" is supposed to mean "formal independence" - de jure recognition of a status Taiwan already enjoys - often leads to confused looks. Why would you have to fight for a status you already have? 

Tsai's defining of "independence" to mean "the status Taiwan already has" is, therefore, a masterstroke. It allows the conversation to move forward to supporting not just independence (which we have) but towards recognition (what we want). That argument isn't possible officially, which is why Tsai isn't making it. But unofficially, she is intentionally laying the groundwork for current activists and future leaders to do so. 

In doing this, she leaves  just enough room to claim that the Republic of China still exists and that you may call her stance "pro-status quo" if you wish. It’s a game of social constructionism that is, frankly, genius. She is using language to define and construct a shared reality that is palatable to Taiwan, which can be interpreted in different ways to avoid conflict, but is understood by those who need to understand it.


Pushing Ahead

This fascinating language game has allowed Tsai to push further, rhetorically, than any of her predecessors - including Chen Shui-bian, often seen as far more of a pro-independence hardliner. If we compare what Chen said in his inaugural speeches in 2000 and 2004 vis-a-vis the Republic of China, and what Tsai said in her 2020 acceptance speech (she hasn't given a 2020 inaugural address yet), Chen once, and only once, added "Taiwan" to "The Republic of China", whereas Tsai did this with every mention of the Republic of China, a name she invoked less often than Chen in both 2016 and 2020.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that Chen Shui-bian then immediately got on the international news and remarked that Taiwan was "independent" and China must "respect that". Tsai did. Chen didn't acknowledge the 1992 Consensus but I don't think he ever referred to a "Taiwan Consensus". Tsai did - and in fact I believe she invented the term.

She was able to do that. He - as far as I know - was not. She created space to push for Taiwan and call it independent under any name. He could not. Through finding new ways to define reality through careful language choices, she has been able to walk along a precipice that none of her predecessors could even approach.

Under her administration, we may yet succeed in changing the name of China Airlines, and it's possible that Academia Sinica will change its name as well. This will be a bigger success for Taiwan's visibility internationally than any of the name changes Chen initiated (only one of which remains - Freedom Square). If they succeed, the KMT and CCP will certainly take these moves as a challenge to what they see as the status quo. They are helping Tsai set up a situation in which her administration's actions - seen by some as “pro-status quo" - are actually "pro-independence", without her ever having to say so. 

In the meantime, officials in her administration have free reign to call Taiwan a “country” or “nation” as often as they please. Here's one example. Here's another:
Ou reiterated Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country. 
"China has never ruled Taiwan for one day, and only the popularly elected Taiwan government can represent the country's 23 million people internationally," she said.

Tsai herself does so as well, surely knowing that the international media won’t allow their journalists to throw around those words when referring to Taiwan (opting instead for flaccid terms like “island”, “territory” and - most deflated of all - “place”). But if she says it, they can quote her, and the word “country” makes it into the final copy:

“They don’t like the idea of being threatened all the time. We are a successful democracy … We deserve respect from China,” she said. “We have a separate identity and we’re a country of our own.”



It is absolute genius, and it makes me want to be her best friend and have sleepovers with her where we drink wine and play with cats. 


Defining "the status quo"

Let’s consider how all the other sides in this fight define "status quo". 

If you go by international treaties, the "status quo" means that Taiwan's status is undetermined. No binding treaty ever addresses it. Even if you believe that the declarations of Cairo and Potsdam are binding (they're not), through a post-colonial lens, they're still not valid: the Republic of China had never governed Taiwan at that point, so Chiang Kai-shek's desire to control it is just another form of imperialism.

Tsai clearly doesn't adhere to that definition, as she has assigned a status to Taiwan: as already independent. There's nothing undetermined about it.

If you go by another rubric of how a country is defined - that it has a government, contiguous territory, a currency, a military etc. - what you get is a de facto nation, like Taiwan. This is closest to what Tsai is trying to express: that de facto independence is still a form of independence, and is sufficient grounds to push the meaning of "status quo" in a Taiwanese context from 'undetermined' to 'determined, awaiting recognition'. 

Then, there is how pro-China forces define "the status quo". To the KMT, "the status quo" means "Taiwan's status is undetermined, but we respect the 1992 Consensus...with different interpretations". Considering that realistically, the Republic of China will never govern all of "China", this is a fancy way of being a unificationist. The KMT insists that this is open to interpretation, an assertion that the CCP has never agreed to. 

Ma Ying-jeou spent 8 long years insisting that such a position could be credibly called the "status quo". Notably, nobody from his own side attacked him for that, because they all understood that "the status quo" meant "Taiwan's current status is unclear but its fate is ultimately Chinese". Handed Tsai's re-jiggering of "status quo", a definition co-constructed with her supporters (that is, the closest thing we have to a consensus of Taiwanese citizens), neither Ma, nor the KMT, nor the CCP would call it anything close to the "status quo" as they see it. To them, that's a push for independence, and they will angrily say so at any opportunity.

What they don't realize is that this helps Tsai in her creation of meaning through language that Taiwan's current status can be described as "independent". The perlocutionary effect of her words lands in part because it has been validated by the opposition. By insisting their definition of “the status quo” is the only valid one, and Tsai's is in fact a pro-independence stance, they are helping to co-create the idea that the status quo, if defined in another way, can be called independence. 

Clearly, there is no objective definition of "status quo" (or "independence") that a neutral observer can point to and say that this or that Taiwanese leader does or does not advocate for it. If the meanings of these terms are not necessarily fixed, then the interrelationship between them can't be so easily defined or interpreted, either. You can't insist that there is only a reality in which Taiwan is not already independent (because it is not formally so), when the daily experience of people in Taiwan clearly show that there is a reality in which it is (because it acts that way, regardless of how it is treated by others). 


The Use and Utility of "The Republic of China"

As for keeping the name "Republic of China", every president (even Chen) has been pushed by circumstance to give it a little lip service. 

Let's talk about Tsai's strategic deployment of the words "Republic of China": it offers smooth rhetoric on which the KMT can find little or no purchase from where they might attack her. It ensures that the CCP can't use "abrogating the claim to being part of 'China'" as a pretext for a declaration of war (of course, they're going to do what they want to do anyway, but it's best not to give them excuses). 

If you understand her use of "Republic of China" to mean that she actually believes that it not only is but should be Taiwan's name, you could call her "pro-status quo". But here's how I've come to see it: a statement of fact, that "Republic of China" is the official name of this country, without making any statement about whether or not it should be. 

Some might take this as being huadu (華獨) or "pro-independence as the Republic of China". I don't. This is partly because it's pretty clear that Tsai doesn't actually think that "independent Republic of China" is the best future for Taiwan, which her supporters clearly understand as well. And it’s partly because I see her intention in her slightly contradictory choice of words. 

(There is a whole discussion we can have here about “independence” being “independence from the ROC colonial system”, but that’s a topic on its own - when creating narratives and defining Taiwan for an international audience who might not be deeply knowledgeable about or interested in Taiwan’s situation, that’s an issue best kept to domestic debate.) 

I read a lot of advice columnists, and this is one piece of advice I keep coming across: when you have to say something, and you can't give any genuine praise but don't want to lie, say something which is factually true. If your aunt is showing you her new house, say "oh wow, wall-to-wall carpets!" She doesn't need to know that you hate wall-to-wall carpets.

"...we call ourselves the Republic of China" is the "oh wow, wall-to-wall carpets!" of political talk.  It is not only intended to acknowledge the current existence of a government called "The Republic of China", but also as a necessary conjunction: creating space so that the words "independent country" may also be spoken. 


Tsai's 3D Chess

With all that in mind, which do you think is more likely: that Tsai actually believes that the status quo is what's best for Taiwan, and the name of this country should be "The Republic of China", or that she's choosing the most realistic, pragmatic path to advocating for independence available to her? Given the constraints of Taiwan's situation both domestically (KMT attacks) and internationally (PRC threats), given her careful choice of words and given what we know pro-independence Taiwanese believe, it's risible to credibly claim the former. 

She sees that the hard-line "independence" fight simply cannot be waged right now. So rather than gaze helplessly at a dense thicket she cannot enter, she's making a new path into the woods by re-defining the terms available to her: the status quo not as "Taiwan's status is undetermined" (which much of the world quietly believes) nor as "Taiwan is a part of China but unification will take time" (which is what both the PRC and the KMT believe), but "the status quo is independence, because the people see their country as independent, and in fact we are de facto independent." 

That is a valid pro-independence stance.

It's also a type of doublespeak: she's hewing close enough to the "status quo" shibboleths that China insists on (and then rattles their sabers anyway just because they don't like her), while making it clear to everyone else that Taiwan is a country. 

This is also in line with how she approaches issues more generally. While I don't fully sign off on her strategy to get marriage equality passed in Taiwan, the tactics were quite clear: play it safe, lay low, and then BAM! Same sex marriage. Say nothing at all about the 1992 Consensus, merely acknowledging that "meetings took place" in that year, and then when Xi starts rattling his saber about it, BAM! Taiwan Consensus. She takes some heat for several rounds of confusing changes to labor laws and appears to mostly be listening to business rather than workers, but BAM! has quietly raised the minimum wage more than her predecessors in just four years. She didn't say a thing about the issues inherent to tourism from China. She didn't want those tourists nor the economic weapon they represented - most of us didn't. Then BAM! China changes the policy on their own, as she knew they would. She presents herself as a slow-acting, overcautious, ho-hum centrist, and then BAM! The DPP has been quietly filled with young progressives and the socially conservative old guard has broken off to form their own irrelevant party

Taken through that lens, Taiwan's careful word choice and officially leaving the independence question alone while unofficially acting as though the question has already been answered - which it has - is a way of advocating for independence that can't exist if "pro-independence" must mean "actively advocating for formal recognition". 

If you still want to believe that her stance is a "pro-status quo" one, you can. There is room in how these terms can be defined for that viewpoint. But I would suggest that your chosen definitions are so narrow that they create further constraints on what Taiwanese leaders can do. Taiwan already has enough constraints to navigate, which Tsai has worked hard to loosen. Why add more?

Friday, December 13, 2019

'Tis the season: 2020 campaign posters (with extremely biased commentary!)

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Since no other blogs are left that do this, I've decided to put up a few that I've collected this year. Although this isn't the most interesting one, I've decided to start with it because I didn't want the KMT to get the headlining photo. It's a typical noise truck on the outskirts of Miaoli, and says "Look to the next generation, alleviate [their] burden" - in line with Tsai's youth-vote focused campaign.


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In Beitou (northern Taipei), we have Wang Zhi-bing (Zhibing meaning something like "Aspiring Ice" which is an interesting thing to be called).

Anyway, the poster and candidate are both noteworthy - look at the slogan. She deliberately uses ㄟ to represent 的, a way of showing that what you're writing is meant to be read in Taiwanese. That's rare for a KMT candidate unless they're trying to pander to a Taiwanese-speaking electorate (Ma Ying-jeou would occasionally deliver prepared speeches in Taiwanese, especially on 228, and he was terrible at it.)

You wouldn't think of Beitou necessarily as a Taiwanese-speaking area, but if you walk in the backstreets around Beitou MRT, you'll find that it actually is, at least to some extent. So this is probably a smart campaign move.

Because it could be Taiwanese and not Mandarin, I'm not sure if my translation is correct, but 尚好 means "best" or "first class" - the literal translation then is "first-class election". It's a positive message, and if you look Wang Zhibing up, you'll learn that she has a close friendship with at least one DPP legislator in her district, He Zhiwei, from their time as city councilors, and has even helped campaign for him. They both encouraged each other when they went to register for the legislative race.

Maybe I'm not reading enough into it, but I think that's nice. Maybe her use of Taiwanese is genuine!

Wang and her good buddy He Zhiwei are not running against each other, as they're in different legislative districts. Wang's DPP opponent is Wu Siyao.

That's related to the poster below, with the inspiring message, "I'm here!"


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This is "unaffiliated" candidate Li Wanyu.

I don't really know what's up with her party-wise right now, and I thought she might be a pan-blue/unificationist/New Party type from the color of her sign, but no. She's formerly (and then again?) DPP, has close ties to Chen Shui-bian, and apparently joined the Taiwan Action Party Alliance  (一邊一國黨, also known as TAPA) recently, a party closely associated with Chen.

No, I didn't know any of that off the top of my head. I looked her up.

Anyway, Li Wanyu has a...colorful personal history. Two incidents of public drunkenness in her past continue to haunt her image, and apparently the second time around she had to spend 20 days in jail after being convicted of hitting a police officer. There are other bits and bobs of personal gossip going around too, that I won't bother with because I don't care. Apparently in 2014 she was expelled from the DPP for voting for herself in some internal election, but was later allowed to re-enter the party.

So, Li is also running against Wu Siyao, which means she's also in the race against Wang Zhibing above (even though I am pretty certain I took these photos in two very different neighborhoods, I suppose the district is large-ish). There was a bit of a political kerfuffle recently when former president Chen went to a book signing with Li Wanyu, and seemed to be supporting her over DPP candidate Wu.

But then that's hardly surprising - Chen is TAPA, she's TAPA even though she's running as "unaffiliated" (at least that's what her poster says). Who would expect otherwise?

Ugh. So now we turn to...blatant slogan thieves!


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This poster in Zhonghe, near Burma Street, features Some Guy, Mr. Generic (that's former New Taipei mayor Eric Chu, which you may have forgotten because he's just that boring), Big Uncle Dirk, Poppin' Fresh (whom I think is actually the candidate here, Chiu Feng-yao, and yes, calling him Poppin' Fresh is super mean and uncalled-for but I'm not sorry), and Hou You-yi, the current New Taipei mayor, who seems to be genuinely kinda popular. Brendan's first comment is that they're positioned in such a way that they look like those Chinese god idols, when there's more than one on an altar.

It seems Chiu is already a city councilor who is now running for the legislature.

I noted that, although I don't like any of these guys, at least two people on this poster appear to be reasonably competent at their jobs. No, the current presidential candidate in the middle is not one of them.

Both of us noted that their slogan isn't exactly original, and isn't even current as of the 2010s. I do understand that English on these signs is often merely decorative and few people who can actually vote will bother to read it, even if they're able to (which, honestly, most people in greater Taipei are).

But still. Don't you even want to try?

Aaaaanyway, the slogan here is "Unite to win the election, this seat is indispensable". Which is about as exciting as Eric Chu.

I still can't figure out who the guy on the far left is. I know Chiu has campaigned with Lin De-fu, but unless that's heavily photohopped to make him look less like a grandpa and to have a full head of shiny hair, it ain't him.

Oh yeah, and I also pointed out when we were gazing in awe at how this poster manages to be terrible and boring at the same time, that they are all men. While I'm willing to criticize the DPP for not doing enough to promote female visibility in the party, it would be impossible for them to make a sign like this without at least one woman. That is - the president.

In other words, I think this poster could use some improvements.


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Here's Wang Zhibing again, this time posing with Han Kuo-yu (ugh, maybe I don't think she's so okay after all) with a whole 'let's win the boxing match' theme going on. Cute.

Time for a palate-cleanser. 






We're back at the DPP, this time with Da'an/Wenshan legislative candidate, Hsieh Pei-fen. Since Empty Suit Chiang Nai-hsin decided to retire (despite his campaign posters as recently as a few years ago still using photos of him in his 40s), this seat is up for grabs. KMT rising star and whiny tantrum-thrower Lin Yi-hua is running for the KMT, and the DPP is putting up Hsieh, who at age 32 - so the DPP really is trying to run a few younger candidates - has graduated from Harvard Law and NTU and worked in international affairs ever since, with an impressive string of credentials. 


I'm not biased, of course. 

She'll probably lose because this is Da'an, but it will give her exposure. I'm just pleased the DPP is bothering to run a real candidate. It shows they think this race is worth fighting for. The other guy is Wang Minsheng, a city councilor whose office is in that building. 

Back to the KMT. 




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This vaguely interests me because it shows the KMT thinks Ma Ying-jeou still has star power, despite everyone hating him and even KMT voters heckling him at a Han rally. After learning the hard way what Taiwanese think about the 1992 Consensus, it's interesting as well that they give it such a prominent place on this poster, which has all the KMT symbolism just crammed in. We've got:

- Only men
- Many shades of blue
- Two prominent KMT "white sun on a blue sky" symbols, one on the ROC flag and the other on Han's Taiwanese Political Candidate/Taiwanese Grandpa vest (the DPP's fashion choices this year are way better, I have to say)
- The word "KMT" on two articles of clothing
- A reference to the 1992 consensus

- FISTS! (Except for Ma, who probably can't make a fist). Also, arm-crossing which I think they think is aggressive and business-y but just comes across as weird and defensive.
- A signal that they still think they are the party of a strong economy (as though we haven't figured out that, to the extent that's true - which it isn't really - it's because China helps them)

Also get a load of the "We Shall Return" logo on Ma's shirt. LOL.

The slogan here is "1992 Consensus, Fight for the economy". From trying to re-group after 2016 and perhaps rethink the way they approached voters, they seem to be trying to roar back into power by taking a hard right turn back to their old-school platforms. 


The candidate here is Lai Shi-bao (Shih-pao? My Romanization is all over the place today), who seems to be trying to look younger with the hoodie and all. He's actually 68 years old, and very old-school KMT (minority leader in the legislature...and more. Basically super establishment).

Apparently this sign has appeared in more than one place, and there's a bit of a public debate going on about whether it's even a good idea to campaign on promoting the 1992 Consensus. Is it conspiracy-mongering tinfoil hattism to suggest that perhaps the CCP is directing the KMT to campaign this way - whether blatantly or tacitly - because it is just that tone-deaf?

In any case, apparently in another area where this poster appeared, DPP opponent Ruan Zhaoxiong put up a sign directly beneath it saying "the 1992 Consensus is One Country Two Systems" (a phrase which is even more unpopular in Taiwan). 


Here's a campaign poster on a bus that also includes Ma Ying-jeou (who apparently can make a half-hearted fist). 



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He's with Lin Jin-jie  - and no, I'm not even bothering to try and standardize my Romanization. Lin is a candidate in New Taipei (Tucheng and Sanxia). He doesn't seem that interesting except that Terry Gou, who I suppose is a Big Man in the Tucheng area, where there is a big and rather ugly industrial park, and they don't seem to get along. Apparently people are not optimistic about his chances, and Gou has said "he won't be elected".

That photo is heavily photoshopped - the real Lin Jin-jie looks quite a bit older.

The slogan is "support the blue army to win, only then will the country have peace of mind" (it sounds better, though not less boring, in Mandarin).

The irony of that is staggering, seeing as it's the "blue army" that is routinely accused of working with China to undermine the country. Anyway, "an ding" (安定)is also a way of referring to a kind of sedative, though I suspect that usage is very rare. Somehow, "support the blue army to win, only then will the nation be heavily tranquilized" sounds more accurate, though.


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This is Lin Yi-hua - as with other politicians, photoshopped to look younger than she is - on a banner outside my favorite soy milk place on Fuxing Road. Lin is running against Hsieh Pei-fen in Da'an and Wenhua, and she pretends to be ill for political gain.

That's a shame; this Yonghe Soy Milk's breakfast grub (also, late night grub) is good and they're open 24 hours. The distance and the weird font mean I can't really read the slogan but it has to do with business and education - a platform-based sign. One could do worse.

Next to her, also put up by Yonghe Soy Milk, is a banner for the Congress Party Alliance (國會政黨聯盟). I don't know a lot about them except that they merged with the Minkuotang earlier this year. The Minkuotang has a weird religious component, is basically unificationist, and is pan-blue, so we can assume the Congress Party Alliance is too (apparently the chairman, Wujue Miaotian, is also a cultish religious figure and is the chairman of the newly-merged single party).

They strike me as creepy, and I'm not sure what's up with Yonghe Soy Milk in that they put up both a standard KMT banner (which I guess I can ignore) alongside the weird cult people banner. 





This is a poster in a rural part of Miaoli Country for Chu Ying-hao, an unaffiliated candidate running against a KMT incumbent (Miaoli is super blue). I don't know if there's a DPP candidate campaigning as well, but they seem to be making a real effort to get whatever minority votes there are in Miaoli to come out for President Tsai, so maybe. 

Nobody seems to know much about Chu, as he's a political newcomer. His main platform seems to be "more funding for Miaoli!" which will probably appeal to voters there - remember Miaoli is once the county that went broke thanks in part to simply not having enough money, but mostly due to previous financial mismanagement by the KMTers they keep electing for some reason. 

(I think part of the reason is that Miaoli is heavily Hakka and Hakka voters tend to vote KMT, often though not always out of some deep-seated dislike for the old Hoklo chauvinism of the DPP, which many refuse to believe is waning. I'm not sure it matters, even, that Tsai is part Hakka.) 



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In fact, I spent the whole weekend in Miaoli and took as many campaign poster photos as I could.

At one point we got a little turned around up in the mountains and ended up in the small Indigenous village of Da'an. Candidates here campaign heavily on their Indigenous heritage - this poster above for Wu Li-hua references the "dreams of the Indigenous people" and the full autumn moon (not only is Mid-Autumn Festival important to Taiwanese with ancestry from China, but a fair number of Indigenous festivals take place around that time as well.)

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This one - with the ultra-boring slogan "To Serve The People" - is for May Chin (Gao Jin Su Mei or Ciwas Ali), a famous actress-cum-politician with Atayal (and Manchu) heritage. You may know her from Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet. She's a member of the highly-partisan Non-Partisan Solidarity Union. On the good side, she's a strong advocate of Indigenous rights. On the other hand, she's also a unificationist.

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Running for re-election to the legislature is Lin Hsin-yi. No, not the former Vice Premier under Chen Shui-bian (I had to check too - in any case, the Indigenous population also tends to vote blue despite the KMT not caring one whit about them). This Lin Hsin-yi is not affiliated with a party and has criticized both the DPP and KMT sharply for not caring about Indigenous rights. I'm not sure why he's campaigning in Miaoli as he seems to be more closely associated with Fuxing township in Taoyuan, and at least used to be KMT? Not sure.

His slogan is "Hold fast to faith, hold fast to fulfilling your dreams". The first part is pretty standard, as Indigenous Taiwanese also tend to be Christian.

Anecdotally, I feel like even just ten years ago, it was common for whatever KMTer wanted to win to just show up and shake some hands in Indigenous areas, and then once elected proceed to do nothing at all for them. So it's interesting to me that now, it seems to win in an Indigenous area, Indigenous candidates lean heavily on their heritage. 


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There's not a lot to say about this absolutely huge and yet utterly boring poster for the DPP. The guy on the left is Luo Gui-xing (who is almost certainly Hakka - if you are a Luo from Miaoli, that's a dead giveaway). I can't see who the guy on the right is.

I can't find much about Mr. Luo, except that he was previously elected to the Miaoli County Council. Not sure how I feel about the square hair, though.

This is a good chance for me to opine on the DPP's slogan, however.

In Chinese, I like it. In English - yawn.


The Chinese is an adorable and lovely pun - "we want to win" sounds just like "We want Ying [the nickname of Tsai Ing-wen, who actively campaigns as 'Little Ying']". In English, "Let's Win" is pretty uninspired, though at least it's not stolen like 'Yes We Can'.

The good news is that I doubt Taiwanese voters care, even if they can read it. The blandness probably doesn't matter. 


Then there's this guy:

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Oh, Lin Yu-fang, how I hate you so.

I really hate this guy. He was defeated in 2016 by rock star and Sexy Legislator Freddy Lim, after a dirty and hateful campaign making fun of Freddy's hair (saying that men with long hair are 'abnormal') and putting up legitimately scary pro-death penalty posters near elementary schools, which said things like "Freddy Lim will let murderers walk free" (Freddy is against capital punishment, like a sensible sexy person.)

I know I don't have a leg to stand on being all indignant about making fun of Freddy's sexy, sexy hair, seeing as earlier in this post I called a guy Poppin' Fresh. But I'm still not sorry. Anyway, I'm a blogger, not someone working on campaign messaging.


Anyway, he might win his seat back, which sucks. Freddy's got a shot at re-election, but it seems at least one major temple in their very temple-heavy district  - Qingshan Gong or the Green Mountain Temple - has decided to endorse Lin Yu-fang. I thought at first that allowing him to come pray at the head of the festival parade was just something the temple allowed candidates to do, but the two giant posters on either side of the temple point to more active support. 

I can't read the first poster as the photo got cut off, but the second one has him posing in front of a little cartoon boring place. I think the message is, Make Wanhua Boring Again! 


In truth, the message is "finish the MRT, push urban renewal". Seeing as the KMT's version of "urban renewal" is "tear down things that are interesting without giving adequate compensation to current residents, and build things that suck", I suspect Make Wanhua Boring Again is the more accurate phrase.

Gross. 


Here's Sincere (and Sexy) Freddy Lim's noise truck rolling down Zhongxiao Road so you don't have to think about Lin Yu-fang anymore. 

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Though to be honest, they've sort of toned down the rocker look and hidden his hair for this campaign. He looks just like a normal guy here, but I am sure if re-elected he will once again morph into Sexy Legislator Freddy Lim.

In contrast to Lin Yu-fang's ads, which look like 1980s commercials for liver pills and real estate, Freddy's ad is bright, fresh and has clean lines and clear messaging.

Again, not that I'm biased or anything.