Taking a break from foreign politics

Let’s take a break from foreign politics for a bit and look at some of the issues in domestic Taiwan politics.

The biggest critically important current affair is whether or not farmers can sell Mangoes to mainland China. No, this is not the lead-in for a bad joke.

When the KMT and PFP party leaders (the parties of the opposition blue camp, but which hold a majority in the legislature) went to talk to PRC CCP officials in mainland China earlier this year, they were offered some lovely parting gifts. In particular, the offered a pair of pandas and a lifting of fruit tariffs. No strings attached. You’d think people would treat this as good news! But, no…

The DPP and TSU (the green camp, of which the DPP is the ruling party) were solidly against party officials going to China at all, and complained bitterly that any agreements of any sort between them and the CCP officials would be completely illegal, and riots nearly broke out at the airport when protesting their departure. Never mind that this sort of whining comes from nearly the same spirit as when the PRC complains about any current or former ROC officials visiting foreign countries, whether in an official capacity or not.

The blue camp danced around the issue by saying that no agreements of any kind had been made, but that the CCP kindly offered the panda and fruit concessions. The panda issue has been pushed aside for now because the issue needs planning and research. But the issue of fruit has been more pressing. While officials here have been hemming and hawing, the PRC went ahead and lifted tariffs on their own late last week. This now has officials here running around complaining that even a single mango sent to the PRC will lead directly to communists taking over Taiwan.

Why is the green camp so upset about this issue? There’s broadly three reasons at play. The first is that green camp believes that the blue camp want reunification at any cost and will happily sell out to the PRC. The second is that the green camp almost automatically will oppose anything the blue camp is in favor of. (To be fair, the blue camp has the same problem, and has been holding up legislation on a variety of issues that they’d probably otherwise support.) The third reason is they fear that the PRC is trying to woo political support from farmers away from the green camp.

This last point is actually a fairly reasonable fear. In general, northern urban areas lean to the blue camp, and southern rural areas lean to the green camp. By offering something that clearly appeals to a core constituency of the green camp, the PRC may indeed end up weakening their parties. The PRC is very much afraid that the green camp will move to formal independence at some point, so they definitely have a motive to try to weaken the green camp.

But if that’s their fear, they have a funny way of addressing the problem. You’d think they’d welcome the change, try to take partial credit for it, and push for more tariff reductions. Instead, they are so fearful that it might make the blue camp look good that they are willing to screw the farmers in the process. I’m not sure where the logic in that is.

The Taipei Times tends to lean in favor of the green camp, so it was quite a surprise to read their editorial today which pretty much slams the green camp for making too much of the fruit tariff issue. Read it here: Fruit war the wrong battle to fight.

I’ve already pointed to some of Richard Hartzell’s articles claiming that under International Law, Taiwan is legally a US Territory. Today there was also a letter to the editor which nicely sums up my opinion of it: Nice theory, but who cares?

2 thoughts on “Taking a break from foreign politics”

  1. What puzzles me is what ‘principles’ are in danger here? How much other trade occurs with China?

    I fail to understand a lot of Taiwanese politics. In college the Chinese Student Association and Taiwanese American Student Coalition were often at odds. Very bitter rivalries… very very strange considering that the majority of members were U.S. citizens who ethnically were of the same origin. In some ways it was ridiculous to the extent that they would argue that they were no common grounds between them.

    Bleah. Then again, I fail to understand a lot of Asian politics.


  2. That reminds me of my first experience with Taiwan politics. In college, they only had one Chinese Students club, but in my freshman year there was a big argument about whether people from Taiwan should be allowed to be members, since they weren’t from China. And yet the same people were adamant that Taiwan is Chinese. Huh? Not to mention that many of the members ‘from’ China were 2nd gen Chinese-American.


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