Lots of commentary out there sucking up the CW…Renee Loth of the Boston Globe had an editorial on the 1st about our elections here, with some decent observations but the usual slew of KMT talking points:

Economic worries, as much as the ham-handed actions by the DPP, are credited with the party’s stunning losses in the country’s legislative elections last month. According to the ministry of trade, GDP growth in Taiwan was 5.4 percent this year and is expected to drop to 4.5 percent in 2008 - respectable by Western standards but not compared with Taiwan’s neighbors in the region. Unemployment is up, and average incomes have fallen in each of the eight years of DPP control.

Everything here is upside down. Unemployment is down (below 4%), and average incomes have risen each year of DPP rule except the recession year of 2001, (DGBAS data), and economic growth compared to other Asian nations? Well, China and India are monsters, of course, but Korea? Last couple of years under 5%. Japan? Stumbling along at under 3%. Singapore and Hong Kong both outperform Taiwan, but its to be expected that cities with little productivity-killing agricultural sector will grow faster. Malaysia has been slightly better than Taiwan, Vietnam clips along at about 7% annually for the last few years, but then it is starting from a much lower base. In other words, Taiwan doesn’t do so badly, especially when compared to the developed East Asian nations (never mind Laos, etc). When you ramp up per capital incomes to high, it is difficult to sustain 8% growth consistently over time, unless you are China and can invent your economic figures.

Finally, it should be observed that the KMT has slowed economic growth by starving infrastructure spending in order to blame the DPP, and if the KMT is really concerned about the state of the economy, it controls the legislature, and can pass the necessary stimulus packages any time it likes. But it hasn’t, because it prefers to starve local incomes in order to score points against the DPP. Who has screwed (up) the economy?


Also scooping up some pro-KMT talking points was China Confidential, which picks up the Beijing line that Taiwan’s referendums are a “foreign policy nightmare” for the US:

Just what the United States does not need: another potential foreign policy nightmare….

Taiwan says it will hold two separate referendum votes on the island’s controversial bid for membership in the United Nations during the island’s presidential elections in March.

The announcement is certain to enrage China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province that eventually must be reunited with the mainland–peacefully, preferably, or by military means, if necessary.

In a statement issued Friday, Taiwan’s Central Election Commission said the two opinion ballots, proposed by the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition Nationalist Party, will both focus on UN membership.

Nothing nightmarish about the referendums. Even if they pass, they are meaningless — as China Confidential correctly notes, Beijing can block any entry by Taiwan into the UN. The Bush Administration is making noise because it is aiding Beijing and the KMT, not because it is particularly concerned (note that neither referendum places any restrictions or mandates on the government — the time of enforcement is unspecified). The whole thing is a tempest in a teacup, a sideshow of a sideshow. Heck, the two referendums in the Jan 12 elections didn’t come within shouting distance of being passed…and there is a strong possibility that these won’t either. Note that Beijing is described as to be “enraged” — I love the way commentators posit Beijing’s behavior before it happens, thus giving Beijing even more leverage over what’s said in the international forums. As I’ve noted many times, “being enraged” is something Beijing does to gain leverage over the discourse and policy in other nations — it is not a visceral reaction but a policy choice.

One better piece: Ian Williams talks about the recent elections on the AsiaPacific Forum. Williams is a longtime Asian journalist and has both knowledge of and sympathy for Taiwan. Even better, the podcast is put out by a progressive radio station in NYC — it’s good to see progressives out there talking about Taiwan.