Taishang come in pro-Taiwan and pro-China flavors, just like politics back home in Taiwan. Many might argue that they will be more pro-China than the local population, but in fact, in this election, they just aren’t coming home.
By Michael Turton, The View of Taiwan
Published with permission, read the original here…
Over at China Policy Institute Gunter Schubert has a piece on the Taishang, the Taiwan businessmen in China. arguing gently that they are not the Trojan horses the pro-independence side in Taiwan’s politics makes them out to be. Schubert has made a career out of researching the Taishang; his excellent 2010 paper on them is publicly available in PDF format. Sadly, the Taishang are most definitely a kind of Trojan Horse, as Schubert’s own work shows, they simply regurgitate a gumbo of KMT and China propaganda draped in the usual neoliberal cloaking, the kind of stuff that we’ve grown used to hearing over the years from KMTers in Taiwan and abroad. You know it: China is inevitable, we must come to some kind of accommodation (never concretely specified), we must ship all our industries to China, it will hurt but in the long run we’ll grow again, the free market will solve all the political problems between the two sides. It’s a rhetoric in many ways long since divorced from reality. The political function of this discourse is obvious.
Interestingly none of the Taishang whose words Schubert placed in the paper expressed hatred or dislike of the Chinese. That’s very significant, unless he heard such talk but chose not to include it.
They are also assuming all the characteristics of a typical long-term expat population: nostalgia for the Taiwan they knew, clustering in locations, establishing their own schools, keeping to themselves, eating familiar foods, and not mixing much with the locals. The latter evolution is much more interesting; their economic and political ideas are stale, parochial, and not very imaginative or insightful. Indeed, much of their economic and political thinking appears to be more akin to the kind of elaborate rationalizations that expats develop when they choose to live long-term in another country, an apologetic apparatus rather than a serious critique. Read in that light, their words actually make more sense. For example, no one actually observing reality can seriously believe that Taiwan becomes more competitive when its businessmen leave to build factories elsewhere or that the free market will create a political solution acceptable to both sides. Those statements read better as rationalizations for re-locating to China.
One thing the Taishang verbiage suggests, which doesn’t get much exploration: given China’s ultimate goals, is a robust Taiwan China policy even possible? The pro-Taiwan side cannot formulate a policy because China is obdurate; may as well try to form a policy to stop the fall of night. Similarly, the KMT’s policy is to keep political talks as far down the road as possible while hollowing out the economy to the extent possible. There’s no policy there either. And in both parties individual politicians are operating on an every-man-for-himself policy. That hurts the DPP much more than the KMT…
Taishang come in pro-Taiwan and pro-China flavors, just like politics back home in Taiwan. Many might argue that they will be more pro-China than the local population, but in fact, in this election, they just aren’t coming home… Rabidly pro-China WantWant China Times complains about it:
“When compared to the 250,000 to 300,000 Taiwanese who returned from China to cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential and legislative elections, bookings of plane tickets reveal that only some 50,000 will be doing so for this year’s elections.”
Meanwhile tons of images of the massive rallies and walks this weekend in Taipei for Sean Lien and Ko Wen-je. Ko’s also had people of all ages with a huge leavening of young people, while the Sean Lien rally was predominantly geriatric. That is not as bad as it seems for this election — the old often vote, the young often do not. If you want images, the excellent photographer Dans is pro-KMT and has images of the Lien rally. Apple Daily has Ko with 150K people participating and images here. If you’re on Facebook, the feed of redoubtable Taiwan expert J Michael Cole also has a pile of photos from the Ko events.