How The Coming Taiwan Election Is Being Read (And Misread) On Mainland China

Essay: A Beijing-based Taiwanese writer picks apart the twisted attempts by mainlanders to make sense out of Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election.

Ma Ying-jeou, the current president of Taiwan
Ma Ying-jeou, the current president of Taiwan
Gong Ling

BEIJING - I am always attentive when Chinese start talking about Taiwan's upcoming presidential election. But yet again, I get the impression that the Chinese, in both high and not-so-high places, don't really understand what is happening on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

Having learned from past experience, the Chinese government is playing it low key this time around. But in its own careful way, China is quietly hoping that Ma Ying-Jeou, the current Taiwanese president who is the Kuomintang (‘KMT" Nationalist Party) candidate, will be re-elected. This is based on the orthodox "Greater China" tradition that aims at strengthening ties among the Chinese-speaking territories. Almost all the Chinese conversations I hear, whether from the streets or on the Internet, are based on this same logic.

Somehow, from a political and historical viewpoint, it is rather odd for the Chinese authorities to be criticizing Ms. Tsai Ing-Wen, the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, who is running against the incumbent. Beijing considers that the Republic of China in Taiwan has been effectively finished and superseded by the People's Republic of China (PRC). So according to China's logic, the DPP simply shouldn't exist. If we use spatial concepts as a metaphor, the PRC exists in a three-dimensional world yet finds itself criticizing something in a fourth dimensional world that, theoretically at least, it's not supposed to see. This is strange indeed.

The Chinese authorities also have a funny attitude towards President Ma Ying-jeou. According to the prevailing teaching in schools, and the political ideology in China since 1949, the KMT are reactionaries. Although cross-strait relations have improved in recent years, the KMT is still generally considered as rebellious. How can one express goodwill on one hand, and stimulate mass hatred towards the KMT on the other?

The elite officials in the KMT are predominantly native Taiwanese. The KMT has been beaten by the DPP in two presidential elections since 2000, and it has gone through several reorganizations, so it is no longer the same party that left China 62 years ago. Pretending that the KMT is still the same party that left China in 1949 is very unrealistic. Ma Ying-Jeou himself would almost certainly agree.

Another point is the way the Chinese regard the candidacy of James Soong. He is a pro-Chinese reunification candidate, a former high-ranking official who fell out with the KMT and founded his own small party, the People First Party. Many believe he is dishonest and denounce him for running a campaign as political revenge on President Ma for sacrificing "national interests."

Whether or not Mr. Soong is dragging down Mr. Ma, or up to some other kind of trickery, is hard to prove. But one thing is worth noting: Mr. Soong says what's needed most is reunification. Still, even though he is most in line with the Chinese people, his candidacy is much criticized in Beijing.

It's hard to imagine anyone proclaiming the reunification of Taiwan and China with as much fervor as Mr. Soong. So why are the mainlanders criticizing him so strongly? This too is not clear.

Many on the mainland profess to be experts on Taiwan's politics. Yet few consider how this election might look from the Taiwanese viewpoint. That's why reading their commentaries is like someone scratching your feet with your boots still on. Or put more bluntly: if your own viewpoint is based on false premises, you will understand little of how Taiwanese will react. It is the difference between being a player on the field, and a supporter up in the stands.

Read the original article in Chinese

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.



• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.


Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.


Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

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471 million euros

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✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!!

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