Looking Ahead To Taiwan’s 2012 Election -- From Beijing

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou has made good relations with China a cornerstone of his administration, but suspicions still simmer on either side of the Taiwan Strait.

Ma at a campaign event (Prince Roy)
Ma at a campaign event (Prince Roy)
Gong Ling

Since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou's inauguration in 2008, relations between Mainland China and Taiwan have made progress, a potential momentous turn in the long wrought story of cross-strait relations. Taiwan has even raised the possibility of talks of signing a peace agreement, although nothing has come of it so far.

Still, the most visible signs of change in decades are clear. The number of cities from which there are regular charter flights is expanding, Mainland tourists can now visit Taiwan freely, and the two governments have also signed the "ECFA" (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement).

Yet, can Ma Ying-Jeou, who promoted these achievements, sit back and wait for his reelection in 2012? It will be a touchstone that tests the current rapid development of the cross-strait policy. When Ma was campaigning in 2008, the issue of improving relations between the two political entities cross the Taiwan Strait was one of his most important political vows. It was his policy to promote economic and cultural partnership, in hopes to raise Taiwanese income.

When Ma first got into office, private consumption plummeted and his government even responded by issuing coupons to each citizen to boost consumption. But then last year, Taiwan's economic growth rose to 8% - considerable change.However, in local elections for five major cities in Taiwan last year, the Taiwanese punished Ma Ying-Jeou at the polls. Many Taiwanese believe that apart from the cross-strait policy, he hasn't achieved much. Others worry that this fast development will harm Taiwan's autonomy and jeopardize its future.

Mainlanders may wonder why Taiwanese aren't more grateful, when in fact this reaction is not that surprising. The two sides have very different social systems and their people are suddenly getting together. Such a leap forward is bound to cause a certain amount of questioning.

From a geographical point of view, China is a giant and Taiwan a dwarf. The same is true demographically: China has 1.3 billion people while Taiwan has 23 million. In Taiwan's shoes, anybody would be afraid of facing this giant monster.

Besides, China insists on a "one China policy", without addressing precisely what this actually implies. Reunification is at the core of its education and its peoples' feeling. To the Taiwanese, who wish to maintain their way of life and a certain degree of autonomy, Ma's promotion of trust regarding China, under a four-year mandate, is a major challenge.

One fact should never be neglected, cross-strait relations have been at a standstill and Taiwanese consciousness rose during the ten odd years Lee Deng-Hui and Chen Shui-Bian were in office. From a political standpoint, the opening that Ma has achieved was not without effort, and it's not easy to change horses in midstream. And it also doesn't help that the ruling KMT party doesn't have the final say in Taiwan.

Tsai Ying-Wen, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party candidate, wants to develop bi-lateral relations within multi-lateral ones. It's a sign that significant numbers of Taiwanese are still wary of the "passion" of mainlanders.

Beijing roots for Ma

It's widely known that China hopes for Ma's reelection. The policy of sending "a procurement group" from each province everything month to Taiwan has been promoted by Chinese officials as a support of cross-strait policy. But it isn't seen this way in Taiwan. For them "China's united front is too active".

This is exactly where the dilemma of cross-strait policy lies. Even though both parties say they must put aside their political differences, their policies are always based on political issues. Under such circumstances, if Ma Ying-Jeou lost the campaign or won by a narrow margin, it would be a demonstration of "non-confidence" regarding the current progress.

This is why it's important for Chinese authorities to avoid political interference in the current spontaneous non-governmental exchanges. After all, Taiwan is different from Hong Kong or Macao. It's up to the Chinese to take initiatives and put forward new ideas, taking into account the status quo in a pragmatic way.

Ma Ying-Jeou's policies aren't just responding to Taiwanese public opinion. What Taiwanese care about is the transformation and progress of Mainland China. Coming up with new ideas which can bring peace of mind to the Taiwanese and help them to trust China, would be a really effective way of helping Ma Ying-Jeou.

Chinese authorities may not be familiar with taking its people's opinion into account, but in Taiwan it is important. And elections can be cruel.

Read the original article in French

photo - Prince Roy

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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.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — 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.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

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.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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