Tag Archives: politics

Taiwan: A Democracy or a Democrazy?

I’ve seen Taiwan’s democracy / democrazy through all these years. (What a renegade Chinese mainland resident I am!) During the years of Chen Shui-bian, when (political) lines between Ilha Formosa and its communist rival on the mainland were drawn with every Chen speech, people were far from being 100% in agreement about what Ketangalan Boulevard was all about. Brawls in the legislature were not uncommon: often, these were deals between Mainland China and Taiwan. Water was poured onto legislators, microphones were broken, and what must have been a hundred-page report (unstapled!) were simply thrown onto the floor. Things turned from the rational to the irrational when pro-China legislator Li Ao was thrown a shoe.

We’re having exactly the same in Taiwan these days over a new agreement with Mainland China. Yes, I’ve been lazy these days — I haven’t checked what’s up re: this very issue on the Wikipedia. But the fact is, occupying a legislature is (a) not done “just like that” and (b) is a serious issue indeed. On Facebook I’ve been hearing a lot of views from inside Taiwan and there is one that me and others posted that seems to have struck a chord (loosely translated below):—

If we have a fight with China, the communist army will wipe us out. If we keep fighting with the government, all of Taiwan stands to suffer. Thing is: the Taiwanese are best maximising their own efforts. Just be you and be better in all that you do. Make people look at Taiwan — going away admiring Taiwan. That is the true hidden beauty of Taiwan.

That’s one point that seems to have won a fair bit of hearts. But the question remains: What if you have a government that seems to be going out of control? Throwing shoes and occupying legislatures happens in democracies that have a bit of an identity crisis, for these appear to be acts of democrazy in a democracy. But the people still think the government are going bonkers. And they want to be heard.

We need something, then, that’s called a veto vote. Yes, it’s a David Feng polit term that makes less than no sense. It’s like as if you were told that you had to shift gears to make a car with automatic transmission work (which would technically be OK, but would in reality invalidate the one big benefit of going automatic — saving you from shifting gears all the time!).

But the idea of the veto vote is that the people can come out and propose either a counter-proposal or an outright veto of a government bill. In countries where people aren’t so “vote-savvy” (such as China), one can allow here the system to enable both “open-air” meetings and meetings with “informed voters”.

The two things about a democracy that make it all the more worthwhile (and believe me, I myself am a citizen of such a democracy — Switzerland):—

  • “Mic power”: That you are able to speak on an equal level as that of the government (by airing your free thoughts — of course ideally a la Habermas and his public sphere, without Big Bad Business interfering with you);
  • “Veto power”: That you are able to bang on that Great Big Red Button whenever you see government acting like a bozo, going bonkers.

Of course, you can have other rights as well — but as a citizen of a democracy living in a communist nation, I find that these two “power rights” are what separates a PRC citizen from a Swiss (as an example).

Note: Ever since Switzerland’s political EU-suicide on 09 February 2014, I have stowed away my “Swiss pride” and have become a vocal critic of the Swiss authorities — for a very simple reason that you can’t simply let the crowds tear apart an agreement you let them sign in the first place. It’s like: Oh great, I found my wife liked seafood, and I never liked that crap, so we’re divorcing. Instant knee-jerk reaction: Huh? Switzerland (and the SVP in particular) — you need to grow a few brains. There’s a better way to solve the immigration issues than to force yourself into isolation — that makes you eventually look like some kind of European Pyeongyang…

The David Feng Review of Plenary.ccp version 18.3

I’m reviewing the recent 3rd Plenary of the Chinese Communist Party, now in “version 18.0” with Xi Jinping as its head honcho. Here’s my take on what version 18.3 of Plenary.app (sorry — CCP, not APP) — offers users (as in: users of “air” on Chinese territory; or more, rather, as in its “people”).

• SECOND KIDS: LIKE. I have never been a fanboy of the One-Child Policy simply because it makes all of us (as in the younger generation) like spoilt brats. I know this too well as I teach kids born in the 1990s — these are the antithesis of those in the Victorian era, where even writing with the left hand got you caned. (I’ve a Japanese / Swiss friend who was like that. Oh man, now if he was born a few decades “before” his time…) These days, if these kids don’t like your lesson, they tweet about it, tune into their iTunes on their iPhone (it actually is like this, technologically speaking), or just doze off. Even if you set the microphone on maximum volume and shake the room, booming the kid’s name again and again, the kid can just choose to leave the room. There’s no way you can do about this: it’s against the law to beat kids up or to “go against their interests”!

An only child is good when you’re the kid and you’re still aged about 9 or 10 — or so; nobody’s gonna steal your Lego! Then you enter what we all know as Adolescent Mode, and you find life on your own is just a bore. With a brother or sister, things might be much more different. Now that Chinese citizens can have two kids if only one of them is an “only child”, we will be seeing more competent kids — with less problems and a better way to actually talk to people.

• EDUCATIONAL REFORM: LIKE. I hate the National University Entrance Exams in China (aka Gaokao) even though I never had to go through one. It’s hell. If you crash out on The Big Day, your life is ruined. I know this since I know people who had to get an Associate Degree before getting one or more Bachelor’s Degrees. I am actually less pessimistic about the cancellation of “key courses” as it makes kids more socially competent: they can, instead, do extracurricular activities — and I myself loved that.

The new, SAT-like University Entrance Exams are like a gift from the academic / educational gods. I just hope I could set the English language exams so students aren’t brainwashed with Chinglish. Right now I’d say the great majority of English teachers in China are doing what they are not supposed to be doing — I’d say most of my colleagues would agree with this as well. Chinglish is all over the place. We’ve got to nix it. I also agree that schools and universities should revert to their academic selves instead of being pseudo-bureaucracies.

• NGOs: SCEPTICAL. One of the biggest issues with the China of today is the fact that there is virtually no breathing room for non-government organisations. Either you’re part of the .ccp/.gov apparatus, or you’re an individual who is free but never official (and the mandarins can — and will often elect to — ignore you). Starting even a computer or railways association can be extremely difficult due to the red tape. They have been talking about making it easier to start non-gov organisations but given how things have been in the past decades, I’d consider Taiwan-ish liberalisation next to impossible. A very real problem is how these NGOs will “interact” with the authorities. It’s not about whether or not you’re pro-PRC-establishment or not; under the Hu Jintao years, even the Chinese equivalents of YouTube were under government ownership. (Most of the clips were either fights in the Subway, rich ladies showing off their “bling-bling”, or soap operas from every last place imaginable — instead of being clips about political rallies and their “sensitive ilk”.)

If eventually NGOs would be allowed more rights to help society at large, then that’s OK. But until then, I remain highly sceptical in this regard. This can all be changed if a new law was made (or existing laws were changed) and we had this in print — black on white. Otherwise my scepticism remains.

I’m not advocating such massive NGO-ish changes in China as can be seen elsewhere. But it should not take hurdles to establish even — like — a chess club for a village in China.

I’ve a train to catch. More of my views on this later.

Swiss Democracy: No Donald Duck, But Yes, Pirate Party…

I have to say I’m a little shocked seeing that the Chinese are pirating the idea of a pirate party: the Wikipedia link says a Chinese Pirate Party is “in discussion” and is on the drawing board. I think that party’s pointless: nearly all of China is pirated. Don’t get me started on the trains: the CRH3C is a pirated version of the ICE 3 (albeit a legal pirate); no soul, obviously, would believe the propaganda that it is “Chinese because of technology transfer”. Even the doors still carry that invasive sticker: Made in Ybbs*/Austria. Unless the PRC colonised Ybbs (for the train doors, maybe), that’s still non-Chinese…

* How the hell do you pronounce “Ybbs”, by the way?

Ookie. So what’s all this talk about the Pirate Party all about? I was given a shock larger than electrocution (I think: I’ve never been electrocuted, and I think if I was, I probably wouldn’t be blogging here) when I found out that there was a REAL Pirate Party. Bang on the ballots for the Swiss National Council elections (to come 23 October 2011; I’ve, by the way, already sent my ballot back; I didn’t vote for them, for what it’s worth) — the one for the Canton of Zurich had it on page 10. I swear. Take a look at it. Right there — 18 potential “legitimate political pirates”. There are folks younger than I am on the list, and there are even a few sociologists amongst them. It’s crazy.

In China, people are flattened because they happen to stand in the way of a high-speed railway viaduct — and they failed to get the hell out of there in good time. This kind of polit BS would have been sent to Switzerland for a nationwide vote. We are finishing the Gotthard Base Tunnel in the mid-2010s because our people said so. Switzerland is part of the United Nations because I voted yes because I thought this nation had no more sane reasons to stay out of the freaking thing. Bank accounts in some deep, hidden-under-the-square safe just don’t get emptied out of the blue just because you’ve joined the UN. It just doesn’t happen like that.

The fact is, Swiss democracy works just like that. We are pestered up to 4 times every year just because some idiot couldn’t figure if it was OK building this stretch of freeway this way across this yard or that way. But that’s how we’d like it. We don’t advertise to the rest of the world that we are “most democratic” so-called, and we don’t bomb Afghanistan or Libya because they’re “unfree”. In fact, Moammar Gaddhafi wanted to declare “jihad” on the Swiss. Not a single bomb was dropped on Tripoli from the authorities in Berne — and this from a nation that was the target of a Gaddhafi-dictated “jihad”. We’re comparatively cool people!

About the worst thing that happens on Swiss ballots is the requirement that you choose someone who is alive, breathing, and Swiss. No foreign cultural imperialist icons — and by no means Donald Duck. That’s a sucker, given. And we don’t get to choose our Federal President. Rats. But that’s about all there is to it that sucks about Swiss democracy. The rest — is just neat.

Oh, and did I mention that you need “just” 100,000 valid citizens to amend the Swiss Constitution in full?

I’m proud…

…that we can change our government without dumping the constitution whole.

Thanks to this civilized invention called an election.

The one thing that makes me super-happy to be Swiss: the government has given us this thing called “a ballot” that gets sent out to registered expat Swiss voters every so often (basically once per quarter). And unlike Aussies who are required to vote, we can legally toss the ballot into the shredder (as in not vote at all) without this hidden fear that government might be breathing down our neck, wondering why we were so civilly disobedient. (Sole Swiss exception: the Canton of Schaffhausen, up north, requires people to vote.)

The upcoming Swiss elections take place on 23 October 2011. I’m sending my ballot back the next few days to be doubly sure that my votes count. I’ve decided to give the SVP (the Swiss People’s Party) Dumpster treatment after its discriminatory “minaret ban” got Switzerland some seriously bad publicity. Worse still, it allowed the Swiss to do something un-Swiss: to eat upon the freedoms the Constitution gave this land. You thought China had “human rights issues”? Have a gander at just how bad the situation is in Switzerland, especially post-ban. Communist China has a minaret right by the new Tianjin West Railway Station (and it looks pretty new — both structures, that is). That kind of architecture (the minaret, not railway stations) are now hors la loi in this supposedly “neutral” country.

I don’t want to get into politics — especially not as a politician. But now, post-ban, whenever there’s a vote about stuff that’s Swiss, that’s like — it sets off an auto reaction my end. I posted a whole slew of commentary regarding the whole election on Facebook. I’ve reposted this on my blog so that most of you get to know my political views on this matter:

  • The best thing about a democracy is you can expel those idiot politicians and unsightly parties screwing the whole country up. Thank you God!!
    Now voting as an expat Swiss as the Swiss national elections loom large and clear. For one thing, the SVP is finished. You gave us the crap minarets ban, ookie… we are voting you suckers out of office!!
  • Of course, all politicians ultimately (will) stink. There is nothing you can do once you get your nose shoved into this trade…
    But the good thing is this: I have not chosen a soul who wants to let the Swiss keep doing nuclear power plans, especially after Fukushima. Nuclear power has always been this kind of hidden bomb that could feed on humanity — and it has, as Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown us…
  • The one “mediated event” of Swiss politics that has completely blown me off is the crazy minarets ban 2 years back. I basically made a huge anti-ban campaign over social media. I told every last living human, algae, cockroach and Swiss-citizen-to-be NOT to vote for that short-sighted bill.
    Which was passed “anyway”.
    And which got me bat-fr*ck-insane when that DID happen.
  • Once upon a time an election was a mere election. Now, it is no more. And while it’s not some kind of crusade or “to save the minarets” (if you can call it that at all), I did find the so-called “minaret ban” most absurd, most unsightly and most anti-humanity.
    I don’t know much about the Muslim world. It kind of fascinates me, though, in all ways. I wouldn’t convert religiously, of course, but having said that, I don’t think a minaret should be something that you should have a cow over or stuff like that.
    Yes, women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. But instead of making a huge propaganda campaign against that and by calling that “backward and undemocratic”, the best we can do as outsiders is to merely foster a “live and let live” attitude. I don’t think the entirety of any accepted, established religion is problematic, perverted or anything like that.
    The thing that totally pisses me off about the minaret ban is, of course, discrimination, but also this latent and real fear that the Swiss constitution is being eaten alive, bit by bit, by its citizenry. When you start modding the constitution to feed upon itself, when that thing starts taking away the very principles on which it was established, that sure is one hell of a scary development. You think China’s human rights issue is scary? Just you wait until Switzerland comes out with stupider still mods to its constitution. A bigger human rights issue in the making…

And while I think the odds that the Swiss People’s Party will be politically nixed or humiliated are by no means guaranteed, what I can do with my ballot is to show my disapproval. Of course, the vote will be a secret vote, but Bern will have one less ballot in favour of the Swiss People’s Party this time. They’ve sinned and stuff’s got to happen to right that one very big wrong.