March 11, 2008

...ONCE THEY'VE SEEN TAIPEI:

Democracy on the dragon's doorstep (Cindy Sui , 3/12/08, Asia Times)

At some level or another, mainland Chinese people are increasingly exposed to democracy through Taiwan's presidential election on March 22. The important race, which could possibly write a new chapter in cross-strait relations, makes them keen to learn more about the island, which has been ruled separately since the end of a Chinese civil war in 1949.

Subconsciously or intentionally - and whether the Chinese government likes it or not - mainland residents are also learning about Taiwan's political system, which is the the only real democratic system in greater China, including Hong Kong and Macau.

And despite the biased coverage in Chinese media, most viewers know one thing - it's a real election, which means people get to elect the person they like.

During the 2000 presidential election in Taiwan, Chinese people posted comments on Internet chat rooms praising the election process. Some Chinese applauded the Kuomintang (MT) for stepping down gracefully after losing the election, wondering how long it would take the Chinese Communist Party to do that.

It's no different this year. While state-controlled TV and newspapers report sanitized versions of campaigning with little substance about the debates going on, Internet-savvy white collar workers and others circumvent blockades set up by China's Internet police and gain access to uncensored news. And those who work in hotels or live in luxury apartments have access to satellite TV channels not allowed elsewhere.

"Taiwan's political system has something the mainland can learn from, such as greater freedom of speech, the encouragement of expressions of various viewpoints, transparency, an impartial official merit system, and a strict system to monitor official performance, etc," said Hunter Li, who works for a high-tech multinational company in Beijing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 11, 2008 12:00 AM
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