Does Policital System in Taiwan Work?

This is a discussion in the previous article: Millionaire Country Singapore. China?. There are many comments on Taiwan and I liked it. Take the Wonton’s comment as an example:


Be very careful of what you wish for. I don’t want to go into details but in Taiwan, politics has degenerated into a bad soap opera. While it is true there is democracy, the system has open it’s doors to many fools and crooks. The voters have no idea who to trust. And the media is forever ready to pounce on gossip leaving the leaders no time to do what they were supposed to do. I don’t know what kind of “great hope” you saw in Taiwan’s “experiment”. Was it the wrestling kung fu brawl in their parliament ? There is no such thing as being “ahead” or “behind” in political processes. The only thing that matters is weather it works or not. Yes, while you rejoice in knowing that the crook president is behind bars, what about the 8 wasted years of screwing up the country ?

Politics is not entertainment. If we wait for the system to mature, the people would have starved to death.

Singapore has a one party show, Japan had a one party show for 54 years. As for the often repeated “one man” of Singapore, do note that the prime minister had changed twice. It just happened that the son happened to be in charge today. Please do not equate this situation with your North Korean neighbours. George Bush Sr and Jr. were seperated by Clinton, and nobody made a stink. The independant history of Singapore is only 44 years. While it is true that it should not, and cannot be compared with China, What the “infamous” man and party acheived is truely impressive and astounding.

When you have the lives of one billion people at stake, the last thing you want to do is “experiment”.

Posted by: wonton on September 22, 2009 3:20 PM

Here was my reply, and I would like to involve more people to discuss on the political system in Taiwan.

Regarding Taiwan, as my disclaimer goes, I don’t know too much details, but I want to share my thoughts based on the limited information I got from news (NOT CCTV news).

Re: fight in parliament. Fight is not a problem. If people don’t fight in parliament, they either fight on the street (violence!) or the rights of certain people are suppressed. I don’t believe it will be physical fighting for too long – it is just starting point.

Re: selection of CHEN Shui-Bian as president. The fake bulletin worked, and many fake promise worked to get him the way to power, but can we have a better way to educate the mass people about how vote works? People need education to excise the power in their hands. The education is not a easy to do – it takes centuries, and many generations. When history story like “President Chen” appear in the text book, people will learn how to vote. I don’t believe that people including myself will know how to do it without excises it many times, and make some mistakes.

Re: sentence of CHEN. The court only proved guilty for one former president, and people point fingers to them (especially CCTV and all media agencies in China by the order of central propaganda department): Hey! Look at what type of president democracy brought to Taiwan. The recent MA got very embarrassed because of the late response to earth quake. Shall we complain that Taiwan don’t have a “God” like Chairman Mao, or Chiang Kai-shek or Chiang Ching-kuo. Well. That is because they have put everyone who think they are bad into jail, and then they naturally became God. To have a graceful president means the president is above the Republic, and to have an embarrassed president like CHEN and MA, or Nixon, Clinton in US is no embarrassing, it is the hard fact that the Republic is above the individual, which is the goal of the founding fathers of the Republic of China.

Re: politics has degenerated into a bad soap opera, yes. It appears so in the last 8 years. But it is just like seeing a new born baby – you see it is on the track to be better – I am sure a second guy shoot is counter-productive for the next president candidate. There will always be new ways to fool the public beside what CHEN did, but people will be educated. I cannot imagine a way for people to progress without real practices like this. Between a dead-end road system that appears to be strong, and a promising system just like a new-born baby, I would like to generally classified Taiwan to the later. Did I see progress from LI, to CHEN, to MA? I think so.

Re: When you have the lives of one billion people at stake, the last thing you want to do is “experiment”. Yes and No. The hope of China lies in many people at least think about it and understand what the arrow of history is pointing to. Unfortunately, no one can possibly know the result of any change (or as you call it, experiment), including His Majority Chairman MAO, but I believe in natural evolve of human society.

A little bit long, but I’d be happy if someone educate me about a real Taiwan if what I am having is just an illusion. I never been to Taiwan or lived there, anyway.

34 thoughts on “Does Policital System in Taiwan Work?

  1. I agree with @taiwanews. There are fools everywhere, and there are crooks in politics everywhere. The key point is, whether the system can help to keep the standard higher and higher, or lower it along the time. As long as a system can make relatively better solutions each time, there is hope.

  2. Fool and crooks don’t make a government viable or not, if you look Italy or Japan they are one of the most corrupted countries in the world (even more than China for Italy where the government is totally incompetent)) but I much prefer live under their leadership than under the chinese one. The main difference is in Japan and Italy you can claim outloud in the street that the president/officials are crooks and they deserve to be expelled without having to be worried by gov agencies.

    So yes Taiwanese politic is “chaotic”, often despicable but it just works.

  3. My point is that the democratic system is not perfect but it gives us (citizen) the possibility to change/modify it by voting for people we believe to be better than the previous one :)

  4. I would tend to agree that it is not the current status that matters most for a government to work. It is about whether the system can evolve, and adjust itself along with the internal and external environment. Capitalism, or communism or whatever -ism, it may be correct at certain point of time in the long history; high tax and good health care, or social insurance, or low tax with many things decided by market? All these questions should be adjusted along the time. If the political system can adjust itself, by having the right party, or the right group within the same party (not likely to work) to make the changes, that is a pretty promising system.

  5. What most people tend to overlook is that, if things screw up in an absolute one-party dictatorship, everyone suffers and there’s no mechanism to stop it. Do people in PRC have the right to stop crazy leadership? I don’t think so. I wonder what makes these people feel their leaders can always be trusted to make the “right” decisions for everyone. Quite frankly, if the leaders decide to have another round of cultural revolution today, there’s no non-violent way that we can stop them.

  6. Opps, I did’nt know the thread shifted here.


    No offence, but I would agree with you that you really are not very good in politics.

    Reality is, many of the intellectual elite of Taiwan has already left or have no taste to engage in politics.

    The system is corrupted beyond belief and I am not just refering to Ah Bian.

    Perhaps only time will tell, but I won’t be surprised that without major reforms, Taiwan will one day become Madagascar. Given the quality of politicians, I doubt anything will change in the near future.

    As for the arguement “as long as it works”, I am sure putting kerosene into a Lamborghini will work, but isn’t it rather dumb ?


    What fear and regret ?? don’t get it.


    Again, I have to state that just because I criticise Taiwan politics don’t mean I support the Communist system.

  7. @one, exactly. What if there is another culture revolution in China? I see the possibility is so high and some times I just believe we are already at the early years of another one. There are ways to stop it – violent ways – only violence. There are ten to twenty big circles in the history of China – setup a new regime -> good and happy years -> corruption and suppression -> Rebellion and fight -> Overthrow the old regime and setup a new one -> circle begins until it is overthrown again. The history is like a big arrow pointing to a loop, not the future. Do the current Chinese people have the wisdom and the fortune to turn this history arrow to the future? The last thing I want to see is any violence revolution to the current China, since it is just the starting point of another 60 years or 100 years of “dynasty”. I would rather it to be like Taiwan – we have a Republic and governing constitution. Leaders can change, governing parties can change, and it evolves along with time but there is one stable thing that is consistent on this land: the Republic political system. This is the only way, at least from what I know, for the Republic to celebrate 100 or 200 years of its anniversary, or longer.

    I won’t say no to wonton’s comment about crooks, and bad politician in Taiwan (I won’t say Yes either, since I don’t personally know them), but that does not matter. The Republic in Taiwan has been there for 98 years, and I can still see a reasonable chance for the Republic to stay for another 98 years, because it is a system for evolve, for peaceful power transition. If you take the 200 years of history in American, the country has shift their path from semi-capitalism to semi-socialism for many times, without violence, and even without people noticing the big change. Isn’t it interesting?

    I won’t necessarily need to agree what the parties in Taiwan says, because only people in Taiwan can decide whether it is the right choice for them or not. It is the same in China. The content can be completely different, but I feel the process – the container – is pretty good, at least to the current collective wisdom, I cannot find a better one.

  8. Politics stems from culture.

    I’d like to recommend another excellent Chinese novel to everybody here (seemingly most guys in this thread can read Chinese):

    “Faraway Savior” >

    Really a masterpiece that ignited many of my thinkings. One of them is: On discussion of politics, never separate the politics alone from the culture foundation of the nation. Culture is the root of politics.

    A line from this novel:


  9. @JS:

    I don’t understand your statement “I just believe we are already at the early years of another one. There are ways to stop it – violent ways – only violence”. Unusual for a pacifist.

    The only saving grace of Taiwan today is the judiciary. For now it is able to stand up against the political circ du stupide. I have always said that a strong and fair legal system must be the foundation of any political system to work. If that goes, all hell will breaks loose.

    China is very weak in this area and not many people have faith in the judiciary. The people in power knows it, which is why their legitimacy of government is always maintained by the army. It sucks but I can only hope they do something about it.

  10. I don’t know all facts… it seems to me that the reason Taiwan could establish its “graceful judiciary” system was because it gave up one-party-rule (I don’t know what it look like before… when Young Jiang was in power). Judiciary has to be “independent”… judges have to be able to disagree with the party and the leaders of the country. Now, that just sounds like western democracy. By the way, I don’t think “wester way” is the only way. It seems that most of us do agree that a good law system is the key. My question is… can an independent judiciary system evolve from one-party-rule?

  11. The Chinese government lifted 250 million people out of proverty in the last 20 years. This is unprecedented in the history of mankind. There are another 700 million Chinese waiting to be free of proverty. No democratic governments can achieve that.

    There might be problems at the local level, but the central goverment is quite wise. Please leave them alone to do their job.

    Jianshuo, you sounded like a whinning child. No matter how good the parents are, you still complain. One day, YiFang will do that to you, and very soon.

  12. @Shelly Wolfsdorf

    If my child is whining like Jian Shuo, I will be ashamed. I’ll have too much dignity to tell my child “Hi, I am pretty fucking good at parenting, stop whining and start thanking, because it is not wise for you to do so.”

  13. “There might be problems at the local level, but the central goverment is quite wise.”

    Isn’t that a failure on central governement’s part to be allowing these ‘problems at the local level’ to happen? There’s no way they can solve these ‘local’ problems without an independent judiciary.

    Sadly independent judiciary is impossible in a one-party dictatorship. Xi Jinping, the vice president, when asked about the situation in Hong Kong, was still talking about things like the executive, legislature, and judiciary should ‘understand’ and ‘support’ each other. With leaders talking like this, I don’t see a chance of these ‘local’ problems to end any time soon. This is unsustainable, ‘local’ problems will just accumulate and we can expect revolution.

    Don’t forget this is the very same government that caused all these poverty and misery in the first place. That is THE experiment that failed. Please don’t be fooled by the government trying to distant themselves from its own failings by blaming foreigners for every single fxckup e.g. Xinjiang.

  14. “Jianshuo, you sounded like a whinning child. No matter how good the parents are, you still complain. One day, YiFang will do that to you, and very soon.”

    This is bizarre. Have you ever felt like some random man/woman forcing himself/herself to you and demanding you to treat him/her like he/she is your father/mother?

  15. @Shelly Wolfsdorf :

    Please take the pineapple out of your ass and stop your cheap shots at the host. Same for xge.

    Before praising this government to high heaven, please spare a thought to those who innocently perished under the mismanagement of this same government. The same people who like you thought they were wise and should be left alone to do the job. There is a difference between what is “wise” and what is “well intentioned”. Appointing idiots to positions in the local government is definately not “wise”.


    I agree that it is almost impossible to have an independant judiciary in a one party state.

  16. Maybe one day, the army will develop a higher level of conscience and someone revolutionary like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (founder of the Turkish Republic ) will appear and set this country on the right direction.

  17. @wonton, please pay attention to your word to others. It is OK to debate and argue on opinions, but it is NOT OK for any type of personal attack. wonton, your words have clearly get into the personal attack range. I would ask you NOT to do it again. I hope I am not forced to use my moderation right (which I always “threat” to use, but never used in the last 7 years).

    To make the rule here clear: It is OK to say, this is the most stupid IDEA I saw.

    It is NOT OK to say: you are the most stupid PERSON I saw.

  18. @Shelly, I would rather not to say the *government* helped 250 million people out of proverty. Government matters, but in a way like this: “If the government (or more exactly, the Party) continued to use the policy they were using in the first 30 years of governence, the 250 million people cannot leave proverty”.

    Let me share a little bit about the recent Chinese history (please provide other facts if you think I just get part of the story). China was for long time an agriculture country, with agriculture as the key economy activities. For one thousand years, the farmers have their land (private property), and product food. 60 years ago, lands were taken away from farmers, and they are forced to join the union. That proved not working, and cauesd tens of million of people starved to death. Check my previous blog entry about my mother-in-law’s story about how many of her neighbors died in those years – so rare in the recent human history, and a well-kept secret in the newer generations in China.

    Then comes the open up and reform policy. The key to open up is to allow communicate and trading with outside China. That is a good policy, but the question is, who closed the door? The text books said China was forced to close door. Hm…

    Regarding the reform policy, it is a good one. The new policy allows people to trade, to legally own something (like a table), to own their own land to farm, and decide by themselves, not the party leader what to growth on the land. They also gave people’s right to education (after all schools closed for decades), to enjoy themselves (it is OK to sing a song not endorsed by Chairman mao)….

    When all these things happens, China started to recover and become what it is today. But before we show too much appreciation of what got today, let us examin the rights people got: most of the rights were taken away by someone (who is that guy taking away people’s right?), and then granted back to the people. We are celebrating getting out of a big well, but no one ever mentioned why we dropped into that well.

    Regarding the history, it is too simple to state that the government is good, or bad – how can we describe a 30-60 long history with 1 billion people with simply good or bad? I just want to discuss one question at a time. Regarding the human rights, current China still have a long way to go. Regarding the recent archivement (if you call it archive, without look at the environmental cost, and other long term cost), I won’t simply say government don’t play a role. It is archived by the people on this land, including the hard work within the government, and outside, party member or not.

    I am not anti-party. I just believe any system without the check and balance is dangerous. To put any possible party to the same position may not make any difference, whether it is nationalism, or communism.

    Regarding legal system, I believe among the people leaving comments, we have concensus that legal system is the foundation of any other system. Can we archive independant legal system under one party? It is not likely to me, but I am not sure. How about Singapore?

  19. @Adam, I got your points, and thanks for sharing the two novels. I am not a big fan of novels, but I will try to read it. The challenge China is facing today is not just the current system, but a tendency formed by much longer history (1000 years?). It is not as simple as the Party won the war and got the power. It seems more like the Chinese people choosed the current system. The long tradition and tendency of Chinese history may natually lead the People in China to have an empiror, just like the people selected Napline in France, and Hilter in Germany. It is too quick to put all the blame to Hilter without checking the status of Germeny before Hilter. If a bad guy is the root cause, we fooled ourselve again, and the history will definitely repeat itself because we didn’t catch the root cause. I completely agree with the point you brought here.

  20. Had democracy worked in China, it would have prevailed in today’s China. Chinese has thousands of years to experience all sorts of political systems before Greek started their first democracy. Even Julius Caeser resorted to manipulation to win the votes in the parliament in order to rule brutally.

    To truly move to democracy, Chinese must first change their paternalistic nature in the family. Ask how many chinese parents would say the word sorry to their children often enough and take their children views as equal. In true democracy, elected leaders are servant to the people. Do you think this will happen in next 50 years?

    China could start local grassroot democracy, perfet it at local level, let people experience and understand true democracy then move to regional level. Experience and perfect it a move at a time. Such is a long process.

    In Germany and NZ, they have even move to proportional representation as oppose to first past the post system. That means even if a party won only 6% of all constituents, they can still be represented in the parliament or assembly, they don’t have to win outright majority in a seat or constituent in order to be represented in the assembly. This system post other problem as it makes the minority parties very powerful to the detriment of the leading majority party in the ruling coalition.

  21. China already started local grassroot democracy, but the reality proves that it is impossible to realize local democracy within an overall authoritarian regime. We’ve tried to have direct elections for village leaders, residents committees. But the question is who should these elected bodies report to, the party or the people that voted for them? Deep down, the party does not trust any organization that it does not have direct control of. While the party controls all the operating parts of the contry(legal, legislation, and administrative systems), without the party support, local democracy can not survive. And the party does not have any incentive to support a thriving local democracy. For evidence, Jian Shuo has already shared with us how difficult it is to establish the elected residents committee for their apartment complex.

  22. I resent the comment that in China the central leaders are all wise and noble, all China’s problem is because of the corrupt and incompetent local officials. It makes it sounds like that China is country where a small group of saints are leading 1.3 billion of thugs. This is far from the truth. The truth is that the central government takes most of the taxes but leaves most of the liabilities to local government and each individual citizens. In China, the law says that the liability of educating the young lies with the parents, the liability of caring for the old lies with the Children. The central government issued a lot of look nice polices without any financial support. People naturally blame the local officials for not carrying out those policies. In an authoritarian regime, little by little, the power and the benefits of it always got pulled up to the powerful, and the liabilities and blame always got pushed down to the less powerful.

  23. The current system is, the local government head is appointed by the central government and is responsible for the central government. They don’t really care about the local interest. I read an interesting blog when the Shenzhen Major was put into jail and a new one was appointed: “Who is this guy? Have he lived in Shenzhen before? Does he love Shenzhen?” In Shanghai, the same thing. If the leader really care about local interest, it is very likely to be put into jail, like in Shanghai, under the name of corruption.

  24. @xge, exactly right on the point of the difficulties of local grassroot democracy, but I still see hope there. Residential committee is a starting point. Although we face the challenge that the local selected residential committee is not recognized by the government, and they will appoint someone to take the role, to have some way to reach internal consensus of the residents are still very good practice. It is JUST practice, but without practice, even when given a chance, the people still don’t know how to exercise the rights.

  25. On Singapore…

    I never studied any of this… just a gut feeling. Singapore and Hong Kong are in the same “category”… both were British colonies. For good for bad, there had been a well developed law system in place for a long time… before Singapore’s independency and 95 for HK. After its independency in 65, not through a revolution, Singapore kept English common law. They did alter here and there on some aspects… but kept it whole on many areas of law, such as company law, criminal law, family law etc… that seem enabled them to do business with other (Western) countries in the past 40 some years. (The troubles we had with ourself in the first 30 years of the new China might granted Singapore more chances to become a richer country as it is today). They have been wisely to provide social services… education, housing, and healthy care etc… in a style that is close to socialism to all. What we heard about the heads of Singapore mostly was about Li… partly because he is Chinese. A young Chinese who grew up in Singapore said… apparently there were 3 (or 4) important figures. And there are indeed several opposition parties… like in Japan… one party did manage (may not in same manners) to stay in power for 40 some years (50 years in Japan).

  26. My take from Singapore and Hong Kong is that if you are “wise” enough to take good stuff from other people/culture/country, in this case English common law (I should point out that I don’t know much about law… all I can tell is that it seems working. American law is also developed from it.), and to set a system that allows people to be able to do business, own privity properties, in an open market environment, then people normally “don’t mind too much” that you cut off some freedoms including freedom of speech… or chewing gum… especially with people of Buddhism (over 40% of Singaporeans practice Buddhism).

    Singapore pays prices for its alterations on laws too… the limited freedom of speech for example. A lot of young people, mind power of future, leave the country and don’t go back. Of course there are many many reasons in this… for one, it’s small… it’s really just a city, however it does show that money is not the only thing that attracts people.

    It’s hard to see how much China can take from these two places (they might have done what they thought they could. After all Li has been close to China since earlier on). We came out from very different historical events. I can imagine what would happen if people were told that the country was going to “import” English common law.

    Is there a lawyer here? What does Chinese current law (business law, family law) base on?

  27. @GN, good point, and I tend to agree. To have a good and working law system is the foundation of modern society. We often pay very high attention to the political side of laws, actually, the economy and micro-stuff in the laws are also important. That needs years of fine-tuning by legal practices, and millions of cases. I had the impression that Chinese law is also very like the continental law system, like UK. At least many lawyers I know went back from law schools in UK.

  28. I saw safely say GN’s analysis of Lee (sorry mate, thats how his name is spelt) was wrong and that he had no knowledge/understanding of that country.

    PS: Lee’s a baba :) not a “chinese who grew up….”

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