Today will be in the history books. I watched the first hour of Tsai-Yingwen's inauguration with my 9th graders and caught her speech with my 8th graders. By all media accounts she has quite the monumental task at hand: keeping her constituents happy and not provoking Beijing. Unlike most other female leaders in Asia, she doesn't belong to some family dynasty. In fact the BBC said Taiwan is the best place to be a woman in politics, its so normalized now. As for Ma he released a comical, self-deprecating video, which won him a lot of praise, but was hardly original. He just copied Obama.
What was impressive about the ceremony wasn't what the new president was wearing (despite what Taiwanese news may say), but that the ceremony was bilingual. It felt more global. There was a whopping amount of repetition on how Taiwan values its democracy. My students were impressed by the air-force command's blue and red streams of smoke flying over the crowd, cameras were attached to the fighter jets. The ceremony was inclusive of aboriginals throughout the entire production. At one point they all sang a song,"Ilha Formosa" that was banned in 1979 during the White Terror years and some of the older generation in the crowd were crying, waving green flags, presumably victims or having family victims that disappeared or died during that dark time of martial law and suppression.
I was curious why was the person with the wild afro on stage holding the, "GET OUT" sign. Get out who? Ma? My extreme sports friend Erin explained, "I know the woman with the crazy Afro. Her name is Banai. She'said a singer/ activist who works on stopping nuclear waste from being dumped/stored at Lanyu, the traditional homeland of Tao Moot tribe. She's holding the "get out" towel for that cause. The guy beside her is a HaKa singer song writer called 林生祥. He sings in HaKa dialogue and promotes the love of land in his songs."
|My 9th graders|
Although I couldn't really understand her speech, the English translation was made available immediately afterwards (My boss wasn't too impressed with the quality of the translation). I am impressed with her footnote on transforming the education system but I was hoping she would of gone further in her social safety nets section beyond just pensions. She brought up the recent slaying of young children but didn't say anything about the decapitated victim's mother's grievances of the gov't helping working parents. Overall, her speech was painstakingly comprehensive in its overview of what kind of policies she hopes to implement. I can;t help but feel hopeful for Taiwan.
The elephant in the room is China. What will they do now? Beijing had already begun their backlash even before she officially assumed office: they warned her to steer clear of peaceful independence (or else), less mainland tourists has already put a dent in the local market (some say), the whole Kenya drama where Taiwanese citizens were extradited to China, stealing diplomatic relations with Gambia, and increased coastal invasion simulations opposite Taiwan (read Tensions in the Taiwan Strait). Another risk is the same young voters who voted her in could also as easily vote her out (read Taiwan's Kids Are Not Alright). What Beijing can't seem to understand is that Taiwan is a democracy and Ing-wen is a servant of the people. Just juxtapose the young, "Yellow" idealists, bent on change and national sovereignty with shady characters like the "White Wolf" who is pro-China, and already criticism from feminists that her cabinet is too male (I agree). She has quite the juggling act.Ultimately, everyone in Taiwan is crossing their fingers she can perform some kind of miracle with the market and stimulating growth.
As for the US, American "neutrality" is about preventing unification (Chinese superpower a done deal) and war (regional instability and US troops for sure). Sooner rather than later America will have to chose which side they are on. I have been all for normalizing Taiwanese sovereignty since my first stint here in 2001. Surprisingly, many of my Taiwanese friends- who voted for Tsai Yingwen feel less hopeful than myself. They are pretty grounded with their expectations. They believe she wont make Taiwan the worse for her leadership, and that's about it. I certainly hope she exceeds their expectation. Their apprehensions are partially based on the global community's lack of formal recognition.