“I am concerned that Taiwan will end up as a bargaining chip, because Trump is a businessman who cares primarily about his interests,” -former National Security Bureau director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝)
I feel like I physically got kicked in the stomach. I melted, an instantaneous and lingering implosion. I am still reeling. Imagine my funniest robot voice, " Can not compute, can not compute." But there was nothing funny about the US election results in Taiwan. Our office all week has been as depressing as a funeral parlor. My three Americans coworkers (Vietnamese American from Seattle, Black American from Brooklyn and me Chicana from Colorado) obviously did not vote for Trump.
Disappointments aside, there is the messy aftermath, not just at home but all over the world (in Europe especially). How is Trump's victory perceived in Taiwan?
First of all, most Taiwanese I talked to were shocked. As the electoral college results were coming in around lunchtime, all eyes were glued to our lunchroom TV news. Co-workers I've never talked to before (there are hundreds, its a big school), were asking me basically, "What is up with this Trump lead?" The first feeling was shock, impending doom, disbelief.
Taiwanese TV and YouTube have been very comprehensive in publishing footage of both Trump's insane comments against women and minorities as well as Hillary's email scandal. Their debates have aired with traditional subtitles. It really doesn't do Trump (or America) any favors showing clips of his reality TV shows or WWF appearances. Someone even took the time to put Chinese subtitles to both the original Fox news O'Reilly Factor with Jesse Watter clip of going into Chinatown and making fun of Asian stereotypes and the subsequent backlash on Comedy Central.
Make no mistake Taiwanese media aired Trump's crowd applauding when he vowed to withdraw American support to US traditional allies in Asia (or Europe) until they pay some of the financial burden for American military defense from a very real China/N.Korean threat. Obviously Taiwan sees itself as one of these Allies - although he never mentioned Taiwan persay. Apparently Tsai-Ingwen, Taiwan's first female president recently met with a Trump representative in October.
Taiwanese Young People:My students who pretty much know nothing in terms of world history or politics, instinctively fear Trump and perceive him as dangerous for Taiwan. I had about 3 boys out of a couple of hundred express happiness at Trump's victory. I asked why and he answered,"He's a man and so am I." You are too smart to be a sexist I told him. His peers looked at him different after that. The others were shouting, "Trump is so handsome." (No he's not! I'm so sick of this reverse racism where all western men are handsome just because they're western or surround themselves with beautiful women).
What was most confusing to my 7th and 8th graders was their disbelief at Trump being the new president when Hillary won the popular vote. If this were Taiwan, Hillary would be president. So I had to explain swing states, the electoral college using the NY Times interactive map. They didn't buy it, meaning, the whole process seemed ludicrous and devoid of the kind of democracy America seems to sell abroad.
The next question was how, how could America which they assume is this good, morally upright melting pot, would chose a xenophobic misogynist? So I showed them this informative video (with subtitles) of how much of an excellent salesman Trump is. How in a minute answer to Jimmy Kimmel, his language, the way Trump constructs sentences, his easy, one syllable, 4th grade level language can hook in listeners who aren't discerning.
I found solace teaching. We were making identity charts and three students disclosed they were bisexual and they hadn't discussed their orientation with their parents yet. I felt privileged and gratified that they would feel my classroom is a safe enough non-judgmental space to "come out." It made my week that much bearable.
Taiwanese Experts:Like everyone else, Taiwanese international relations academics are fearing the worst and hoping for the best. The worst scenario being Trump sells out Taiwan to China in one of his famous deals. The Taipei forum organized a panel of experts to discuss the possible implication for Taiwan of a GOP controlled America and they concluded, “Our consensus is that we have no idea what he [Trump] is thinking.” Read the entire article here.
Representative to the US Stanley Kow met with Trump representatives and told local press he isn't worried, and that, "Taiwan is a vital asset to America." Read article here. He would not comment on Trump's comments of pulling out of S. Korea or Japan but replied that Taiwan should seek a closer relationship with Japan.
Asia:You don't need a degree in politics (I do) to know that Beijing was in full celebration mode at Trump's win. Does he realize how powerful he really is? That even winning, has already destabilized the region? That's why he was elected I suppose to shake the status quo. While American rednecks are cheering, those of us in Asia just had our blood run cold. A very clear article, "China Just Won the Election," explains China's 4 major victories (and 1 fear) after the Trump victory.
As I already stated, Trump's threat to abandon its Asian allies is beyond frightening. You know when North Korean state newspaper calls Trump a "wise politician" regarding his statements-something isn't right. North Korea is telling Trump, "Yes pull out of Seoul so we can unify!" Human rights in the region (and home?) are expected to take a beating. Russia, North Korea and China put on hold a UN Security Council measure to sentence N. Korea on crimes against humanity for their concentration camp prisons. Considering how dissent in the US and people of color are being treated Day 1, it's no surprise, this is the way the wind is blowing.
My Daughter:When she walked into my office, I told her Trump won and she was also shocked. The first thing she uttered was, "Oh no, now everyone will think my Mom voted for Trump!" Then later that evening it was more questions, "How? Why?" "People want 'change' no matter who it hurts."
She was showing me her Trump impersonations in the car on the way home from school today. I think she's a natural talent, she only just started this afternoon at school. Or perhaps he makes himself too easy to mock, such a living caricature. During their lunch break, they watched Taiwanese news and the local media showed a comparison of footage of Trump's son in the background of his father's victory speech, looking bored and uninterested, juxtaposed with Obama's daughters who were listening attentively, genuinely interested. "Did the news tell you anything about their kids, what did they say?" I asked her. She replied, "No, they let the videos speak for themselves." And then the natural course of the conversation was how she thought Obama seemed like a good father.
Clearly locals prefers Obama/Hillary and it's not because of some grand media controlled conspiracy, but because Obama and his family are honorable and upright as a family unit and Hillary has decades of political experience. Wholesome family integrity and hard work are very much traditional Chinese principles. A female politician who dedicated her life to politics is very much a Taiwanese ideal, more so than the businessman womanizer. Trump is perceived as a wildcard, ambitious, self serving, an uninformed leader of the uneducated, working class voters, and in an Asian society where education and being informed is highly valued, those aren't positive qualities, let alone anyone to be trusted. (No need to even mention his sexual predatory history which pretty much sealed the deal of his being an immoral leader to Taiwanese.)