China Beat Archive



Paul Katz

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December 30, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright December 30, 2008 Paul Katz. Used by permission.


As we prepare to ring out 2008, here are a few thoughts about some of the leading stories that have shaped Taiwan during the past year:

1. Back and Blue: Ma Ying-jeou sweeps into office as Taiwan’s new president, winning a convincing majority of the popular vote based on a platform promising a more stable relationship with China, economic prosperity, and clean government. Cross-Straits tensions have declined markedly, while the opening of direct links should bring great benefits to the citizens of both China and Taiwan. At the same time, however, the economy remains in the doldrums (see #2) and there are also concerns about the future of the judicial system (see #3). The KMT’s return to power has also witnessed the rehabilitation of Chiang Kai-shek’s reputation (plus the name of his memorial hall), attempts to interfere with the mass media, and occasional expressions of anti-Japanese nationalism.

2. Hard Times: The TAIEX, once expected to top 10,000, is now languishing in the 4,000s, but it’s the working class that is truly suffering. As of November, the number of men and women who had lost their job had topped the half million mark, with Taiwan’s 4.6% unemployment rate being one of the highest in East Asia and having the dubious distinction of topping the four little dragons. Other workers are being forced to take long periods of unpaid leave, which allows them to keep their jobs but not earn enough money to make ends meet. It looks to be a cold, dark winter, but hopefully things will improve once the world economy rebounds.