Thursday, November 13, 2008

What the arrest of Chen Shui-bian means

There is no greater political drama in Asia right now than the saga of Chen Shui-bian, the former Taiwanese President now under arrest for corruption (BBC and the Washington Post). It has split the people of the island democracy (BBC), and caused many to wonder if you-know-who is behind it all (National Review Online). If that's the case, however, the cadres may want to be careful they don't suffer the fate of the tragic figures of old - being destroyed by the very thing they wanted.

Of course, the Communists will be thrilled to see one of their leading political tormentors in jail, but the trial of Chen Shui-bian goes from here will all-but-ensure that this is the high-point for the CCP. If the Chen trial becomes seen as a political stunt, it will likely backfire on the governing Kuomintang Party - and badly. Lest anyone think the KMT has recovered from its earlier and self-inflicted wounds, it should be noted that the economy had a lot to do with its victory in the 2008 elections, and Communist China's decision to throw half-a-trillion dollars into priming its own pump (BBC) will likely mean the "investments" President Ma Ying-jeou is hoping will help his own economy will be much fewer than expected (American markets are already starting to come to grips with this reality - Washington Times). A politically motivated trial will boomerang against the KMT with a vengeance.

What hasn't been discussed as much is the other possible outcome. What if Chen is convicted, and the Taiwanese people accept that verdict? The assumption has always been this would be a banner day for the cadres. I'm not so sure.

What has made the Republic of China such a headache for the cadres is not its clamoring for international attention, but rather its willingness to let its people decide who will rule. Already, the cadres have been forced to watch - and shield from the mainlanders - not one, but two peaceful shifts in power on Taiwan in ten years.

How would the people of mainland China react if they were to see Taiwanese justice come to the island's former leader? Assuming the charges stick (and I'm not saying they will), I'm sure more than a few residents of the mainland will wonder how a similar investigation against Jiang Zemin would go - before collapsing into bitter laughter, that is. How would a dictatorship that imprisons whistleblowers (Epoch Times) compare to a democracy willing to hold one of its former leaders to the law? Not well, I presume.

Yet once again, it appears no one in Beijing is even thinking about the damage that would ensue. It's business as usual, be it with the Korean colony (BBC and CNN), bloodthirsty cadres wining and dining abroad (Epoch Times), or the continuing Cold War against the United States (Epoch Times).

Despite the Brezhnevian bluster, the world is growing less hospitable to the regime. Canada has ended the Communist monopoly on Chinese-language broadcasting (Epoch Times). India's walk to an anti-Communist consensus was noted yesterday. Now, even in Taiwan, one of the cadres' biggest opponents (and one if their biggest targets) could very well undermine the regime in a matter more dramatic and earth-shattering than even he intended (let alone wanted).

The Chinese Communist regime could literally be suffering their own worst curse: they are subsumed in "interesting times."

No comments: