Getting My Bearings in Taipei: Personally and Politically

Lassman2 Taipei 2019 cr

After twenty-five consecutive hours of travel, I found my way to a hotel in downtown Taipei without any appointments for almost five hours. Of course, I had left Virginia on Saturday evening and it was now early Monday morning, but I was free to get settled before rejoining the group for lunch. I decided to take a run to a nearby park that features a red clay path around the perimeter and various sidewalks throughout. In addition to being the closest to the hotel, Daan Park was featured in a “Best Places to Run in Taiwan” article I had found before leaving home.

After 4.6 extremely humid miles, I had all the exercise I could handle. Despite the urban setting, I did cross paths with at least a half a dozen egrets (small white herons). The remainder of the morning was focused on light reading before a briefing from a deputy minister on the relationship with China and an extended meeting with a legislator from the majority DPP party.

Key Insight of the DayTM: While not every aspect of life in Taiwan is dominated by the relationship with the People’s Republic of China, every policy conversation will come around to the topic quickly. There is a shared history, common culture (at least until the Chinese Communist party pursued historical destruction through the Cultural Revolution), proximity, and overwhelming political tension. The defining feature of the dominant political parties is their relative postures toward Beijing.

A related and unsurprising observation from the day is how closely the Taiwanese are monitoring the volatile situation in Hong Kong. It led the local news, was on the front page of the newspaper and was brought up in both meetings today. The assertion was made that the Hong Kong protests are putting much more pressure on the political leadership in the PRC than anyone in the West can see.