|[a] Glimpse RF|
The next several dozen entries in this series represent my memories—in the form of fieldnotes that were already well on their way to being letters—of Taiwan's provincial elections in November 1985. I had taken down what I call "jottings" at the time, and "now," two months later, I was ready to get a little bit more detail down in the form of fieldnotes. If you are somewhat unfamiliar with the five-stage process that framed my work habits even back then, it might be worth a quick look at the introduction to this series. Suffice to say here that in Taiwan in 1985 I was working from "jottings" to "fieldnotes" most of the time. Every month or so, I would write a letter that made it all into a more sustained narrative. Even early on, I realized how powerfully the knowledge that I would be writing letters influenced my fieldnotes. You may see it, too. It has remained my method to this day.
|[b] Sustained RF|
The goals of prosperity and harmony should prick the ears of any readers familiar with China today. The verb "to harmonize" has been used to withering effect by critics of this very perspective on government. And even though I think that the next-to-last sentence in the first paragraph of the fieldnote is a bit overstated, there can be little doubt that the step toward organized, competing factions (parties) was different in kind from most approaches to statecraft in Chinese history. Just look at the thirty-plus provinces on the other side of the Strait of Taiwan.
|[c] Open RF|
16 February 1986
Confucian political philosophy does not especially concern itself with minority interests and equal representation. It also has little patience with criticism of government policy. From Confucius onward, the Chinese view of the relation between ruler and ruled was based upon the view that the ruler represented a moral force intent upon attaining a single goal: establishing a prosperous and harmonious society. To prosperity and harmony, Taiwan’s Guomindang elite would add the abolition of Communism. Still, the very idea of competing interests with vastly different views at all levels of government is antithetical to Confucian political philosophy. When push comes to shove, the masses defer to their leaders.
Traditional Chinese political philosophy stresses that the relationship between a leader and follower should not be based upon emotional ties—the kind of ties all too easily created by an electoral process. Confucianism has no time for demagogues. Taiwan’s Guomindang elite fears demagogues—from separatists to Communists—and they fear the role elections may have in encouraging them. This is the crux of the problem behind the plan to open the energies of the island's people, and one of the main reasons why the party is wary of the process.
|[d] Wary RF|