Ballots in the Hands of the Youth(1)

Published: 2007-06-14

The green tablecloth in the auditorium makes lecturer Lin Yishi uncomfortable. This year in Taiwan, the universal colors blue and green already have too many associations.

As vice-chairman of the Central Committee for the Nationalist Party, he's naturally partial to blue. Once, while fielding questions on television, his accidental wearing of a light-green colored tie resulted in the vocal disapproval by many "blue" supporters. One can well imagine how he responds to green now.

Lin Yishi uses the word “polarization” to discuss contemporary Taiwan. The use of politics to create social, ethnic, and even domestic fracturing has become a widespread disease. It has led to many onlookers to worry about the prospects of Taiwan's democracy.

Both the blue and the green have built up their ranks, exposed each other's previous misdeeds, and even gone so far as to physically fight at public political events. What comforts Lin is that, at 212 kilograms, the "heavyweight" of Taiwan lawmakers doesn't have to worry about someone sparring with him.

"Taiwan should not become a bad example of democracy," says Lin. But he simultaneously recognizes that this is a phase that the young democracy must go through; where political forces use ethnic and social conflict to propagate antagonism in order to make political gains. He believes that the solution to this is in the hands of the youth: "They have no right to be pessimistic," he says.

Born in 1968, Lin himself is just such a "youth". In politics he has already set many age-related records—as Taiwan's youngest legislator, youngest chief clerk of the Legislative Yuan, and the youngest middle-member of the Nationalist party's standing committee, among others. For him, increasing the youth’s awareness of democracy is a key to its maturity.

Speaking bluntly, Lin says that those being most affected by the Democratic Progressive Party are the least educated rural youth. For example, the Democratic Progressive Party claims that if the "three exchanges" (direct postal, commercial, and transport connections between the mainland and Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu) are implemented, then cheap products and unemployed immigrants will flood into Taiwan, greatly influencing Taiwan's rural lifestyle. Lin says that from an economic perspective, these views are all nonsense, but in the rural areas they are well received. Thus, in 2008, before Taiwan's general election, strengthening the Nationalist party's influence among the youth, fighting for their votes, has become an even more important task for Lin.

Says an impassioned Lin: "We are of the same language and the same race, like brothers running ahead together. In deciding the fate of the Chinese nation, why can't we sit together? Why do we want to beg the West for anything?” He believes that the youth of both sides of the strait should take a certain degree of responsibility, improve democratic awareness, internationalize their field of vision, and foster understanding in order create a key to future cross-strait relations.

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