Youth Power: Wanjun vs. Xiaocao
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 8, 2014
Executive Summary: Taiwan has a problem with justice. The basic problem is that the "class gap" is wider than the "generational gap." This is something the young generation must realize. During the recent election, the people got a taste of "youth power," full force. The "Wanjun" and "Xiaocao" streams showed that new generation discontent must be translated into political participation. Only then will young people be able to improve their lot.
Full Text Below:
Observers of the nine in one elections underestimated the power of the younger generation in every way, from the propaganda offensive to voter mobilization. The younger generation had a profound impact on the election results. This emerging “youth power” participated in the recent elections, and includes two streams. One stream is the "Wanjun" or “Cyber Army,” which actively aired its views online. The other is the “Minzhu Xiaocao” stream, which used the election campaigns to infiltrate existing political parties at the grassroots level. Each stream has its own agenda. The long-term impact of the latter stream is likely to be substantial.
Wen-Je Ko won the enthusiastic support of many netizens. The younger generation used social networking to demand Ma Ying-jeou's ouster. It also opposed power elites. This won it considerable support. The Internet generation's alternative mobilization techniques persuaded many young people at the grassroots level to stand up and be counted. For example, Chen Jiheng, the newly elected Mayor of Chichi, in Nantou County, is a 30-something with a tech industry background. He ran on the ticket of the “Tree Party,” which split from the Green Party only three months ago. He was swept right into office. The Green Party won two council member seats. One candidate was the youngest person ever elected on Taiwan, 26-year-old Wang Hao-yu. He received the second highest number of votes among Taoyuan City council candidates. A mere doctoral candidate, Chou Chiang-jie, was also elected to the Hsinchu County Council.
Nor was that all. The DPP's “Minzhu Xiaocao”(democratic grassroots) plan backed many young candidates for alderman. Forty-seven candidates were fielded. They won nine alderman races in six municipalities, and six more village and township races in other counties and municipalities. These “grassroots” candidates may constitute a small percentage of the larger political scene. But the younger generation is willing to work its way up from arid this nutrient-deprived grassroots level. By constantly planting new shoots, they may subvert the traditional model for grassroots politics. Over time, they may flourish. From this perspective, the development is cause for optimism. This of course is something the KMT must also do.
In recent years, one protest has followed on the heels of another. The Ta Pu protests were followed by protests against urban renewal and the death of Hung Chung-chiu, and more recently by protests staged by the Sunflower Student Movement. Various social movements on Taiwan claim to be fighting on behalf of justice. The front lines are often manned by members of the younger generation. They have raised the banner of "generational justice." They are reminiscent of surging youth demonstrations the world over, including the Jasmine Revolution and the Wall Street movement. All of these involve generational tensions rooted in globalization. Taiwan has not been spared. The election results were an outbreak of accumulated youth anger.
On the surface, the ability of these “Wanjun” to set the agenda by pounding away on their keyboards all day is immense. The rapidity with which they can spread ideas by social networking is amazing. The anger in their hearts is real. But on a deeper level, The Wanjun are emotional, and lack restraint. They often behave irrationally. They lack the insight required to cope with the inevitable frustrations one encounters in real life. Therefore when the government confronts this "youth power," it must do more than just listen to their demands. It must help them overcome their anger. It must help them understand the nature of society. It must help them solve social problems. It must help them understand life. It must help them find a new direction for the nation. All these are essential.
Chang San-cheng is about to take over the post of deputy premier. He says his administration will heed the "Wanjun." But he must remember that the government cannot merely implement some "little things that make us happy” style measures. That will not win over the Internet generation. That will not help one recruit a vast Cyber Army. That will not tame the new generation. If Chang attempts that, he will be barking up the wrong tree. Any effect is likely to be negative. The key is not Cyber Army wildfires. The key is real world generational contradictions. The government must implement generational transition. It must solve economic, social, and political generational conflicts. Only that offers a root cure.
The new generation faces lost opportunities due to changing times. The younger generation hides out in cyberspace venting its anger and frustrations. Either that, or it takes to the streets and protests. In fact, it would be better if they participated in the political process and sought reform. They might have a greater impact. During the recent election, the KMT did nothing. As a result it suffered a major defeat. The DPP also did nothing. Yet it enjoyed a major victory. This shows that democracy has seriously malfunctioned. Where does the problem lie? Does the political and economic system need a major course change? Does the national resource allocation system need to be be realigned? Only by allowing new blood into politics, can one find a solution. From this point of view, "Minzhu Xiaocao" sowing seeds at the grass roots, means a great deal.
Taiwan has a problem with justice. The basic problem is that the "class gap" is wider than the "generational gap." This is something the young generation must realize. During the recent election, the people got a taste of "youth power," full force. The "Wanjun" and "Xiaocao" streams showed that new generation discontent must be translated into political participation. Only then will young people be able to improve their lot.
2014.12.08 02:08 am