The Battle for the Capital: Fighting for a Better Taipei
The success or downfall of capital cities has always been linked to the people's well-being and the country's development. Jane Jacobs, a legendary figure in the American urban planning community who fought against improper government urban development while actively advocated for the diversity of neighborhoods has said "The crowning glory of human society are the creative, well-functioning cities, which are always at the core of a civilizations development. Decaying cities, declining economies and ever-increasing social problems are also always intertwined. These are no accidents. "
Perhaps the citizens of Taipei should be proud. Recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) selected the world's most livable cities based on safety, health care, food quality, educational resources, roads and transportation quality. Recently released by the BBC the findings put Taipei among the top five cities which have continued to climb the ranks over the past 10 years. The reason for this recognition from the foreign press was the government’s continued investment in infrastructure, (such as the MRT system), medical insurance and educational resources.
Since Taipei changed its title to the municipality of the central government in 1994, there has been a war between the Blue and Green Parties over this municipal turf. After 20 years of entanglement, the spirit of political independence was given life in 2014. Ke Wenzhe took the opportunity of a "citizen awakening" amid the “Hong Zhongqiu Incident” and the “anti-ECFA” sentiment at the time. He won the mayoral election without ties to either of the two major political parties. With strong support from the Democratic People Party, he became the third non-party Taipei mayor in history. Since then, the citizens' desire to get involved in political and public issues has garnered a kinetic energy that can no longer be ignored by the political establishment.
The significance of the election of the mayor of Taipei to the public is no longer relegated to negative pessimism, as if having to choose from "the best of a bad lot." Of course, there is no lack of political shenanigans and sensationalism, but citizens have long grown tired of the Blue-Green war of old. Disposing of rigid political ideology, the capital’s citizens now face the election with a relatively positive frame of mind. As if waking from a long slumber, the public consciousness is eager to understand and get involved in politics. There is an understanding that if Taiwan does not become better, it will in fact decline and that responsibility of such will fall at the feet of the people. As Plato said, "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."
Political commentator Zhou Weihang believes that Ke Wenzhe's tactical investments at the beginning of the election have also opened up a new path of political thinking in Taiwan, begging the question, is it possible to heavily rely on technology and data to win an election? With the overwhelming force of this campaign’s "Net Army,” along with traditional campaign tactics of hitting the streets, and setting up billboards, the candidates have also invested their energy and resources in so called "air battles." The power of the Internet today has forced candidates to actively learn how to “trend online," so as not be ignored by younger voters. The consequence of remaining static will be being forced to stand in the shadow while their competition gets internet-hot.
"Please use policy to convince me," has been a common cry this election. A local independent bookstore posted notices on its storefront titled "For Canvassing Politicians.” Listed under “Unwanted” attributes, one statement read: "
Slogans and photos alone are useless. Young people are concerned about politics, so be professional and serious. Discuss public affairs with voters and come up with substantive political views. Modern voters will find information on their own. We need politicians who can get things done."
Democratic elections are an excellent opportunity to enhance Taiwan's collective political consciousness and wisdom. Even if the final result fails to meet everyone's expectations, it is still the driving force for effectively moving our society forward. Everyone's vision of what "a better Taipei" will be is an equally important element in what Taipei becomes.