Gazing out of my window trying to make out the skyscrapers of central Beijing today is a bit like trying to divine the thoughts of China’s leaders. Not easy. A thick smog has settled on China’s capital (yet again), and through the murk it is hard to see much beyond the few buildings just across the way. The atmospheric conditions are grim. The US embassy pollution reading on Twitter is well over 300, indicating highly hazardous air quality. Beijing is choking on pollution. As we begin a year when major leadership changes will happen in China, the thoughts of its rising leaders are pretty opaque. It’s hard to know what Xi Jinping, the man expected to become China’s next president, one of the most powerful positions in the world, thinks about many subjects.
… I’m just back from Taiwan and a week covering the presidential and parliamentary elections there. Taiwan’s skies were almost as grey as Beijing’s. But what is striking is how far apart the island feels from China, despite the fact that Taiwan is Chinese-speaking and there is just 100 miles (160km) of sea between them.
In Taiwan the politics all happened out in the open – vociferous, passionate and hard-fought. There were TV debates, opinion polls and round-the-clock live TV coverage. Turnout was an incredibly high 80% as Taiwanese flocked to have a say in who should lead them. Right up until the votes were counted we had no idea who was going to win the election. And when it happened it all passed off smoothly. Both winner and loser were gracious at the end. Like a democratic election anywhere, to be honest. Taiwan’s democracy is only 16 years old but feels deeply embedded in the island’s culture. The sheer openness of Taiwan’s politics is in striking contrast to China.
Full Article: BBC News – China eyes Taiwan’s election freedoms.