The latest newsletter from taiwanreporter Klaus Bardenhagen
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My first taste of Taiwanese politics

Below you'll find part VI of my "How I ended up in Taiwan" story. I will tell you about how I first saw thousands of Taiwanese shouting "Frozen garlic!" in unison.

Just scroll down!

Remember, you can still read the previous episodes in case you missed them.

If you would like to support me and my work in Taiwan, there is a way that will not cost you a penny:

The next time you order anything from, simply start your shopping via this link:

This is an affiliate link. No matter what you order (a book, toilet paper, a sofa...), I will get a small percentage from Amazon. Your price remains unchanged, and I will not know who ordered what.

Here's an idea to start: Green Island, the much acclaimed historical novel about Taiwan by author Shawna Yang Ryan.

No matter what you decide on: Thank you very much!

Want to re-read the previous newsletters? They are right here.

Taiwan Resources in English

Did you know these news sites?

Okay, you are probably familiar of Focus Taiwan, the English website of Taiwan's CNA news agency, as well as the online iterations of the Taipei Times and the China Post.

Here are two more for you to bookmark or feed into your RSS reader:

  • Taiwan News
    Previously the third English newspaper in addition to the two mentioned above. Printing an actual paper was stopped a few years ago (never could find a copy anyway). They had terrible websites (all Flash) for a long time, until not that long ago (last fall) they had a complete reboot, invested in editorial staff and writers, and are now a quite useful source for daily Taiwan news. Blogger Michael Turton has a weekly editorial column there. They belong to the I-Mei food corporation.
  • The Wild East Taiwan English News
    This is one of those Taiwan blogs that has been around a really long time. Quite recently, The Wild East started this breaking news sub-page, where they dig out and translate stories that maybe don't make it into the usual English media, but are worth reading, even though or maybe just because they're not updated daily.
If you want to support my work in Taiwan, here is what you can do.

My Taiwan Story (Chapter 6)

When I came to Taiwan in March 2008 for three months, it was not only to learn Chinese. I also wanted to do some work. I was a freelance TV reporter for German public TV stations at the time. One of them, the ZDF, has a news website called (“today”).

It was for them that I had my first opportunities to report from Taiwan. Here is a PDF of one of my earliest texts for them.

The thing is, I stepped out of the plane and right into the final stages of the 2008 presidential campaign. Chen Shui-bian of the DPP was still president. Election day was March 22.

I quickly realized that Taiwanese politics, and especially campaigning, are emotionally highly charged.

On March 9, I went to attend a DPP rally in Taipei-Yuanshan, on the spot that was later remade into the flower expo grounds.

It was after dark, there was a lot of people, and they were shouting and cheering much more than what I was used to from German rallies. Plus, there was music playing to accompany the speeches and give an extra emotional punch!

The DPP candidate was Frank Hsieh, a former Premier. Today, he is Taiwan’s representative in Japan.
I found it cute, but also slightly weird to see these puppets of him and his running mate Su Tseng-chang.

For the first time, I heard something specifically Taiwanese that would become a standard for all the other elections I covered over the years: The crowds shouting “Dong suan!” to cheer for their candidates. Dong suan is the Taiwanese pronounciation of Dangxuan, or “Get elected!” The thing is, it’s also pronounced exactly the same as the Mandarin for 凍蒜, which means „Frozen Garlic“.

Of course I only realized this later, after I had spent no time at all wondering why Taiwan’s premier English blog on elections is called Frozen Garlic. I just took that as a given. Enough weird things happening.

At that time, I did not have a smartphone. The first iPhone had only been available for a few months. My Nokia had a video function that I tried out at this rally.
Watch the footage and you will understand why that was not a priority for me back then! Resolution: 176 x 144. Careful, it's loud.

Next week March 16, I went to a similar KMT rally on Ketagalan Blvd. Here, too, crowds were cheering for their candidate. It was Ma Ying-jeou, the former Taipei mayor who appeared somehow more youthful and energetic than his opponent. Of course, he also stood for different policies.

Next day, March 17, he and his running mate Vincent Siew gave an international press conference that I attended. 

I remember that Ma made no secret at all of his plans of closer economic integration with China. In fact, that was central to his campaign platform. 

It would take five, six years for a majority of Taiwanese to say “too much, too fast”, but that’s another story.

(To be continued.)

Photo of the Week

My German hometown is in a heavily agricultural area in northwest Germany. People grow a lot of corn there, and I am used to seeing huge harvester machines each fall. However, I had never seen a thing like this, spotted in Yunlin County: A peanut harvester!
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