Saturday, March 22, 2008

I know a guy...

...who knows the president of Taiwan.

Sometimes the connectivity that comes with my job amazes me. I wrote an article last year about my hometown of Columbus formalizing sister city relationship with Taichung City in Taiwan. I met the mayor of that city, Jason Hu, at a shabby little Chinese restaurant in Atlanta. Mr. Hu is a Cambridge-educated former foreign minister of Taiwan and a member of the Taiwan's Nationalist Party.

His party, called the Kuomintang, KMT, or Guomin Dang (using another romanization), took back the presidency of Taiwan in today's elections. Ma Ying-Jeou, a former mayor of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, ran on a platform of closer relations with China, a breath of fresh air for some citizens of Taiwan who were weary of current President Chen Shui-bian's tendency to rock the boat with China.

Mr. Hu and Mr. Ma were classmates at Cambridge and are great friends. Mr. Ma, also educated at Harvard, is a handsome, charismatic guy that was popular with the ladies, Mr. Hu told me. He also told me that Mr. Ma would be running for the presidency this year and that his election could catapult the KMT back to power the Democratic Progressive Party had taken in recent elections.

The KMT that stems from the Nationalist army that was forced off the Chinese mainland when the Communists won the civil war raging there in the late 1940s. Mao Zedong inaugurated the People's Republic of China in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, while the Nationalist army fled to the island, then called Formosa, to regroup.

That conflict still simmers across the Taiwan Strait. Almost 60 years later, it was a main issue in the Taiwan presidential elections, and I'm now just a few degrees away from the president. I'm still baffled at the opportunities journalism provides.

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