Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Everybody should go read this right now:

It's titled "Mearsheimer, Taiwan and the Future" but I think the provisional title of "Taiwan's problem isn't China, it's America's foreign policy commentariat" is more accurate.

I have a lot to say on this - not only because I agree with Michael but because my degree is in International Affairs with a focus on Asian Studies (fat lot of good that did me), so I'm used to hearing this sophomoric garbage. I spent four years immersed in it. Spent four years in the George Washington University Elliott School of Talking About Foreign Affairs Only Insofar As They Can Be Manipulated to The US's Advantage. Probably came out a little stinky myself. Four years in DC around these people was enough to put me off a career in the foreign service forever (plus I don't think I could be sent on a tour of service and be able to "support" American foreign policy in that country - almost doesn't matter which country)!

It lays out exactly what I - and many others - think of a lot of the "educated" views on "foreign affairs" that I hear spewed about Taiwan. Even people I've met who otherwise seem intelligent and well-studied pull this crap: not long ago, after meeting someone once, my main reaction was "don't dislike him, seems like an okay guy, but in terms of foreign affairs he's wrong about everything".

What's worse is that they apply the same logic to a lot of crap that goes on in Taiwan and China - they adopt KMT word-puke about how they're a "reformed" party (who still works to inhibit press freedom, curtail the will of the people, hoard wealth and work to get their sons elected), or how 228 and the White Terror are best "forgiven and forgotten" because they are "not relevant" to politics today (yeah, tell that to the families who still don't know for sure what happened to their relatives who disappeared, and the memories of the deceased found in mass graves still being discovered), or how the KMT has "changed" so it doesn't matter that they do not fully acknowledge their part in the genocide.

They apply it to the failure of ECFA: "Ma Ying-jiu played his hand the best he could, although it's not perfect it's been better for Taiwan than if it had not been implemented" - horseshit! China has such a boner for Taiwan's skilled labor force and high-tech R&D/industrial capacity that they'd have struck a much better deal if the Ma administration had bothered to fight for one - the deal that came out was an obvious plan for economic integration, not the best interests of the majority of middle-income Taiwanese. It's so clearly a two-pronged plan to enrich the wealthy and keep the stock market up (so supporters can say "it worked! Look at the stock market! That's proof!" while ignoring the stagnation across the rest of Taiwan) and to pull down Taiwan's economy such that the people will be pushed closer to believing that the only way out is further integration that I can't believe how few people see it.

They apply it to "the Taiwanese people support keeping the status quo, not independence" - technically true but also kind of horseshit: they support the status quo because they have to, not because they want to, and it is ridiculous and misleading to imply that they'd choose their current ambiguous political status vis-a-vis China if they could determine the future of Taiwan without threat or fear from China.

They apply it to history - actually believing that "the Asian view of what it means to be a nation" matters (no, what the Taiwanese want for their country matters, and they don't, just going by the data, generally support your 'Asian view of being a nation' crap), or "Taiwan was a part of China in antiquity" (no, it wasn't - do I really need to get into this?), or "the Taiwanese still view themselves as Chinese" (only sort of - and I still view myself as "Armenian, British, Swiss and Polish", so I should draw and quarter myself and have the four pieces of me sent to those countries? Yeah, no) or "Taiwan was ceded to China/the KMT when the Japanese left" (patently not true and provably so).

They apply it to domestic politics: "more and more Taiwanese are adopting ROC (meaning KMT, really) symbols as their own (which implies that the KMT, currently in power, has the moral authority to speak for the people). Yep, no, not when the government's approval rating is so low - 9.2% last I checked - that people who still support them are actually called "9-point-2-ers" in Chinese!

While sometimes valid points are made, and sometimes ideas - even if I disagree with them, are intelligently formed or have merit - the vast majority of stuff I hear along these lines is pure, unadulterated, Blue Sky horseshit.

I haven't been able, so far, to articulate my thoughts on this crap commetary as well as Michael's post (he managed to say his piece without once using the term 'horseshit', and I am genetically unable to), which is a shame because I've run into more than a few of those bumbling "the only thing worth putting your money on is realpolitik" foreigners who have adopted Beijing thought-vomit into their own commentary, and then acted like they're impartial, objective observers of the situation.

Turton calls out the "ruddy-faced foreigners" who regurgitate this crap in expat bars - and he's right. There's a reason I don't spend a lot of time talking to these folks - you can't debate with them, you can't argue with them, and yes, I do feel they can be horribly condescending at times to a young-looking woman who disagrees with them (yes, I'm calling sexism, and yes, I'll probably be eviscerated for that, but I don't care) - and a reason why you don't often meet people with more nuanced views in expat bars: those of us who are on the same side as Turton in this debate tend not to go to expat bars! We just can't take the reek of the bullshit! But there are more of us on the "annexation is not inevitable, spouting unfounded 'realpolitik' as a stand-in for actual views is preposterous" side than you think: we just tend to keep to ourselves.

And it kind of horrifies me that while Beijing is decidedly losing the charm offensive, the soft-power push, to win over the Taiwanese people (which honestly is simply not going to happen, now or ever), they seem to be winning the push to brainwash expat and "foreign policy expert" bloviators.

A final note after my little rant - for years I've tried to encourage people to stop using the phrase "reunification" and instead use the more accurate "unification" - "re-" implies something torn asunder that is being repaired, or something being returned to a previous state. That is simply not the case with China and Taiwan. I wonder what would happen if I went whole-hog and encouraged the use of "annexation" over any verb that implies "unity"? Probably a lot of annoyed expats who think they know better would talk down to me. Yet another reason not to circulate too much in those circles.

Next up: more happy pictures of Bagan, Myanmar. Stay tuned.

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