A quick note before we begin: on Wednesday March 8th (International Women's Day), Indivisible Taiwan will hold a march from Freedom Square (CKS Memorial Hall) to Da'an Park Station at 4:30pm. I have to work, but I wanted to spread the word.
Anyway. Let's start with this essay by Sunflower leader Lin Fei-fan on the reasons for his support of the indigenous Taiwanese who are fighting for full land rights (an explanation of the issue can be found in the essay). I can't make the argument any better - I recommend you all go read his essay instead. In fact I wouldn't even try to make it, when I have said in the past that we need to open up the international narrative and discussion on Taiwan to more strong Taiwanese voices, he is exactly one of the voices I mean. So listen to his words, not mine.
There has been discussion on my public Facebook page about how, as a non-indigenous person, Lin is not the best voice to speak for them, and we ought to be elevating indigenous voices specifically (and that this has been a discussion in those communities for some time). In fact, I agree completely. However, I do feel that while we absolutely ought to seek out these voices, there is room for well-written and thoughtful pieces such as Lin's, which exhort fellow Taiwanese to care about these causes. Both can be true, just as there is room in international discourse for non-Taiwanese scholars and academics to weigh in (or even bloggers like me), even as Taiwanese voices are sought out and included.
What I want to say, however, is that those of us who can read Chinese have known about this issue for well over a week. I don't mean to show off (okay, I kind of do a little, but please forgive me). My point is, plenty of strong supporters of both Taiwan and indigenous rights globally simply don't read Chinese, or not at the level they would need to to keep up in this way. Even I read sections I can't follow via Google Translate or just go very slowly, but I'm at the point now where that's only for sections - I don't have to put an entire essay like this into Translate.
I don't even mean that I want more original reporting on Taiwan in English, although that would be nice, and useful (original reporting in Chinese and Hoklo-language media is not always up to snuff). There is quite a lot of interesting discourse out there in Chinese that it would be beneficial in terms of engaging the international community in Taiwan affairs and promoting a greater understanding of Taiwan.
Discussions of English language imperialism aside, I just want to point something out. Lin makes an excellent case for Taiwan understanding itself before it can ever hope to be understood by the international community:
What kind of county will Taiwan become? This is a question every person who hopes Taiwan will become a country worthy of respect, where Taiwanese can hold their heads high among the community of nations, should always consider.
But if we are unable to understand the situation and oppression each group has experienced, then how can we expect the international community to understand Taiwan?
I want to make a corollary case: if Taiwan wants the international community to understand it as a country, public discourse on issues affecting it, even domestic issues, needs to be more available in other languages. Yes, English: like it or not, it's the international language we currently use and the current language of international-level public discourse. We currently have several great sources: Ketagalan Media, New Bloom, Taiwan Sentinel, Taipei Times (not perfect but let me put it this way: they get a mention whereas China Post doesn't), several blogs, The News Lens International and Focus Taiwan.
It's not enough, however. There is no good reason why I should have been aware of the issues behind, or very existence of, the indigenous people's protest on Ketagalan Boulevard, a full week before that information became available in English, and in less detail at that. Otherwise, it is very difficult indeed for those who care about Taiwan to follow discussions on Taiwanese issues, or join them, if the information is only available in Mandarin. Certainly one might expect any specialist to be fully fluent, but plenty of supporters and other interested people are not specialists. I am not a specialist but I don't think anyone would say I'm not a supporter or friend to Taiwan, and I only know Mandarin because I decided I was going to learn it and did, because I happen to be particularly good at that sort of thing.
If Taiwan wants more attention, support and understanding internationally, we are simply going to have to have more bilingual (or trilingual, or multilingual) sources available for the discussion of contemporary and historical Taiwanese issues.
Of course, that doesn't mean the readers will come. There is not a lot of interest in Taiwan internationally, although I wonder if part of that is because this sort of discourse about it is not available in English, or not in a timely manner. If the information were there, perhaps more people would take an interest? Or perhaps not - but we can't know until we make it a reality. We can't even begin to engage the international community until we take this step.
Along those lines, please check out Queerious, a new site focusing on LGBT+ issues (including marriage equality) with English content. There's not a lot there now, as it is quite new, but it is absolutely worth keeping an eye on. My rant about making discussions and news about Taiwanese issues more available in English isn't just reserved for the current indigenous people's protests and struggle, but for every issue affecting Taiwan.
Finally, just a quick note on this article. I can't say I'm a fan (sorry Taiwan Sentinel). It's okay, but it seems to follow the formula of asking a question in the headline only for the answer in the article to be "no", and I am typically not big on such rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Furthermore, while I appreciate that the article is clear in calling the "1992 Consensus" "so-called" and "highly symbolic", it is not clear enough in calling out the simple truth that the so-called "1992 Consensus" does not exist.
And why on earth should President Tsai wait at all - for any reason - to acknowledge the truth of something that does not exist?
If you were curious about my reasons for insisting that the whole thing is a laughable fiction, here they are:
1.) Su Chi - a former KMT politician - admits he made up the term...in 2000 (not even 1993 - 2000!)
2.) The two sides don't even agree on what the consensus was (Taiwan says "One China, different interpretations". China has never agreed to that). Words mean things, and a "consensus" means you have, well, a consensus. If you don't agree, you don't have a consensus, therefore there can't have been a consensus because WORDS. MEAN. THINGS.
3.) Even if the two sides agreed to something in 1992 (nobody disputes that meetings did take place), nobody sent by either side to those meetings was a democratically-elected or otherwise publicly-agreed-upon representative of the people of either country. China doesn't care about such things, but Taiwan does. Let's say in 1992 some unelected officials from Taiwan did agree to some sort of "consensus" with their Chinese counterparts. So what? The people of Taiwan never entrusted them with the power to speak for Taiwan - Taiwan's first full elections didn't take place until 1996 (there had been some more local election activity prior to that). Whatever they might have agreed to in that alternate universe is irrelevant to Taiwan as the democracy it is today.
So no, Tsai should not "wait" before changing her stance to be more "flexible" on the 1992 Consensus (or anything else), because it is stupid to acknowledge a fiction as true - a lesson the US is currently learning the hard way.
For the record, here is a list of things that do not exist:
3.) THE 1992 "CONSENSUS"
5.) Any version of "One China" that includes Taiwan
7.) Bitter melon that tastes good
8.) Santa Claus
9.) Genies in bottles
I bid you good day!