Monday, October 15, 2018

Go see "Nude" in Kaohsiung - and Taiwan, promote your events better!

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Go see Nude!

Last weekend, I had the good fortune to go to Kaohsiung for a few days to take part in a tourism-related conference. That part was interesting, but not something I feel the need to blog about.

Being down there, however, gave me the chance to see one of my oldest and closest friends in Taiwan. Helping to run the family business mean she doesn't have a lot of time to come to Taipei, so we often see each other when I'm able to head down south. For those of you who think I'm a public transit snob who won't grace an old-school Taiwanese scooter with her precious princess bum, I actually had a blast riding around Kaohsiung county (technically 'city' but that was a stupid change and I won't dignify it) and downtown on the back of her scooter. I just won't drive one myself, because I value my life.


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Anyway, we decided to check out the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Art, which is currently hosting "Nude", an exhibit of works on loan from the Tate Modern in London.

The theme of the exhibit is nudity in modern art, and it discusses (with well-planned wall panels in English and Chinese) the evolution of nudity in art through the late 19th century to the modern era. It includes some stunning - and some head-scratching - cutting-edge modern work along side classics by Matisse, Rodin, Renoir and Picasso.

To be frank, it was just an amazing exhibit. It was fine art of a high calibre which is a real treat in Taiwan, with a smattering of well-known masters but not necessarily focusing only on the big names. It featured Rodin's Kiss, which is one of the great works of Western sculpture. The evening we went, a concert was being planned around it featuring modern works of classical music.

Photographs were not allowed, so you'll have to make do with a shot of the brochure and some postcards I purchased.



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A Matisse and a Nevinson



The exhibit runs through October 28 and costs NT$280 (with concessions including a student discount), so you still have time. Go see it!

I mean, I was just in London. I went to the Tate Modern. I didn't get to see stuff this great there!

Here's what keeps nagging me: I had heard that this was taking place through the local grapevine, though it wasn't promoted in any way that made a huge impact on me. I had forgotten that it was still running, and in fact though I wouldn't get to see it as I was away for most of the summer. My local friend had to remind me that it was still an option.

When I got back to my hotel, I searched a bit to see where news of the exhibit could be found by tourists (plenty if information is available in Chinese, and the exhibit seemed to be locally popular, with the museum staying open until 8:30pm that Friday). A few articles from over the summer mentioned it, including the Focus Taiwan one linked above. After that, nothing.

A visitor searching for events in Kaohsiung in September or October (perhaps even August) would have trouble finding out that this exhibit existed, especially if they were a foreign tourist searching in English. The information is there, but it's hard to find for travelers. About to attend a conference on tourism promotion in Taiwan, this struck me as especially strange.

As a traveler in Kaohsiung - although a domestic one, as Taipei is my home - I was keen to see the exhibit, and yet would likely not have thought to go if not for my friend. And I actually had known about it! Imagine a foreign tourist here who hadn't seen any of the local news items featuring it when it opened. They'd have no idea.

Here's an example of what I mean. If you search for events in Kaohsiung, you might come across this website by the Kaohsiung City Government. It's actually a pretty good website in a variety of languages, which is already exceptional for Taiwan (where websites in English are often so terribly-designed, unclear and devoid of real information that they are essentially unusable and, I have to assume, only exist for decorative purposes or so that someone could give their nominally-English-speaking nephew a website development contract).

But if you actually search for events, say, this weekend, this is what you get:



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Same thing for no keyword, "art", "museum" and "nude"


Nothing.

Put in some keywords (I tried "museum", "art", "nude" and "tate") - still nothing. A tourist using this site would never have found the sublime exhibit I was lucky to see.

It really seems as though events in Taiwan are either heavily publicized but terrible, or great but not promoted well or consistently.


So, hey, Taiwan. You can do better. You have interesting events that travelers will want to know about. Make sure they do!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Talk on Gui Minhai by Swedish journalist to be held on 10/17

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Time:
October 17 (this Wednesday), 7:30pm-9pm
Location: Enspyre; 12th Floor #181 Fuxing N. Road, Songshan Dist. Taipei (section not given but it's basically near/on the Fuxing-Changchun intersection)
台北市松山區復興北路181號12樓


Top-notch Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson will be hosting a talk on the disappearance and continued detainment of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai this Wednesday.

Olsson has been holding Sweden's feet to the fire over the government's silence on Chinese government crimes against Swedish citizens for some time, and is deeply knowledgeable about these issues. He is well worth listening to and I strongly recommend attending.

Gui's disappearance affects us all. First, it shows that the Chinese government is deeply racist: it is far more likely to go after dissidents of Chinese ancestral heritage, showing that it considers all people with ancestral ties to China to essentially be "Chinese" regardless of where they actually come from, live, or are citizens. China seems to have wagered that the rest of the world doesn't care as long as the victims look Asian. I fear that they have wagered correctly.

It also shows that China's actions are not just impacting their own citizens (although prominent Chinese citizens are disappearing as well, including ones who head prominent international organizations and do not reside in China, such as disappeared Interpol chief Meng Hongwei). Gui Minhai is a Swedish citizen; this issue also calls to mind Li Mingche, the Taiwanese citizen also 'disappeared' by China. Li, too, is not Chinese: he is Taiwanese, and his actions in Taiwan were entirely legal.

Even scarier is that Gui's disappearance did not happen in China - he was in Bangkok. Essentially, this means that the Chinese government does not stop at its own citizens or borders, and is certainly willing to abduct foreign nationals from other countries. It is possible - likely, even - that they attempted to do the same thing to Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong when he arrived in Bangkok, but had to release him as he was able to get word of his detainment out on social media.

This is what we're up against. This shows that, as evil as you think Western countries can be (and they certainly can be), the CCP is several orders of magnitude worse: they are crueler, more evil, and more terrifying.

Knowing more about these issues, especially if you reside in Taiwan, is absolutely worth your time. Also, you'll be supporting one of the foreign journalists whose mission it is to expose Chinese government atrocities to Western audiences and who is committed to Taiwan. We need more of those, and to support the ones we already have.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Don't Take IELTS (請拒考雅思)

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Calling Taiwan "China" makes about as much sense as calling a horse a dog.
Shame on you, IELTS.

I'm still deeply upset as someone who has taught IELTS preparatory classes that the IELTS organization changed "Taiwan" to "Taiwan, China". I have quite a lot more to say about this, which I'll publish across two posts.

Right now, what I really want to say is that, as an IELTS teacher, I'm embarrassed to be associated with the brand. As a teacher who has advised her learners about proficiency tests in the past, I just can't with good conscience advise now that my learners take any test (TOEFL does the same thing, but I'm not a TOEFL teacher so I have less personally invested. They're slimy cowards for kowtowing to China too, though). My students deserve not to be humiliated just by registering.

To Taiwanese students, I say, don't take IELTS. Just...don't. I wish I had a better alternative, but I don't.

I considered writing this up for publication outside of my blog, but ultimately decided it was best published here, as it expresses a very personal opinion. That said, I do hope it reaches a wider audience, even though I feel as though this is a hopeless battle.

It took me a long time to get this together in Chinese, but here you go (English below):



拒絕雅思

每星期似乎都有新的公司或組織,在中華人民共和國的壓力下開始稱呼「台灣」(Taiwan)為「中國台灣」(Taiwan, China)。直到不久之前,這些矮化他人的組織中最過分的是航空公司,而且讓人覺得台灣人民或他們的盟友好像沒有什麽辦法可以抗議。現在,中國這種壓迫國際組織改變對台稱呼的霸凌行為,也伸向了英語能力檢定考試機構:目前雅思(IELTS)和托福(TOEFL)考試中心的國籍欄位都將台灣稱為「中國台灣」。

身為在台教學14年的認證英語教師以及正在攻讀教育學碩士的研究生,我相信,儘管語言課程討論的主題因為反映了現實世界而可能具有爭議性,或有時泛政治化,但整個語言學習的「世界」──學校、課堂和考試中心──不應該牽涉到政治。沒有學生該因為他們的國家被視為不存在,而覺得矮人一等。我在台灣有永久居留權,我也熱愛台灣這個國家,如今台灣因為中國這個日益蠻橫的擴張主義者的霸凌而慘遭除名,我實在不能眼睜睜看著我的學生因為自己國家遭除名而難堪。


我本身是雅思課程授課教師,也協助學生選擇適合的英語能力檢定考試,我曾自豪地說,雅思是所有能力檢定測驗較有效力、研究較有深度的測驗之一。沒有測驗是完美的,但以標準化的考試而言,雅思已盡善盡美。然而,現在我自己因為和雅思這個招牌有關而覺得丟臉,我再也無法向學生推薦雅思或托福了。學生受這種侮辱實在不值得。台灣整體值得受到國際組織更好的待遇。


我很多學生都想出國,常常想在短期內實現這項目標。然而在出國準備計畫方面,我能給學生的唯一良心建議就是暫停所有報考語言能力測驗的計畫,並透過考試系統官方網站上的聯絡資訊和社群媒體平台,寫信給考試委員會,要求把國籍名稱改回「台灣」,但同時將整份國家清單改稱為「國家╱地區」(Country/Region)清單,這樣重擔就會變成落在讀者身上,組織本身則不必表明政治立場。我建議學生也寫信給英國在台協會和澳洲國際文教中心,要求他們向雅思機構負責人正式提出投訴。


我自己也是從美國搬來台灣,我能體會延後出國計畫有多麼困難。然而,這些組織越快感受到經濟壓力,就會越快做出改變,公平對待台灣。

英語能力測驗公司不像航空公司一樣習慣應付憤怒的顧客,因此他們更容易因為報考人數驟減和抱怨增加而擔憂。他們和中國之間也不像航空公司和中國一樣彼此需要,儘管中國是雅思和托福的大市場,中國實際上不能像禁止外國航空公司一樣禁止他們,就好像中國終究沒有因為劍橋大學出版社拒絕將特定文章在中國下架而禁止他們。與你和航空公司打交道的經驗不同,你的聲音可能真的會被聽見。

在你的聲音被聽見之前,這名深愛台灣且曾教過雅思的英語教師只有一項建議:請拒考雅思。



That's for my students and Taiwanese readers.

In English:

Every week, it seems as though a new company or organization begins referring to “Taiwan” as “Taiwan, China” under pressure from the People’s Republic of China. Until recently, the most egregious offenders were airlines, and it felt as though there was little that Taiwanese people or their allies could do in protest. Now, China’s bullying of international organizations about Taiwan’s name has reached the English proficiency exam industry, with both IELTS and TOEFL designating test centers in Taiwan as “Taiwan, China”. 



As a certified English teacher of 14 years in Taiwan who is currently working toward a Master’s in Education, I believe that while topics of discussion in language classes may be controversial or occasionally political as this reflects the real world, that the ‘world’ of language learning - the schools, classes and test centers - should be apolitical. No learner should be made to feel denigrated because their country has been designated as non-existent. As a permanent resident of Taiwan who loves this country, I can not accept that any of my Taiwanese learners might feel embarrassed that their nation has been erased due to the bullying of an increasingly expansionist China. 



As a teacher who has conducted IELTS preparatory classes for proficiency exams and given advice on which exam to take, I was once proud to say that IELTS is one of the more valid, reliable and well-researched proficiency exams available. No test is perfect, but as standardized exams go, IELTS was as good as it could be. However, I am now personally embarrassed at being associated with the IELTS brand, and I can no longer recommend it, or TOEFL, to my learners. They deserve better than to be insulted in this way. Taiwan as a whole deserves better treatment from international organizations. 



Many of my learners hope to go abroad, often within a short timeframe. However, the only course of action I can recommend with a clear conscience is to put plans to sit for a proficiency exam on hold, and write to the exam boards instead to complain about this wording, both through their websites where contact information is available, and on social media. Ask them to change the designation back to Taiwan, but name the list “Country/Territory”, so that the burden will be on readers, rather than the organizations themselves taking a political stance. Write to British Council Taiwan and IDP Taiwan as well, asking them to lodge formal complaints with the head IELTS office. 



Having moved from the US to Taiwan myself, I sympathize with how difficult it may be to postpone one’s plans to move to another country. However, the more swiftly these organizations feel economic pressure to treat Taiwan fairly, the more quickly the change can be made. 

Unlike airlines, who are used to dealing with angry customers, English proficiency testing companies are more likely to be concerned by a sudden drop in registrations and uptick in complaints. 

Unlike airlines, China needs them as much as they need China: while it is true that China is a huge market for IELTS and TOEFL, China cannot realistically ban them from the country as they might with a foreign airline, just as they ultimately did not ban Cambridge University Press for refusing to make certain articles unavailable in China. Unlike with airlines, your voice may actually be heard. 



Until it is, this English teacher who used to teach IELTS classes and who loves Taiwan can only give one piece of advice: don’t take IELTS.


To the other IELTS teachers out there, I say: stop recommending IELTS. Tell your students exactly what you think of them and their bending over for China. Show them that foreign residents of Taiwan care, too.

IELTS, too, should be worried that the very people - the professionals, the teachers, and yes, the foreign faces  - who are the 'face' of IELTS in Taiwan hate it so very much. It's not just me: I don't know even one examiner right now (and I am acquainted with more than a few) who has a good opinion of IELTS and I doubt I know even one teacher. I'm already telling Taiwanese students what I think now, when I would previously recommend them. Is that what they want for their brand image in Taiwan? If they cared, that is? 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Gods Rush In Again: My Latest for Taiwan Scene

You might remember that I had a short non-fiction story published in an anthology of stories by expat women in Asia, all the way back in 2014.

Well, with the King Boat Festival coming once again - it kicks off on October 28 this year and ends one week later - Taiwan Scene has excerpted my original story and published it here:

Gods Rush In at the King Boat Festival

Although a few sections are lost - an exploration of the cultural issues surrounding being a female spirit medium, a longer discussion of my own (continued) atheism despite the peculiar and perhaps somewhat chimerical events I experienced on the beach that day in 2012, the fact that my own wishing plaque on the King Boat was for Taiwanese independence - I'm excited that the story might now reach a wider audience.

Until now, it was impossible to read unless you bought the whole anthology (which you can still absolutely do, and which I recommend, but may be difficult for someone without a Kindle device or app in Taiwan), so having a section of it available to all Taiwanese readers is great news!

If you think Taiwanese have no sense of humor, perhaps that's because you don't get it.

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I hear it a lot: some expat dude (it's usually, though not always, a dude) who decides to hold forth and grace us with his deep knowledge of and wisdom about Taiwan, and proffers what he feels is a gem of intercultural knowledge: that Taiwanese have no sense of humor. 


There's even a blog post out there mentioning this, but I'll do the author a favor and not link to it. Obviously, I don't agree

This is often accompanied by the oft-repeated nugget (what kind of nugget I'm not sure) that Taiwanese don't understand sarcasm. 

It seems to be a common double standard - that it's okay for us to stumble around like idiots in the local language (and it is okay, by the way, as long as you try), but if someone isn't William freakin' Shakespeare in English, it must be some issue in "their culture" or their DNA which makes them "incapable" of sarcasm, jokes, being engaging, making a clear point, saying no, or whatever. Hmm, so you don't think that maybe it's just that they, like you, aren't perfectly fluent in the foreign language they are using and so they struggle with some higher-order language competencies which they are quite capable of in their native tongue? We don't think we "lack a sense of humor" if we can't properly crack jokes in Mandarin or Hoklo, so why do we apply this standard to Taiwanese learning English?

Personally, I find some of my Taiwanese friends, acquaintances and students deeply hilarious, some darkly funny, some basically normal (not particularly funny but able to enjoy a good joke) and some cold and humorless - just like I do any other people.


With that in mind, please enjoy this unintentionally hilarious "rap" from campaign staffers for Taipei mayoral candidate Ting Shou-jung (丁守中). I'm sure they'll get all the Kool Youngsterz to vote for them with this jammin' tune!


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台北的未來在他手中??



This isn't even the first time a KMT candidate has come out with a completely ridiculous song to try to appeal to the Cool'n'Hip Kidz, although it's more polished and overall less wholly inexplicable than this total head-scratcher from KMT chair Wu Dun-yih.

And, from a friend, there's this...um, song? From former Taichung mayor Jason Hu (胡自強).

Ting - or rather, his staffers, as I don't think Ting himself could loosen up enough even to sing this zipped-up family-friendly extended jingle - are basically singing "Taipei's future is in your hands, Taipei's future is in my hands, Taipei's future is with Ting Shou-jung! He's keeping watch for you, he's defending your dreams, Taipei's future is with Ting Shou-jung!"


Wow, inspiring.

Now, to get the taste out of your mouth, check out the wonderfully sarcastic parody rap from EyeCTV, which is well-known for its sarcastic mockery of old ROC diehards and has come out with some trenchant Daily Show-like political satire in the past. 

They're taking the original catchy, dorky, deeply annoying tune, stealing some of the language choices, and turning it into what sounds like another stupid rap, but actually hides a pro-ROC, pro-unification, Chinese chauvinist old-school KMT style propaganda message. Most notably, it replaces "Taipei" with "China", with an old ROC map of China in the background.

It has all the old lingo, including "counter-offensive" (反攻)which is associated with old Nationalist slogans, includes the phrase "unification is not a dream" (another common propaganda message) and then goes on to say that it - that is, unification - is the "bright, sunny dream" (青天白日夢) of all "Chinese sons and daughters" (中華兒女). "Chinese sons and daughters" is propagandistic term which calls to mind the New China Youth (a wing of creepy, New Party-affiliated/China-supported-and-paid-for astroturfing unificationists) and the words for "bright and sunny" alluding strongly to the "white sun on a blue field" of the KMT party symbol (which is also on that blasted ROC flag).

Making this sort of joke even more culturally-specific is the wordplay at the end. Remove the "bright" (青天) part of "bright, sunny dream" and you get "白日夢", another way to say a daydream. A fantasy, an illusion. Which is exactly what "unification" is to these guys, no matter how much they try to dress it up in a dweeby hip-hop song pretending to be 'fresh'. 


Of course this isn't pro-unificationist ROC claptrap, it's sarcasm - satire, after a fashion - that thing so many foreigners in Taiwan think Taiwanese lack. It mocks the "trying to be hip" and "overly earnest" vibe of the original (something no late-middle-age uptight political candidate should attempt), while laying bare the KMT's actual beliefs as per its own symbols and past rhetoric: that Taiwan is ultimately Chinese, and that their actual goal is unification with China on their terms, not an independent future for Taiwan. No catchy tune can erase that.

The Facebook post even says that the ROC map pin he's wearing was sent by fans for the "rap" and can not be bought, with a ton of "crying" emojis.

I highly doubt any of those people reacting with the "crying" face actually wanted to seriously, unironically, own that pin.

This also shows how culture-specific some humor can be. Sure, Chad, I know you think you're so hilarious that it translates across cultures, but in fact, the reason your Taiwanese students don't laugh at your jokes isn't because they don't have a sense of humor, it's because your jokes just aren't that funny in Taiwan. Similarly, you might not find this video particularly funny. That's not because it isn't (I laughed a few times), but to really get it, you have to have be familiar enough with a culture that was just starting to shake off the enforced adherence to Chinese-style propaganda that has always sounded quietly ridiculous to Taiwanese whose ancestors have been here for hundreds or thousands of years, and who never had any intention of or desire to "take back the Mainland". 


So yeah, I'd say that Taiwanese understand sarcasm just fine, and their sense of humor is doing A-OK. If you don't see that, maybe you're the one who doesn't get it. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Great Britain is an inseparable part of India because of Sanskrit and chicken tikka masala

Mahatma_Gandhi_at_Parliament_Square,_London
Indo-British hero Mahatma Gandhi in London, from Wikimedia Commons


I know t
hat some splittists who don't understand 5,000 years of Indo-European culture insist that Great Britain is an independent nation with its own history and culture, but let me explain to you why they are wrong.

In fact, Britain is a renegade province of India, which will eventually be reunified with the motherland by force. However, India is a peaceful power and it is Britain Province that is causing tensions because it does not agree that it is part of India.


It is a well-known fact that "Britain" and "India" actually share the same history. Both places speak Indo-European languages. Both English and Sanskrit (the ancient root of most modern Indian languages) come from the same roots! Ignorant racists who want to say they are different languages clearly have not thought through the "Indo-" part of Indo-European, and that's why they stupidly assume the languages are different. In fact, they share many of the same features, and people from the India area and the Britain area are typically able to communicate.

Furthermore, historically the India area and the Britain area of Indo-Britain have been united rather than divided. They had the same Queen since antiquity, and only have separate governments now because xenophobic ethno-nationalist splittists in Britain Province force the people to be governed separately against their will. In fact, it is the will of all Indo-British on both sides of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean to be united as it has been through history, and this is undeniable fact that cannot be denied by anyone, as it is known to all people in the world. During this time, everyone agreed that the Queen was the sovereign ruler of all of Indo-Britain and nobody disagreed. Therefore, their histories are exactly the same.

There is also the irrefutable DNA evidence, which shows that all Indo-British people are Aryan and therefore share the same ancestors, which makes them the same. This is an undebatable fact.
 

This is still the case even though some running dog splittists from Britain province want to cause tensions and destroy the world with their hatefulness by saying they are not the same as people from the India area, even though it is undeniable that they are and everyone agrees. 


Furthermore, just as many Indo-British compatriots from the Britain area moved to the India area in the 19th century, many of their compatriots from the India area have also moved to the Britain area. Clearly, Indo-British culture constitutes an unbreakable bond that separates brothers and sisters across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Indo-Britains from "Britain" in India built several very nice schools and cute railroads which are also useful, and Indians in "Britain", through running thriving businesses and historically providing the raw goods such as indigo, built the modern British economy we know today. All of this infrastructure and these businesses, as well as several million people, would immediately perish in great anguish if anyone were to deny that Indo-Britain is one united, un-dividable country.

This bond extends to culture in very obvious ways that nobody disagrees with. Indo-British people in both areas traditionally eat dishes such as "chicken tikka masala" and "curry sauce on chips". In both areas, it is quite common to sate ones appetite with a kebab from a local vendor and a cup of hot tea.

Some people say that modern "British" culture is too different from "Indian" culture because they have drifted too far apart to unite now. This is not true. In fact, the India area is a very heterogenous society, with many related cultures all agreeing that they are "Indian" and speaking the same "Indian" language. How can such racists say that "Britain" province cannot fit under this umbrella as well? These people clearly do not understand that Indo-British "ethnic minorities" are not only celebrated in Greater India, but they even get preferential treatment.

Those evil splittists who say "India" and "Britain" are different countries simply cannot explain why there is a statue of Indo-British hero Mahatma Gandhi outside Parliament in Great Britain, nor why there is a statue of Indo-British Queen Victoria in Bangalore, India. In fact, there are many "Indian" places of worship in "Britain, as well as many "British" places of worship and other "British"-style architectural sites and monuments in India.

Some splittists may try to convince you that there are other "historical" reasons for these similarities, but do not be brainwashed by their propaganda which hurts the feelings of all Indo-British people and denies the true fact of 5,000 years of Indo-British history. To say otherwise is a deeply offensive slap in the face of all Indo-British people, which is our culture because of the ancient teachings of Indo-British philosopher Winston Churchill, who is a cultural icon in all parts of Greater Indo-Britain. If you do not agree, you are a racist who can never understand the ancient traditional culture of all Indo-British people.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Sexual assault: Taiwan's great under-reported problem - my latest for Ketagalan Media

My latest piece for Ketagalan Media takes this previous post of mine as a starting point, and investigates an important issue in Taiwanese politics further. In short, it seems as though the reason why there are so few sexual assault scandals in Taiwanese politics is not because they just don't happen, but because if they do, they are likely not reported. On the other hand, in the US, women are beginning to speak out more, but the powers that be just don't care. We're not taken seriously - not even to the point of meriting a real, serious - not a joke of a circus show - investigation. 

Some numbers for you, from the piece: 


The US population in 2015 was 321 million, and reports of sexual assault in the US in 2015 totaled 431,837 (male and female). That indicates a per capita reported assault rate of 0.00134. Taiwan’s population in 2015 was 23,485,755, with 10,454 reports of sexual assault in Taiwan 2015 (gender not specified), for a per capita rate of 0.00044.

This is a massive disparity: even considering differences in population, the US still has a far higher report rate of sexual assault than Taiwan, by a factor of three.

Does it make sense that people in Taiwan are three times less likely to be sexually assaulted than in the US? It is unlikely that there is simply less sexual assault in Taiwan overall (although crime in general is on a down swing and Taiwan remains a very safe country). The picture for comparison is clearer when we look at the gap between estimated sexual assaults and the number reported for the two countries: in the US it’s estimated that about 2/3 of sexual assaults are not reported, or around 70 percent. In Taiwan, it is estimated that the number of actual sexual assaults compared to those reported is seven to ten times higher.

Estimating the actual number of cases, Taiwan’s number of actual assaults per capita is somewhere between 78% to 111% of America’s.


Sources for these numbers are linked to in the piece itself. 

And there's this, a point that cannot be made often enough: 


Having spent twelve years in Taiwan, I have encountered “cultural” excuses for gender-based violence here, generally along the same refrain of “it’s Taiwan’s traditional culture” or an appeal to outdated views of gender which are common across both Asia and the world (one need only look at many American conservative views to see how such sexism plays out in the West). There is no truth to these “cultural” excuses: Taiwan has undergone a seismic shift in how society views gender for several generations, yet culture and traditions in Taiwan, regardless of changing attitudes towards gender and sexual power relations, remains robust. The United States has been evolving in its views on gender since the 19th century, and yet I would argue culture in America remains identifiably “American.”  Cultures can embrace gender egalitarianism and still retain their essence.



Anyway, enjoy! 

The problem with so many Western "friends of Taiwan" is that they still see Taiwan as Chinese

So, Vice President Mike "the only reason not to support impeachment" Pence gave a speech about China relations that heavily referenced Taiwan.

Despite having severe reservations about our "friends" on the right, I want to be happy about this. I want to laud robust support for Taiwan coming from the White House, because support in high places matters no matter what horrific woman-hating mouth-hole is shrieking it.

I mean, this is great: 



And since last year alone, the Chinese Communist Party has convinced three Latin American nations to sever ties with Taipei and recognize Beijing. These actions threaten the stability of the Taiwan Strait, and the United States of America condemns these actions.



It's wonderful, because it correctly names China as the agent of these actions, rather than implying that these issues just arose out of nowhere on their own, or are somehow Taiwan's fault. Of course, the media still jumped on this correct statement as evidence of the US "inflaming tensions" with China simply by stating what is true because their writing is bad and they should feel bad.

But, despite some small gems, I can't love this. It's clear from Pence's remarks that 'support for Taiwan' just equates to Taiwan being 'a better version of China'. He - and seemingly, a lot of people like him - don't support Taiwan because it is a unique entity forging its own path. They don't support Taiwan on its own terms as a safe, friendly, vibrant, (mostly) successful, developed democracy. They don't support it as 'Taiwan' at all.

They support it as an alternative model for 'all Chinese': 



And while our administration will continue to respect our One China Policy, as reflected in the three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act, America will always believe that Taiwan’s embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people. (Applause.)



NO! NOT (APPLAUSE)! Don't applaud that! 

While I think it would be great if other authoritarian countries in the region, including China, took note of Taiwan's success and realized it presented a better path, the fundamental reason shouldn't be that they are all "Chinese" - it should be because it is simply a better path, regardless of whether you come from China or Thailand or Vietnam or the Philippines or wherever. 

That word "Chinese" doesn't mean what you think it means, anyway. I don't think it means anything at all: after all, what markers does 'being Chinese' carry? Being a citizen of the People's Republic? Well, Taiwanese aren't. So they're not Chinese then? Singaporean Chinese are not Chinese? Is it ethnic? Whatever it means to be Han - and it seems to mean very little - plenty of citizens of the PRC are not it: see - Tibetans and Uighurs, to name a few. Is it linguistic? Do you have any idea how many mutually unintelligible languages are spoken across what is referred to as 'Greater China'? At least two of them (possibly more) are not even Sinitic. Is it cultural? The cultural differences within China itself vary more than cultural differences across Europe. Is it history? Taiwan and China have a very different history. Southern and Northern China vary historically as well. Dynasties expanded and contracted, rose and fell, across very different swaths of 'Chinese' territory, leaving very different histories for the people of those places. Tibetan and Uighur history are likewise unique. So what does it mean to be Chinese?

In any case, the One China Policy may simply mean that the US acknowledges that China claims Taiwan, but does not necessarily support said claim, doesn't fix this either. Despite various assurances, it is still a policy that:

a.) considers China's feelings on Taiwan to be as important as the Taiwanese people's feelings about their own country

b.) was crafted during a time when Taiwanese had no say in what their government claimed as the Republic of China, and as such is outdated; and

c.) still fundamentally assumes that Taiwan is ultimately, in some way, Chinese, even if it is not a part of China. It's a really weird thing to untangle but basically the Shanghai Communique, where the One China policy is outlined, doesn't say that the US considers Taiwan 'a part of China', but that 'Chinese' people in both Taiwan and China do.

So in theory, this means the US doesn't necessarily recognize that the ultimate future of Taiwan is as a part of China, but is also inaccurate in the 21st century - Taiwanese don't even think they are 'Chinese' let alone agree that 'Taiwan is a part of China', and they have not felt that way for some time. So, continuing to abide by it may make diplomatic sense but doesn't do justice to the world as it is today and certainly misrepresents the Taiwan side.

Even when one could say that the majority of Taiwanese identified as 'Chinese' - which has not been the case for awhile - it was in a period immediately following a long-term effort by a military dictatorship from China to convince them through education and destruction of local and historical cultural symbols that this was the case (what, you think banning the Taiwanese language from schools and actively destroying most Japanese-era shrines in Taiwan were unintentional acts? They were not).

Some may be tempted to point to the fabricated 1992 Consensus, stating that Taiwan and China "agree" that there is "one China". We have to remember, however, that not only does the '1992 Consensus' not exist (there was no consensus in any meaningful sense of the word and the term itself was made up long after the fact), but that even if it did, the representatives from Taiwan who were sent to those meetings in 1992 were sent by a government which was not yet fully democratically elected. They did not represent the people of Taiwan - so nothing discussed in those meetings could possibly reflect the actual views of Taiwan as a modern democratic nation. In fact, nobody has ever asked the people of Taiwan if they actually want to be governed by the "Republic of China", even in the democratic era.

Therefore, if you still abide by the notion that both Taiwan and China agree that there is one China and Taiwan is a part of it, and you refer to Taiwanese as just another kind of Chinese who set a good example for their brethren across the Taiwan Strait, you're not an ally in a way that's actually good for Taiwan long-term.

I can't say, then, that Mike Pence is truly on our side. More likely, his vision of the future involves a democratized China (but not a liberalized one - Pence is no liberal) that has a happy 'reunion' with Taiwan and they all sing and dance in their conical hats to gong music in their cute little Chinese country because they are all Chinese so of course they are in one country because that's how countries work.

Oh yeah, and in this conservative fantasy, they hate the gays and are super regressive on women's issues because the socially conservative Chinese majority will overwhelm more progressive-thinking Taiwan on these issues.

So no - if you think the future of Taiwan is fundamentally 'Chinese', then you may be an ally of someone, but it isn't Taiwan. 

Anyway, moving on. 



Chinese authorities have also threatened U.S. companies that depict Taiwan as a distinct geographic entity, or that stray from Chinese policy on Tibet. Beijing compelled Delta Airlines to publicly apologize for not calling Taiwan a “province of China” on its website. And it pressured Marriott to fire a U.S. employee who merely liked a tweet about Tibet.



I want to like this, but "distinct geographic entity" feels like a flaccid half-stab in place of what should have been a robust, thwacking "country" or "nation". Can't complain too much though - it's something.


I'm less concerned with what this means within the Trump administration. I don't agree that it's a "split" within the White House, because the White House has not been coherent enough on its Asia policy in general for there to even be a split. From Little Rocket Man to "we fell in love", from photo ops with Xi Jinping to "they're interfering in our election", from the phone call to indicating that Taiwan may be a bargaining chip to this, the only thing consistent about current US policy in Asia is that it's kind of screwed up and nothing can be taken as a rock-solid guarantee. In an environment like that, there are so many cracks and signs of strain, I don't see how a split, if it exists, would even matter.

And that's just it. I welcome warming relations, even from absolutely terrible people and weirdos who may not be murderers but just, like, seem like murderers? Y'know? But I want those warming relations to come from an administration that, regardless of how much I hate them, is at least consistent and dependable. I know, I know, a consistent, dependable administration likely wouldn't dare to make a massive change in US policy towards China and Taiwan. But a girl can dream.

As a friend pointed out, the veep can't take any public position on the sovereignty of other territories. He indicated that this speech sets the stage for the normalization of relations between Taiwan and the US in the future, and that would be huge.

But I don't feel particularly great about that, not because I don't want good things to come from a bad administration (we have so few good things these days, I'll take them from just about anywhere), but because it's not a trustworthy administration. 

On top of that, it's an administration that is not just talking about the One China Policy for diplomatic effect, but proactively talking about Taiwan as a model for China, as though it were one part of a greater whole that was doing well, which other parts could learn from. In a pan-Asian context, sure. Taiwan is part of Asia. In a pan-China context, I gotta say, the twentieth century called and they want their talk about "Free China" back.

And I just can't get behind that, or even put a drop of faith in it. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

IELTS bends over for China

Another day, another money-making entity kowtowing to China. This time the culprit is IELTS, the international English proficiency test that is the exam of standard for those hoping to study in the UK, Australia and several other countries (most of Europe if English is the required language, Canada, New Zealand - many, if not most, American universities accept it as well).

This makes no sense to me. Sure, China is a huge market for IELTS, but China needs IELTS as much as IELTS needs China. Chinese students and others hoping to move abroad need to take IELTS to make it happen, period. An innocent reading of this would be that many Chinese want to study abroad, and everyone - including the government - welcomes these international connections. A more sinister one is that China can more effectively expand its United Front operations abroad if it has a large contingent of Chinese abroad to facilitate that, including students. Most of those students would have to take IELTS.

So - unlike with airlines - this just doesn't make sense. IELTS could have told China to suck an egg and I don't see that China would have had a choice. Why didn't they? The only answer I can come up with is cowardice.

In my dreams, every IELTS examiner in Taiwan (or enough of them to make an impact) goes on 'strike'. They refuse to examine, or examine only at the bare minimum to keep their certifications, causing a severe examiner shortage that the IELTS head office will have to deal with. They don't budge until Taiwan is called 'Taiwan' again.

In reality, I know how unlikely that is to actually happen.

Here's a ray of good news, if you are an IELTS examiner who is angry about this change. If you don't want to refuse to examine - though come on, do ol' Lao Ren Cha a solid and refuse to examine! Make the consequences real! -  it is possible to get in touch with the IELTS head office. Ask your employer in Taiwan (so that would be either British Council or IDP) for the correct contact information and encourage them to complain in an official capacity, as well. Don't just leave this to the Taiwanese government. Then write to them.

It's not much, but it's better than trolling Air Canada for kicks (though by all means, do that too). Someone might actually read your letter and then politely respond to you with some British blather that translates to "we don't care", but it's something.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

How is it that "China tensions" are always everybody's fault except China's?

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Over the past few months, I've been keeping quiet track of something that's been a problem for awhile, because it's important to always keep a fire burning under the bum of anyone who reports on Taiwan. 

Perhaps, with Michael Turton no longer blogging, someone's gotta do it. Perhaps I'm just fed up. I don't know. But in any case, it's once again time to look at the English-language media on Taiwan and their completely mangled ways of referencing "tensions" (OMG!) in the Taiwan Strait.

Let's get one thing out of the way - the tensions, such as they are, are always there. China wants you to think they're going up and down, but in fact when looking at it from Taiwan, nothing has really changed. My life is the same as it was on Election Day 2016. China attempts to chip away at Taiwan in little ways, but the "tensions" don't really change much beyond that.

But if you keep writing that they are "on the rise" or that "relations" keep hitting new "lows", people will think there's a real change. There isn't. 


Notice the above - China is the one being aggressively expansionist in the South China Sea. China is the one that regularly threatens Taiwan with eventual annexation, actively tries to interfere in Taiwanese affairs, and attempts to diminish Taiwan's exposure and standing on the international stage.
Yet who is "inflaming" tensions? Not China - the US! For standing up to them! China can bully its neighbors in the region all it wants - if you dare stand up to that bully, you are the one "inflaming". 



Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.32.59 PM


I mean, this is in Express so don't take it too seriously, but not only does the US "inflame" tensions, it "escalates" them. At least it's not Taiwan creating "tensions" anymore, it's the US. Is that an improvement? I don't think so: it plays right into a lot of anti-West liberals' beliefs that everything Western is evil and everything Asian is great, and that evil empires can only come from the West. Therefore, if the power is non-Western, it must be better or more moral.

This is absolute bollocks of course, but a lot of people believe it, and headlines like this don't help.

ALSO DON'T FORGET THE COMPLETELY GRATUITOUS AND UNPROFESSIONAL CAPITALIZATION.




Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.31.27 PM


I call this the "Classic" - in this construction, tensions just appear. Nobody causes them. Nobody is the aggressor (or at least, the aggressor is definitely not China). It's left unclear, because to clarify it would be to say, clearly and accurately, that China is the one purposely causing "tensions", and encouraging those tensions to be reported in the press as either an issue that just is - and therefore could not possibly be solved by the CCP being slightly less churlish because these tensions sort of exist ambiently - or is somehow Taiwan's or someone else's fault. They do this in order to make Taiwan's every move difficult.

That's an accurate reading of China's strategy of "tensions", yet nobody seems to report it that way. Nobody assigns the proper agent.

Here are some more ambient "tensions" for you:

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.33.50 PM



Oh great, Taiwan's biggest human boondoggle in journalism writing about tensions as though they rise independently, rather than someone (China) making them rise, and implying that the reason is Taiwan's actions of mere self-defense, rather than China's aggression (which necessitates that self-defense).

Tensions are like self-rising flour I guess. They just...rise.

If you think I'm being to harsh, read an excerpt below:


Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.36.08 PM


I'm not sure how to read that last sentence, but it sure comes across to me as an implication that Taiwan maintaining its ability to defend itself from a Chinese attack - because remember, Taiwan has no intention of attacking Taiwan, but China absolutely talks of its intent to attack Taiwan - is what is "raising the chances of an armed conflict".

Not, oh, say, the country that actually talks about how it plans to precipitate an armed conflict


China can talk openly about its intent to start a war to annex Taiwan by force, and nobody will say it is "raising tensions", but when Taiwan tries to improve its ability to defend itself from that openly-admitted-to attack, it is "raising the chances of an armed conflict".

And finally, there's the one that makes me sad:


Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.30.54 PM


I'd really hoped for better from The Guardian. I've written about this before, so won't belabor the point, but it's worth briefly repeating that this toes a line that, on either side, is not fair. Either it can be read as "relations reaching a low" with no agent pushing them to that low (although there is an agent: China), or it can be read as Tsai and her party (which "advocates for independence") being the ones who are causing the relation to "reach a low".

The opposite is true: Tsai has done her best to be even-tempered and toe a peaceful line while not giving in to China's bullying (a wise policy maneuver that is often mischaracterized as her refusing to "make concessions" to China - as though the problem were her stance, not China's, and she should be the one to concede). Yet you won't reach that conclusion by reading this.

The headline of this one was a problem too, making it sound as though Taiwan's isolation had no agent causing it, when the truth is that China is the one working to isolate Taiwan.

That is the accurate way to report the situation - China as the principal agent, the bully, the tension-causer, the isolator - so how come nobody says so?

Anyway, let's end on a happier note:

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 11.52.20 PM

This is from the Washington Post - good work. Finally, someone gets it right. Someone assigns the proper agent to the "feud", the "relations hitting a low", the "tensions" - someone finally points the finger right where it belongs: China.

It's a message that the West desperately needs to hear. Why couldn't CNN, The Star and The Guardian write like this? (Express gonna Express, whatever.)

The Washington Post getting it right notwithstanding, this feels like another season, another batch of "tensions" that nobody will admit China is causing.

I'll check back in around the New Year to see who is writing about these sentient, self-raising "tensions" that are always on the rise despite, in reality, their always being about the same. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Taiwan's Future Hinges on the Little Things

Here are some things I am not an expert in:

Military/defense
Tech
Arms sales
Intelligence
A lot of other things
Most things, actually

But an interesting theme - to me, the non-expert, at least - seems to run through several Taiwan-related news items that touch on these topics these days.

We have the always-great Tanner Greer, writing about how Taiwan can win a war with China. Sure, China's got a bigger army, a bigger budget, a bigger country, and is all around just bigger. But in order to actually win a war with Taiwan without getting trapped in a protracted battle (or before help for Taiwan can arrive), Greer argues that it would need to take Taiwan and strong-arm the population into docility within two short weeks.

That's a very small window of time, and it is not at all clear that China could accomplish it.

What stands in China's way?

The places where the PLA could land in Taiwan amount to a few beaches on the west coast. None of them are friendly to incoming assault.



There are only 13 beaches on Taiwan’s western coast that the PLA could possibly land at. Each of these has already been prepared for a potential conflict. Long underground tunnels—complete with hardened, subterranean supply depots—crisscross the landing sites. The berm of each beach has been covered with razor-leaf plants. Chemical treatment plants are common in many beach towns—meaning that invaders must prepare for the clouds of toxic gas any indiscriminate saturation bombing on their part will release. This is how things stand in times of peace.

As war approaches, each beach will be turned into a workshop of horrors. The path from these beaches to the capital has been painstakingly mapped; once a state of emergency has been declared, each step of the journey will be complicated or booby-trapped. PLA war manuals warn soldiers that skyscrapers and rock outcrops will have steel cords strung between them to entangle helicopters; tunnels, bridges, and overpasses will be rigged with munitions (to be destroyed only at the last possible moment); and building after building in Taiwan’s dense urban core will be transformed into small redoubts meant to drag Chinese units into drawn-out fights over each city street.


Each of these hurdles is a very small thing, but strung together, each one buys Taiwan a little more time, getting it a little bit closer to that two-week window in which the war stops being a certain victory for China and becomes a massive quagmire. It is to Taiwan's advantage, not China's for this to happen. If China overwhelms Taiwan and pushes on it a tense, authoritarian 'peace', the bombings will stop. But Taiwan will be finished. There will be no fighting back - only dying. If you thought the White Terror was bad, wait until you see what China is capable of. Oh wait, we already know.

Taiwan's weapons for fighting back are comparatively small, but they could have a huge effect on how such an invasion would go.

Here's another thing that's small - the latest arms package to Taiwan. But Michal Thim proves that it's not the size that counts, it's how you use it:


On the face of it, the content of the latest arms sale does not look particularly concerning to Beijing. The total size of the sale is much less than the US$1.4 billion approved last June....

However, the content of the sale is not the most crucial aspect, although its utility to Taiwan’s air force cannot be overstated. The fact that the sale is just about supply and logistics suggest a change in attitude on the US side.

First, the items were approved on a continuing basis and as needed and available. Second, the Trump administration has not only moved from large bundles every few years to sales on an annual basis, but it may also indicate a move away from bundling orders altogether.

In the past, and especially during Barack Obama’s two terms, the US government came across as too accommodating in trying to navigate relations with Taiwan in a way that would not upset Beijing, and Chinese leaders seized on every opportunity to capitalise.

The result was that arms sales to Taiwan were bundled into large packages and separated by long periods of no activity, though the ever-growing military capability of the PLA warranted a response via robust arms sales, as presumed by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. Something as routine as a supply of spare parts under the logistics agreement became subject to political considerations. Now, Washington may be returning to normal.


Small sales with big impacts. Arms sales on a continuing basis and not bundled into large packages, offered fairly rarely, which China throws a fit about each and every time, are in fact not as good a deal for Taiwan as sales on an as-needed, always-available basis. Nobody - not even China - can keep up the screamy outrage for that long. The more the US sells to Taiwan regularly, the less often China can "raise tensions" (then pretend those tensions rose by themselves, like magic) over it.

Well, actually China probably can do that. But nobody can keep the media's attention with its screamy outrage for that long, and that's really what matters here. If China cries alone in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, did it ever really cry at all?

Also, BOO to South China Morning Post for completely mangling a perfectly good shot at a dirty joke in their overly prolix subheader, and read the whole article to hear about how Europe is entering the Taiwan arms game. Also a small thing with a big impact: the more people we have ensuring that Taiwan can defend itself, the better. The sale may be small but the precedent it sets is huge. 


Here's an even smaller thing: Chinese companies have been hiding chips that enable them to hack into systems around the world into tech they manufacture: 



Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.


It doesn't take a tech expert to see that this is terrifying, and Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley lay out why:



In the three years since the briefing in McLean, no commercially viable way to detect attacks like the one on Supermicro’s motherboards has emerged—or has looked likely to emerge. Few companies have the resources of Apple and Amazon, and it took some luck even for them to spot the problem. “This stuff is at the cutting edge of the cutting edge, and there is no easy technological solution,” one of the people present in McLean says. “You have to invest in things that the world wants. You cannot invest in things that the world is not ready to accept yet.”



Tiny chips, massive problems. If this is what is being found in the US, imagine how much of Taiwanese telecommunications and other digital activities and information China has access to.


There are also small things like port terminals to consider. It seems odd that after a Chinese takeover, the Taiwanese government would allow terminals in Kaohsiung port previously controlled by a small shipping company (Orient Overseas) to be transferred to Chinese-owned Cosco. 

When Chinese state-owned shipping line Cosco Shipping Holdings unveiled a $6.3 billion deal to buy smaller competitor Orient Overseas (International) last year, Orient's ownership of port terminals in the U.S. and Taiwan appeared to pose a potential regulatory obstacle.

Port ownership by Chinese state companies has become an increasingly sensitive topic globally as Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative spurs concerns about whether their control could be leveraged for security purposes.


Given deepening confrontations between Beijing and both Washington and Taipei over a range of issues, it looked doubtful that Cosco would be allowed to take over the assets of Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and Long Beach, California, near Los Angeles.

On July 7, Cosco and Orient Overseas, better known under its operating brand OOCL, said that U.S. regulatory approval had been secured, with the condition that the Long Beach terminal be put into a trust and then sold. Cosco then announced the completion of its takeover on July 27, with no mention made of Kaohsiung.

While there have been no public statements, it is evident that OOCL retains control of its terminal at Kaohsiung, Taiwan's busiest port. OOCL's name remains on signage there and staff in Kaohsiung say nothing has changed.


What happens to those terminals when China grows more hostile toward Taiwan (as it likely will), or otherwise throws a conniption over Taiwan's simply trying to exist? How does it affect Taiwan's economy? 

I don't know, but that people who know these things say it matters means we ought to be paying attention. These terminals may barely register as small pearls in China's massive BRI pearl necklace encircling the world, but they could, in the coming years, matter quote a lot for Taiwan. 

People think big: they think about big bombs, big invasions, big armies.

But the war for Taiwan - and for liberal democratic values in the face of an increasingly expansionist China - isn't going to be won by earth-shaking missiles or massive regiments invading by sea.

It will be won by things as small as a gauntlet of booby traps starting in the Taiwan Strait and ending in Taiwanese cities, as small as whether Taiwan is able to maintain its defensive capabilities with rolling arms sales from the West, or whether we're all laid bare by hidden microchips as small as a number carved on a penny.

When it comes to ensuring a future for Taiwan, in some ways, think small.

Little end note: I just quoted a bunch of really smart men. Everything they say is worth listening to, but really, all men. You probably didn't notice, but I did. Where the ladies at? 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The left finally notices Taiwan - super late to the game

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Come on, give Taiwan a chance.


A truly excellent piece of writing and overall backgrounder on Taiwan and why the Western left should care about it appeared in Dissent Magazine recently.

I'm elated. I have nothing bad to say about the piece. My only disappointment is that not enough mainstream Western lefties read Dissent, and its online access is blocked by a paywall (frankly, the reason for the former is certainly, in part, the latter). So a lot of people who should read this piece, won't.

Because you probably don't have access to read the full article, and I do (don't ask how, but I have my sorceress ways), I'm basically going to quote relevant bits here without going full-on copyright infringement, and hope that this will make the ideas therein a bit more accessible to those who so desperately need to hear them.

Here's how it starts: 



Imagine a small, peaceful, progressive island in Asia about the size of Mary- land. Ruled until the Cold War’s very end by a military dictatorship, it is now a robust democracy, although it endures incessant hostility from its giant neighbor. Its people treasure their hard-fought equality, free press, and vibrant civil society.


The rest of the introduction is free to read, so I'll be taking the rest from the parts that are not accessible to non-subscribers. In any case, this is the country I call home. And, with some exceptions, it basically lives up to this promise as well as any democratic nation can.


Boasting the world’s largest standing army and an expansionist outlook, the People’s Republic of China deems Taiwan a “renegade province” that must be “reunified” in due course. And because the Chinese claim the island as part of their territory, they go out of their way to block its international participation. Essentially, they have made befriending Taiwan a zero-sum game for anyone who dares to do so, and the rules are simple: Engage with us and we will reward you; engage with them and we will punish you. It is fierce dollar diplomacy Beijing insists on waging, and Taipei can’t win.


Exactly, and thank you to this writer for putting "renegade province" and "reunified" in the scare quotes they always needed. Why can't mainstream media outlets do that? It's simple, easy and more accurate than what they do print (which is similar copy without the quotation marks, implying the claims have merit.) That the West doesn't see the game China is playing here, or doesn't care and is willing to sacrifice 23.5 million people who currently live free is terrifying to me. If you say you have values, live up to them, damn it.


In a recent poll that asked whether unification is an option if China democratizes (itself a long shot), just 24 percent of respondents aged thirty-nine or below said yes, while 73 percent said no. Since 2009, according to another survey, a majority of the island’s population has consistently self-identified as taiwanese— not as Chinese, nor as both—a sign that they have long assumed their de facto independence.


Yup. This idea that "both sides of the Strait" think of themselves or identify as "Chinese" is basically complete trash-in-the-dumpster bollocks. It's not true and hasn't been true for some time. Why the rest of the world is willing to force an identity on Taiwan - "but they're officially the Republic of China so they think they are Chinese too!", which is an oversimplification that leads to a dead-wrong conclusion - is beyond me. Everyone else gets to identify as they wish with liberal support - why not Taiwanese?

Keep in mind that Taiwan cannot change its official name from the Republic of China because doing so would precipitate a war that nobody wants, especially not the Taiwanese who, above all else, want peace. It wasn't a country name chosen by the Taiwanese - it was decided by the Nationalist government in China, without ever asking any Taiwanese what they thought about it. In essence, it is colonial. So it's a bit of a jerk's game of Catch-22 to then say this attempt to maintain peace means they "are Chinese".


As a diverse, tolerant country with a leader who has shattered the ultimate glass ceiling for Asian women, there is every reason to expect that tai- wan’s most faithful allies in the U.S. are on the left. Except that is not the case at all: American progressives tend to view it as either a reactionary state or one of no importance.


I think I need to change my pants. 

This is so true it hurts, and what is worse, it's so painfully wrong. It calls to mind, forcefully, a "conversation" (more like an ignorant rant-fest on his part that I very much wanted to end) between a friend-of-a-friend on social media, in which he went on and on (and on and on), basically Dunning-Krugering himself into a tizzy about how it would be "better" and we should "hope" that Taiwan takes over China, because apparently this worked in Hong Kong (I don't think he's ever asked any Hong Kongers what they think about that, or read about how that's actually gone down, because that's not the answer I think many would give) and anyway, they're the same people with the same culture and history, so why not?

That 23.5 million people don't think they are the same people with the same culture and history, and who have already built the sort of democracy with a healthy respect for civil society that Western liberals can only wet dream about (just try occupying Congress in the United States - you'd be dead), didn't seem to factor in.


John Bolton, who would later become Trump’s national security advisor, electrified conservatives when he declared on Fox & Friends: “Nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to.”

But then came the partisan backlash. It just so perfectly fit the anti- trump narrative: a buffoon elected president who was already, before taking office, eroding well-established “norms” because he was either too reckless or too ignorant. “that’s how wars start,” tweeted Senator Chris Murphy. trump’s “flippant calls” were “threatening to create diplomatic crises,” Vanity Fair asserted in the same article that compared tsai with other controversial world leaders with whom trump had also spoken, like Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, as if she, too, was a notorious human rights abuser.




Somebody please get me a towel, because it's getting hot in here. 

Anyway, yeah, all this. Tsai is a moderate - if anything, too careful and too conservative - democratically-elected leader. Like all elected leaders, she is imperfect, but damn, she ain't Duterte. Likewise, Taiwan's democracy is imperfect. Some people who ought to be protected, aren't. But it ain't Turkey. 

This echoes what the rest of the world writes about Taiwan and China - as though Tsai were somehow the one "causing tensions", or her fairly mild "we won't take any crap from China but we won't make waves either" stance (exactly the right attitude to take when facing a bully) was some sort of "hardliner" rant.

But since Horrible Death Walrus John Bolton said it - despite the fact that this one (and only) time, he was right - the left flipped the hell out.

And I thought our side was better at evaluating the merit of the idea rather than dismissing it based on its source. Hmm. Maybe we're not as smart as I thought.




Absent from the mainstream media discourse were the views of ordinary taiwanese, most of whom do not remotely share trump’s politics but were delighted to learn of their country’s long overdue acceptance and validation on the international stage. One commentator called it “the happiest thing” for Taiwan since the Jimmy Carter years.


HOO BOY HOSE ME DOWN.

Seriously, we have been trying to tell the West this for years. Why is it that the views of China and the CCP are always given center stage in the media and general pundit commentariat, and nobody ever seems to ask what the Taiwanese think about all this?

The article goes on to reflect on some of the ideas of this piece, which you should also read. 



So, as late as the waning days of 1986, this was the scenario Washington faced: neither side could accept coexistence as they each claimed to be the sole, rightful owner of China and Taiwan combined. to keep gambling on Beijing—which first began with Richard Nixon’s famous visit in 1972 and formalized when Carter severed diplomatic ties in 1979 with Taipei—seemed sensible enough.

It was not at all imaginable that Taiwan would be the one to emerge as Asia’s beacon of freedom so soon while China would backslide.


Exactly. In 1979 the Western reaction to Taiwan made more sense - Taiwan was still a dictatorship, ruled by people not from Taiwan, who never asked the Taiwan if they wanted to be ruled. You know, like a colony.

And yeah, that dictatorship (which, again, was not Taiwanese) claimed to be the sole legitimate government of China. That sucks, but it's not Taiwan's fault and certainly doesn't reflect the views of the Taiwanese today. These guys did not even come from Taiwan and their dictatorship is over (though the party still, unfortunately, exists).

The idea that the legitimate government of China is currently in Taiwan is ludicrous, and almost all Taiwanese would agree with this. Those that don't tend to be in their 90s and were not born in Taiwan. And sure, maybe it's too bad that Grandpa lost the war, but things have changed.

So why doesn't the West get this too?  Because, like, hey libs. It's not 1979 anymore. The king is dead! Long live the democratically elected leader of one of the freest countries in Asia!

There's a bit more history there, but I'm getting a little quote-happy. Just be aware that it was the 90s, and the first George Bush's actions after Tiananmen Square, that led to neo-conservatives taking up the cause of Taiwan (called the "Blue Team" - though Taiwan isn't exactly 'blue' anymore, it was then). Of course, what neo-cons champion, those liberals - well, the ones who don't think or don't know better - reflexively hate. Cue Clinton's tepid views on Taiwan, which set the stage for a general liberal ignoring of a quickly democratizing and liberalizing nation.

Some more recent history for you:



Simultaneously in Washington, the Blue team became ever more influential with Congress, think tanks, and even the incoming president’s inner circle. But while George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies were keen to confront Beijing early in his first term, they soon found themselves need- ing crucial Chinese cooperation in North Korea and especially the Middle East after 9/11; this compelled Bush to speak out against taiwanese independence in December 2003. the “One China” policy hence survived as a cornerstone of American foreign policy. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” did not alter that either, as he kept Taiwan out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, although the free-trade pact was itself designed to counterbalance China’s regional clout.


You may hate the TPP, but if its more noble goals were ever achievable, it was just stupid to leave Taiwan out. A sign of liberal shortsightedness.


Today in Ttrump’s America, the staunchest supporters of Taiwan have been the same band of Republican hawks, from heavyweights such as Bob Dole and the late John McCain to Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are descendants of the Blue team. Because of this interconnection, the issue continues to be perceived as a right-wing cause with which progressives are reluctant to be associated.


Weeeeeelllll...here's where I begin to disagree. Pro-Taiwan lobbying groups and associations talk to Republicans and Lizard People like Ted Cruz because they have power now, and they'll take whatever help they can get (you may not like that, but it is a pragmatic approach. Yeah, it makes my skin crawl too. I know.)

But pro-Taiwan bills have recently had unanimous support, and Taiwan generally does have bipartisan support. As for why the left doesn't speak out for Taiwan as much as the right, I have no idea. I suspect it's because they're not as smart as they think they are, and as smart as I always wanted them to be that they don't see a natural ally in Asia staring them right in the face. A shame. Taiwan is super hawt and needn't be the nerdy virgin in this story, hoping to get the guy. 




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The Guy

(from here - I've talked to them about permission to post their work generally - they are great and you should check them out)


The rejection of Chiang’s memory reflects an undeniable reality: the old assumption that both Taiwan and China long to unite as one nation-state but disagree on which regime has legitimacy is simply not accurate any- more. Beijing’s failure to uphold the promise of autonomy in Hong Kong and Macau only makes unification with Taiwan even more far-fetched. For Americans in this day and age to still defend Kissinger’s “One China” policy—a shameful, self-serving lie to please the Chinese—is to pretend otherwise; the passive strategy aims to do the bare minimum to maintain the status quo, a status quo that is inherently unjust.



If you take one thing away from my quote-fest here, liberals, let it be that. And this:


It is high time for the political left to rethink taiwan. Progressives’ silence—whether because they are oblivious to the island’s changing politi- cal landscape or disinclined to anger Beijing—does a grave disservice to the taiwanese people who have come such a long way.



I SCREAM THIS AT PEOPLE IN MY DREAMS.


But where the island struggles most has always been on the world stage. When the SARS epidemic was killing hundreds of victims in neigh- boring Hong Kong and China back in 2003, Taiwanese epidemiologists had to combat the disease alone after the WHO denied them access to samples and information. Few things have changed over the years. the International Olympic Committee returned a verdict this May that forced Team Taiwan to keep playing under the awkward “Chinese Taipei” designation in the forth- coming Tokyo 2020 Games. Even with the deck stacked against it, however, Taiwan has not stopped fighting for respect and recognition.


The island merits them; it has never exploited its diplomatic alienation 
to act out. Rather, it has proven time and again to be a responsible, if minor, power. At a time when many Western countries are turning inward, Tsai has called immigrants “an infusion of new strength and a force for cultural diversity.”

 

Well, I'd like to see all those nice words on immigration translate into a shot at dual nationality without having to fit into some Special Magic Foreigner box, but cool. Some laws have been relaxed, and I appreciate that. I think she means what she says, and I think the generally pan-green or anti-KMT/pro-Taiwan side finally believes this while fighting conservatives in their ranks.

In any case, when it comes to Taiwan, this is dead on. Taiwan has done nothing to make waves - if anything, it accepts more humiliation than it ought to (it shouldn't have to accept any) to keep the peace. It has been nothing but stable and calm in the face of an increasingly screamy, angry, irrational China.

And yet, Taiwan is painted as the bad guy - raising "tensions", full of "hardliners", who need to make "concessions" because what China thinks about Taiwan is apparently more important than what Taiwan thinks about itself.

Let's bring it home with a hit right to the liberal sweet spot: 


If the American left is serious about opposing a reactionary foreign pol- icy that preserves unequal power relations, it should speak up for Taiwan. Its enlightened views on gender, ethnicity, and class have translated into a social structure that’s reminiscent, in certain ways, of Northern Europe’s. Its capability and readiness to tackle the greatest challenges of our time, from terrorism to climate change, make it a well-deserved member of the international community. Its unlikely historical trajectory shows that bringing genuine progress to a part of the world where individual liberties are more often threatened than cherished is possible.


OH YEAH.