Saturday, July 31, 2021

Every missile pointed at my house proves that Kishore Mahbubani is wrong.


I read Kishore Mahbubani's genocide denialist, anti-Taiwan garbage so you don't have to.


I was planning to take a week or two off blogging because I've been so busy with online teacher training, but this article in the National Interest is just begging to have some feces flung at it, so here we are I guess. 

I've waded through the whole thing so if you care about Taiwan, East Turkestan, Hong Kong, Tibet or any part of Asia outside of China and also want to keep your blood pressure in check, you don't have to.

If President Joe Biden were to propose to China an economic deal that would benefit the American economy (and American workers) and also benefit China, China would enthusiastically embrace such a deal.

Probably, but Mahbubani implies it might actually a good idea to propose such a deal, with a country that is actively committing genocide and threatening America's strategic partners, like Taiwan. I would consider such a deal to be akin to agreeing to work with the Nazis.

Second, China is not a threat to American security. China isn’t threatening a military invasion of America (and its armed forces are an ocean away); or a nuclear strike on America (with its nuclear warheads being one-fifteenth the size of America’s). China is also not threatening American military supremacy in regions like the Middle East. Indeed, China isn’t even the enemy of American defense budgets.


It's interesting that he mentions the Middle East, but leaves out the Pacific. By actively threatening Taiwan, salami-slicing the South China Sea (pissing off Vietnam and the Philippines), fighting with India, claiming the Senkakus and eyeing the Ryukyus, supporting the Myanmar junta, China absolutely is shuffling closer to a move toward dominance in the Pacific and the rest of Asia. The US might not do much about Myanmar, but they do care about that island chain. Either Mahbubani doesn't realize this, or he does and is deliberately omitting it. 


If Haines is right in saying that China is a threat to America’s security, the logical conclusion would be that China would be happy to see a reduction in America’s defense budget, America’s aircraft carriers, jet fighters, naval bases. Actually, China would be unhappy. Chinese strategic planners are absolutely thrilled that America is wasting so much money fighting unnecessary wars as well as maintaining a huge and bloated defense budget that weakens America’s competitive edge in more critical areas, like education and research and development.

To be clear, I'm not a fan of the US's massive defense budget. Friends have said it's necessary to maintain sufficient military supremacy to, say, protect Taiwan. I'm not a military analyst, I don't know, but ideologically speaking I don't care for it. However, Mahbubani is wrong. 

Mostly China is happy the US fights unnecessary wars because they offer a convenient palette with which to paint the Taiwan situation, making it look like the US standing against a potential invasion would be just another "unnecessary war" that we'd be better off staying out of.

Finally, Haines says that China is a threat to American “values across a range of issues.” This statement would be true if China were either threatening to export its ideology to America or threatening to undermine the electoral process in America. Neither is happening.

Have you asked any Chinese, Uighur, Tibetan or Hong Konger in the US whose families in China have been threatened (which also happens in other countries) if they believe that's true? Any of those groups, or any Taiwanese who's had to fight to have their issues platformed on university campuses with Confucius Institutes? Have you asked any of the airlines who changed their designations of Taiwan/Taipei to "China" at China's behest? Because I bet you they'd say the attempt to import CCP values to the US is very obviously a thing. 

The first misconception is that since China is run by a communist party, it must, like the former Soviet Union, be on a campaign to prove that communism is superior to democracy....Yet Americans also believe in empirical evidence. That evidence shows that China has stopped supporting fellow communist parties for decades.


That's because China isn't communist (neither am I, so don't come at me). Of course the CCP, despite its name, doesn't care about exporting communism. It cares about exporting the values of acknowledging China's global supremacy. This is easier to do if a country is, in fact, a dictatorship, but that's not a prerequisite.

If you think they are not trying to export CCP values, however, you are wrong. It hasn't hit America yet, but it's happening elsewhere.

I'm not pissed at China because they're "trying to export communism". I doubt it would work if they were. I'm pissed at China because they have fucking missiles pointed at my fucking house.

China’s real mission is to rejuvenate Chinese civilization, not waste time exporting communist ideology. 

It's really interesting that he chose to use these words. It's the exact phrase -- "rejuvenate Chinese civilization" -- that the CCP tends to approve of in translation. Anyone paying half a bit of attention knows what "rejuvenate Chinese civilization" means: destroy Uighur and Tibetan culture. Force authoritarianism on Hong Kong. Invade and subjugate Taiwan. Basically, do a lot of shitty things to a lot of people who either do not want them, do not consider themselves Chinese, or both. Do you support this, Kishore? Really? The violent subjugation of millions? 真的?

Plus, rejuvenate from what? Their own fuck-ups from about 1945 on? Because the "century of humiliation" was a long time ago (despite how frequently the Chinese government brings it up), There's more to rejuvenate from thanks to the Great Leap Forward than the Opium Wars.

If they're still trying to "rejuvenate" from the late 180os, doesn't that indicate that the CCP has failed rather than succeeded?

The second misconception is that when China becomes the number one economic power in the world, replacing America, it will, like America, go on a universalizing mission and export the Chinese “model,” just as America exported the American “model.” Here’s a perfect example of America’s total ignorance of its adversary. The most basic fact that Americans should know about the Chinese people is that they do not believe that anybody can be a Chinese in the way that Americans believe that anybody can be an American. The Chinese believe, quite simply, that only Chinese can be Chinese. And they would be puzzled if anybody else tried to become Chinese.


Two things. First, one need not "be Chinese" to import "the Chinese model", this is a non-sequitur. They seem quite happy to support a similar model in Myanmar, without ever thinking the people crushed by the junta are Chinese. 

Second, while it's true that by and large "Chineseness" is not an identity one can just take on the way one can immigrate to America and be "American", the CCP does have an objective of assimilation. Tibetans and Uighurs aren't Chinese under the most commonly understood construct of "Chineseness", and I don't think either group considers itself Chinese, but the CCP sure does seem eager to crush and assimiliate them -- to the point of literal genocide. 

And they are quite eager to insist that anyone they say is Chinese...is. This extends to millions of citizens of foreign countries who are, say, Swedish or Australian. They'll even abduct them on foreign soil, as they did with Swedish citizen Gui Minhai in Thailand.

They double down on Taiwanese being Chinese, even though the vast majority Taiwanese don't identify that way. So it sure does look from my Taipei apartment that China does think that people who are not Chinese can be -- must be -- Chinese. 

Actually, if the truth be told, Beijing doesn’t give a fig whether a country is a democracy or autocracy. It only cares whether it can work effectively with a given country. 


It sure does seem to care that Taiwan remains a democracy, Kishore. And doesn't seem keep to work with it. 

Hence, if the birthplace of Western democracy, Greece, decides to join the Belt and Road Initiative and welcome Chinese investment in its Port of Piraeus, China doesn’t care whether Greece is a democracy or not.

It's interesting that you mention Greece -- far away -- but ignore Taiwan. And their support of the junta in Myanmar. And although it's technically part of China, the desire for democracy among Hong Kongers. Are you unaware that China is deeply unpopular across Asia, among its own neighbors? 

You might call yourself a "friend of America" earlier in the piece, but you are no friend of Asia.

Step three would be to reverse all the steps that the Trump administration took in the trade war with China. Why reverse them? They didn’t weaken the Chinese economy. Indeed, they may have damaged America’s economy instead.

They probably did damage America's economy more than China's, but we don't actually know that because there's no such thing as wholly reliable data from China. Besides, why would you want to work with a country that commits genocide? (I realize the US does just that with other countries, and even aids them -- including aiding the pummeling of Yemen and the Israeli treatment of Palestine, but ideally it wouldn't do so anywhere.)

At this point in a very long piece, ignoring the CCP's Nazi-like treatment of the Uighurs is just a massive ethical hole. 

 

Step four would be to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement which former President Barack Obama had wisely initiated to ensure that the East Asian economic ecosystem, the largest one in the world, would not be centered on China. Step five would be to match the Chinese punch-for-punch by signing free trade agreements with every country or region that China has signed with. For example, one important arena for U.S.-China competition will be Southeast Asia, where there are still major reservoirs of goodwill towards America among its 700 million people. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) matters. In 2000, Japan’s combined gross national product was eight times larger than ASEAN’s combined GDP. By 2019, it was only 1.6 times larger. By 2030, ASEAN’s economy will be bigger than Japan’s. Hence, America should immediately sign a free trade agreement with ASEAN.


I'm including this because it's the first paragraph in a long string of garbage that I actually sort of agree with.  I don't think "free trade" is necessarily a fix for everything, but neither do I demonize it (as I said, I'm not a communist). It would be smart for the US to strengthen ties with the parts of Asia that are not China, period. Whether free trade is the best vehicle for this is a spin-off discussion of that.

But, is it not super weird that he completely ignores Taiwan, the country that would benefit most from stronger ties with the US? 

This is, probably, the most important point that American strategic planners should reflect on: at the end of the day, the outcome of the geopolitical contest between America and China will not be determined by the number of aircraft carriers or nuclear weapons. Instead, it will be determined by which society is doing a better job at taking care of its bottom fifty percent. As of now, China is leading by a mile....

Um...is it though?

Instead of tripping over myself to talk about why I don't think this is true. Instead, here's a tweet from an economist I think has the right of this issue:



I'll also add that while poorly regulated capitalism put America's bottom fifty percent where they are, that Chinese state control of the economy (not quite communism -- state capitalism) is what dragged most of China into poverty, and far worse poverty at that. Should we give the CCP a medal for attempting -- badly -- to pull people out of poverty that they themselves put into poverty?

There are four parts to this critical piece of advice: a country that knows what it wants (1), coping successfully with its internal problems (2) and global responsibilities (3), and which has a spiritual vitality (4). Vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, America was ahead on all four counts. Today, vis-à-vis China, America is behind on all four counts.

Look, America doesn't have much of a moral high ground. It's been awhile since we committed all-out genocide on our own land, although we have done so. More recently, we've not exactly been a moral compass on genocides abroad, to put it lightly.

But how can you look at the genocide of the Uighurs and threats to subjugate Taiwan and support for the mass repression and death in Myanmar, and call that "spiritual vitality" and "global responsibility"?

The government actively encourages their own people to say it's fine to massacre all Taiwanese as long as they take the island. Does that sound spiritually vital or globally responsible to you?

If so, what the everloving fuck is wrong with you?

Yet, Biden would be crucified politically if he were to lift trade sanctions against China that have harmed American businesses and farmers. The Biden administration will need strong political cover if it wants to rebalance relations with China and strive to achieve a more normal relationship with China, devoid of self-defeating tariffs and sanctions.

Okay, but why would you want to rebalance relations with a country that commits literal genocide and is threatening to invade and subjugate another important strategic partner?

Kennan’s wise advice, stated above, also emphasized that America should be mindful of the impression that America creates “among the peoples of the world.”

Right. So we should stand against genocide and subjugation. Meaning we should not be kind to China. That would be a good impression to make. One I could get behind.

America can now use the same empirical test to see whether the “peoples of the world” support America over China. Unfortunately, unlike the Soviet Union, China has not invaded or occupied any neighboring state.

You think the use of present perfect saves you, Kishore, but it doesn't. Your use of "complex" to weasel your way out of any sort of moral accountability for your stance signals what we're about to read.

Also, the world doesn't quite favor China as much as you want to make it seem.

Regardless, I'd like to say hello from Taipei, where I am pissed at China because they are threatening to invade the country I call home, a neighboring state. They have missiles pointed at my house. They want to massacre my friends. Does Taiwan not exist to you? Is it too inconvenient for your argument? Apparently so:


Nonetheless, America has accused China of behaving “aggressively” in three territories: Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan. The issues involved in each of the three are different. Indeed, they are complex. However, most American commentaries make a simple black and white case that China’s actions in these three territories are wrong and, as a result, the “world” disapproves of China’s actions in these areas.


First, Taiwan is not a territory of the PRC. So now we know where you stand -- you are a filthy subjugationist. You honestly think a military invasion of Taiwan would be acceptable?

Fuck you, Kishore. Just...fuck you. I don't have better words. 

Fuck you. 凸

Second, I'm writing this as I'm reading it, but I hope to any gods in heaven that he is not about to launch into a defense of the genocide of the Uighurs or subjugation of Hong Kong.

Let's find out together! 

Whenever any American uses the phrase which suggests the “world disapproves of China,” they should say privately to themselves this phrase: “1.5 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, 1.4 billion Africans, 600 million Latin Americans, 500 million Buddhists (or the vast majority of the world’s population) disapproves of China’s actions. By using this phrase, instead of “the world,” they would see clearly that they have made an empirically false statement. Most countries in the world do not support American criticisms of China in either Hong Kong or Xinjiang. As indicated above, there is an empirically verifiable way for America to determine whether the “world” supports American criticism of China’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, or Taiwan. America could table a resolution on any of three issues in the UN General Assembly. If it were to do so, America would find itself in the same situation as the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It would struggle to get thirty to forty countries out of 193 countries to support its point of view.


First, oh my god, you actually are weinering your way out of denouncing actual literal genocide in Xinjiang, repression in Hong Kong and an invasion of Taiwan by both-sidesing the issue, as if these things are acceptable if most of the world is willing to turn a blind eye. Seriously, fuck you.

I thought you were saying that the US should  be mindful of the "impression" it creates.

Doesn't that logically mean it should create the impression that it won't stand for genocide just because other countries are willing to ignore it? I know we haven't got a solid track record here, but it's high time we changed that, rather than adding to our past misdeeds.

Besides, the governments of those countries in the UN aren't willing to stand against these horrors not because they're not morally wrong, but because of all that fat Chinese investment in their countries. It's equivocation to say that the world is turning to China for financial reasons, but then that China's actions are not necessarily morally wrong because the world won't vote in the UN to say they are, when that is precisely because of those financial incentives. They are not the same thing, and you know they're not.

As for the people, most people who don't care about these things either live very far away and are preoccupied with their own issues; this is human nature. Others are simply unaware. But let's not substitute the actions of governments represented in the UN for beliefs of people. They don't exactly map, and you know that. 

Plus, I can think of one country that is not in the UN that should be. I live there, and China has its fucking missiles pointed at my fucking house. But you seem to think it would be fine for China to massacre its citizens. 

In theory, if China was suppressing its Muslims, the most outraged community would be the fifty-seven countries that are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

So you really are engaging in genocide denial. Great. You're also a filthy genocide denier. There is something so absolutely slimy and disgusting about implying a genocide doesn't exist if an insufficient number of people oppose it.

I note that Mahbubani doesn't go into any of the actual evidence that there is indeed a genocide. Of course he doesn't, that would destroy his argument that China is a normal nation just trying to help its people, not engaging in crimes against humanity. Rather, he dismisses it as probably not real because the world isn't doing enough to stop it. 

That is not an argument. If you think it is, go back to school.

Besides, I don't think you have to be Muslim to stand against the genocide of Muslims.

Yet not one Muslim country supported America or the West on Xinjiang. In response to the statement by the twenty-three countries condemning China, fifty-four countries backed a counter-statement defending China’s actions in Xinjiang.

Did we not just discuss China throwing fat stacks around the world. The Muslim world has been a big beneficiary of all this cash (well, the wealthiest have been, the debt traps tend to screw everyone else), but that just makes China as bad as the US on ethical foreign policy. It doesn't mean that the genocide isn't real. Just because the rest of Africa didn't do anything about the genocide in Rwanda in the '90s doesn't mean it didn't happen. Please stop conflating money and morals, and please stop pretending that genocide can be ethically acceptable if enough people are willing to turn a blind eye to it.

Let me show you what this argument actually is: until 1941 the US was -- or claimed to be -- uninterested in getting involved in the war in Europe. Newspapers in the 1930s had praised or defended Hitler for quite some time before that. By Mahbubani's logic, the Holocaust was therefore morally acceptable until the very moment the world decided it was not, and in fact it could be argued was not happening until the world realized it was. You could argue that the Armenian genocide didn't happen because nobody did much to stop it. Come on. Even infants have more object permanence than this absolute trashfire of a case. 

The real issue here is not the merits of the case on Xinjiang, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. The real issue is the stark difference between America’s standing in the world vis-à-vis its primary competitor in the Cold War, namely the Soviet Union, and its standing in the world vis-à-vis China. 


Why do I suspect you're only saying that because you know that on the merits of these issues, you lose?

Most countries want to have good relations with America. Yet most countries also want to have good relations with China. Hence, if any American administration, driven by domestic political pressures, steps up its geopolitical contest with China, it will find itself relatively isolated internationally. Few countries would enthusiastically support America in this contest.


Trying to keep yourself at an academic remove from essentially greenlighting genocide and the invasion and subjugation of a democracy is not a good look, Kishore. 

It's becoming clearer, in fact, that more countries are seeing the ethical impossibility of dealing with the CCP. From the investment deal with Europe tanking to Japanese officials finally saying that Taiwan mattered to them, to everyone else who stands to lose if Taiwan falls, I actually do think the US could find allies in this if the situation became desperate. 

And who would make it that desperate? China.

Bet you won't say that, though. 

The European countries, especially France and Germany, are among America’s closest allies. Yet they too will be ambivalent about joining any American crusade against China, even though they share some American concerns about China’s behavior.

There's truth in that, but you keep trying to tie it to some argument that therefore we shouldn't do anything for Taiwan, Hong Kong or Xinjiang. That these actions on the part of the CCP are acceptable because they've essentially bribed the world into not caring. Or that if most of the world doesn't care, it's okay to simply pretend something is not morally wrong. 

I would not have wanted you around in the late 1930s, because you probably would have been on Team Appeasement.

If geopolitics is also about geography, China’s investment in Africa is a geopolitical gift to Europe as it reduces African migration to Europe. An old adage says that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Wait, why would it bad to have more Africans in Europe? I'd say Europe might benefit from more open immigration policies. What are you implying?

Besides, Chinese investment in Africa isn't all rosy, and don't you yourself call for "nuanced understandings"? Shouldn't this be one of them? I'm all for international cooperation and investment and assistance to marginalized groups and nations, and I admit the West doesn't have the best track record of offering aid with good terms attached. But the answer to that isn't to just let China offer even worse terms. It's to offer better ones.

Iran also demonstrates how China plays a long-term game of chess (or more accurately, the Chinese game of wei qi) while America plays checkers. 

Okay, but that -- and a lot of the "the Chinese think" language in this piece -- sure feels Orientalizing. From an Asian. Weird. 


Indeed, exactly fifty years ago, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited China. He raised many issues with Chinese premier Zhou Enlai. Zhou Enlai only raised one: Taiwan. Why? Americans have forgotten the century of humiliation China suffered from 1842 to 1949. The Chinese haven’t.

They might, if the CCP didn't keep bringing it up. And why do they keep bringing it up? Because it suits their political agenda. 

Also, if Henry Kissinger did something regarding China, you can be reasonably sure it was the wrong move.

The separation of Taiwan from the homeland represents the last living legacy of this century of humiliation. 


Only because the CCP says it does.

And you don't seem to care what the Taiwanese think. Do their opinions about their own country matter to you at all, Kishore?

The PRC has never ruled Taiwan and this "separation" is of a country that was joined, under another government and not all that strongly, for about 4 years. Before that, Taiwan was a colony of an entirely different Chinese government, and for most of those centuries, only about a third of it was actually controlled by Qing colonizers. Regardless, the transition from empire to aspiring (though failing) democracy to state capitalist dictatorship does matter. This "inalienable part of China" line of thinking is a fabricated one, tailored to suit the CCP's political agenda.

You seem to have bought the line that Taiwan is inalienably part of China. Do you even care that most Taiwanese haven't?

Hence, it would be foolhardy for any Chinese leader not to work out extreme options if America walks away any further from the One China policy. China will look for a suitable “Achilles’ heel” in America. As I document in my book, Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy, the role of the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency is one area of vulnerability. This issue is complicated. Yet there’s no doubt that America’s standing in the world will fall sharply if the U.S. dollar loses its global reserve currency status.

Again with the academic remove to obscure the fact that you are essentially endorsing wiping a thriving democracy that does not want to be a part of China and will face mass persecution and massacre (yes, massacre) off the map. 

God, you're worse than Kissinger and I still cannot wait until that eldritch horror exits this world.


Many Americans will not be daunted by this prospect. Since many Americans tend to have a black and white view of the world, where they believe they represent right over wrong, or good over evil, they will console themselves by saying that America is carrying out a noble global mission of defending freedom, democracy, and human rights against an evil, authoritarian, despotic regime, which is oppressing its own people. 


Sure, okay, but in this case there actually is a right and a wrong. In this case, despite the "complexity" of the issues, the ethical path actually is clear. 

To pretend it's not and mock those who say it is is, again, to hide behind both-sidesist garbage.

In any case I am "not daunted by" the prospect of fighting for what's right not because my view of the world is black and white, but because China has fucking missiles pointed at my fucking house.

This brief representation may seem to be a caricature of American views. However, it’s not unfair in suggesting that many Americans, including thoughtful Americans, have a black and white view of the relationships between America and China.


No. 

I have a black and white view of the fucking missiles pointed at my fucking house.

 

It will not be long before China becomes equally stigmatized as another “evil empire.”

It already is an "evil empire". It's not wrong to call a thing by its name.

It is committing atrocities across multiple territories, most of which it has no supportable claim to (East Turkestan and Tibet should not be part of China) and is threatening to invade the democracy next door.  By advising that we ignore this, you are advising that we continue America's own ethical void.

Yet most countries in the world just see China for what it is: a normal country.

"Normal countries" do not commit genocide and threaten to invade their neighbors, you absolute turnip.

 

Americans may wish to dismiss these growing signals of respect for China just as opportunistic moves by countries that just want to benefit from the Chinese economy.

Why not? That's pretty much exactly what it is. We're talking about governments here, not people, and governments can be swayed just as easily by morally-void money stacks, if not more so.

Before falling into a smug attitude of moral superiority, Americans should consider the possibility that the rest of the world is capable of arriving at a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of China.


It's not moral superiority. I want them to remove their fucking missiles pointed at my fucking house.

Anyway, the word "nuanced" (along with "complex" and "rejuvenate" and "national humiliation") is another keyword showing someone's drunk Xi Jinping's juice.

How about this instead: it's possible to have a nuanced understanding of China as a place, set of interrelated cultures, people and history, but see in very stark terms that the CCP is in fact evil, and it's not "jejune" to point this out.

Or this: any "nuanced" understanding of the situation requires also understanding the Taiwanese perspective, among others such as the Uighur, Hong Konger and Tibetan perspective. Namely, that Taiwan is self-governing, does not want to be a part of China, and it is wrong to invade neighboring states. If you call for "nuance" but all you offer is CCP talking points, then the one lacking that nuance is you.

Yet, even as China has become more powerful, it continues to embrace the Western-originated, rules-based order generated by the UN Charter and the UN family of institutions. Anyone who doubts this should read the UN Charter again. Its principles support China.

China is on the Security Council. Of course its principles support China. The UN's "principles" include being utterly useless, and turning a blind eye to invasion, apartheid and genocide. The UN should not be the basis for your ethical code, ever. 

And it has not embraced the "rules-based order" so much as tried to use it to its advantage by keeping Taiwan out.

Equally importantly, China is creating a stable and well-ordered society that is significantly improving the lives of 1.4 billion people.


I don't think the ones in jail in Hong Kong or in death camps in East Turkestan have had their lives improved. But they're inconvenient to your argument so once again you ignore them.


A peer-reviewed, credible academic study done by the Harvard Kennedy School has documented and explained how support for the Chinese government has gone up from 86 percent in 2003 to 93 percent in 2016.

I've read the study and while I'll admit it has a veneer of credibility and is peer-reviewed, that doesn't change the fact that real political research can't actually be done in China (what Chinese citizen would tell a bunch of foreign researchers what they really think of their government?)

Besides, a few generations of government control of messaging all the way through school is likely to achieve such results. How and whether one can actually have and express an opinion is transmitted to new generations very differently in China -- for political reasons, not cultural ones. That the operation has likely been successful does not give the government moral cover. 

And it doesn't remove the fucking missiles pointed at my fucking house

President Xi Jinping is a man of few words.

Yeah, and most of them seem to be defending genocide and subjugation. You seem okay with that.

I hope he becomes a man of zero words, as soon as possible. 

“China does not, first, export revolution; second, export poverty and hunger; third, cause troubles for you.”

Unless you're Taiwanese (or caught in a BRI debt trap).

 

Most countries in the world would agree with the spirit of Xi’s statement.

Sure, but he intends to do all of those things to Taiwan. Maybe listen to Taiwan, where people know the cake is a lie?

As long as China takes care of its people and doesn’t disrupt the world order...

And dismantle the fucking missiles pointed at my fucking house, perhaps?

...the rest of the world will be able to get along with China.

I'd rather they stood with Taiwan and against, you know, genocide.

Truly, this article is so bad -- from the slimiest kind of genocide denial to the outright dismissal of any sort of Taiwanese perspective -- that if I ever have to read anything like it again I might have a fucking stroke. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The ever-evolving propaganda vectors of education-adjacent "supplementary textbooks" in Taiwan

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The cover of one of these horrid books


A few days ago, news broke that some "supplementary textbooks" available in many Taiwanese schools were full of racist depictions of Indigenous Taiwanese as well as pro-China, anti-sovereignty propaganda. The books themselves had been published in 2008, which feels like a lifetime ago in terms of evolving social consciousness in Taiwan. The problem was that these texts were still hanging around in classrooms, offering up all sorts of garbage to students. They're even touted, in some cases, as having "model essays" for young students to study and, I suppose, imitate. 

Here are the examples being shared on social media. I saw them from Saidai /Reseres 伍麗華 (Saidai Tahovecahe), the first DPP legislator representing the Highland Indigenous Constituency in the legislature, and was elected in 2020, but she's not nearly the only person sharing them.

I am not a translator, so please don't take my translations as the final word. However, I think it's important to clarify exactly how awful these 'supplementary textbooks' are, and what one Indigenous reaction to them looks like.

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The one with the racist cartoon of an Indigenous Taiwanese says something like: 

Hualien has many 'mountain compatriots' (an old-timey, racist and very ROC/China-centric way of describing Indigenous people who had not assimilated into Han society), their culture used to be very backward, but owing to the government's guidance, their lives and education have all developed very much. I hope that in the near future, they can be just like the 'plains people' (Han Chinese and Indigenous who have assimilated)


It's obvious why this is racist, and not up for debate. In the words of Sifo Lakaw (the 2nd link above): 

怎麼這麼不小心,就這樣洩漏了你們內心裡根深蒂固的種族優越感?你們說「壯志飢餐胡虜肉,笑談渴飲匈奴血」的是民族英雄;戍守傳統領域的原住民族是野蠻人,需要被教化的對象。當我進入到蔑視和否定其他文化的教育體系,我一度相信這是邁向成功的道路,認為自己的語言和文化是不符合時代潮流,沒有競爭力的。

一直到從長輩的口中,聽見他們使用優雅且善用隱喻風格的族語,時而幽默,時而歌唱地描述外來者的貪婪,以及彼此猜忌與嫉妒的性格時,也才真正的發現,那些自居高尚的人,其內心是多麼地醜陋而險惡。既然事實已澄清,那就好好開始學習自己的語言和文化,期許自己和下一代成為真正的人,不被種族主義者擊垮。

How can you be so careless as to show the world the deep sense of racial superiority you carry inside? You say that (reference to an ancient poem related to people who follow Confucian ideals -- honestly this is beyond my ability to translate, and the original is quite gory) are national heroes; the native peoples who adhere to tradition are barbarians and need to be guided. When I started school, which denigrated and rejected other cultures, I once believed that this was the path to success, thinking that my own language and culture were inconsistent with the times and adhering to them wouldn't lead to success.

It was not until I heard the language of the elders -- metaphorical, humorous, lyrical -- describing the greed of the outsiders and the suspicion and envy between them, that I saw they were only out for themselves. How greedy and sinister the hearts of these 'noblemen' were. Now that we know the truth, it's time to start learning your own language and culture and expect yourself and the next generation to become actualized, not beaten down by racists.

 

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The second one, which has some confused white people cartoons (I don't know why either) is titled "Many people put forward that Taiwanese and Mainlanders are different" and says something like:

You can hear a lot about how "Taiwan is for Taiwanese, people from the Mainland should go back to the Mainland." I don't understand this kind of talk, why should Taiwan be for the Taiwanese? Taiwanese and Mainlanders have yellow skin and black hair, are they not all Chinese, why must they be divided up so clearly? If you say "Taiwan is Taiwanese", it will unavoidably stir up suspicion about what is called 'Taiwanese'. 


I suppose the confused white people were put there to imply that it's foreigners who are trying to 'divide' the Chinese by talking about Taiwaneseness as a distinct identity, not Taiwanese themselves. This is a racist lie. It's only believable if you think Taiwanese people are empty-headed enough to believe random foreigners telling them about their culture, which I certainly hope you do not. Taiwanese identity came from Taiwan, period.

However, I see an ironic truth in the cartoon: this flummoxing text caused me to sympathize with the dude in the center -- the one with all the question marks. 

If you think that these examples of "supplementary texts" are egregious but rare (both in how horrible and common they are), that is wrong. 

They are terrifyingly common: I don't think I have a single local friend or student whom I've asked who doesn't remember these sorts of books from school. They may be allowed into schools by the Ministry of Education, but they are developed and distributed by private entities, mostly special interest groups trying to influence what students learn in school. This article details "extra-curricular" lessons taught by both LGBTQ allies and anti-gay conservatives, and mentions the materials they use. Religious indoctrination happens, too. 

While I might personally support the use of LGBTQ-allied material to make up for any shortfalls in the official textbooks, if the other side of that is allowing anti-gay content into schools, it's probably better that no 'supplementary textbooks' by any special interest group be allowed in. Or if they are, there must be a more rigorous materials assessment process before approval. 

Although I'm having trouble finding the specific articles I read a few years ago that cited 'supplementary textbooks' and their role in the fight for LGBTQ and marriage equality, I have a more terrifying, more personal story which should illustrate how sure I am that 'supplementary' materials on all topics are not only common in Taiwanese schools, but the way they spread their message has become more sophisticated. 

For reasons I cannot disclose, I had the opportunity to look at one such book aimed at elementary school classrooms (I did not assist in any element of its conception or production). I cannot tell you who it was developed by, but I can say that the foundation funding it is politically neutral itself, but the titular head of that foundation is not. This person was convinced that Taiwanese children had 'forgotten' the importance of respect for one's elders and other traditional 'Chinese' ideals. To put it bluntly, I disagree not just on the opinion but the worldview underpinning it, but that's not the point. 

The content was fairly innocuous on the surface, although I'm not at liberty to go into too much detail. It included a few 'folk tales' meant to teach children the importance of filial piety through examples from 'their own' culture. One of these included a well-known story about a child who breaks through ice to catch fish to feed an ailing parent. 

Then it became clear: this book purporting to be about 'filial piety' was slipping in cultural references to China, as a way of normalizing the belief that Taiwanese culture is fundamentally Chinese. 

I commented, "how can this story be from Taiwanese kids' own culture? There aren't very many lakes that ice over in Taiwan! Any that may exist are way up in the mountains, and this is a Chinese story, not an Indigenous one."

The response: "Oh, it's a story from northern China."

"Well, then it's not really a story that resonates in Taiwanese culture, so...that's odd."

"Mmm. They think it's all Chinese culture." [This is Taiwanese for "I agree with you but I don't call the shots."]

"Hmph...okay, though there must also be a story about a child who helps their parents that's from Taiwan, yes?"

"Do you like the tea?" [This is Taiwanese for "I understand what you're saying but you're/we're not winning this."]

"Yes, it's very fragrant." ["As long as my objection has been noted, I will drop it."]

I don't know if that book ever made it into schools, but I can guarantee there are a hundred, or a thousand, just like it. They might not be as obliquely racist and politicized as the 2008 examples people are angry about today, but they are there and they're circulating similar ideas using more sophisticated methods. And they're not from 2008: they're being published right now.

It's the same old Han supremacy and centering of China, and marginalizing not just Indigenous Taiwanese but all Taiwanese identity, in barely perceptible ways unless you know what to look for.

If you have children in Taiwanese schools, know this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Book Review: Taipei, City of Displacements


Taipei, City of Displacements
Joseph R. Allen


During Taiwan's Level 3 restrictions, I've been enjoying diving into books that have been around for awhile. Taipei, City of Displacements was the first book I grabbed, because it came so highly recommended and the premise intrigued me. A book all about the historic movements and displacements in the Taipei basin -- from the Ketagalan Indigenous through the Qing, Japanese and KMT colonial eras, which can help one understand why the city is the way it is? Sign me up! 

I'm not quite sure what to make of it, though. I was absolutely entranced by parts of this narrative of displacements throughout the history of Taipei, and found others a bit of a slog. The author is obviously passionate and deeply knowledgeable about his subject and the city, and anyone writing from a place of such dedication about a city I also hold dear is certainly going to engage me. 

A displacement within a displacement: the reason for my ambivalent review is that I'm not exactly sure what audience the book is aiming for. The first chapter, which is a quick history of Taiwan, can be skipped by anyone already knowledgeable about this topic. But soon, one gets to the real meat for a person like me: the little gibs and gobs of deep history that make the city tick. Curious about why Hsiaonanmen exists? Why the Taipei City walls seemed to go up and come down so quickly, and why they were built where they were? Why the city fans out from its riverside historical core into what is more or less a grid, and why many of the parks exist where they do? Then this is the book for you. 

I was enthralled by the chapters on the history of statuary, including the fairly well-known Mystery Horse of 228 Park (I knew about the horse before I ever read the book, but the level of detail provided is astounding) as well as the aforementioned history of the roadways and parks. 

Less interesting was the story of 'displacement' through the National Palace Museum, mostly because the treatment of the subject is more surface-level and didn't cover much that was new. Hence the ambivalence: a reader for whom the history of the National Palace Museum is new information will probably be bored to tears hearing about statues in parks or random museum alcoves. But the person -- me! -- who wants to know about the statues probably doesn't need the Palace Museum chapter. The comparison to the historically neglected National Taiwan Museum is an interesting angle, however. (Even more out of the public eye? The Nylon Deng Memorial Museum). Why some old buildings in the historic center are two stories and some three? Why some of the land plots are so oddly shaped? Fascinating. A surface-level treatment of the general push eastward of the 'downtown' area? Perhaps useful for the newcomer, but again -- who is the book for, when it tries to be for everyone?

I was also a bit less interested in the discussions of film and photography: film is fine but I want to know about geography, and a lot of the photographs discussed were displayed in exhibitions long since closed. It's not clear how or if they are viewable now. More illustrations -- especially in the photography chapter but also locations of maps, roads, gates and walls -- would have also made the book come alive a bit more.

Throughout, I also wish proper names -- especially of books -- had come complete with their names in both Chinese characters and Romanization. Anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into any of the tempting rabbit holes this book offers has to go to extra effort because this information is not always included. For example, Allen mentions Greater Taipei: Investigations of an Old Map. No Chinese name -- Romanized or not -- is offered. It almost implies the monograph is available in English (as far as I can tell it isn't). I had to do some asking around, but apparently it's 大臺北古地圖考釋, with the full text available here. You would have a hard time finding it by the information offered in City of Displacements, however.

Because of this, while I want to rave about this book for its most entrancing content, I found it a bit too uneven to give it a perfect review. So instead I'll say this: do buy this book (in Taipei it's available at Southern Materials 南天書局 and possibly the Taiwan Store 台灣个店, as well as on Amazon). Overall, the parts I liked outweighed those that held less interest, and I suspect the chapters I was not as captivated by are also the ones which haven't aged as well, about photo exhibitions long closed or films I'll never see (is there any reason to try to watch Twenty Something Taipei? Doubt it.)

But, pick and choose what you read based on what you're interested in, and your own knowledge level. Don't feel like it's necessary to pick through every chapter. 

I will leave you with an interesting story, however. The book takes a cool detour of the displacement of the statue of General Claire Lee Chennault from central Taipei to the outskirts and finally Hualien.

Chennault, you say? 

I've heard of that guy before! From my post on Green Island

In 1937, the SS President Hoover was diverted from Hong Kong to Shanghai to evacuate US nationals living there during the Sino-Japanese war. Despite draping a massive US flag draped across the deck to identify to both sides that they were a neutral US ship (they were at war with neither side as of 1937), the ROC air force mistook them for a Japanese ship and bombed them, wounding 8 and killing 1. The ship aborted the mission and returned to San Francisco for repairs. The Americans were evacuated by other ships, as this Transatlantic Accent Guy will tell you.

Wondering who could be so stupid as to bomb the President Hoover, Chiang Kai-shek vowed to execute whomever had given the order. Apparently, this wasn't because it was a US ship so much as that it was owned by Dollar Lines, and Chiang had known Robert Dollar. This was strictly a "you hurt my dead rich friend's toy, and I am also rich!" sort of anger. 

Robert Dollar, by the way, not only seems like he looked and acted just like a robber baron, but here's a quote for you:

He travelled himself all over the Orient, seeking products to take back to the US in empty timber ships. In doing so, he made friends with all the key people in business and politics. One observer said that the ordinary people of China idolised him and that on one of his trips a three hour procession of thousands of men and women passed by his hotel to honour him! “A power in his own land, he was all but a god in the Orient”.

BARF. 

Anyway, it turned out that the person who gave the order was Claire Lee Chennault, who had been hired by Chiang's wife Soong Mei-ling just months prior. So, instead he paid him a bonus! My opinion of Soong is highly unfavorable, but instead of harping on how bad she was for Taiwan, let's take a look at how unqualified Chennault was instead:

Poor health (deafness and chronic bronchitis), disputes with superiors, and the fact that he was passed over as unqualified for promotion led Chennault to resign from the military on April 30, 1937; he separated from the service at the rank of major. As a civilian, he was recruited to go to China and join a small group of American civilians training Chinese airmen.

It seems he got a little better at his job later on, but at this point he was basically a dude who bumbled into his job and mucked it up. But "well, my wife hired you, so here's ten thousand dollars" was just how Chiang rolled. Seriously: instead of executing him, Chiang paid Chennault a $10,000 bonus. That was 10 months' worth of his regular salary!

Anyone who thinks a guy like Chiang was a brilliant military strategist against the Communists is sorely mistaken.


By all means, go read up on the fate of the Hoover in that post. Liquored seamen are involved. 

So it turns out the not-great military strategist Chiang's brutal dictatorship on Taiwan installed a statue of also-not-great General Claire Chennault in what is now 228 Park in 1960, in a ceremony presided over by Chiang's wife, who hired Chennault in the first place. Then it was moved to Xinsheng Park in 1995 for unknown reasons, and then to a Flying Tigers memorial in Hualien. And of course many of Chiang's own statues -- of himself, because he loved himself -- now reside at Cihu where their utter mediocrity (they all kind of look the same) is made more obvious by their proximity.


That's a hell of a lot of statues of crappy and kinda-crappy men being maneuvered around northern Taiwan's parks, I'll tell you that.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Not being racist is free, but some companies still insist on skirting the law

 



Update: very soon after the original post, Wistron changed their policy and now, they only lock employees in their dorms most of the time, rather than almost all the time! The new notice is above. It's not a big improvement. Do better, Wistron.

The original notice and post are below.




Over two weeks ago, the Ministry of Labor announced that companies who restrict the freedom of movement of their employees (such as factory workers in a company dormitory) are in violation of the law, and any such restrictions will be "regarded as a serious matter".

While in theory this applies to all employees, it's common knowledge in Taiwan that the dormitory residents are almost entirely (if not entirely) foreign workers from Southeast Asia, and their rights are the ones being restricted. In fact, the MOL pointed out that this is also specifically a violation of laws pertaining to hiring foreign workers, and that the company could see its permit to employ such workers, and the quota they are able to employ revoked. The UDN article above also mentions possible prison terms.

That doesn't seem to have stopped some companies, however. I knew something was amiss when I heard that some workers were being allowed out for just 45 minutes a day.  This is despite Miaoli County (the worst offender, but not the only one) being "reminded" by the central government to follow the law, and the county government subsequently ending the restrictions on foreign workers' movements. 

The government never said anything about 45 minutes a day that I could find, but it turns out these are restrictions coming from the companies. Other than a tweet from a friend that this was the news going around, I couldn't prove it until now, however. 

It seems Wistron -- a company I have worked with before, so I hope a few of my former contacts are reading this -- is one such company, restricting dormitory residents to leaving the dorms in at least one location for no longer than 60 minutes a day. You can read the notice yourself up above. It's dated July 13, so well after they would have received notification that they cannot restrict workers' freedom of movement.

Upon hearing that it was illegal to lock foreign workers in dormitories, apparently some companies are trying to skirt the law by allowing them to leave in very restricted time frames. I suspect this might still be illegal, as according to UDN the law requires "freedom of movement" and treating all workers the same regardless of nationality (which would also imply that it's illegal to restrict workers residing in dorms over ones who have their own accommodation). As most if not all dorm residents are foreign workers, it amounts to treating foreign workers differently, and still is a restriction on "freedom of movement", just a less harsh one. 

There's a good legal case to be made here that these companies are still acting illegally, and should be held accountable. (I am not a lawyer, but it certainly does seem like there's something here to go on). 

At the very least, companies like Wistron are violating the spirit of the law, if not the letter of it, and I must hope that that's not enough of a loophole to keep them out of trouble. 

It's still frustrating that there isn't much the rest of us can do about this. However, if you would like to donate to organizations fighting this sort of discrimination, you can do so here (one of the choices works with migrant workers) with a credit or debit card. This site makes it easy to do in English. If you are in Taiwan, you can make a bank transfer donation to TIWA here (TIWA is the Taiwan International Workers' Association). There's also a monthly donation option but it's a bit more complicated.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Bad Facts on the Radio

I don't take much pleasure in completely tearing apart an episode of ICRT's Taiwan This Week, which I listen to most of the time (it depends on the guests). I was tipped off, however, that this week's episode turned into a vector for disinformation -- much of which I've already dealt with -- and felt like I had to give it a listen and say something.

Friends, it is dire. (This may not appear correctly with people on phones, you might also be able to get to Taiwan This Week by scrolling here or through your podcast app. The episode in question is Golf But No Swimming).

Bad enough that I'm surprised Gavin didn't intervene to correct some of those points.

I'm a little angry. Just so you know.

Let's deal with all of the bad takes and straight up misinformation as they come along.


"A mishmash or mismatch of science -- packed MRTs but you can't go to the beach"

Frankly, it's true that it probably is safer to go to the beach than be on a crowded MRT, but no, this is not bad science. You can't wear a mask the entire time you are at the beach (try going into the water with one -- weird, huh?) and the Delta variant is so highly contagious that this is a problem. Ralph is also correct when he responds by pointing out that beaches aren't highly regulated: you can't really stop all people from disobeying the rules at all beaches. 

The MRT, however, is an essential service. People still need it, so it makes sense that that would remain open, but beaches would be closed.

If matching up the science matters (and yes, it does), restaurants and cinemas are more dangerous than beaches as they're indoors, and one should still avoid them. However, relaxing the restrictions on restaurants as long as they follow certain protocols can help avoid a catastrophic series of restaurant closures and economic turmoil. That's not true for the beaches.

In other words, it's not a "mishmash", it's a series of decisions based on what is essential to either people's lives or the economy. In that light, you may not agree with every choice the government makes. I certainly don't, I say open up the outdoors where masks are possible (yes to hiking trails, tracks etc., probably no to beaches and playgrounds -- city parks are already mostly open, just not sheltered seating areas within them), but not cinemas or restaurants. Do allow outdoor dining. However, the government's choices have some kind of logic behind them. It's reasonable to disagree, but it is not random or inexplicable.


"They're saying China interfered but they're offering no proof of that. We know the real story here, and what will get us to that 60% level is the government's hope hope that the locally vaccines will be approved for use very quickly, and that's why they were slow in purchasing. They didn't want to get stuck spending a lot of money on foreign manufactured vaccines which are a lot more money than the locally-made product, so they didn't move quickly to buy, and other countries did sign contracts and were able to buy vaccines. We all know that's what happened."

Did TVBS hire an English-speaking talking head? Because this is what it sounds like.

First, the Taiwanese government was not slow to purchase vaccines -- the only data anyone's been able to show on this is when the contracts were signed, not when negotiations for those contracts began. And it seems to me from the timing of those contracts that the Taiwanese government started to attempt to buy foreign vaccines as soon as it was able. What's more, they bought millions of doses. So what are you even talking about?

They don't need to prove that China interfered, because China itself is providing plenty of proof. Every few days or weeks, depending on the news cycle, some CCP-approved drivel comes out about how Taiwan must buy BNT from a Shanghai Fosun, and that's why they can't buy from BNT directly. China openly says so! What more proof do you need that China is interfering in the purchase of that particular vaccine?

In fact, it's easy to prove this, as Fosun refuses to apply to the Taiwan FDA to distribute German-made vaccines, and yet keeps squealing about how it has the rights to the Taiwan market. They keep saying they want to sell to Taiwan, but won't take the government-mandated steps to actually apply to do so. And yet, they are willing to negotiate with pro-China Terry Gou.

What more proof do you need? Taiwan doesn't need to give it to you, because China already has.

By the way, from my knowledge of how these sorts of negotiations work -- which is more than you'd expect as I've worked with people at relevant pharmaceutical companies -- knowing that your negotiations had been interfered with and having hard evidence of that are two different things. It's not like the Taiwanese government would have access to a phone call between a Chinese state actor and a BNT executive aggressively incentivizing BNT not to sell to Taiwan. But, they'd know through various contacts and channels that that is, in fact, what took place. 

What on earth makes anyone think China wouldn't do that? Of course they would! They pull this crap on Taiwan all the time. So it's a bit disingenuous to just not believe the government when they say they had thought they'd reached an agreement with BNT, only to have it fall apart on BNT's side at the last minute, and it's fairly clear why that would happen.

To that end, there's also no proof that Taiwan pulled out of the negotiations because the doses were "too expensive" (it's possible the earlier negotiations via third party companies did, but it's unlikely a direct government-to-manufacturer negotiation would). There is plenty of circumstantial evidence that BNT was the one who scuppered the deal. 

And why would they do that? Why would you blame Taiwan for it?

For the other vaccines, Taiwan actually did order a huge amount, so it's clearly not about money. However, they seem to be receiving them slowly due to the global shortage. That's not Taiwan's fault.

This is true for every country except the US, which has enough to go around. It's just plain fake news to make it sound like the rest of the world is getting vaccinated while Taiwan is not. Most countries one might reasonably compare to Taiwan do indeed have higher vaccination rates, but those countries didn't have to deal with China blocking their access to vaccines. Even those countries, however, are struggling to get to even 50% of the population with at least one dose:




Friends of mine from Europe to Canada to Australia are talking about how they're still waiting their turn, or have only gotten one dose -- it's not that different from Taiwan.

Here is what we should all know: Taiwan did its best to purchase foreign vaccines, but the government made two accurate predictions: first, that there would be a global shortage. This is true. Second, that due to such a shortage and Chinese pressure, they would also need to develop a local vaccine to meet its goals. This is also true.

It's also not fair to make it sound like Taiwan needed those donations for financial reasons. They needed them because the foreign vaccines they did purchase -- millions of doses! -- were slow to be delivered, and an outbreak was making that situation critical. In the meantime, China and the KMT were using that gap between outbreak and vaccine delivery to pump as much fake news into Taiwan civic discourse as they could. It had nothing to do with money, so please don't imply that was the case. 

If anything, it was also a series of political moves aimed at showing China that the US and Japan do in fact take Taiwan seriously and will step in to assist this country.

There's nothing nefarious about it, unless you get your hot takes from pan-blue political talk shows.


"There's a public perception that [the Chinese vaccine] an inferior product...on the off-chance that it were to be approved because it's been proven safe and effective in other countries so there's a lack of a medical or scientific justification to prohibit it, by the time that happens it's sufficiently far enough into the future that other vaccines will be available to Taiwan."

This is actually fairly true: Taiwanese don't want the Chinese vaccine. But the fact is that even if it were proven "safe and effective", it doesn't matter as drugs made in China are banned in Taiwan. So that would require an entire law change. 

However, it's highly inconclusive that it is indeed safe and effective (to be fair, Ralph does not say it is proven). As I've written before, data on the Chinese vaccines are highly inconclusive.

 

"When you go back, you have to do a wicked quarantine. My understanding is it's every person per room. Even children in their young teens need to sit in their own room, I don't know how they're going to do that, without any human contact except someone in a face shield who delivers meals."

The fact that the quarantine is strictly enforced now is true, but the rest is false.

There was a big swirl of fake news about this in certain circles where people were screeching about how their children would be "taken from them" and forced to quarantine separately. It sure caused many clutchings of pearls. Brand-name pearls, too! 

From my post on the issue:

[The article and press release imply] that parents may have to pay for the quarantine of children over age 12, but it says nothing about them being quarantined separately. 

This is preposterous on its face. Think about it: do you honestly believe the Taiwanese government would require that 13-year-olds quarantine separately from their parents? Is there any evidence beyond one poorly-worded article that there were ever official rules stating this?

Because this is still getting traction, however, someone called 1922 and their answer was a very clear "obviously not". Children 18 and under can quarantine with parents (I don't know if they are required to, or if you'd be allowed to arrange a separate room for your 16-year-old who will probably be just fine without you. I don't think it matters.) 

 

Please stop spreading this. It is fake and, well, surprising that people still believe it.

"I think the government wants to avoid or limit the amount of discussion about why aren't there more vaccines available in Taiwan so they're imposing the quarantine requirement on people who are returning who are vaccinated. You can debate whether the science justifies or necessitates that, but it certainly will put a downward pressure on the take-up rate to do this...it's going to be one more factor people are going to consider and...will decide it's not worth the hassle. So you have fewer people walking around Taiwan talking about 'I went to Guam and you didn't, I got vaccinated and you didn't, so by imposing these restrictions, even if they might not be necessary, you reduce the number of people who are going to do it, and you maintain some fairness in Taiwan society....as ridiculous as all of this might sound."


This is only half-true. The government is not doing this to "limit discussion of why there aren't more vaccines in Taiwan", because literally everybody is talking about that. They couldn't limit it if they tried. 

Yes, the science does back it up: vaccinated people can still be carriers and we still don't know how well each vaccine works against the Delta variant. Families can infect each other at different times, especially if one is an asymptomatic carrier. 

But that the government wants to deter travel is true. Just not for the reasons Ralph is suggesting. Rather, travel is a huge vector for infection spread, so the government doesn't want you to do it. Frankly, it's good that it's working. It makes sense to deter people from traveling. That didn't stop the pearl-clutchers from crying about these unexpected return quarantine expenses because they chose to gamble on non-essential summer trips, however. 

Additionally, to travel one needs a PCR test, and most hospitals won't or can't turn away self-paid PCR requests. That means lines are long, as are wait times, and medical professionals are tired and overworked. A doctor friend of mine said just the other day that the staff at her hospital is sick and tired of privileged ABCs coming in demanding tests for non-essential travel, when people with more immediate needs require those tests as well. (If it makes you feel better, the hospital staff absolutely do ensure those with a true need get both the test and result quickly, and the Taiwanese with US passports hoping to fly out at their leisure are indeed expected to wait.) It's a strain on the system, and smart to deter this for public health reasons, not to quash discussion. 

Seriously, do you guys honestly think the Tsai administration is composed of monsters out for their own self-interest, ready to let Taiwan burn as long as they get their way? If so, I am sure you could both get spots on 中天's Youtube channel as talking heads. Right now you sound like you're perfect for the job.


"It's mind-boggling that Taiwan is scrambling to get this [vaccination effort] together."

I'm sorry, but I don't find it to be nearly as incompetent as Ross is making it sound. It's true that some older people are struggling with the technology, but ultimately, anecdotally, people I know are ensuring their parents get registered and vaccinated or are signing up themselves if they're in a priority group without nearly the same amount of confusion as in the early days of the US program. 

I remember my brother-in-law in the US pointing out that for his parents (my in-laws), it was a fairly straightforward process to sign up and go get vaccinated. He, however, had to wait months just to hear about whether he would be able to sign up, with absolutely no notification or clarification from the government. Now, of course, anyone can because the US is flush with vaccines, but that was what it was like in the early months. It's like people have selective amnesia about this. 

For me, I was one of the lucky self-payers, and got my first dose before the program was shut down. (That program, by the way, was a very smart way to ensure those vaccines got used back when people thought there was no rush and didn't want AZ). I was given an appointment for my 2nd dose. That was cancelled due to changing recommendations on when to get the 2nd dose, and a new appointment was texted to me soon after. I'll be going in on the 22nd, and NTUH arranged it all without a hitch. 

I'm sorry, but I just don't see the incompetence or the scramble. I wouldn't call the vaccine rollout perfect, but it's not the shambling mess they're making it out to be. 



"The Taiwan government perhaps rather passively and unknowingly, they just never figured this shit out. They just...quarantines and tracing and border controls were gonna solve this until the very end of COVID. They were always talking at a higher level: when this is over we're gonna open the borders, when this is over...they were always talking as if this was never gonna hit Taiwan. So they never prepared for it."

Oh, shut up man.

Most countries that did see a big outbreak would be thrilled if they'd been able to contain it the way Taiwan has. If they "never figured this shit out", then how did Taiwan crush the outbreak it did have faster and I would say more effectively than just about anywhere else (except, perhaps, New Zealand)?

Taiwan has also done a better job of contact tracing than the US, and Taiwan locks down when it has numbers that the US thinks are good enough to open back up with. If any given county had the number of daily cases Taiwan had at the peak of its outbreak, they'd celebrate and re-open everything -- in fact, many are doing just that.

And yet, people seem to think Taiwan's handling of the outbreak has been poor. It has not. It's unfortunate that it happened and no government is perfect, but we crushed it a lot faster than just about every other country.

I stole these graphs from a Facebook friend (you know who you are) who used the same Our World in Data site that I linked to above. As you can see, it's not even close. Yes, Taiwan had an outbreak. Yes, poor rule enforcement was part of it. The government made some mistakes. But, it's still not close. Does this look passive to you?





As my friend pointed out, the only hard choice is New Zealand. Would you want the lower overall case spike of New Zealand, or the months of security of zero cases in Taiwan? It's hard to say.



* * * 

I'm going to be honest, this is where I stopped listening, because there's only so many bad takes I can handle. I don't know if the rest of the program was filled with more bad analysis, and I don't care to know. 

All I can say is, do better next time. Some of the assertions in this episode are just a trashfire of stinky hot takes. Some are straight-up disinformation: literally fake news. That's not okay. 

And if you really dislike Taiwan so much that you want to make it look like it's a bumbling mess, governed by bellends, "passive" and "can't get its shit together", refusing to see the obvious fact of Chinese attacks on Taiwan over its outbreak and the vaccine issue, then maybe look at the data before you go on ICRT and bloviate like you run the KMT Twitter account or something.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Don't buy into manufactured outrage about "Taiwan independence"

Untitled

We sit on your claws and we laugh.


A few days ago, White House coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell was asked how much "love" (for Taiwan) was "too much love" in an extremely leading question from the Asia Policy Institute (at about the 50:00 mark).  


Campbell said he was going to speak carefully about it due to the "sensitivities" involved (the sensitivities being almost entirely on the Chinese side, along with their KMT puppets), but then...didn't speak carefully. In the context of a fairly strong answer that was more of a challenge to Beijing than a rebuke to Taiwan, he dropped that the US supports a "strong unofficial relationship" with Taiwan but does "not support Taiwan independence". 

The rest of this answer is worth examining and we will get to that, but first I want to note how the KMT as well as some media outlets -- both Chinese state propaganda and real journalists -- pounced on "does not support Taiwan independence". KMT chair Johnny Chiang used this as an opportunity to say that "Taiwan independence is a path that leads nowhere" and blamed "increased tensions" between Taiwan and China on the Tsai administration, rather than China.

Quoted at length because Focus Taiwan makes its material inaccessible after a few months:

Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), chairman of Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), said Wednesday it is not feasible for Taiwan to seek independence, as it would be a futile effort.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government should recognize that the pursuit of Taiwan independence is a "path that leads to nowhere," Chiang said in a Facebook post, citing an American official's comments on the subject earlier this week....

With regard to cross-Taiwan Strait relations, Chiang said the DPP government should try to resume dialogue with Beijing, which has suspended official contact with Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning DPP took office in 2016.

Chiang said that because of the Tsai administration's policies, tensions have increased between Taipei and Beijing, resulting in regional instability.


This sounds like blaming sexual assault on "what she was wearing" rather than the actual perpetrator, or telling an abused spouse that they "must have done something to make him so angry". Which is not surprising, coming from a party that has still not fully atoned for brutalizing Taiwan for decades.

I know Johnny needs to show that his half-assed leadership of the KMT is in fact him using his whole ass, but these remarks are literally just a repetition of the CCP's position. If he is trying to convince anyone that the KMT is anything other than the pro-China party whose main platform seems to be forcing Chinese identity on Taiwan and doing Beijing's bidding, he's failing. In fact, I suspect his spirit has been broken for awhile. 

In other words, Chinese state media and the KMT reacted to this as though "does not support independence" was another way of saying "supports unification", which of course is not the case. 

I don't know what Campbell's intention was in making that remark, but my best guess is that he wanted to clarify that the US isn't intending to extend diplomatic recognition to Taiwan, while still warning China against aggression and supporting Taiwan's right not to be subjugated by China. If I'm right, he did not word it very well, but it's simply a continuation of current US policy, not a newsworthy change.

(This is not to say I agree with the policy: I would like to see full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as Taiwan. That, however, is another issue.)

The international media jumped on it as well, with Nikkei Asia posting a mostly-reasonable article with a clickbait headline: 





The article itself mentions China's increasingly aggressive tactics in the context of Asia as a whole and that Campbell also stressed Taiwan's right to "live in peace", but leaves out key components of that same quote: that any move by China to destabilize that peace would be "catastrophic", and that other allies such as Japan were also worried about China's increased aggression and destabilization tactics. 

As such, it sounded more like the Asia Nikkei writer was cribbing South China Morning Post (a de facto CCP propaganda outlet) or the Global Times (a de jure CCP propaganda outlet) than writing real news.

As the Tsai administration has not actually shown any intention of declaring de jure independence this is a warning to China, not Taiwan, but you wouldn't know that from reading this article or listening to the KMT. 

Fortunately, other news outlets such as The Guardian and The Independent got it right:





Still others didn't seem to report on it at all (these are the only major media outlets I can find which covered the story, all others seem to be Taiwan-based or Chinese state media). 

However, the decontextualized pull-quote stirred up a "US doesn't support Taiwan" frenzy in Taiwan and China, making it sound like the US supports Taiwan not being independent. This is -- as with my last post -- exactly how disinformation works. A nugget of something real is blown up or twisted into something not quite right, then that is twisted into the most incendiary form possible. That very straw man doesn't need much of a spark to start a massive blaze turns into "the news" and people believe it like it's true.

But, again, think about it logically: Taiwan is already independent. Independence is not some future thing that one can support or oppose. It's the fact of what Taiwan is, right now. Does Canada need to declare independence? Argentina? Botswana? No. So why would Taiwan?

In fact, Tsai has already said it: "Taiwan is an independent country, and its name is the Republic of China." Every element of this is true: Taiwan is independent, it meets all the criteria to be a country, and as of this moment, its official name is the Republic of China.

Did China attack at that statement? No. Did the US pull their support? No -- they've strengthened it. So how could the US "not support independence"? 

So what is it that the US opposes exactly -- the fact of Taiwanese independence (clearly not true as they still maintain unofficial ties and sell Taiwan weapons), or a formal declaration of it? Clearly the latter.

Given the fact that Taiwan is already a sovereign state separate from the government almost everyone recognizes as China, in the context of the rest of Campbell's comments and US policy generally, what he clearly meant is that the US does not support Taiwan declaring that fact formally (Tsai's words a year or so ago weren't a formal declaration of anything).

It was poorly worded, but at its core it was a reiteration of what US policy has been for awhile: to support Taiwan's de facto independence while cautioning it against declaring de jure independence. And the DPP seems to be in agreement that this need not happen for Taiwan to, well, simply be independent which it already is.

So why is this news? It's not on the DPP's agenda, but the CCP and KMT are making it sound like it is.

The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated this following Campbell's remarks and the 么八吵 screeching that ensued from the KMT and CCP: 

“ROC Taiwan is a sovereign nation, not part of the PRC; that is a fact as well as the ‘status quo,’” she said.

The government has been cautiously handling cross-strait relations based on a steady and practical attitude, while defending its liberal democracy and striving for more opportunities to participate in international affairs, Ou said.

Basically, it's a big fat nothingburger. 

Soon after, the US clarified its stance, reaffirming that it emphasizes peace in the Taiwan Strait, and that the warning is to China. 


The U.S. State Department on Wednesday reiterated that the use of force by any party to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait will be a "profound mistake."

In a news briefing, Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, cited U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as saying: "It would be a profound mistake by any party to try and remake that status quo with the use of force."

He did not mention China, but the statement was seen as a veiled message aimed at Beijing. China has said it wants peaceful reunification, but it has not renounced the use of force to reunify, and has threatened to crush attempts to achieve formal independence for Taiwan or interference by foreign countries.

Price's remarks were made after Kurt Campbell, the U.S. White House coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, said earlier this week that any Chinese move against Taiwan will be catastrophic and the Biden administration is sending a clear message of deterrence against China's aggression.

In other words, nothing has changed. 

How could it be anything other than a warning to China, not Taiwan? Taiwan does want peace. It wants to peacefully exist as the country it already is, and it would even be preferable, if possible, to have good relations with China on a nation-to-nation basis. That is, for China to stop threatening war and respect Taiwan. The Tsai administration has been clear on this since the beginning.

So when Johnny "But I'm using my whole ass!" Chiang tries to re-frame it as some sort of warning to the DPP, he's showing the KMT's true colors: marionettes that dance to the CCP's tune. In fact, the Global Times even praised Chiang's response (yes, I linked it, but you don't need to click). 

And that's just it: Taiwan doesn't need to declare independence! There is literally nothing to see here!

This has been the Tsai administration's strategy for awhile: ensuring Taiwan's current sovereignty and dignity as it governs itself apart from China, and ignoring the manufactured problem of whether Taiwan needs a formal declaration of what is already the case. Fundamentally, this is a pro-independence strategy. 

US support for Taiwan is not dangerous. Taiwan's continued independence is not dangerous. You know what is dangerous?

Assuming that every Taiwan independence supporter believes a "declaration" of independence is necessary, and absent it, one must not "support independence". That makes "independence" sound like some sort of extreme position that could "start a war" (it won't be -- China will be the one to start the war), rather than a simple recognition of what is true, and the mainstream consensus in Taiwan: that Taiwanese people identify as Taiwanese, not Chinese, and that they want to keep the sovereignty that they already have. 

In fact, asserting this -- independence for Taiwan must mean a provocative formal declaration -- amounts to taking one's cues from CCP propaganda. It serves to sideline, not support, independence. 

It's not just KMTers and Chinese state media that do this. Older DPPers buy into it as well, which sets a bad precedent (and also implies, at least to me, that Chen-era heavyweights and New Tide faction members should not and cannot be the party's future). 

From those zealous archivers, Focus Taiwan:

Taiwan has to face the reality that the decision on whether to officially declare independence cannot be made by Taiwanese alone given the possible reaction of China and United States opposition, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heavyweight Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) said Sunday....
However, Chou also said the ultimate policy goal for the DPP is to push for Taiwan independence and the goal is clearly stated in the party charter....
Nevertheless, Chiou stressed that "now is not an appropriate time" to declare Taiwan independence.

Can we please just not consider people like Chiou to be the thought leaders on what it means for Taiwan to be independent? 

Again, Taiwanese independence exists now. It does not need to be declared. Nobody with any real power is considering a formal declaration; in fact, nobody in power seems to think it is necessary (which, again, it is not).

So it does not matter if "now is an appropriate time". Nobody who really matters was discussing whether it was. Why is Chiou helping the KMT and CCP in building this absolutely massive straw man, implying Tsai is considering moves that she clearly isn't, and that the US doesn't support these non-existent moves?

Of course, Taiwan not only needs to maintain its current independence from China. It also needs to shed the ROC colonial structure that binds it, which can be considered another form of "independence". Someday, when it is more possible to do so, Taiwan would do well to shed ROC identity, amend the constitution and change the name and flag of the country. That time need not be now. 

However, when people think of "Taiwanese independence", most don't think of freedom from the ROC. They think of separate governance from the PRC. When those who aren't well-versed in Taiwanese affairs hear that the US is "against" independence, or it is implied that independence must somehow be declared, as though Taiwan is already under some sort of PRC governance and "independence" would change that, it's easy to classify Taiwan as somehow "separatist" -- a word with a mostly negative connotation in the international media -- when that is simply not the case. 

So please, let's all just stop. Let's stop pretending independence from the PRC is not a reality. Let's stop pretending that independence requires a formal declaration. Let's stop pretending it is an extreme or fringe viewpoint. The current status quo is Taiwan's sovereignty from the PRC, period. It is pretty mainstream. It's only sensitive because China makes it sensitive. It's not scary, or dangerous.

Treating it any other way is playing the CCP's game, confusing the world about whether Taiwan is a part of their China or not (it's not).

Let's also stop confusing the issues of independence from the PRC (already a fact) with shedding the ROC colonial structure (yet to be achieved, but not the same as "independence" as it is most practically defined.)

And let's stop pretending even peaceful unification with China is possible under any circumstances. It is not.

It creates inflammatory media cycles that never needed to happen, and only confuse international readers more. 

To put it another way: Taiwan independence won't cause tensions to magically be enrisen-ified. Taiwan is already independent.

Deal with it.