Thursday, September 28, 2023

Good commentary about bad eggs

There's no reason for using this photo. I just like it.

I've been trying to write something about Artsakh but just can't seem to get my head in the right place. In the meantime, I wanted to share some commentary from others on my last post about the ridiculous egg "scandal". I don't necessarily agree with every comment, so I'll offer some thoughts about each. 

First up, we have my favorite comment, which clarified an idea that had been bouncing around in my head but I couldn't seem to articulate properly (plus, I didn't know all of the details). This was a comment (on my public Facebook post, so not anonymous) by political scientist and blogger Nathan Batto, whom you might know as Frozen Garlic. 

What drives me nuts is that everyone seems to be saying that this is corruption because it didn't match regular market efficiencies. Thing is, there was a huge international market failure, so the markets weren't efficient to start with. [Emphasis mine].  

International chicken feed was very expensive for several reasons including climate crises in several locales and the Ukrainian crisis. , so chicken farmers stopped producing so many eggs across the globe. There's a reason they had to source eggs from Brazil, which is not the normal place that Taiwan buys eggs. I might be wrong but I don't think Taiwan usually imports many eggs at all. I don't think Taiwan has a whole lot of companies with expertise in importing eggs who were clamoring for this particular contract. The government was trying to make sure that there were eggs on supermarket shelves at a reasonable price in short order in the midst of a fucked up international market. And you know what, they managed to do that. Was the process perfect? No. But All in all, this should be seen as a policy success, not a calamitous failure. [Again, emphasis mine]. 

It's the same sort of thing for the Medigen vaccine. At the time, governments across the world were not worried about getting best value for their investment . They wanted a vaccine immediately, and they didn't really care how much it cost. Remember, the United states program was called "warp speed," not "don't waste a penny." Taiwan wanted a vaccine, and it was willing to invest some money to get one. And they got one that worked pretty well . It wasn't as good as Moderna or Pfizer, but if you remember those were unbelievably effective vaccines by most common vaccine metrics. Lots of big pharmaceutical companies and countries tried to produce a vaccine and either failed or came up with something pretty lousy. Taiwan, which didn't have a huge pharmaceutical industry to start with and was using this in part as an opportunity to kick start an industry, produced a reasonably good product in a reasonably short time. This is a policy success!

If you're looking for institutionalized corruption, these are not examples you want.

Yes, exactly. As far as I know importing eggs at all is unusual; they're a delicate product, prone to breakage, and they do expire. I'm no agriculture expert, though, so that's just an educated guess. I have felt in the past that Taiwanese voters have high expectations, and international observers tend to adopt that stance as well. That is, when Taiwan performs well -- or outperforms just about everyone else -- if there is some small imperfection or fault in said performance, it's cause for heavy criticism. Medigen is a great example; Taiwan succeeded where most countries failed. They kept COVID at bay long enough to develop a vaccine, and then developed a pretty good vaccine! And yet, because KMT-led media scares and lack of international approval (thanks, you WHO fuckers) kept people from accepting the domestic vaccines, suddenly it was a bad idea? China was praised for rolling out mass vaccinations with a formula that does not work, but Taiwan developed an effective one, yet got hit with a fake news cyclone? Give me a goddamn break. 

With the egg shortage, Taiwan actually did what a lot of wealthier countries failed to do; it got eggs on shelves at reasonable prices. Given that eggs are an affordable source of protein and a great deal of them are consumed in Taiwan daily, we can speculate that they're an important source of nutrition especially for low-income families. The "reasonable prices" thing is actually central to that issue. 

This brings me to the next comment, which I don't agree with.  There's a little more to this conversation, and you can read it here if you like

The egg problem is easily solved. Simply remove the price cap. That’s one of the principal reasons these shortages happened to begin with.

I have libertarian friends who would agree with this. Without arguing about price caps and their role in the market in general, I don't think this would have been a good solution to the egg shortage specifically. Besides, the shortage was due to a screwed up market, high chicken feed prices and bird flu outbreaks, not low prices per se. Most of the world has suffered egg shortages in the last few years, and not all of those countries have price caps. 

First, this would have allowed egg prices to skyrocket, perhaps to double or more. If eggs matter to low-income families (and I believe they do), then all this does is get a few more eggs on shelves, but at a cost beyond the reach of the consumers who need them most. So unless the goal is to "let them eat steak", I don't really see how this solves the central problem. 

There is one thing I do agree with: the shortage might have been somewhat alleviated -- just somewhat! -- by higher prices only insofar as it might have dissuaded the higher-income egg hoarders. Remember when supermarkets were putting limits on the number of cartons of eggs each individual could buy? Well, at least in my area, families would send different household members separately to buy their "share", resulting in egg gluts for some, and no eggs for others. Then, of course, social media was flooded with posts asking what to do with all the hoarded eggs that were about to expire. 

I understand the impulse to stock up on eggs, but this is behavior is both selfish and stupid, in the long run. Fortunately, plenty of people recognized the very good reasons not to hoard eggs, so not everyone engaged in it. 

But as with Medigen, where the objective was "fast, effective vaccines", not 'saving money", people misunderstood the goal. The goal wasn't just "eggs back on shelves", it was "eggs on shelves at prices low-income families could afford". If that matters -- and I believe it does in this case -- then removing price caps isn't a solution. 

My libertarian friends would argue that price caps push purchasing power down in the long run. I won't comment on the general argument as I'm not an economist, but for this particular shortage, I disagree. 

A friend of mine pointed this out in a Facebook message -- I'll keep them anonymous as it wasn't a public post: 

I don't get it either, the government prevents any mislabeled or bad eggs from getting into the food supply, and that is somehow a sign of incompetence? Meanwhile, in the past our past administrations let us eat gutter oil and that's not a bad thing?

The gutter oil, as far as I know, was from private food companies, and this policy was from the government. However, I otherwise agree completely. It was the government's job to regulate food safety and ensure something like 'gutter oil' would never be used in food. They failed -- and that was the Ma administration, so it was a KMT failure. 

And yet the KMT have the absolute bloody stones to yell at the DPP for averting any food safety catastrophes? 

The lot of 'em can bite me. 

Finally, although I'm working towards quitting Twitter (or only posting blog links), an interesting comment

I don't think DPP are so faultless. There's been egg shortages for 2 years now. They've been in power for 8 years.  Taiwan is a rich country. It should be able to supply itself with such a basic commodity as eggs.

Sure, though again, the entire world was struggling to supply itself with eggs. Wealthier countries than Taiwan had egg shortages that persisted far longer, or had eggs, but they cost astronomical sums (which isn't that much better). However, I agree that the DPP could have done more of this successful policy.

I do worry that this is another case of criticizing Taiwan for not performing perfectly, when it's actually outperformed most of the world. Beyond that, in local media (not from this particular commenter) I feel again that the two-party double standard seems to be in hyperdrive. 

The KMT fucks up so much. They couldn't conduct reasonable trade relations with China. They let Taiwan's defenses fall into disarray. They let people eat gutter oil. The last time they did anything major for Taiwan's infrastructure was...well, I can't remember when, but it might just have been the Ten Big Projects.

And yet, they attack DPP successes -- for being not enough of a success, or not a success in the exact way they insist it should have been (which they're usually wrong about). Or, they paint a DPP success as a failure, and the media runs with it, and suddenly people think DPP domestic policy is terrible and the KMT are better administrators. They are not -- at best, the two parties are about the same on domestic policy and local development, and the DPP has a clear edge in international relations and the general consensus about Taiwan's sovereignty. 

When this is pointed out to light blues (people who might be willing to concede that the KMT isn't perfect, but will vote for them), one often gets a "yeah, well, the DPP sold themselves on being idealists but they're just as corrupt!" Nobody thinks the DPP is free of corruption, but this is a very weak argument. It doesn't prove that the KMT runs Taiwan better. "The other guy sucks too" arguments don't stand up well, especially when the other guy actually sucks a lot less, but you want to make their successes look like failures to win elections. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A bunch of bad eggs


This big snake covered in money lives in a Burmese temple, but it's what I picture when I think of the KMT.

Imagine spending three weeks traveling in the US and Canada -- San Francisco, Las Vegas (for a wedding), the Grand Canyon, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria -- complete with a break from Taiwanese current events, simply because maintaining good health requires lots of breaks. 

Then you return only to see memes and cartoons of the Minister of Agriculture on Facebook. No government job strikes you as less glamorous, but here we are, all because "a number of controversies" popped up about an egg import scheme the government enacted during the Great Egg Shortage of early 2023, and the subsequent resignation of Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲).

As a newly-minted diabetic who was diagnosed just as the Great Egg Shortage was ramping up, eggs became both a cornerstone of your diet, and also the bane of your existence; they were nearly impossible to find. 

That's where I was coming from with all this, and I still struggled to care. It had the whiff of a bogus controversy propped up by exaggerated creative storytelling. 

After looking into it, it still reads as a big fat nothing-omelet. I'd like to talk about why, with a quick caveat: I've done a lot of reading, but I'm still extraordinarily jetlagged and honestly, can't be particularly arsed. So a lot of this is just my opinion in an intentionally casual tone, with maybe some links sprinkled in if my arse decides to...arse. I'm only really writing about it because it's a good example of what happens when the important opposition function of keeping the ruling party accountable devolves into any ol' random attack. Besides, as above, I care about eggs perhaps a little bit more than most people. 

Most English-language news doesn't offer much in the way of actually describing the "various controversies", and the Mandarin-language news is breathlessly reporting all sorts of bullshit, so it took awhile to find anything meaningful.

The Taipei Times points out that a large number of the egg imports expired and had to be destroyed as domestic supply stabilized, and the subsequent waste totaled about US$6.25 million. (TaiwanPlus attributed that number to the total cost of the import project). Other eggs had to be destroyed as the wrong expiration date was printed on them, but the total number doesn't seem to be very high, and no expired eggs were sold to the public. 

Some questioned the nature of a company who got the import contract -- apparently they're new and don't have a lot of capital -- implying there was corruption afoot without actually saying so, probably due to lack of evidence. There's (frankly insane) insinuations that "maybe" there is a "money issue", again with no proof or even a hint that such proof might exist. Others are calling Chen "Tsai's Boy".

One KMT legislator accused the DPP of waiting to designate Brazil as a bird flu outbreak zone, but those familiar with the imports noted that the eggs in question left Taiwan before the outbreak began. 

None of this seems like a particularly big deal to me. US$6 million sounds like a lot, but on the scale of government budgets it's not really. Nobody bought, ate or got sick from expired eggs. 20,000 mislabeled eggs is unfortunate, but it still just...doesn't sound like a lot? Big recalls are often much, much more sweeping than that.

Even pan-green media are publishing opinion pieces admitting that the issue isn't "about the truth of the egg import turmoil", saying Chen was right to step down as an issue of "ministerial integrity". How, exactly, Chen lacks "integrity" is not explained -- and I can't see that he indeed lacks it. The writer cobbled this (non) issue together with a previous thesis plagiarism scandal by an entirely different person, but I don't see how they're related. One is actually a breach of public trust. Importing eggs and having some of them go bad isn't. 

From a political perspective, stepping down was probably the right move in an election year, but not because he did anything wrong. This is just...what happens when a furor is made -- manufactured, really -- right before an election. I don't think it's anything more complicated than that. 

And yet, it's all over the news. The public is mostly dissatisfied over the government's handling of the whole thing, but I honestly can't find anything to be that upset about. In fact, nobody seemed that dissatisfied when the imports started flowing in and eggs became available again. I, for one, was overjoyed! There are very few foods I can stomach for breakfast that won't spike my blood sugar; without eggs, I didn't really have other good options.

I know Taiwanese voters have very high expectations, resulting in satisfaction rates that seem low by any other standard, but come on.

So here's my extremely biased (but to my mind accurate) take on the whole thing. The KMT would desperately like for there to be a real scandal to take down the DPP. They'd love it if the DPP actually took a major misstep or two. There are even things they could say about Tsai's tenure that I'm not entirely happy with either. Low wages and lack of paid time off for Taiwanese workers, a failure to meaningfully address Taiwan's increasingly broken water and energy systems, lack of sufficient forward movement on migrant exploitation -- and that's just off the top of my head. Knowing they can't promise to do any better and the public likely won't be whipped up into a frenzy over them, however, the KMT leaves those alone and goes for eggs.

After all, a great way to get a lot of Taiwanese voters angry very quickly is to imply there's something dangerous about the food supply. It never fails. 

Nevermind that the DPP has pledged to subsidize improvements in hatcheries to circumvent future potential shortages, something the KMT never seems to have done after past shortages have sounded warning bells about the state of the domestic egg industry. (If I'm wrong about this and the KMT has actually tried to help farmers upgrade their equipment, let me know, but I don't recall this ever being addressed). 

When a party acts as the opposition -- something the KMT never learned how to properly do -- their chief mandate is to hold the ruling party accountable. I haven't seen the KMT actually do this. Where is the push for better energy and water supply solutions? Where is the push for stronger defense forces? Where is the push for pay, working conditions and affordable housing that will encourage people to start families, along with improved immigration procedures as Taiwan's population ages? Where is the push for an improved social safety net?

Oh yeah, right, the KMT doesn't actually care about any of that. Energy doesn't matter because they just want nuclear -- but don't care enough to build public trust that the plants are safe, or safer plants with waste storage solutions that don't infringe on Indigenous land rights. They don't care about water, because...well, I don't know why but this issue is pretty fundamental so I assume it's because they don't care about Taiwan. They don't care about birthrates because they fundamentally don't understand why people aren't having children (I've heard discussions of this on talk shows and it's always some inane bullshit about 'kids these days' -- no, idiots, people need enough money and a good place to fucking live). They don't care about defense or stopping information warfare or cybersecurity because they want Taiwan to be subjugated by China.

So they turn to eggs, and take a non-issue to stir up some fucking bullshit election "controversy", pushing a good man to step down and falsely causing their base to believe there's some sort of scary danger in the food supply when there was none. Failing that, the most famously corrupt party in Taiwan's history implies DPP corruption without proof.

Not that the DPP doesn't have corruption -- of course it does -- but probably not in this specific instance.

And now egg prices are rising again. I've also noticed fewer eggs available at grocery stores -- great. What the hell does the KMT suggest be done about it? Nothing, it seems. 

And what else was the DPP supposed to do about the egg shortage? Just let prices remain high and eggs scarce? Taiwan apparently eats 20 million eggs a day -- I can't remember which media reported that number, but it's in one of the links above. That's almost one egg per person. They're important to the Taiwanese diet, and it makes sense to import when domestic production is adversely affected.

It's like the Medigen "controversy" all over again. Imply there was some corrupt dealing around imported vaccines, with no real proof. Then imply Medigen doesn't work (it does). Then imply that vaccines, not COVID itself, are the real danger (wrong, and dangerous). Then COVID waves continue to roll in and we're not as prepared as we could be. 

All because of a few bad eggs. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023



Something about this sculpture from Thailand being just a few body parts feels apropos

Content note: this post contains some descriptions of a health issue and its treatment. If such things make you uneasy, you may not want to read ahead. 

“In Taiwan this would have been resolved by now,” I huffed. “Fixed in less than a day. Ouch…ew!

Brendan mumbled in agreement but did not look; only parents of sick young children and trained medical professionals should have to witness the drama playing out on my right thumb. We were in Portland, Oregon, at the dining room table of our friend’s mother-in-law, and I was doing some very gross things with my miniature medical mis-en-place. 

During the Las Vegas segment of our Great West Coast Tour (to New Englanders like us, Vegas counts as “West Coast”) I developed what appeared to be a mild case of paronychia. An infection around the nail. By the day of my brother-in-law’s wedding it was clearly not resolving itself. I bandaged it for our trip to the Grand Canyon because it hurt to touch anything without warning. 

When we reached Portland, the side of my thumb had puffed from pink to a furious red. My basic travel medical kit didn’t have the means to deal with this; I needed antibiotics.

“I just really don’t want to deal with the American medical system,” I said, even though we had travel medical insurance. 

We flew to Portland to visit old college friends. Someone produced Epsom salts; I submerged my thumb as Brendan cut up a dinner salad, my friends and I complained about politics and we all kept an eye on the kids. 

When I lifted my thumb out of the hot Epsom mug, my thumb had puffed up to sci-fi proportions. My finger had quite literally gone pear-shaped. A little white bulb of pus had gathered under the skin next to the nail.

My friend’s recommended urgent care clinic didn’t seem to be covered by our travel insurance. I called the insurer for a recommendation and was given a code to use for another one; it didn’t work. The provider tried to help, but ultimately sent us back to the insurance company, who confirmed that it never actually works and we’d have to pay out of pocket and submit a claim. We weren’t looking at huge sums of money, but I didn’t really want to submit something after the fact when it might get rejected. We tried another in-network provider and set up an online appointment for the next day, but then once again found that they couldn’t actually locate our provider information. At that point I was desperate — I could barely type. 

The whole affair took an entire evening, just to find a provider and make an appointment.  

The online consultation was fairly straightforward: I clearly had a paronychia, and I needed antibiotics. The nurse practitioner prescribed some and recommended I either come in to have it lanced, or I do it myself at home. 

“What does it cost to come in?” I asked. 

“It starts at $99,” she said. On top of the hundred bucks I paid for the consultation. 


That’s how I found myself at a dining room table laying out alcohol wipes, cotton pads and needles on a bed of tissues. I sterilized a needle and gently lanced the white bit. It didn’t hurt, which was probably a bad sign. 

The pus came out in fat yellow drops, staining the cotton pads a freaky green color. The pharmacy wouldn’t open until 11am, giving me plenty of time to relieve as much pressure as possible on my poor pear-shaped thumb. The result felt weirdly hollow, like a drained blister, but deeper under the skin. 

With our friend’s husband working the next day, we couldn’t fit into her car with the two children’s car seats. So we took an Uber to CVS while she drove the kids to a nearby cafe with big couches, with plans to meet there once I’d procured the antibiotics. 

Total time spent: six days from when I would have seen a doctor in Taiwan to when I actually saw one in the US. As I write this, the infection has not completely cleared; I feel like I have a shrinking cystic zit under my thumb pad. 

Total money spent: $140 US dollars, including the online consultation, two Uber rides and antibiotics. That’s on top of an insurance premium for three weeks of coverage that cost four times what we pay in Taiwan each month for National Health Insurance, and their actually covering it is not yet assured. 

Here’s how it would have gone in Taiwan: the same day I realized the infection wasn’t resolving itself as expected, I would have likely seen a doctor within walking distance or a short ride away on public transportation. In a hurry, I might have taken taxis for a total of about US$10. I would have immediately been given antibiotics and the doctor likely would have done a better job lancing it than I had. 

There would have been no question of National Health Insurance covering it. That’s why it exists. The appointment and the antibiotics would have cost about US$5. 

In the US we were lucky to be staying with friends for most of our trip (which is, of course, how we could afford it). We thus had immediate access to basic medical supplies. However, there should have been no need to wait that long to decide medical attention was necessary — letting the infection get a little out of control — spend that much time finding a provider, spend that much money and then lance it myself. 

In Taiwan it would have been a non-issue.

The mundanity of all this is the point: I’m telling you this gross little story exactly because it’s so banal. My only personal experience with the American medical system in 18 years was, in fact, not terrible. I needed medical care and got it, and the cost was something I could afford. That’s frankly unusual, and I was extremely lucky. 

But here’s the thing — even a not-terrible, incredibly boring (yet pus-filled) outcome was still worse in the US than it would have been in Taiwan. It’s easy to point to medical horror stories in the US and compare them to the rest of the developed world: impossible bills, long emergency room waits, avoiding ambulances because you can’t afford them, drugs you break the bank to pay for, long appointment lead times. 

Comparing a fairly good US outcome to Taiwan and still seeing the US come up short? I think that says something. Even when the American medical system basically works, it can’t compete with a small island nation that only recently developed and democratized. You don’t need a horror story to prove this. What is so thoroughly wrong with the US that it can’t even treat a simple paronychia without undue expense and stress?

We were ultimately charged for the consultation, and now have to figure out whatever complicated procedure is required to submit a claim, which may or may not be rejected. 

This should not happen, and in Taiwan it would not happen.

The US delivered a thoroughly acceptable treatment for my messed-up hand, and it was still more expensive, time-consuming and complicated than the same thing would have been in Taiwan. Frankly, that looks really bad for the US. 

Monday, September 4, 2023


Squid in the air, still tied to something 

“Do you have a plan if things go sideways in Taiwan?” 

One of my oldest friends asks us this as he zips us to the BART station from his home in central Oakland. A pair of committed northeasterners settled permanently in Taipei, we’re properly visiting the West Coast for the first time as part of a trip for my brother-in-law’s wedding. 

It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this, and it will be far from the last. Most people assume we’ll leave if things get sketchy; this friend knows me well enough to know that’s not necessarily the case, and thus asks a more open-ended question. 

It’s hard to put this into words, though. I stumble around an insufficient lexicon, muttering about planning to stay — I’m not much of a fighter but I guess I could grow sweet potatoes — and reassuring him that if we were ever forced to leave, really truly forced, we have options. They're not very good options, but it remains that we have them.

It doesn’t need to be said that many in Taiwan would not. 

I slide sideways into a summary of my thought process over the past few years: you know how there are foreigners willing to fight for Ukraine? Well, Taiwan is my home, I’m willing to fight for it. Besides, if I don’t stand up for what’s right in the place I call home, can I claim to stand for anything at all? Certainly I can’t seriously talk about democracy and human rights if I won’t fight for them where I actually live. 

And yet, do I owe my life to a country that won’t give me a passport? That feels weird, too. 

There’s no end to this spirograph of questions, it just whips you around into some complicated, unending holding pattern. 

He’d asked earlier if we were citizens yet. I said no, we’re permanent residents (“like a green card, though we get privileges, not rights exactly, we can’t vote and its very hard to get approved for a mortgage or even a line of credit”). 

It’s not bad, I clarified. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. But it still feels off — a Chinese-American whose grandparents were ROC citizens who never set foot in Taiwan and have only a tenuous relationship to Taiwanese history and none to Taiwanese culture is considered a dual national by default. We’ve invested most of our adult lives in Taiwan and are considered more foreign than that. I know, I know, not every country has birthright citizenship. I wouldn’t call it unfair exactly, except you know what? It feels unfair. 

“I actually have considered renouncing,” I say over coffee by Lake Merritt. “We don’t plan to move back, and even if we did, with my diabetes I don’t see how we could. I could not possibly afford my medication without a corporate-type job and I am deeply unsuited to exactly that.” 

The truth is, I can’t renounce. Brendan theoretically could; he was lucky enough to have been born in Canada and has that sweet sweet dual birthright citizenship. 

The reasons are simple: I’m too filial. What if my Dad needs help? My in-laws? Being allowed to visit for set periods but not work would be insufficient. I won’t give up my ability to potentially care for aging relatives; something you’d think the Taiwanese government would understand (but apparently doesn’t). 

What’s more, if China invaded and actually won, renouncers like us — well, me — would have no citizenship at all. I can’t think of much that would be as bad or worse than being a citizen of the PRC, but being stateless is quite undesirable. Even if I wanted to be a PRC citizen (I absolutely don’t), it’s doubtful I’d be allowed to do so. 

I did not say: this confluence of events has altered the course of my life in ways I could not have easily predicted. 

It's difficult to fully explain, so I avoid the discussion with anyone who seems to have overly binary thinking. 

I hadn’t known when I moved to Taiwan that I would want to stay. It certainly had not occurred to me that I’d care enough to consider fighting if China did ever start a war. But more than that, the slender exceptions that have opened for dual nationality have done nothing but throw into sharp focus how weird the whole situation is. 

Sat squarely in the middle of my thought process is this strait gait and narrow path, and how I might get on it. As an educator with an advanced degree who primarily works with Taiwanese teachers and their professional development, you’d think I’d qualify. I don’t. 

Educators not only have to be associate professors and prove some specific contribution to Taiwan, but also get their university to do the required paperwork to recommend them. Some succeed; I’ve heard stories of others who don’t simply because their university doesn’t care to support them. 

For awhile, I thought I’d just get my PhD and pursue that path. Getting accepted to a program wouldn’t be particularly hard — the director of my MEd program all but assured me I’d have a seat if I applied — but funding would be. 

Soon after, I had the opportunity to travel around Taiwan and talk to many university lecturers, professors and second language acquisition specialists. Almost all of them bore ill news: the only people doing anything remotely like what I do at the university level who also have tenure-track positions are actually professors of Linguistics or English Literature. If you have a background specifically in Education — not to mention Applied Foreign Languages — the best you’re likely to do is an annual contract, if not adjunct work. I met two exceptions; they prove the rule.

Forget that neither of those paths offer enough in terms of benefits and remuneration for the work required, or for me to give up my freelance career in which I never have to confront my deep-seated issues with authority. 

Neither of them are sufficient to qualify for dual nationality, so what exactly would be the point of doing a PhD if I want to stay in Taiwan? It wouldn’t get me the job I need to attain dual nationality, which under the current law I will never qualify for. It isn’t necessary for what I do now. I don't really want the jobs it could get me.

So why do it, putting in all that blood, sweat, toil, tears — not to mention money I don’t really have and don’t think I should have to spend? (To me, any PhD worth doing is a PhD someone else pays for.) 

I can’t think of a reason, so I haven’t applied. I likely never will. 

Who knew that deciding on Taiwan as our home would have repercussions not just regarding work and citizenship, but education? 

None of these issues has an endpoint. None of the questions has answers. It’s not quite tragic enough to merit sustained media coverage, not quite common enough to be a society-wide problem. It affects me and a small group of otherwise-privileged, mostly Western immigrants in Taiwan. It’s easy to be dismissive — you’d never have to fight, you’ll never be Taiwanese, you’re just here for your own benefit — and I won’t even say that these are entirely untrue. I wouldn’t have to fight, if I didn’t want to. I’ll never be culturally Taiwanese. As much as I want my being in Taiwan to be something good for Taiwan, living here does benefit me as well. It’s a tad specious to pretend none of it matters because a white lady like me will be alright no matter what, but it’s also not quite wrong. 

Yet wondering whether I’ll ever have access to something people with even less exposure to Taiwanese culture are entitled to, realizing that I can’t imagine a world where I ran away from Taiwan at the moment of her greatest crisis, and knowing that it will still never be enough no matter how impossible renunciation is for me? 

To stay in Taiwan, I've renounced quite a bit. Perhaps nothing tragic; can I really whine about career paths I did not take when I'm more or less happy in the one I've chosen? Who cares that I'll never be an academic simply because a reasonable version of that job, for me, does not exist here? I am salty about renouncing my chances for ever being a full citizen of the country I live in, though I'm not sure I have a right to be. Even though I couldn't really live in the US again, I did choose this. 

Whatever, y'know? All I can do is renounce the whole damn debate. I don't really care about anyone's silly opinion on whether or not I will or should fight in any potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It doesn't matter how I should feel, or what makes me one of the "good" immigrants, or whether I'm happy or grateful enough. I feel how I feel, I made the choices I made, I am where I am, and I don't have any answers beyond that.