Showing posts with label foreign_policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label foreign_policy. Show all posts

Monday, March 11, 2019

Even policy wonks legitimize China and delegitimize Taiwan

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Something very specific has been bothering me about this policy paper on "Taiwan's Democracy and the China Challenge", published in 2018 by Richard Bush and Ryan Hass.

For awhile, I couldn't pinpoint what didn't sit right, but despite seeming like a wonkish paper that ostensibly made recommendations in Taiwan's best interest, it somehow seemed to do the opposite.

After some thought, I've isolated what's wrong. Take a look at some of the language from the very end of the paper, quoted below.

To China, they say:

Take seriously the views of the Taiwan public (however discordant they may sometimes seem) and the centrality of the democratic system through which those views are expressed (despite its weaknesses). If China is ultimately to achieve its objectives concerning Taiwan, that will require fundamental changes, which in some cases will require amendments to the ROC constitution, which in turn can only occur if there is a very broad public consensus that those changes are in their interests. (Emphasis mine).

To Taiwan, among other more reasonable things, they say:
Maintain a consistent declaratory policy of not supporting Taiwan independence and opposing efforts by either side of the Taiwan Strait to alter the status quo.

The problem is that these two pieces of advice take for granted that China "ultimately achiev[ing] its objectives” is seen as a possible fair outcome, but in which the objective of Taiwan must be opposed.

This is a clear double standard, treating Beijing’s goals as acceptable and Taiwan’s as mere provocation, and reframes Taiwanese de jure independence as a goal of the government, not the will of the people.

And it is the will of the people. Data consistently shows support for Taiwan maintaining its sovereignty. This is expressed as "support for the status quo", but everyone knows that the status quo not a permanent solution and cannot hold forever, as China has made it clear that it will invade Taiwan if it must (or if Taiwan takes too long in surrendering everything it has fought for - freedom, democracy, human rights, gender equality, same-sex marriage, all of it).

The status quo also describes a state in which Taiwan is already sovereign. In other words, what these polls show is that Taiwanese want to keep the sovereignty they already enjoy and already see themselves as independent.

Consider this alongside consistent lack of support for unification with China, and this survey showing that a majority of Taiwanese would fight in the event of a Chinese invasion (I don't know how sound or flawed the survey was, but my anecdotal experience supports the results). Consider as well the fact that Taiwanese people are still not given a way to express their desire for independence, as changing the name of their country from "the Republic of China" to "Taiwan" could well precipitate a war with China: an outcome nobody (except possibly China) wants. As I've said before: to tell Taiwan that it cannot change its status due to threat of war, and then to say that their current status as the "ROC" means they must want to be "a part of China" is an insidious and unfair Catch-22.

Put another way:

The ROC provides protective (if misleading) cover, staving off invasion by maintaining the polite political fiction that the Taiwanese have not already declared their wish to be recognized as separate and independent.


How can a policy paper that claims to address challenges to Taiwan's democracy be taken seriously, when China's goals are given legitimacy as something that may be achieved, but Taiwan's are dismissed as hogwash, not even acknowledged to be the will of the people? The CCP's goals are ultimately the will of the party as the Chinese people don't get a say, and yet they are treated as the goals of China. The public will of the Taiwanese people is, in fact, the will of the country (messy and divided as it may seem, on this point things are pretty clear), and yet it is treated as simply the messaging of a few wayward politicians.

This is deeply unfair, if not deliberately misguided. It is not the position of a true friend of Taiwan, and not even reflective of the truth of Taiwan's position.

I can only think that Bush and Hass, despite claiming to care about the future of Taiwan, see the best or only possible outcome to be some sort of integration with China - they are quite willing to ignore what the Taiwanese themselves actually want. Perhaps this is because Bush and Hass don't have to live in the simmering mess of this unresolved conflict, a situation which they and people like them helped create. In any case, they aren't considering the feelings of the Taiwanese themselves.

Further to this, the notion that the necessary "amendments to the ROC constitution" for China to win this cold war require a "very broad public consensus that those changes are in their interests" is a garbage barge of poorly-considered perspectives. I would have expected better from two respected experts.

I cannot imagine any situation - short of the unlikely fall of the People's Republic of China - in which these necessary changes could ever be in the interests of the people of Taiwan, nor any future in which the Taiwanese would agree to them freely. Look at how China is treating Hong Kong: do Bush and Hass honestly think that Taiwan could ever trust China to safeguard their best interests? If so, what rock are they living under? 


Finally, here is what bothers me the most: experts like Bush go off on a writing bender whenever Taiwan so much as pipes up that it would like independence, thank you very much, which isn't even a controversial position in Taiwan (and shouldn't be on a global scale, either, seeing as they already have it). And yet, whenever China starts frothing at the mouth about Taiwan, talking about how it "cannot renounce the use of force" or that "Taiwan and China must and will be reunited", these same people who claim to care about Taiwan are silent. 

Why?

Friday, December 28, 2018

Taiwan needs to figure out how to treat foreigners better

It pains me to say it, but Taiwan has some deep discrepancies between the human rights ideals it claims to espouse, and how it treats not only its own citizens, but also those who come to Taiwan to study or work.

Instances of Taiwanese universities using the New Southbound Policy as basically a vector for scamming Southeast Asian students are starting to feel not like horrifying exceptions, but the norm. It's happened now with not just Sri Lankan students (news of which broke just months ago) but Indonesian ones as well, at more than a handful of universities.

These universities take government subsidies meant to help them attract students from Southeast Asia, and then use them to pay brokers to bring students over. These students are then assigned jobs in factories, and attend class only a few days a week, if at all. These factory jobs are called "internships", but they aren't learning opportunities - they are basic blue-collar work - and they aren't even allowed for first-year students, and certainly shouldn't be taking up most of one's week, as work is limited to 20 hours/week for foreign students here.

These are scams aimed at getting free labor - or even labor that has paid to be there, as some of these students are paying tuition to do this. They are violations of human rights.

Taiwanese people would not accept this happening to their own citizens, so it disgusts me that it seems to happen so easily to foreigners.

The "university" system here isn't the only vector for abuse - how domestic workers (who are predominantly female) and fishing boat workers (predominantly male) are treated, not to mention regular factory workers, is obscene. 

Taiwan is trying to take a big step forward by reducing its economic dependence on China through re-invigorating ties with Southeast Asia through the New Southbound Policy. But the high-minded ideas of the central government just aren't trickling down to those meant to actually implement it through outreach (including businesses, employers and universities).

Attempting to take advantage of a government policy aimed at improving the country to line one's own pockets is not unique to foreign residents or the New Southbound Policy (certainly this happens in the domestic sphere as well - just ask how property developers circumvent the "green space" law by giving politicians reduced-price apartments they can flip and profit from, or how some local politicians take advantage of local charities). However, I can't help but think in this case, there's an element of racism at play.

If this were happening to Taiwanese, the outcry would be swift and condemning. Instead, the government "will conduct an investigation" (hardly decisive action they need to be taking). This after it's obvious that those in government who set up the programs with universities - if they can even be called that - knew how likely it was that they would try to take advantage of both the government and the foreign students. If they weren't aware of this possibility, they wouldn't have talked to the university presidents in person and warned them off doing exactly this. 


Initiatives like the New Southbound Policy aren't going to work if the people in charge of actually implementing various initiatives are using them merely to take advantage of Southeast Asian people. They're not stupid, guys. They know that there's a lot of racism against Southeast Asians here. They know that these scams exist. They know that they can't necessarily trust these programs. And neither the people nor the governments there are going to stand for it. They are already angry.

I'll say it again: if Taiwan continues to be known for treating Southeast Asians badly, and is seen as using the New Southbound Policy for their own enrichment with little concern for the effect on Southeast Asian people or economies, it's not going to work. The New Southbound Policy will fail, and we'll be stuck with a choice between China strangling our democracy or our economy - exactly the thing we seek to avoid. 


One of the things that has really impressed me about Taiwan is how this country consistently pushes itself to live up to its purported ideals: democracy, freedom, human rights. It's not that other countries don't do that, but Taiwan seems (to me anyway) to make more progress more quickly than other parts of Asia, and the struggle just seems more visible here (and more accessible in terms of being connected or understanding, on a personal level, the bleeding edge of the push for social change.)

But we have to admit that Taiwan, as much as it may be a place one can love deeply and make a commitment to, is far from perfect. That's true not just in terms of how it treats its own citizens, but how it treats foreigners here. It has ideals, but as things stand right now, it simply doesn't live up to them. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Why is everyone so upset that Ko said Taiwan is a "product on a shelf"?

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The screenshot that launched a million words


Because I'm gonna say it: he's right. 



Taiwan must focus on making itself more valuable to President Donald Trump and accept its status as a pawn in the great power game between the U.S. and China, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said.


Nobody likes to hear that they "must accept their status as a pawn" - but that doesn't make it untrue. We absolutely should not overestimate the US's willingness to defend Taiwan.

And he's not only right about Donald Trump, who is absolutely not a reliable ally to anyone and sees everything as an opportunity that can bolster his own self-image or worth or a threat to be eradicated (or at least shouted at incoherently), he's also right about the US in general. Not only that, it's been true for awhile.

This doesn't mean Taiwan shouldn't deal with the US, or should refuse its help, but that's not what Ko said: he said we needed a strategy to deal with this reality. That's just a correct statement.

But it seemed as though nobody wanted to hear it. What struck me was the swiftness and absolute horror of the reaction from Taiwanese activists, commentators, friends and other people involved in the struggle for a better Taiwan. The general feeling seemed to be, essentially "how could he say such a thing?"

I was a bit curious about that so I asked around, paid attention to various comment threads (like this one) on the topic, and generally just tried to get a sense of what was so terrible about essentially making an accurate, if damning, statement about the US's commitment to Taiwan.

The main point of anger doesn't seem to be the idea that Taiwan is a "pawn", but that the Ko has not equally addressed the fact that if Taiwan is a poker chip to the US, then it's also one to China. Essentially, he's speaking out about how the US sees Taiwan, but is seen by the public as worryingly - and oddly - growing closer to China.

There's a sense among many Taiwanese that Ko has questionable motives, from using China's language on two sides of the strait being "one family" to gaining Chinese state television endorsements to rumors that China is encouraging Taishang (Taiwanese businesspeople in China) to return to vote for Ko and is supporting him for a 2020 presidential run on the assumption that the KMT can't win, with Ko himself not doing much to dispel these notions. I've even heard rumors about some deeply weird cross-party alliances that...well, I won't even go there.



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From 幹幹貓: probably one of the most common things I read to improve my colloquial Chinese. It's all in Mandarin but you should check it out!

There's also the general sentiment - captured in the Fuck Fuck Cat cartoon above - that so many Taiwanese voters and politicians are willing to bend over for China at a few sweet words promising economic incentives, ignoring China's stated and obvious intentions. These (often same) people will blast the US-Taiwan relationship as something they can't trust, despite all sorts of actually good things the US has done, from the Taiwan Travel Act to arms sales, without anything close to the ill intent of China.

So it makes sense from their perspective to worry that he'd be so dismissive of Taiwan as a commodity of the US, but silent on how China views Taiwan.

I get that too - here he basically says there is no such thing as "cross-strait relations": one could charitably parse that as "China is a foreign country like any other", but I can see how someone might hear it as "cross-strait relations don't exist because we're all the same" given some of his language choices in the past.

He goes on, however, to basically speak truth to power: saying that Trump has repeated "America First!" ad nauseam, and it's foolish to not believe him. When one reporter said "but some are insisting that you really shouldn't say 'Taiwan is just a product'", he replied, basically, "I dunno, what else am I supposed to say?"

Which...yeah.

I'm sure there are people under Trump who care about Taiwan as more than a 'product', and they've had enough say in the US's recent Taiwan policy that we've seen some real benefits. But an entire book could be written on how past administrations have seen Taiwan as a poker chip - from Bush speaking out against Taiwan independence in 2003 to Obama "selling so few arms to Taiwan that he came close to violating the Taiwan Relations Act", as a friend once put it.

The Bloomberg piece that created this poopfest goes on to say:



The outspoken former surgeon and potential presidential contender told Bloomberg News that Taiwan shouldn’t overestimate the U.S.’s willingness to defend the island from an attack by its much bigger neighbor. Ko, 59, said Taiwan needed to boost its worth to America by strengthening shared values, such as democracy and economic transparency (emphasis mine).


Again, yeah. What reasonable person would argue with that?

I could argue that playing up values like 'shared democracy' wouldn't matter - the US has a history of ignoring human rights abuses, or responding flaccidly to them, when economic benefits might be at stake (including the US's response to Tiananmen Square after 1989). That doesn't mean we shouldn't make this a selling point for Taiwan, however.


But, this is apparently not good enough: there are all sorts of rumors about his having a role in organ harvesting (getting discounts on organs from China? Something like that. I'm not too clear), on the nature of his previous visits to China and other things I won't bother with.

I'm not saying I believe all of this - I'm just pointing out that this is what is being said.

Some of the above are clearly election season character-smearing trash or at best should be taken with a Tainan Salt Museum mountain of salt, yet a lot of the comments I've been seeing slamming Ko for calling Taiwan a "product on the shelf" for the US reference the above rumors as though they are fact, and therefore prove that Ko wants to move away from a stronger relationship with the US and towards a friendlier one with China. Of course, they prove no such thing.

I don't know. I see their point vis-a-vis China - I too have been disappointed with Ko's rhetoric in this area (though much more worried about his only serious opponent's even stronger pro-China talking points). I find it odd that he'd be so quick to abandon the base that voted him in, of not-quite-DPP pro-Taiwan voters and Sunflower-energized youth to start talking like a weird old unificationist, and yet, I remain agnostic on the notion that he actually is a unificationist. I also remain agnostic on the idea that he has some deep-level "four-dimensional chess" strategy going on to deal with China: the evidence doesn't support that, either.

And I've been deeply disappointed with some in the Taiwanese electorate who are willing to believe any and all claptrap from China, who really is our enemy, and then are so quick to turn around and criticize the US.

Anyway, I get it. We big-noses are talking about how Ko is "telling it like it is" because we're just thinking about his comments vis-a-vis the US, without looking at how they stack up to his comments about China. Removed from that context, we're right. Put back in context, however, I see why this angers a certain subset of Taiwanese.

Finally, there's a sentiment among some as well that Ko supporters are becoming overly rabid themselves - acting like extremists or fundamentalists, balking at the slightest criticism (I've seen this in action, by the way - it is, in some cases, a thing). Among Ko supporters, there's a sentiment that everyone knows the guy speaks bluntly and undiplomatically, and we all say we want politicians who say what they mean, so are you really going to crucify him every time he does exactly that?

And yet, I can't repeat it enough: when you strip all that away and look at US-Taiwan relations specifically, and ignore the rumors dogging Ko in other areas, you have to admit: he's absolutely right. Trump keeps repeating "America First" - and when people tell you who they are, believe them. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The left finally notices Taiwan - super late to the game

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Come on, give Taiwan a chance.


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

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

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

Here's how it starts: 



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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


I think I need to change my pants. 

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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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




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


HOO BOY HOSE ME DOWN.

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Some more recent history for you:



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


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


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


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

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




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The Guy

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


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



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


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



I SCREAM THIS AT PEOPLE IN MY DREAMS.


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


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

 

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

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

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

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


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


OH YEAH. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Taiwan made a hawk of me

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I want to be a peacenik.

I used to be one, in fact. There's a hippie-dippy inside me who is all about flowers not bombs, non-violent resistance, refusing to keep the cycle of control, war and poverty going. The military industrial complex has no place in my heart.

There's a part of me that is tugged by the very persuasive argument that getting involved in the affairs of other countries the way we do - in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq - does not work and cannot work. We keep trying to get involved, we say it's for the greater good (well, that's the message sold to us), and we keep mucking it up.

I'm a big fan of liberal thought in general, and modern American liberalism is all about avoiding military intervention - peace at all costs. It's all about assuming there is always a diplomatic solution.

And yet, I just can't do it anymore. I live in Taiwan, a nation whose existence is under the very real threat of a growing, aggressive and unfriendly expansionist China, whose values as a nation do not at all match those of Taiwan. I won't go so far as to say "Taiwan can't defend itself", because I don't know Taiwan's true military capability. But, given that we might be able to ward off an initial attack, still it seems unlikely we could win that war alone. We'd need help. We'd need big friends in high places, who understand the value of keeping a successful liberal democracy and ally intact, at that ally's own request. Because if China wins, it is Game Over for Taiwan. We can't let it happen.

This isn't Syria or Afghanistan - we're not trying to bring down a government. It's not Iraq II, where we not only brought down the government, but did so uninvited. This isn't the same as screwing over Latin America time and time again by supporting juntas and regimes friendly to our interests rather than their own people's. It's a friendly, developed, democratic nation asking for assistance should its spoiled neighbor turn its temper tantrums into real action.

To be clear, I don't mean there ought to be military intervention now, and I hope that just the threat of it will keep China's expansionist garbage in check. I don't want a war - nobody does. But the only way for that to be effective is for it to be very clear: if a war is what China wants, the promise of US military intervention is sincere.

So, I have to be pro-military to some degree. I have to be pro-US intervention abroad. I have to be pro-US arms sales (although we can debate about which weapons we need, we do need weapons). I have to accept that war is a possibility - and it is, because the only possible outcomes here are formal independence or war, given that Taiwan is not going to choose to unify peacefully (and it's not - why would it?). I have to be okay with that so we can get on with the business of figuring out how to defend ourselves.

And yes, it has to be the US - nobody else can even come close to being a real check on Chinese expansionism.

Peace at all costs assumes no cost is too high, but the cost of losing Taiwan is not acceptable. Forcing 23 million people to give up the freedom they fought for because the angry dictatorship next door decided it wanted their land is not acceptable. Encouraging Taiwan to move towards unification (or to peacefully accept annexation) because "the alternative is war" is not acceptable. It might result in peace - China would mightily like it for that reason - but it will not result in justice. And peace without justice is cruel.

We have peace now, but it is an unjust peace. It is quite literally asking the victim - the bullied person - to accept being victimized and bullied for the sake of "keeping the peace". It's goes beyond "can't you two just work together", with its stupidly racialized - or ethnicized or whatever - idea that because people in both countries are "Chinese", that this should be easy, we should desire it and joining the two nations is a desired outcome...because why again? I'm not really clear on the underlying assumptions here unless it's the Western liberals who are  really shilling ethnic stereoty----oh.


It goes straight to asking a successful, developed, liberal democracy to give all of that up and just accept being oppressed under a brutal authoritarian regime because, oh yeah, doing that would be peaceful and peace is the most important thing, more important than preserving the freedom millions of people already have.

Or, it goes straight to something more cowardly: voicing weak support for Taiwan's cause and affirmation that their values are shared by Western nations, while not actually doing anything to shore up an ally's defenses. It's the ~*~thoughts and prayers~*~ of foreign policy. "Oh, it would be terrible if China invaded, so sorry we can't help but good luck!" (Yeah, you thought "thoughts and prayers" were only things insincere conservatives offered. Nope!)

I can't help but draw a mental connection with asking women and people of color in Western countries to accept an atmosphere of harassment, bullying and discriminatory treatment because to confront the bullies and victimizers disrupts "the peace". Keep quiet and suck it up because "keeping the peace" is more important than doing the right thing. "I'm so sorry Cousin Jack called you the n-word, but if I confront him it would ruin Thanksgiving!"

In fact, I really feel like a lot of the talking points defending this worldview come down to this:

"C'mon Taiwan, can't you just peacefully play China's long game, even though you know what they're up to? We have to keep the peace....

...Justice? What's that?

Oh, you want justice. Oh, aherm...yeah...justice is good...ahem..uh...oh my iPhone 8 is ringing. Excuse me."

And if you push back: "No, I don't support authoritarianism abroad, it's just that we can't always get involved, and it sucks that China's so terrible, so sorry."

I just don't have much respect for a worldview that boils down to "dictatorship is bad, mmmkay? And dictatorships shouldn't take over unwilling smaller nations just because they want to. Unless, like, a really big and strong dictatorship that we do a lot of trade with. It's still bad, but, well...we need to keep the trade peace."

This worldview either assumes that freedom, democracy and human rights are only things one need to have for oneself (but are not necessary for others), or that only nations with big militaries - or those not under threat - get to be liberal democracies. Everyone else can suck it.

Or, even worse, it assumes that the liberal democracies of Western nations deserve to be defended, but Asians..."well, they all look the same so whatev Asia is far away and they have to handle their own affairs."

Because come on, you know that if, say, Australia's democracy was threatened, we'd be far more likely to step in. There would certainly be more public support from it, among both liberals and conservatives.

(Yeah, maybe you also thought racism was confined to conservative circles. It's not.)

How on Earth can I say I am against US military intervention abroad when I live in a country that wants the help, deserves the help, is friendly to the West and upholds as essential civic values - freedom, democracy, human rights* - everything Western countries say they believe in and want to promote and defend?

I have to support selling arms to Taiwan. I don't want to support selling arms to anyone, but how can I not? We don't want a war, but if war is brought to us we have to be able to defend ourselves.

I have to support the idea of US military intervention abroad, because while I'd like Taiwan to be able to defend itself without help, I'm not at all sure this is realistic (I hear varying reports on this).

I can't be a localist, because doing so will quite literally choke Taiwan to death. I want to be anti-war, but I just can't if I am going to be pro-Taiwan.

This is especially difficult as, of course, most Taiwanese don't want a war either. This makes sense - war wound devastate Taiwan far more than the US regardless of any intervention it launches on our behalf. It's entirely sensible to try to maintain peace at a bearable-enough cost for as long as possible in the hope that something will shift and movement will be possible.

But I can't rule war out - I can't insist there has to be another way - when I know perfectly well that there might not be.

I could cling, unflinching, to my liberal hippie-dippy core and say "if it comes to that, then we go full Gandhi. We non-violently resist. We refuse to cooperate, but also refuse to fight."

I love that idea, and it worked in another context, but not even the British Empire is as bad as China. Forget non-violent resistance, China will quite literally just kill us - millions of us, should it come to that - before the international outcry would even begin to make a difference, if it ever did. By the time we realized we needed to do more than protest...

...look, what I'm saying is they'd just kill us all, millions if they have to, and not even think twice about doing so. Non-violent resistance works when there is a line your opponent would not cross, and I can say honestly the Chinese government has no such line.

Remember, Taiwan may prefer peace, but so does China.

Everyone wants peace. It's just that some people prefer real peace, and others are just fine with a cruel peace, which is no peace at all.

And if that's how it is, I can't be a dove.

Against my instincts, I have to be a hawk.

Frankly I wish I could convince more liberals to join me. I mean not quite to the point of telling them to stop worrying and love that bomb already, but if they believe in the fundamental concepts of freedom and democracy, then it makes sense to support Taiwan. If it makes sense to support Taiwan, then it makes sense to support defending Taiwan. And if it makes sense to support defending Taiwan, then it makes sense to re-consider the advantages of being a bit of a hawk.



*I have to say I grow less sure of this one as I read more stories of the treatment of foreign workers (and Taiwanese workers to a lesser degree), though.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sometimes I change my mind

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You know, I have said that I have trouble voting my conscience in American elections, because the people I support on (almost) every other platform are the people who either don't care or seem to be just plain wrong about Taiwan (although even that is sometimes hard to gauge). It's the same reason why I do not attempt to get into more hardcore pro-Taiwan advocacy in the US - when it comes to the conservative blowhards whom I want to mouth-punch on one hand for trying to take away my bodily autonomy as a woman, I doubt I could just turn around and talk to them civilly about Taiwan. It's my reproductive system they want to get their grimy hands in - it's kinda personal. I can't distance myself from it the way a lot of (male) people who are not threatened because of their gender can. I don't doubt they abhor it as well, but the ability to compartmentalize...well, that seems like a really nice privilege of having a penis.

I have also said that, while I was generally a Sanders supporter back when I could be one, and did vote for him in the primary, that I was concerned about what kind of president he would be vis-a-vis Taiwan. He was not exactly known for his foreign policy acumen, or at least was seen as weak in that area.

I mean, Trump is Trump and he's just hair and fart sounds so whatever, but generally Republican presidents have been better for Taiwan than Democratic ones. Those same Republican presidents have been bad news for women.

When you love Taiwan but have a vagina, this is a problem. It didn't seem possible to fully vote my conscience, because it appeared that those I could never vote for had the best possible Taiwan policy - that's not to say great, but the best thing going under the circumstances - and those I otherwise supported, shall we say, did not.

I had friends assure me that support for Taiwan was bipartisan, but that seemed unlikely in a world where Republicans were in the media doing everything I wanted Democrats to be doing - meeting with Hong Kong dissidents, introducing pro-Taiwan legislation. Then we have (rumors? Leaks? Real? Fake? Who even knows?) that Hillary Clinton wanted to discuss ditching Taiwan.

Then I saw this letter urging President Hair and Fart Sounds to support the Taiwan Relations Act in light of his (then upcoming) visit to China to meet with President Angry Pooh.  And unless it's some elaborate troll job aimed specifically at me (it's not), it induced elation and despair at the same time.


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Robert Menendez. Ron Wyden. Edward Markey. Chuck Schumer. Chris Van Hollen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Heidi Heitkamp (though I don't always agree with her). Joe Manchin. Sherrod Brown (who says a lot about Taiwan and it almost never seems to get media attention). Gary Peters. Elizabeth Warren. Al Franken. Bernard Sanders.

Now, I'm not trying to claim that the Taiwan Relations Act is the gold standard of the way the world should be treating Taiwan. It's not. Nobody in the world is treating Taiwan the way it should be treated, not even its (checkbook) diplomatic allies. Taiwan deserves better than what it's getting, period. It deserves international recognition and support, including support for changing its governmental framework from fundamentally Chinese to fundamentally Taiwanese. I'm not a fan of support for the "ROC on Taiwan" as a way of opposing Communism or even simply opposing China - I'm not a fan of the ROC at all.

I'd prefer a world in which it was a given that Taiwan could decide its future without international threat, and in which support for Taiwan was based on it simply being the right thing to do - supporting Taiwan for Taiwan's sake and everything it has to offer the world - and not in any sort of relation to how the world handled China. That is, however, not the world we live in.

Considering Taiwan's former authoritarian leadership's complicity in creating the state of limbo the country still finds itself, and considering that "rah rah ROC because we hate the PRC" - and "well, here's the Taiwan Relations Act which is a bit milquetoast but it's something and frankly a unique piece of policy given the situation" are not ideal but are, unfortunately, how the 20th century shook out, I'll take it.

So, I've changed my mind on a few things.

Yes, GOP rhetoric on Taiwan, while imperfect, is still closer to the mark than Democratic rhetoric. Conservative rhetoric on Taiwan is more acccurate - though again, flawed - than liberal discourse.

However, it is clear that despite this, support for Taiwan is a bipartisan issue. Call me a Doubting Thomas - I needed to see it in the flesh. You don't get Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Freakin' Sanders signing a letter alongside Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz if something is a partisan issue. You just don't.

This helps, but does not make me any happier that more than one "friend of Taiwan" is no friend of mine, as a person in a female body who expects bodily autonomy. For every good thing they do or say regarding Taiwan or Hong Kong, I can name some way in which they have tried to subjugate women. The part of me that loves Taiwan cannot reconcile this with the part of me that has, and would like to retain control over, ovaries.

It is also clear that, as much as I might disagree at times, and as much as I might think the US can and should offer something a bit stronger to Taiwan than the weaksauce currently on the table, that those at the top forming policy do, in fact, understand (at least enough of) the intricacies of the Taiwan issue.

Do I entirely trust them? Nope. But I'll take it for now.

So why do I despair?

Because the one thing that consoled me as Sanders left the 2016 race and I cast my vote for Clinton - besides genuinely wanting a female president and knowing that, while I might not like a lot of what she does, I did trust her to do the job competently - was that "Sanders would have been weak on Taiwan".

Except...oops. Nope.

It's not possible to know what a President Sanders would have done vis-a-vis Taiwan, but we can make some educated guesses, and his name on this letter is telling.

And because I actually voted against Chuck Schumer in 2016. Hey, don't judge me, I knew he'd win anyway, I just wanted to give a big pointless middle finger to the Democrats in some small way. I voted Green Party for Senate, knowing they'd lose. Now I kind of regret that a little, maybe?

Oh yeah, and I despair because despite this being a bipartisan issue, Taiwan is still stuck in the status quo morass with a world that does not appreciate what it has to offer and can't bring itself to just do the right thing, and also because this letter was delivered to President Hair and Fart Sounds, which means...ugh.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I just creamed my pants over this article in The Diplomat

No, really, this is excellent:

The Chinese Cult of Cairo

This is what people who have actually studied Taiwanese history have been saying for years. This is a truth that, while fairly well-known by those who know Taiwan, is rarely put in print for easy reference. It is a thing of beauty - clear, precise, accurate.

I quite literally gasped when I read it. I haven't seen something this clearly lay out the 1943-1952 history of the region...well, ever. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough, but honestly, such work is hard to come by.

Even "Accidental State", which covers this period of history ending with Dulles' final agreement with Chiang Kai-shek, gives only one paragraph to this complex string of treaties which seem opaque to many (but actually aren't), and doesn't fully explain them.

It fully explains certain myths, like the idea that Cairo and Potsdam are legally binding (wrong), that the Treaties of San Francisco and Taipei unequivocally give Taiwan to China (wrong), that the ROC has been the sole legitimate government of Taiwan since 1945 (wrong), and that international law/ the UN / the United States / the goddamn Cookie Monster considers Taiwan to be Chinese, or even settled as "the ROC" with no other interpretation needed, that the ROC believed Taiwan to be "returned" to them (false) or that these powers intended for Taiwan to be a part of China (nope), that Taiwan was "returned" to China at all (wrong) or any other manner of stupid claims.

We need more work like this to drown out China's sound and fury which signifies nothing.

For once, I have nothing to add. That should tell you all you need to know.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Let's acknowledge what is already true

So, last week I wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal replying to an Op-Ed and follow-up letter on US foreign policy on Taiwan. I had to cut it down from the original 1000-or-so words to 300 or so, and was led to believe it would likely be published this week. It hasn't appeared yet, and may never: between then and now the Michael Flynn scandal exploded, and perhaps it got canned in favor of giving that issue more coverage.

I did not include some of my thoughts, such as the fact that Metzger appears to be a typical Dr. Some White Guy Who Is An Expert On China, pontificating on Taiwan despite not knowing enough about it - or rather, having what he knows about it filtered through the lens of being a "China expert", not a "Taiwan expert" - to be commenting credibly. In this sense I do not feel bad about telling a Stanford professor that he is dead wrong.

Nor did I include my thoughts on misconceptions in the media on Taiwan, I plan to do a mythbusting post soon so I can just direct people to that rather than repeating the same tired points.

However, I do want people to hear what I have to say, so I've copied the original longer letter here. I'll let you know if the shorter, edited version ever makes it into the paper. In the meantime, enjoy.

* * *

I read with great interest the recent opinions of John Bolton and Thomas Metzger  (both behind a paywall) on the best direction for the US’s future Taiwan policy. It is quite clear that there are some basic truths about Taiwan that Mr. Metzger is ignoring, which ought to be clarified.

First of all, the current framework between Beijing and Taipei is far from “peaceful”. Beijing has a large number of missiles aimed at Taiwan: some estimates put it at over 1,000. Beijing has been quite clear that it is gearing up for an eventual invasion of Taiwan, and has made it clear that the only possible peaceful solution is capitulation. This is not peace: it is a threat.

A situation that fragile, where one side has everything to lose and the other comparatively little, cannot be called a successful framework.

This is especially true given that most Taiwanese citizens do not identify primarily as Chinese. Unification of any kind is not acceptable to the majority of citizens, and likely never will be. What their government claims on paper – a claim made by the former dictatorship, nothing the Taiwanese people ever agreed to democratically – is immaterial. It does not affect their views.

It is true that the Republic of China, which is the current government of Taiwan, claims to be the sole government of all of China. Again, this claim does not reflect the views of the Taiwanese people. The claim cannot be formally retracted, nor the name of the country changed: from Beijing’s perspective, any of these actions would constitute a declaration of formal independence, which would precipitate an immediate war. To insist that as long as the Republic of China exists that Taiwan is a part of China, and yet to scold Taiwan for provoking China in any way, admonishing them instead to pursue peaceful relations, is to essentially trap Taiwan in a Catch-22.  To do so at best makes one a 'useful idiot' of China.

This change has been brewing since full democratization in the 1990s, and has only grown since the upheavals in Taiwanese civil society in 2014. Metzger fails again, then, to understand the reception that former President Ma’s meeting with Chinese President Xi received in Taiwan: when it did not elicit eyerolls, it was ignored more or less completely in civil society despite a great deal of media coverage. The Ma-Xi meeting was a footnote to a failed presidency, the last gasp of an administration whose views were no longer in sync with the electorate: few in Taiwan would say that Ma’s China strategy was successful, and few would agree that it is the best framework for the future.

In short, the Ma-Xi meeting was not “momentous” as Metzger claims; it was a desperate grasp for historical relevance by a leader on his way out. By all measures, it failed. One need only look at the outcome of the 2016 elections in Taiwan, as well as the continued relevance of the 2014 student movements there, to see it.

A final, crucial misunderstanding taken as fact by Mr. Metzger is his characterizing Taiwan-China relations as “respecting both the autonomy of the Taipei regime and its existence as one part of China.” First of all, the connotation of “regime” is that of an authoritarian government. That describes China, not Taiwan, which is a vibrant and thriving democracy. Secondly, few in Taiwan agree that Taiwan is “one part of China” is deeply disrespectful to the Taiwanese people. It is not possible to respect Taiwan if you, in the same breath, label it as a part of another country rather than a sovereign state in its own right.

International law supports the possibility of Taiwanese independence: under different interpretations of international law, Taiwan is either an independent nation, or its status is undetermined. There is no accurate interpretation that determines Taiwan to be a Chinese territory.

Even US policy on Taiwan follows this convention – the US does not, and has never, agreed that Taiwan is a part of China. Bolton is entirely correct that it merely acknowledges Beijing’s claim to Taiwan, nothing more. This, at least, is clear in a confusing array of papers, positions, assurances and communiqués that were created to be deliberately vague. 

The US’s Taiwan policy, at its heart, calls for a peaceful resolution of the issue, and allows for any given resolution agreed on by both sides. This leaves room not only for the US to communicate with Taiwanese leaders, but also for American support of eventual Taiwanese independence (though not as the government of China) or the normalization of relations with Taiwan. It does not in any way shackle the US to China’s forceful demands.

There does not need, then, to be a change in US policy on Taiwan. All we need to do is acknowledge what is already true. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Taiwan's Catch-22

Some Shower Thoughts - yes, this is what I think about in the shower. I've been traveling in Vietnam and, having returned to Taiwan on a red-eye after an overnight bus ride, am light on sleep. Hopefully this doesn't mean the post below is incoherent or overly repetitive. I'm sure someone has written about this before, but hey, I like to share Shower Thoughts so here goes.

Anyway...

I hear a lot - in media, in real life, in comments - that the US need not change its "One China Policy" because "Taiwan" doesn't exist as a national entity and the "Republic of China" still technically considers itself the rightful and only government of China. That, barring a formal change in the constitution of the ROC (and one would assume a name change as well) making this claim, there is no need to re-examine US policy because people "on both sides of the Strait" still officially believe that there is "One China".

Putting aside the already-debunked notion of the US's "One China Policy" (there isn't one, not really - acknowledging someone else'sposition does not constitute a position of one's own, and everything else isdeliberately vague), I have a few problems with this idea that Taiwan would have to formally make this change before the US would be obligated to take any policy changes into consideration, and because they have not done so, clearly they (the government, but, it is implies, also the Taiwanese people), they don't want to.

No no no no no this is wrong no.

This is one of those things where a perspective that is reasonable on its face actually hides much more sinister motives, even if unintentionally so, though I often doubt that they are unintentional.
What this particular argument is doing, by appearing to simply defend official norms, is playing straight into Chinese propaganda, if not China’s outright strategy to marginalize Taiwan. 

Those who say this must know perfectly well that Taiwan can’t change its official stance, no matter how much it may want to (and polls consistently show that thepeople want to). Doing so would, in Chinese eyes, constitute a move towards formal independence (which is what the Taiwanese likely actually want), which China has consistently said would cause them to immediately declare war. While Taiwanese do favor independence and do consider themselves, by and large, Taiwanese rather than Chinese, pretty much nobody in Taiwan wants to go to war because they quite rightly realize that war, well, sucks.

Taiwan, therefore, regardless of what the people want, is locked into making this claim that they are officially the government of China – a claim they pretty much try to ignore because its existence is just as inconvenient and unwanted as it is necessary – because the other option is to watch the country they have built get demolished by the PLA.

Consider the double standard: you insist Taiwan must change their claim if they don’t want to be considered Chinese, and to continue to have a government that considers itself “China” can only mean that the people are, or think of themselves as, Chinese. Yet you also insist that they not do so: to “provoke” China in such a way would be problematic, would cause war, would make Taiwan a “troublemaker”. Taiwan doesn’t want to make trouble, does it? No, little Taiwan, just sit tight, don’t make Big China angry. Don’t start a war. You don’t want to be a troublemaker, do you?

Oh, but if you don’t make trouble and instead choose not to make any official changes, you must therefore think of yourselves as Chinese, because you didn’t make any official changes. If you want us to think of you as Taiwanese...

...oh but don’t do that because you wouldn’t want to be provocateurs, would you?

How is this not a painfully, nakedly obvious Catch-22 for Taiwan?

Consider as well that the only reason the ROC – and therefore its vision of China - exists in Taiwan is because the Nationalists decided to claim Taiwan, then flee to it, and then proceed to set up a government that nobody in Taiwan said they wanted. They weren’t invited, they invaded. That constitution claiming to be the sole government of China, even the name “Republic of China” or even calling themselves Chinese, are not things that the people of Taiwan ever decided, together, through self-determination, that they wanted to claim or do. They were ideas forced on Taiwan by a government that was never invited to govern and has since democratized, under a name that can't be gotten rid of so easily.

Consider, then, what you are really saying when you say “the last time I checked ‘Taiwan’ was officially the ‘Republic of China’ and therefore considers itself a part of China, too”: you are saying that any sort of indication of what the people of Taiwan want doesn’t matter, all that matters is a position decided by a regime that came from China uninvited and decided unilaterally for the people already living here what their government stood for, that now cannot be changed because the country they fled has threatened war if they do so.

What you are saying is that you do not believe in self-determination. What you are saying is that you think modern-day colonialism is okay, not only that, but that a provision in a document that can’t be removed under threat of war is a perfectly fine barometer by which to determine the will of a people. That they literally must risk getting pummeled by China in order to change a few words on a piece of paper before you will take them seriously. You know it is impossible; you know that what was claimed by the ROC back when the ROC was a dictatorship does not reflect the will of the Taiwanese people, but you demand the impossible anyway. Why?

Let’s say a dictator claimed to speak for you, and then years after dismantling that dictatorship you could not officially, on a government level, disavow that dictator’s words without watching your city get blown up, but on a personal level were quite clear that you never bought into the original rhetoric. How would you feel if everyone else in the world stuck their fingers in their ears and shouted “la la la we can’t hear you, you must think that because your former dictator said so and you don’t want to die, la la la”?

How would you feel if your country underwent a massive upheaval in civil society, bringing it from a nation unwilling to speak truth to power about its identity to one willing to own its nationhood unapologetically, and the rest of the world collectively ignored it, pretending you all still felt the way you seemed to before it all happened? Because that's basically how Taiwan has been treated since the Sunflower Movement.

Does that make any sense at all? And if it does, is it really so easy to tune out the cognitive dissonance of claiming to care about freedom and democracy around the world? Can you really claim to be anti-war if you think that a nation must risk war – a war it will lose - to express its true desires? Can you really claim to be pro-democracy if you think the ideas of a former dictator speak for the will of a democratic people? Is that really the price an already-sovereign nation must pay to be taken seriously when there are other valid ways of knowing how the people of that nation feel?

Consider this as well: this is exactly what China wants you to think. They want you to set an impossible standard for taking Taiwan seriously: either they are “troublemakers” provoking a “war” or they “clearly still think of themselves as Chinese because their government officially says so”. There is no path forward for Taiwan to claim its sovereignty and identity on an official level. You’ve blocked out in your mind the notion that a people might have a different will and vision for their future than what they are forced to claim by a hostile power. Or perhaps you are claiming that the position they are forced to hold, literally at missile-point, is a sincere one when you know full fucking well it’s not.

And you’ve done this because this has been China’s propaganda campaign all along. They want you to mentally block Taiwan off into two alternatives: either they are a troublemaker and warmonger disturbing peace in Asia, or they think they are Chinese. The more impossible you make Taiwan’s position by refusing to consider data that shows the true will of the Taiwanese people, the easier you make China’s goal of annexing Taiwan and then pretending it’s not a hostile takeover of a sovereign state.

In short, i
f you insist that Taiwan has to disavow the positions of the ROC (which were forced on it) in order to be taken seriously as a sovereign nation with a national identity, but then say that any provocation of China makes Taiwan a "troublemaker", then you've set Taiwan up for a Catch-22. Either you know that and you're a jerk, or you don't and you're a useful idiot.