Showing posts with label fuck_the_man. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fuck_the_man. Show all posts

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Why did China kick out Western journalists? Some whiskey-soaked theories


Yo I know I said a few years ago maybe that I was going to try to make this a classier publication, generally by keeping all my same ideas but expressing them less with less filthy language and less drinking overall.

But now THE PLAGUE TIMES are upon us, and I cannot be held to promises I made in the Before Times.

Let us not speak of the Before Times. 

So, anyway, the dudes in Zhongnanhai decided to just sort of randomly tell a bunch of Western journalists that they were being immediately expelled from China AND Hong Kong. I gather that the dudes didn't really consider if the Taiwan Provincial Authorities would allow them to set up bureaus there, as, oh wait, the Taiwan Provincial Authorities don't exist. Or they do exist, but the actual leaders don't, or they do, but they don't recognize that they are provincial authorities or...something.


Anyway, what I'm interested in is why. That's bad, because I have no idea.

So here are some random thoughts on what might be going on:

1.) That Zhongnanhai Limp Dick Energy

I mean, definitely those guys are too withered to have any real fun, so they sometimes have to pretend it's possible to feel excited again by concentrating their energy into being total dicks in the bad way, because they can't do anything in the good way. So they just wanted to flex (but not their dicks, as I said, those don't do much anymore) and chose...this. It could really be nothing more than that.

2.) The Xi Jinping Virus is still way worse in China and they don't want the world to know

Still got a crisis on your hands and don't want the world to know? People still dropping dead from a virus, the blame for which can be laid exactly at the feet of Xi Jinping and the CCP? Want to look like that's not happening, and you are recovering while the rest of the world is trapped in a pandemic of seemingly Biblical proportions? Well, if you control the media, that's great because you can that. But you don't control the Western media (entirely) so you have to get those pesky real journalists out so that your fake PR agents who pose as journalists can publish the stories you want.

Bonus: you can then pretend to be the good guy by "donating" (selling) supplies and "sending experts" (who haven't helped your own country recover) and spin that as the world needing to be grateful to China for quite literally starting a pandemic.

Oh yeah, I think COVID19 is too purposefully euphemistic - not in terms of not offending "China", but in terms of not offending the CCP. But, I don't want to use terms that seem discriminatory towards Chinese people. But Xi Jinping? Fuck that guy. I think "CCP Virus" is also acceptable. Fuck them too.

3.) They're planning an invasion of Taiwan and don't want you to know

I mean, assuming the army isn't too sick, this would be the perfect time. Taiwan is focused on the Xi Jinping Virus. The world is too - the US is Taiwan's biggest ally (I mean real ally, not checkbook ally) and they are in no position at all to back up Taiwan when the second wave of troops comes.

But, be wary, ye traveler from the Before Times. Here be dragons. Have they recently decided that now would be the perfect time because they are recovering and the rest of the world is writhing in pandemic agony? Or are we really gonna tinfoil-hat this motherfucker and say they made that plan awhile ago, when it was clear the virus was going to get out of control?

I refuse to add crazy antenna to my tinfoil hat, and will not continue on this conspiracy theory train ride, although I admit it is scenic.

4.) Revenge

I mean...I guess. So, they expelled some Wall Street Journal reporters for no goddamn reason. Then the US started treating the Chinese PR agents (they are not really journalists) like...exactly what they are, and this is tit-for-tat for that? Seems pretty stupid, but okay.

I think this is the official reason - it's the lede in The Guardian piece - but the "official reason" is almost never the actual reason when dealing with the CCP.

5.) Some other bullshit

Have they realized that, allowed to spread unchecked, the Xi Jinping Virus is wiping out Uighurs in detention camps? Are they ensuring that that happens? Are they trying to get Europe on their side by having various nations "thank" them (for allowing the virus to get out of control?), but not the US which doesn't seem quite so willing to kiss the ring, causing a US/Europe/NATO rift that they can exploit? Forcible full takeover of Hong Kong coming soon?

Or what?

There's just so much bullshit to choose from.

6.) Really maybe just Limp Dick Energy

Or maybe I've had too much to drink and they're just sad, deflated old cumsacks who have wanted to do this for awhile because they hate people who try to report the actual truth because that means they can't fabricate it. They saw their chance to do something they've been desiring for awhile, and took it. It probably made them feel like Big Fancy Men.


I mean, that's probably it, but whatever.

I hope they all - all those CCP officials squashing their tiny little dusty sad nuts with their undercarriages on ugly old chairs in Zhongnanhai - get the Xi Jinping Virus.

Fuck them. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Wan-wan: "That's creepy and you're not my mom!"


Most people teach their kids about "stranger danger" - not to go off with people you don't know, or in a more modern sense, "here's how to spot situations that don't feel right".

It seems Taiwan, through its blossoming from a nascent sense of individual identity into a fully mature and independent nation, has learned this lesson well.


So when Haixia, a helmet-haired Chinese anchorwoman and Stern Aunt Who Is Spanking You For Your Own Good, spoke about China's candy "26 measures" using phrasing like "mother is calling you home", pretty much every Taiwanese who watched the video looked into her cold, dead eyes, got goosebumps (with that exact turn of phrase from at least one online commenter) and ran in the other direction. Like you would if you were a kid walking down the street and a guy in a windowless van slowed down to offer you a lollipop.

The creepiest moment was when she said "Wan-wan, come home" (灣灣回家吧), using a made-up and frankly condescending diminutive for Taiwan, in exactly the same tone of voice an abuser uses to try to manipulate their target when they think they can leverage whatever sentimentality exists in the relationship to pull them back into that void. 

I'm not the only one making memes of it - art by A Ray

Speaking of voids, the pan-blue media didn't seem to report on Haixia's Abuser Masquerading As Loving Mother act at all, as far as I can find. TVBS talked about the candy that is definitely spiked with roofies "26 Measures" with some utter bollocks about how "people disagree on what freedom and democracy mean", even referencing the so-called "Green Terror", but not the creepy "Mother" thing. That was about as long as I could stand to watch blue media because there's only so much waterboarding masquerading as "news" that I can take, so I'm not sorry that I didn't look any deeper into that inter-dimensional vortex.

On that side, only somewhat more reputable United Daily News (pan-blue) covered the story, and even they went with a straight report that independent legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) reacted by saying "Taiwan is already home."

In fact, the Taiwanese reaction in general was...not pleased (here's a summary in English). And why shouldn't they feel that way about essentially being nicknamed wayward children?

Given that this reaction was inevitable, who is the CCP trying to reach with Haixia's Creepy Mother spiel? Probably their own people, giving Chinese social media users a chance to watch, share and marvel at how benevolent their government is. It's not like many (or any) people in Taiwan seriously watch CCTV anyway. They don't really care about Taiwan's reaction. It wasn't really intended for Taiwan.

Art by nagee

But other moments caught my attention too: when she talked about how "Taiwan compatriots will be treated the same as Mainland compatriots", my first thought was utter terror and I gather plenty of Taiwanese had the same reaction. Being treated like a citizen by the Chinese government sounds absolutely horrifying. Who would want that? Do they really think they treat their own 'compatriots' well enough that Taiwanese would think "hey that looks great, sign me up for social credit and getting shot in the face for protesting!"?

This prompted Liberty Times to write about Haixia's soapbox whinge by running a picture of an Uighur detention camp and asking, "if you want Taiwan to 'come home', why don't you let [Xinjiang concentration camp detainees] go home first?" 

Of course, Taiwanese wouldn't have to worry about being sent to a Xinjiang detention camp - I'm sure they'll set up plenty of them in Taiwan once we 'come home'. After all, they'd treat Taiwanese 'just like' their own citizens, right?

Haixia went on to say that "we are sincere because we all have Chinese hearts" and "Taiwan's destiny is with the motherland", adding that "some people are not pragmatic and have been spreading strange rumors and slander - if they don't have a Chinese heart, how can they understand our sincerity?"

This part horrified and interested me in equal measure, but also clarified their true beliefs: that identity - Chinese identity in particular - is something that can be assigned and enforced, rather than something that is cultivated naturally through cultural and historical evolution. What it means can also be decided by them. If you are 'Chinese', you must agree. If you don't, either you are a traitor, or you were never Chinese and cannot understand why all Chinese do agree.

It won't work, of course. For it to be true, Taiwanese would have to agree that they are indeed Chinese, and buy into the notion of what it means to have a "Chinese heart". Clearly, they don't. Telling someone what their identity is never works in the long run anyway. Just look at...well, history.

It's also interesting that they're still trying to implicitly push this narrative that the people who "don't have a Chinese heart" are a minority of splittist troublemakers. If you read between the lines, what Haixia is saying only makes sense if the vast majority of Taiwanese agree that they are Chinese, in the sense that the CCP expects. Otherwise the majority of Taiwanese could be said to not have "Chinese hearts", which means of course they "can't understand" China, and if that's true, shouldn't China just give up on them as "not Chinese"?

It's kind of telling that they can't, or won't, give up on that line of reasoning. Not just because do admit the truth is to make it impossible for them to reasonably pursue their annexationist goals, but because it lays bare what's really going on: the CCP has never cared what the Taiwanese actually think in the first place, so it doesn't matter if it's decided for them. You know, kind of like they do with Chinese citizens. Equal treatment!

Finally, in the English media, Reuters noted that the CCP also promised to respect Taiwan's "way of life":

China will “fully respect” Taiwan’s way of life and social system once it has been “peacefully reunified”, as long as national security is protected, the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, in another overture to the self-ruled island.... 
“Under the premise of ensuring national sovereignty, security, and development interests, after peaceful reunification, the social system and way of life of Taiwan compatriots will be fully respected,” it said. 
“Private property, religious beliefs, and legitimate rights and interests of Taiwan compatriots will be fully protected.”

Note that among the things to be "respected", democracy is not listed, but property is. The CCP apparently would get to decide what aspects of Taiwan's way of life are "legitimate" - just as they get to decide both who is Chinese and what it means to be Chinese - and you can surely expect that any sort of non-approved belief or attempt at continued democracy or even basic freedom of speech would be construed a threat to "national security" and therefore "not legitimate". "Rights and interests" is too general a phrase both in Chinese and English to mean anything, other than what the CCP wants it to mean when it says those words.

Apparently, the CCP doesn't think that Taiwanese follow the news. If China respected the "way of life" of various groups of citizens, Hong Kong wouldn't be foggy with tear gas (but of course, they can't accept that Hong Kongers don't, by and large, support the CCP or their version of "Chineseness"). If they respected "religious beliefs", Xinjiang wouldn't be death camp central.

But then, do the Taiwanese they are trying to reach actually follow the news? They might, but the sources they read don't report the full extent of what's going on in Hong Kong or Xinjiang. Instead, it's a never-ending stream of Big Uncle Dirk interspersed with calling anyone who isn't KMT complicit in the "Green Terror". And China is aware of that.

By the way, if you ever get tired of the real lefties banging on about how capitalism is evil, remember this. Free markets may not be inherently evil, but if capital and power weren't intertwined, what reason would these political figures and media outlets have to keep their audiences mostly in the dark about the way China treats its own people? Is it because they have "Chinese hearts" or because they personally stand to profit? Hmm.

So, while the whole "Wan-wan, come home" thing was not actually meant to convince Taiwanese people that China is sincere and trustworthy, the "26 measures" do aim at Taiwanese who watch blue-leaning news, which is to say, fake news. The candy might actually look tempting if you've been conditioned not to fear the dude in the van. 

It has nothing to do with "Chinese hearts" and everything to do with candy.

Or, as Reuters put it:

China has not explained how Taiwan’s democracy may be allowed to continue if it takes control of the island.

Yeah, because it won't.

It won't be deemed "legitimate".

China's just hoping we don't notice that they never said otherwise. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's not the name, it's the helplessness

Not entirely accurate, but funny

Another day, another instance of the Chinese government being assparrots.

First, the Gap sells a really cool t-shirt that shows a map of China that doesn't include Taiwan (the picture above is a photoshopped joke version by a friend - the real one didn't include a Taiwan running away or the year 1949), and then apologizing for printing a map of China with "incorrect borders".

The borders are entirely correct (even in areas where I don't think they should be, such as Tibet and Xinjiang).

But, of course, selling t-shirts in China is more important than having a spine, and I can't even really bother to argue against that because it's about as useful as farting in a stiff breeze. T-shirts are going to matter more than values, principles or ethics for as long as I'm alive, most likely, and when I am consumed by rats or worms, they will continue to matter more than what is right.

Then, Air Canada - wobbly jellyfish to the last - changes Taiwan on their destination list to "Taipei, CN". Of course that destination does not exist. It's like trying to book a flight to Heaven, or Hell, or Oz, or wherever the Care Bears and Smurfs live. A wonderland of CCP revisionism. An imaginarium of a less just world.

"Travel everywhere with us," one of their Facebook posts says. Everywhere, it seems, except Taipei, Taiwan.

"Get your friends to travel together," another one says (on their Chinese-language Facebook page). Sure, let's travel to China (since apparently Taiwan doesn't exist), to get on our knees and pleasure Xi Jin-ping because watching him make his O-Face matters more than correct geographical labeling.

People have started petitions. Great. I went and trolled Gap on Facebook because I have nothing better to do with my time, the universe is cold and uncaring and not only are we all going to die, it won't even matter that we lived in the first place - tiny germs on a speck of dust hanging in a vast, rock-and-gas filled amoral vacuum that will also cease to exist one day. But, trolling Gap is fun so there's that.

This follows a string of "Orwellian nonsense" that's been going on for years as China acts like a massive baby - the tenderest snowflake there is - at the mere mention that a democratic nation called Taiwan exists. It's nothing new.

Of course, it hurts not that China does this - China's gonna China - but that the rest of the world caves in. That they are such cowards and hypocrites. They give in to fantasy land. Their actual moral compasses are about as sturdy as a cheap shit Gap t-shirt made in China.

And it hurts even more that there's so little we can do about it. We sign petitions as the rats get ready to gnaw our bones. We make snarky Facebook posts. Perhaps we contact our elected representative, who also cares more about t-shirts than principles. We gnash our teeth and feel upset, and it happens again and again as the vast coldness of space whirls around us, unaware.

From dust we came and to dust we shall return, but in the meantime, you really should sign the petition. I guess.

Monday, August 7, 2017

(Updated) Stephen Yates said a stupid thing

Update: please read this post. The article this is based on was a gross mistranslation, and did not accurately reflect what Yates said. I hadn't realized a video was available: now that I do know that, the content below is not relevant.

I'll let this post stand as a monument to remind myself and others not to believe things too quickly, and also because - the comments that precipitated the post notwithstanding, I actually would like to make the dual points that 1.) every person who continues to live their life and build their country with Chinese missiles pointed at them is, in fact, risking their life and we'd best not forget that, and 2.) Taiwan is already independent, so discussions on whether it "should be" that way are irrelevant.

These things are true regardless of what Yates or anyone else says, but you deserve to know the truth about the interview. 

I can't say I'm particularly shocked. Not because I think he's a moron, and although I appreciate his support of Taiwan, he is a conservative and he did give a deeply unimpressive speech once that started out as one long nyah-nyah our guy won, when "their guy" is one of the worst people in the world. While it is, or at least once was, possible to vote Republican and still be a reasonable person, I genuinely do think typical American conservative arguments tend to be deficient in both morality and reason. I would say this is a new phenomenon, but it's been going on since Goldwater, so perhaps not.

You may wonder why I care enough about some random thing he said while being quickly interviewed, which is not likely to make it past the Taipei Times. In part it's because this is a sadly common belief, especially in the West (where it is really easy to say because we're done with all the dying and are not the ones risking our lives unless we choose to enter mostly unnecessary wars). I want to puncture it right now. It's also because if this is the garbled muck coming out of the mouth of a friend of Taiwan, we have a problem - a big one. It must be addressed.

Anyway, let's look at the stupid thing he said. (I'm assuming Tom Lee wouldn't just make this up whole-cloth).

"When I asked why the US would not support Taiwanese independence to keep it from being annexed by China, Yates said Taiwan is not ready for independence like the US’ founders, who vowed to defend the US Declaration of Independence with their lives, their assets and their sacred honor.
If Taiwanese were willing to trade their lives, assets and sacred honor for Taiwanese independence, they would win the support of the international community, but the nation is not ready for that."

First of all, what makes him think the Taiwanese are not willing to trade their lives, should it come to it. This is a country about which it was once said "every three years a rebellion, every five years ar revolt" (or something like that). Do you really think Taiwan has no fighting spirit? They've been fighting a long cold war for over a generation. As a "friend", he should know this.

I would like him to understand as well that the Taiwanese are risking their lives. Simply by existing, building their country, electing a president China doesn't like, and refusing to give up despite being so obviously outgunned, with over a thousand missiles pointed straight at them, every single Taiwanese person who does not flee the shores of their country is showing, on some level, a willingness to risk everything for the freedom of their country.

Please, Mr. Yates, do not underestimate that. It is one of the things I love most about Taiwan.

Secondly, Taiwan is already independent and Stephen Yates of all non-Taiwanese people should know that. What it lacks is recognition of that independence. 

Why would the Taiwanese "trade their lives" for something they already have

It's one thing to fight for freedom and be willing to die when you don't have it, and want it. It's another to do that when you already have freedom, and all you are asking for is recognition of same. Nobody should have to trade their life to get other countries to recognize what is already true about their own.
Frankly, it would be a dumb move to do so. This is where I think his conservatism is showing: everything is a battle, and you have to be willing to die for your cause - or at least, it's OK for people who won't suffer to tell those who will that they should. No thought given to the complexities of why that's a bad idea.

There seems to be an assumption here that, were the Taiwanese to plunge headlong into a war simply to be recognized for what it already is, the rest of the world would rally behind them because they are standing up ~*~For Freedom!!!~*~ This is another attitude I would link to conservatism - lots of rah-rah patriotism and 'standing up for your country and the world will stand with you' talk, and it's simply wrong. "Coalition of the Willing" wrong. The only way Taiwan is going to rack up friends is by doing literally the exact opposite of that.

The US has said time and time again that their "position" is a peaceful resolution. A situation in which the Taiwanese would have to "trade their lives" is by definition not a peaceful one.

If what he means instead is that Taiwan should be willing to show that its people are willing to die for their cause, well, that would cause the international media, who already think that problems with China either appear from thin air (they don't - they appear from China) or that they are caused by Taiwan (they aren't - they are caused by China), to pitch a fit about how Taiwan is causing "tensions". It would cause clucks of disapproval from around the world, and you know that. 

He contradicts himself, and then says as much, later on in the same article:
“In my opinion, whether Taiwan becomes independent will not depend on a referendum or an official declaration announcing the founding of a Republic of Taiwan.
Taiwan is independent because the Taiwanese are their own masters. Taiwanese should not be too pessimistic about their diplomatic situation, because, in addition to diplomatic space, there is also political space, economic space and other kinds of space where it can put its advantages to good use.”
Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he just garbled his words a bit, it's still dumb to say "Taiwan is not ready for independence" when Taiwan is already independent. Of course Taiwan is "ready" for independence, because - repeating myself because it cannot be emphasized enough - it already has it and the country is run, if not perfectly, at least well enough to keep itself going as a first world nation, especially considering its circumstances. 
One can be ready to risk one's life for something without being stupid enough to run into near-certain death. Right now, a war against China is not winnable for Taiwan. If you enter that war, especially as a fighter, you will most likely die or suffer a worse fate. That's not "being ready" because you "are willing to trade your life", that's just stupid.

To put it in television terms, Taiwan is not Robb Stark. It is Sansa Stark, and that's exactly what it needs to be if it has any hope of eventually coming out on top. 
Taiwan, fortunately, is much smarter than that and is playing a longer game in which millions of its citizens don't die in a costly and devastating war, for the best possible chance at a good outcome for an independent Taiwan. Whether or not they will succeed is for the future to answer, but honestly, while I can think of improvements to their strategy, I can't think of a better overall strategy for the country. 

Does he really think that the saber-rattling he seems to be calling for, which would be more likely to lead to a war that Taiwan would lose, is a better idea? Isn't he a diplomat?

Thirdly, he puts the "founders" (the founding fathers - slaveowners and at least one rapist, none of whom thought women deserved a voice in politics) up on a pedestal that most people well-read in history know they don't entirely deserve. A very bright young Armenian woman I met in Alaverdi who asked me what I thought of Thomas Jefferson ("He's a complicated figure. He did some important things but I do not worship him, or anyone") knew that. Yates should too.

Does he also think that, "founding fathers" aside, that all Americans would be willing to risk their lives for their country? Does he think we'd do so even if the war were unwinnable? Are we supposed to go all Les Miserables and die on barricades we have no real hope of defending, were it to come to that? Does he really have such an inflated sense of how "great" America is, or was, compared to the rest of the world? Is he so secure in his own comfortably independent nation that he feels fine telling people halfway around the world whose country faces an overwhelming international threat that he, a person from a country that does not face any such international threat, is OK but they should be willing to die?

Most people wouldn't do that, and I can't blame them. But all people deserve freedom. Yes, all people. Even the ones who play a long game rather than get into unwinnable fights.

So, yes, I am deeply disappointed in this pile of nonsense from a "friend of Taiwan."

Do better, Stephen Yates. I don't like your ideology very much (I mean, I'm a liberal), I could never vote for your party (I guess I'm crazy to like affordable access to health care, including reproductive health care - your party's platforms are a part of why I left the US in the first place and they actively harm my friends). I do not think that your ideology, nor that of any other pro-Taiwan Republican, is compatible with the mostly - but not entirely - liberal and progressive outlook of the new face of pro-Taiwan local activism, and I do think this is going to cause problems. I suspect the lot of you support Taiwan without really understanding what Taiwan is about. Your former boss is quite literally a war criminal and one of the worst people in the world and you seem weirdly okay with that, and your current president is a magnificent douchelord and you seem OK-enough with that too - and I am not OK with your being OK with either of those - but you are, for better or worse, one of the best friends Taiwan has.

I expect better than this from someone Taiwan should be able to call a "friend".

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My real beef with the new labor laws

I've been thinking a lot these days about what it is I don't like about the new labor regulations in Taiwan. I'm not sure why - they don't actually impact me as I don't have a single full-time job: I've been freelance since I got my APRC. Being generally interested in labor issues, however, might be a part of it. As is the fact that the new laws do impact many of my friends.

The most common complaints I hear from sources I care about are that work they want is being taken away from them, and that flexibility they want is being taken away (companies whining that now they have to compensate their employees more generously for the extremely long work hours expected of them do not draw my sympathy, I quite literally DGAF. You've been paying your people too little for crazy hours for awhile now, Taiwanese employers. Suck it.)

I'm not sure at all that these are the root problems that are causing me to view the new law with so much cynicism, though. That said, they're worth exploring.

I have a friend who poured a lot of passion and effort into a particular class, notably in developing a syllabus for that class within a larger curriculum. She had it taken away, because it was (apparently) the only way for her employer to ensure she did not work overtime that she'd have to be paid extra for (because goodness gracious, they couldn't just pay a valuable teacher more, could they? Oh no!). She genuinely wanted that work, and it was snatched from her. I have another friend who didn't necessarily want to work 6 days a week, but appreciated the financial boost she got from the longer hours. That was taken away, because the thought of just paying her more was apparently unconscionable? Or something? I have students who have subordinates who used to arrange their work schedules to work 6-day weeks for much of the month, but then take at least one extended weekend in that month so the hours worked out over a longer period, and they got a longer rest. That is no longer permissible under the new law. I'm not sure why not, but my students assure me it is not. I am not an expert.

I'm sympathetic to all of these complaints - especially the last one - but it seems increasingly obvious to me that they're symptoms of deeper problems the new labor law ignores rather than the root problems themselves.

What's being ignored here, and what the new law does nothing to fix, is the power imbalance between employer and employee. The "Boss Class" doesn't like the new law for obvious reasons: it's not so easy to squeeze their peons for more work for as little compensation as they can get away with giving. Good. But why don't labor activists like it? Because it does nothing to improve employee bargaining power or choice. It does nothing to address the basic truth of modern capitalism: the employee always, always - even in a labor-scarce market - has less power than a company. I could go into why I feel this is, but suffice it to say that labor does not gain sufficient power vis-a-vis employers in a world where shortages do not appear to be creating better remuneration and working conditions for teachers, or one in which jobs are not so interchangeable, and there might not be a similarly good job to jump to if the one you have (or the other one on offer) doesn't offer enough incentives to get you in the door, not because there is a job scarcity but because what you'd be doing would be somewhat unique. I mean, I'm a teacher, just ask me how teacher shortages in the US haven't led to better working conditions for American teachers. Even when the market favored labor in the years before the 2008 crash, lots of job openings didn't mean lots of offers in a world where one job opening would attract hundreds of applicants simply because the Internet made it easier to advertise jobs on massive websites and for applicants to send out heaps of resumes. A person can't necessarily live without a job, but a company can live with a position unfilled, and can get by with less-than-ideal employees until they find the right person, because the company will almost by definition have more resources than an individual.

As a result, I can't even think of a time in my adult life when the market has truly helped working conditions and pay improve. I'm not young anymore, that's actually quite a long time to see - in my observation at least, I don't claim to be an economist - essentially no progress.

In a better system, employer and employee would be on more even footing to negotiate not only pay and benefits, but preferred working hours and conditions. The employer could lay out their needs, and the employee could lay out what they hope to achieve, or get, out of the job. Employees who want to work longer hours and make more money could choose to do so, and those who wanted to work less, or be more flexible, but also potentially earn less, could choose that, too. Solutions might not be perfect, but they'd be workable for all involved because everyone was on a somewhat level playing field (and of course this is most obviously true in positions with hourly pay or clear paid overtime) when negotiating the terms of work. Of course, that's not how it works: your employer tells you if you're going to be working more or less, and how much money you want vis-a-vis free time is not considered. Often, keeping the laws relaxed so working hours can be quite variable don't necessarily lead to the employee getting more say - for every person who chooses longer hours, there are a few who are forced to work them. For every employee who chooses fewer, there are a few who are put on reduced schedules (but still told to be available for hours they will never work, so they can't even seek other employment) because that benefits the company.

So what you have are new laws that still allow the employer, without your input, to decide how much you work - those who want to work more can't if the company doesn't want to pay them the new overtime amounts, and those who want to work less might still be called in when they'd rather be off, or not get to choose when they are off. My friend who had a class she wanted taken from her was not given a choice to keep that class and lose another one. My friend who appreciates the money but not necessarily the exhaustion of a 6-day week wasn't given a choice as to whether she worked one or not - not before when she had to work 6 days, and not after when that was reduced to 5. In both cases her preference mattered little, and with any new job it would be the same. My students' subordinates were not given the choice to have a flexible schedule (it's mere circumstance that my particular students happen to be flexible and generous with their employees; not all employers are.)

It also does little to change the problem of every job essentially being a terrible deal - low pay, long hours, little in the way of additional benefits - in a world where you can't just not choose any job, you likely need to pick one. I have a student with this issue: she doesn't like her job, nor does she like any of the jobs on offer. But she has to take one, she can't just be unemployed. It's not possible to insist you deserve more than $22,000NT per month  (which I think everyone does - you can't live independently on $22k. It does not cover basic cost of living and therefore is inadequate) when there are no jobs offering more. English teachers can't insist on a job where they get paid Lunar New Year (which we ought to get under the law, but don't) if no job offers paid Lunar New Year (you might get compensation after you leave, if you complain, but that means little if what you actually want is a paid holiday without having to quit and threaten to call the government to eventually get that money). You can't change much where you actually work if speaking up means you could get "laid off", and the next job won't be any better.

The new laws really don't do anything to address that basic problem. I'm not sure what could, frankly, in a world where the company will always be bigger, and have more money and resources, than an employee or job seeker, no matter how "good" the market supposedly is.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Pass the sausage: a crazy theory about why there aren't many female Taiwan experts

First, let's take a moment to acknowledge Freedom of Speech day in Taiwan, although it is not an official holiday (but should be). Today was the day 28 years ago when activist and writer Nylon Deng self-immolated before his imminent arrest by police after a period of barricading himself in his office.  Nylon s best remembered by the activist community in Taiwan for insisting on "100% freedom of speech", and for openly supporting Taiwan independence when it was not quite safe to do so. Today also happens to be the day that Reporters Without Borders announced that they'd open their Asia bureau in Taipei rather than Hong Kong, and I am choosing to believe that this is not a coincidence, even though it probably is.

As it is around the world, activism and feminism tend to go hand-in-hand, although through history many liberals have been supportive of liberal causes yet dismissive of feminist ones, or of women's equality. I remember, when watching the tear-jerking documentary on Nylon in the museum dedicated to him on the site of his self-immolation, an offhand comment that he was "cruel" to his wife and daughter. The moment went by quickly and I haven't re-watched the film, though I will soon as I do own it, but it caused me to reflect on that point.

But that was the 1980s and this is 2017, a time when being a liberal, progressive or activist but not being feminist will cause one serious problems. I do think, then, it is worthwhile to reflect on the presence of women in Taiwan Studies and advocacy around the world, as tenuous as that link may be.

This generally excellent piece came out recently on the Trump-Xi meeting (which I am not commenting on much because I don't have much to say), and it was pointed out that nine Taiwan experts were included, and not one of them was female. "Yup, bit of a sausage fest", it was acknowledged (and I do appreciate the acknowledgement). Of course, that's not to say there aren't any Taiwan experts. Some of my favorite books on Taiwan were written by women (reading this now and loving it), and of course there's the well-known Shelley Rigger (though I have to say I'm not a huge fan of her work for the reasons Michael Turton outlined here). Edit: a few more names I have in fact come across have been pointed out: Bonnie Glaser and Gwyneth Wang, to name a few. In any case, pickings sure do seem to remain slim. 

But if you could ask me to name other prominent female Taiwan experts or advocates, I don't think I could. I know the community, so I'm not shooting in the dark here, yet, it really does seem to be something of a sausage fest.

Why is that?

Of course I have a theory.

Keep in mind it's just a theory, concocted within the confines of my own weird brain, as far as I know really only explains the dearth of notable female Taiwan supporters in the US, and is quite open to constructive feedback. It's not meant to be a definitive statement on the matter.

Yet, as far as the US is concerned, I can't help but notice that most Taiwan experts also happen to be Taiwan advocates. It's quite common, even the norm, to be both an expert and a part of the Taiwan independence movement. In the US, who are the 'friends of Taiwan' in the government that Taiwan independence supporters tend to turn to, or at least receive the greatest support from?

Republicans. And in some cases, some of the worst Republicans in office. In every other sense, beyond their support of Taiwan (which usually seems to stem from a hatred of China rather than a genuine caring for Taiwan), just really terrible people. People like Marco Rubio, who supports both Hong Kong's localist movement and Taiwan, but who is a total shitlord when it comes to women's issues. People like Tom Cotton, who also supports both Taiwan and Hong Kong, who is also a total douchestick on women's issues. Even Bob Dole, that ol' 90s throwback who honestly was more moderate than these other losers on women's issues for his day (emphasis: for his day), isn't great.

No, I'm not going to be nicer about that because they're friends of Taiwan. They're also turdburglars and they deserve the criticism.

And to be fair, not every friend of Taiwan is like this. I don't have any particular criticisms of unelected supporters of Taiwan in government (think Bolton, Yates), but they tend to be Republicans, and Republicans are at this moment in history actively working against women's rights.

I'm not even going to talk about Trump because he doesn't have a clear Taiwan policy (the one thing that is clear is that he cares about nobody but himself, his family and sweet sweet money, and possibly power as well, and he'll sacrifice anything and everything for those things). But Taiwan's association with Trump, I can tell you honestly, has hurt Taiwan's standing among liberal voters, if they cared about Taiwan to begin with, which most don't. I'll stop there, because "liberal voters" are not the same as "Taiwan experts" or "Taiwan advocates", and I'm talking about the latter. The former is a different issue that I may or may not tackle at a later time.

It is also important to differentiate between advocates for Taiwan, and the people they lobby and talk to. Advocates for Taiwan outside of government tend to be very good people. I am friends with many of them (and yes, they are almost entirely male). The people they talk to are the problem. There are also some powerful female voices for Taiwan in other areas, such as Linda Arrigo and Shawna Yang Ryan, but I'm trying to be specific in terms of Taiwan experts who also advocate (and in many cases actively lobby) for Taiwan in Washington.

Of the women who are a part of this community, it is notable that of the 9 (9? Someone mentioned 9, I counted 8) people asked to comment for the article above, not one of them was female. How is it that they found 9 experts, all male, and ignored all of the women who do good work or are strong voices in this field? Is there perhaps a connection between being asked to comment on a piece like this and how often one is seen around government folks? Is there a connection between not doing that, and being female? If so, could that connection be in part because most of the people you would be talking to not only are not known generally for having much respect for women, but are actively working against women's rights?

I happen to think so, yes.

Or, perhaps they are overlooked because women simply tend to be overlooked in many fields.

I mean, to be a Taiwan expert - at least an American one - means making peace with the fact that the country you are most interested in and are likely to advocate for finds its greatest support among some of the worst people in Washington. On some level this is praiseworthy: it means setting aside differences to work on a common goal. I can see the value in that. I can see the value in not always giving in to identity politics, as well.

However, this is really easy to do if the people you are talking to and working with aren't actively trying to take away your rights, or subjugate your gender. It's much easier to "set differences aside" when the other side's differences aren't actual, literal and active attempts to make your life worse. It's easy when it's not aimed at you.

It is far more difficult to do when you can't even fathom being in the same room with some of them. I cannot imagine I would do anything to Marco Rubio other than spit in his stupid asshat face if I had to look at him, let alone talk to him. Perhaps I am more tempestuous, temperamental or I just care more about these things than others, but I know I'm not the only woman who would rather punch some of these Republican twatwads in the mouth than talk to them.

So how could someone like me - a woman, a lover of Taiwan, a supporter of Taiwan, someone who makes it her business and passion to keep up with Taiwan affairs despite not officially being any sort of expert - actually be an expert? When expertise tends to overlap so much with advocacy, and advocacy overlaps so much with talking to people I cannot bear to dignify with even basic manners, because they cannot bear to dignify my gender with basic rights, how is this even a possibility?

In fact, this is one of the direct causes behind why I went into education as a professional rather than Taiwan Studies. Perhaps 5 years ago - I don't remember exactly - I was in Hong Kong, sitting on the upstairs deck at the Fringe Club talking to friends there. We were discussing my next move, and I said I had three key interests: TEFL, the Chinese language and Taiwan Studies. I didn't know which I'd pursue, I said, but it would be one of those three, I would be going back to school at some point, and soon enough it would be come clear which I'd choose.

I chose education, because I actually kind of hated Chinese class though I love learning Chinese, and because Taiwan Studies to me is inextricably bound up in Taiwan advocacy, and that would mean lobbying or talking to all sorts of odious socially conservative Republican types, the sort who are actively trying to roll back my basic human rights. Even then, I knew I couldn't do it.

This is, as a side note, why I am eager to jump on any alternative at all. It sucks to love Taiwan but hate the friends of Taiwan in the US government. It sucks to know you might be able to go to school for Taiwan Studies, but you wouldn't be able to advocate with a straight face, nor would you be able to work with Taiwan supporters in the US government, because when their rollback of basic rights and dignity is aimed at your gender, it is impossible to "set differences aside" or look the other way. If someone presents even the most unlikely alternative model for advocating for Taiwan, it's like a flame for my inner moth.

I know I can't do it, and I don't think it's fair to ask any woman to do it. That's absolutely not to say that I think the men who do do it - who bite their lips and talk to assholes for Taiwan's sake - don't care about women's issues. I'm sure it's not easy talking to someone you disagree with on nearly every other thing (and most of the ones I know are good people, solid liberals, and women's rights supporters). Yet they do it - they do what I can't, and I won't pretend that gender is not one of the reasons why. It's simply easier when it's not your basic human rights on the chopping block, even if you have the best of intentions.

So that's my crazy theory. At least as far as Americans are concerned, there are not many female Taiwan experts because, while they might have common cause with some of the worst people in government over Taiwan, these same people are enemies of their gender. That's just too much to ask - and frankly, shouldn't have to be asked. It is 100% stone cold not okay, especially as Taiwan independence is, fundamentally, a liberal cause. 

There are surely other reasons - Taiwan is a harder place to live long-term for foreign women being one of them and many foreign experts on Taiwan have spent significant time here. (As a side note, this is why most foreign commentators on Taiwan skew male - there are simply more male expats, and I do explore the reasons for that in the link above. Another reason might be that a lot of currently known Taiwan experts got into the field decades ago, when this sort of field was male dominated. When I was in school my International Affairs cohort was not particularly male, but several decades before that it likely would have been. Yet another may be "because the women are choosing China where the action is". Perhaps. I may explore these other possibilities in future posts.

I do hope for change going forward, and it would be interesting to see what the younger, perhaps less recognized cohort of Taiwan experts looks like gender-wise. However, I can say that when I was younger and looking at that path, the sorts of horrible people I'd have to talk to were a clear reason why I steered away from it, and made Taiwan affairs a hobby rather than a profession. I cannot imagine I am the only woman to have been put off. It does cause women to turn away, and I know that because it turned me away.

Constructive feedback is welcome. Hateful or misogynist comments will be deleted without being fully read.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A list of comestibles that I recommend for Chiu Tai-San

Here are some decorations for the things Chiu Tai-san can eat
1.) A dick

2.) A bag of dicks

3.) A big ol' burlap sack of dicks

4.) Tesco value-size bags of dicks (from a reader)

5.) Costco pallets of dicks

6.) Shipping containers of dicks imported from distant lands

7.) I hope he saved room for dessert because he's got more dicks coming (also from a reader)

8.) A dick sundae (like a banana split except with a dick - plus two big scoops of ice cream, extra whipped cream and dick sprinkles)

9.) The Pacific Trash Vortex Except It's All Dicks


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Greetings from a low-level, non-outstanding foreigner!

Many in the foreign community are celebrating new regulations allowing certain "high-level" foreigners to retain their original citizenship when applying for Taiwanese nationality - basically, doing away with the requirement, for them, to give up their original nationality in order to become a Taiwanese citizen. This comes after months of advocating for change, including a period of public comment on the regulations in question.

I guess you could see this as a tiny step forward. Many people do. It's something, that's for sure - but I'm not celebrating.

What this does is allow the government to rest on its laurels, thinking they've 'done something' about the problem of very long-term foreigners, foreigners who are barely 'foreign' anymore, who see Taiwan as their home (in many cases, who were born and raised here). It gives them an out to, honestly, not do anything more for quite some time. In the meantime, the rest of us are left out in the cold. As far as I can tell, this includes Taiwanese with non-Taiwanese parents, that is, anyone who was born and raised in Taiwan and is for all intents and purposes Taiwanese, but are treated as 'foreigners' simply because they have the wrong kind of face.

It also creates more divisions in the expat community where there needn't be any. There are already unfair and unnecessary divisions between laborers, mainly from Southeast Asia, and "professionals", mainly from Western nations. If you think that has nothing to do with racism, you're kidding yourself.

In any case, what differentiates a 'high-level' foreigner from a scrub, in that gray area where people like me reside?

I can't help but take it a little bit personally. Certainly, people might read this and think "she's just mad because she didn't meet the requirements!" but, in fact, I'd be mad even if I did, because the requirements are fundamentally unfair.

Seriously, though, it does make me feel as though my many years of busting my ass to actually be a professional in a field that is not always looked upon as professional means nothing, and that I do not even deserve what every Taiwanese - and some special foreigners - is able to obtain. That ten years of further busting my already busted ass to gain credentials and experience including, but not limited to, pieces of paper, and to be an active force for raising the standard of English language education in Taiwan across the board (I am a part of a group of people trying to bring better teacher training programs to Taiwan, for example) is still insufficient: that I am still trash, as far as Taiwan is concerned, not worthy of consideration, having made no contribution to the country at all.

And, because they passed this fistful of garbage, it is likely to be some time, if ever, before that changes.

Or I could get my PhD (I was thinking about it anyway), take a job at some third-rate university teaching college students in "conversational English" classes of 65+ who don't want to be there, pressured to pass them all anyway, and obtain dual nationality because that is somehow better than what I'm doing now, working with small groups of adults and achieving real results with real-life ramifications, for some fucking reason.

So yeah, needless to say I am not exactly overjoyed that the Taiwanese government decided to tell foreigners that some of you are kind of OK, but the rest of you? Don't let the door hit you on the way out, we don't need or want you enough to give you equal rights (but then complaining that, say, standards of English proficiency in Taiwan are too low). I'm not jumping for joy that a system of divisions and double-and-triple standards is being implemented where no such divisions need to exist. I'm not excited about being labeled a scrub because my pieces of paper are not as good as some other pieces of paper. I'm not happy that the government has decided that my ten years of being devoted to Taiwan and attempting to contribute positively to Taiwan are worthless.

I am also not exactly happy that, up until recently, the government has snubbed people who were actually born and raised here in favor of bestowing a unicorn-like waiver allowing dual nationality to some missionary (as a friend-of-a-friend pointed out, always a white Christian missionary). While I do not deny that missionaries do some good work, the side dish of evangelizing that comes with it is not good for Taiwan. The institutional advantage they enjoy because they have a big religious organization funding their work (which they use to preach their religion, which often comes with preaching the intolerance and bigotry that Christianity is unfortunately known for), which the rest of us can't possibly compete with because we can't afford to work for free, earns little sympathy from me. I await your hate mail for this opinion, but there it is.

In short, I am not dancing in the street over this. It is simply not good enough.

Anyway, enjoy your dual nationality, Some Foreigners.

I'll be over here grumbling in my trash can, where the Taiwanese government apparently thinks I originated and where I belong.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

China is Asia's shitty privileged fedora dude at a bar

No but seriously, if you were out with friends and this guy you know - maybe he lent you some money, but you are not exactly friends - was creeping on a friend of yours and was even making threats toward her, you probably like to think you'd step in, yes? Even if he was a pretty strong dude, maybe strong enough to take you down, you'd know that standing up for her was the right thing to do and take that risk, yes? Even if there was a chance you'd end up beaten up in the parking lot for crossing him?

Let's say he's been acting this way for awhile, totally weirding out his neighbors and any women he talks to, and he's...that type. Dominant, overbearing, seemingly well-educated but prone to being taken in by fake news articles, conspiracy theories and half-truths. He himself "alt right" but you know it's straight-up racism.

Let's say this guy - we'll call him Chad - is at a crowded bar and Tina gets stuck standing next to him. He's being a total douche to Tina but she can't just get away from him. He's creeping on her, saying if she won't go out with him he'll "just rape her oh haha but anyway what're you going to do about it". He also jokes that he "owns" her and she'll "never get away from him". Even if they were together that'd be creepy as hell, but they're not!

Tina's a good friend of yours, very loyal.

You'd go in there and be like "hey, Chad, leave Tina the fuck alone. And that rape joke is seriously not funny. If you don't walk that back I'm calling the cops because that's a real threat and it's not okay."


You definitely wouldn't be all "well, you know, Chad's going through a rough time right now. And I totally still owe him some money. So I probably shouldn't get involved. Tina can handle herself" (Tina keeps throwing glances at you, begging for help).

No way would you say "I mean Chad was just joking about raping her, right? He wouldn't actually do that! I'm sure Tina and Chad can work it out themselves!"

"When he says he 'owns' her, it just means he really likes her, he doesn't mean it like MEAN it mean it," you definitely would not state.

"It's not like Chad's raping her NOW. She's fine. Ew, he's totally pressing his hard-on into her thigh...that must really suck for Tina, but it's not my business. I have to trust Tina to deal with him herself. Maybe she should just talk to him about it and get him to understand that's not okay?"

Chad's raging boner

Certainly, you'd never say that.

"I mean, Chad totally buys her lots of drinks and she's drinking them. Well, okay, he's pressuring her to, but still. She could probably just say no even though she's really scared. I mean she looks genuinely scared! One of them probably has roofies in it, but she hasn't passed out yet. She can take care of herself."

You'd think you were being a horrible person if you said that, right?
"I mean, the last time we thought we could help out Irene and get her crazy ex-husband off her back, and look what happened, we totally fucked it up and ruined her life. So we definitely shouldn't tell Chad to knock if off."

Nope, not from you. You have integrity!

"The thing about Chad is, he totally thinks he's better than anyone else. He'll even tell you it's a race thing or a guy thing. Yeah, he's kinda racist but what're ya gonna do? He says we have to respect his views. I totally think that's bullshit, but I'm a tolerant person so I can't say he's a terrible person just for having a different opinion. Of course I don't agree, I care about women and other people no matter where they are from. I think everyone should be equal and the world would be better if we could all just get along. I would never say what he says, though, because I'm woke!"

You'd be all "whoever said something like that was a total douchebag", right? After all, you're one of the good ones!

"Also, about Chad? I really can't just step in because he might actually start a fight. I like Tina a lot, I really respect what a strong, beautiful woman she is. Everybody calls her Beautiful Tina! I can't say that too much or talk to her too much, or Chad gets mad at me."

"The thing is, I don't want to get into a fight with Chad so there's nothing I can do. Even though if he could beat me up he could totally wreck Tina. He could really beat me up! The last time we kind of knocked his fedora a little askance he totally complained about it for ages."

"If I stepped in it could be worse for Tina! He might get mad and go after her for real and that might really be a problem!"

"I know it's totally weird that Chad tells everyone they're dating already when they clearly aren't, but maybe she should just go with it? People already believe Chad anyway. Like, is that worse than getting raped?"

Tina: "For fuck's sake, is anybody going to help me get Chad off my back? I could really use some help here."

I hope you see where I'm going with this.

Chad and Tina
Consider the spineless liberal (and I am a liberal) super nice person - could be male or female - who nutsacks out of doing something in real instances of other people being harassed, threatened or otherwise pushed around by shitty privileged white guys, instead of growing a damn vagina and standing up and doing something about it. One thing the past few days have taught me is that you can be a great person in word, who says all the right things and has all the right beliefs (and I do believe there is a clear wrong and right in many, though not all, cases) but it doesn't mean much if you don't stand up for the other people (or countries) you claim to care about - and yes, I am very directly talking about failed Western policies in China, which have enabled it to grow into a Hulk-like bully that threatens Tina and all the other folks at the Asia Bar (and perhaps beyond).

Quite literally, y'all have been letting a shitty privileged dude get away with harassing everyone else and done nothing about it despite claiming to feel otherwise. Nobody cares about how you feel - we care about what you do.

I am a big fan of liberalism. I'm not as far left as a lot of my friends, but then a fair number are straight-up Communists (I'm not), but you can consistently count on me to fight for equal rights, fair pay, a strong social safety net and legal weed.

But I just can't get over the knock-kneed wuss-ass liberal approach to Taiwan. You - all of you - are quite literally watching your friend sit there and take credible threats and doing nothing about it, like that not-really-a-friend bullshit "but I'm not like that, I respect _____!" loser at the bar who won't stand up when it counts. The sort of person I wouldn't trust as a friend, because they would have so many pretty words but not have my back.

You are not a true liberal unless you actually stand up for what you believe in. That means standing up for the folks you claim to care about so much. In this case, standing up for Taiwan. If you want to continue to sell out liberal, democratic Taiwan in order to make nice with dictatorial China, but otherwise call yourself a liberal, you are a hypocrite.

I'm sick of the OMG PHONE CALL too, and I still don't want Trump to be the one to have made it. I still wish it could have been a competent leader under a coherent, ethical policy shift. The craptacular "oh but but but, oh but...we can't anger CHAD! We have to be careful with CHAD!" from not only most major media outlets - not only including but especially the ones with a liberal slant - but also the more liberal end of the diplomatic community has, shall we say, been less than inspiring. I'm starting to feel like, as much as I hate it, and as much as I do not and will not ever absolve Trump, and cannot and will never trust him, the people I wanted to make that call never would have.

This does not mean it's okay that a guy who can't be trusted to stand by Taiwan when it counts was the one to do this, it just exposes the hypocrisy of all the people who could have done so credibly, but didn't.

They'd have let Tina sit there stuck at the bar with Chad's trouser tent bruising her thigh, joking about raping her, and done fuck all about it because "oh no China might get mad oh no".

"This is not how things are done" and "this is a delicate matter!" are increasingly starting to sound like so much window dressing for "oh but there's nothing we can do, you know how Chad can be!" I'd be more inclined to believe it if I still believed they'd eventually do something about Chad. It is becoming quite clear they never intended to.

Obama, as much as I have otherwise supported him despite his sometimes weak leadership and occasional hypocrisies, would have never made that call, as much as I wanted him to. Clinton wouldn't likely have either. And their liberal media friends would have continued making hypocritical excuses for why not, and still insisted they really did care, but, you know, it's a tough situation.

So, I love you liberals. I really do. I am one of you. So I say this with love in my heart:

Shut the fuck up with your excuses. You are embarrassing yourselves. Stand up for what you believe in.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A sunflower by another name doesn't get any attention...yet

If you read New Bloom, and I hope you do, you might be one of the only people in Taiwan who knew about the workers' hunger strike in front of the Legislative Yuan these past two days. The workers held the strike to protest the DPP government's intent to cut the number of public holidays from 19 to 12 and, for all intents and purposes, legislate away the 2-day weekend that Taiwanese workers fought hard for not that long ago. 

Considering that the DPP rose to power in part on a promise to be more considerate of labor interests rather than blindly sucking corporate dick like the KMT (is it too early to say I miss the unholy triad of gangsters, property developers/big business and politicians that defined pretty much every stretch of KMT rule the country has known? Do the DPP have their own gangster-businessman handjobs to give?), this is basically a slap in the face of workers. I cannot imagine the DPP will be treated kindly at the polls if this legislation passes as-is. It also has me taking seriously the idea that the DPP is a far more conservative government than we'd thought they'd be, mirroring the KMT in ways that society never wanted them to.

What's more, despite the NPP vowing to fight for labor rights, they didn't seem to take much of an interest in the hunger strike either. I have my own issues with the NPP not caring about all labor in Taiwan (they certainly don't care about foreign labor, and no I will not shut up about it as that affects people I know directly and keeps me from fully supporting the NPP), and this is additionally worrying. What are they fighting for if not this?

Well, anyway, the strike ended with nothing achieved. While some labor protests gain social support (see the China Airlines strike just recently), this one lay flaccid and ignored. As New Bloom noted, activists largely did not seem to notice, and those who did seemed supportive but didn't necessarily show up in big enough numbers.

My theory as to why: China Airlines' staff striking meant major inconvenience for travelers and business alike (and not just the airlines' own business). They not only blocked up Nanjing Road, but managed to shut down a fair amount of air traffic. Of course that was going to be more electrifying. Sitting outside the Legislative Yuan, where you affect precisely no one who isn't used to this sort of thing, is simply not going to be as effective. Smarter would be to organize and threaten nationwide strikes on the holidays this new legislation would cut were it to go into effect.

But here's the thing: the government still ignores this at its own peril. The students and associated supporting activists do too. Also, the media. And possibly you.

If you don't remember how the Sunflower movement gained momentum, go ahead and read J. Michael Cole's Black Island: from the Next Media acquisition to anti-nuclear protests to Yuanli to Dapu to Huaguang to Losheng to the Wang residence, the Sunflowers didn't just appear on the scene, suddenly inspired as they never had been before to shut down the legislature. (Note: a lot of what I'm going to say about them is partly from my own experience and partly from re-reading about that time in recent Taiwanese history through that book. Credit where credit is due).

They fought many small, often unnoticed battles and usually lost. The Dapu homes are gone. Huaguang is gone. People didn't pay attention to them as the DPP held opposition rallies that attracted lots of people and achieved nothing, and then one day the momentum everyone had been ignoring on the sidelines (or calling "naive" and "irrational" though it was anything but) exploded in a wildly successful social movement that has quite possibly changed the future of the country.

Side note: notice how I call Taiwan a "country" and aggressively do not call it an "island" although it is one. "Island" is very common in English-language media reporting on Taiwan, but it's a cop-out, a way of being technically correct without having any nuts whatsoever. Taiwan is a country. CALL IT ONE, for chrissakes. Or are my nuts bigger than yours?

This image is "extra large", LIKE MY NUTS.
Anyway, image stolen (sorry, but my nuts need to be seen) from here
Also, I do not recommend you Google "my nuts" to find this image. 

Anyway, those who were surprised were not paying attention. That's on them.

As I see it, it's starting again, but this time with workers. They might lose this fight, and the next one, and the one after that. Their hunger strikes may go unremarked-upon, and the parties that came to power promising to work with them may betray them. But, like the students, they have all of the markers of becoming the next thing that shakes the country.

First, they are right. No question. Fuck the Man. Seize the means of production. All that great stuff. Taiwanese workers are overworked and they are underpaid, and business assholes have been exploiting them for far too long. This has to change.

They are not afraid to strike, and have been inspired recently by the China Airlines strike and the successes it brought. Hopefully, they'll learn from that and conduct more successful strikes in the future.

Worker strikes, if done well, have the potential to really inconvenience a lot of people - rather like occupying the Legislative Yuan but being so peaceful and reasonable that the police don't dare to use force (which they shouldn't). Remember, you need workers to do things. All things. Like literally all of the things. If you like things getting done, you need workers. If workers refuse to work on a large scale, or in very targeted ways at very targeted times, that is going to suck for everyone. This is a good thing. It's actually an advantage the students did not have.

Though this particular protest went unnoticed, like the early student activist protests that predated the Sunflowers, there is a lot of potential there for broad public support, especially against the well-defined demon of Business Assholes. It's true that they have a lot of Business Asshole enemies and some Stockholm Syndrome types (I wonder if my good buddy who is heretofore banned from commenting will pop up and be one of these! You won't see his comments because I won't publish them, but hey buddy! Stay angry. It's fun. Never change) will complain about the inconvenience rather than consider the reasons for such drastic action, but that we know who the enemy is and most Taiwanese suffer under the current worker-business status quo means the potential is there to get the country mobilized behind them (and vote for...who? I don't know. When the KMT and DPP both fail you and the NPP is not doing as well as you'd like, who do you vote for?).

This looks like it's going to be one of those long fights - Business Assholes don't give up easily. What this means is lots and lots of protests that end up training the workers who want better conditions to engage in civil revolt more effectively, much as the activists who became the Sunflowers learned a lot from the protests that helped the movement coalesce. You are going to see workers going after what they want far more effectively - I'd put money on it. If I had a lot of money, which I don't, because teaching English at a professional level in Taiwan does not pay well.  (Again a note: that's not a complaint about my various current employers. It's a complaint about the state of ESL education in Taiwan and the world in general).

Regarding that last point, the workers also have the benefit of coalescing, clarifying their message and engaging in more effective civil disobedience while the rest of the country is mostly ignoring them. Their mistakes won't be particularly public. I noticed that the student leaders were incredibly well-versed in the history of effective nonviolent civil disobedience. Someone for sure has read up on their King and their Gandhi. I can only hope the workers have leaders who are well-read in the history of labor movements and what has worked.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, they are persistent, because they really believe in what they are fighting for, and the conditions they are fighting against are truly untenable and have been going on for far too long. It is reaching a tipping point. Taiwanese actually drop dead from overwork on a startling basis, and almost everyone - even if they pretend otherwise - know that the work is far too grueling hours-wise and far too low-paid to be something Taiwanese give up and settle for. The idea that this is just going to go away is nonsense. It's not, because there is no option to give up. The consolation prize - a continued shitty work life and not even earning good money for it - is not acceptable. So they are not going to stop pushing.

And when you won't stop pushing because losing is not an option, you tend to break through and succeed, jumping over so many proverbial fences and storming so many proverbial legislatures eventually.

I do hope people start to pay attention. The youth movement needs to pay attention, certainly - even those who are still in school are going to be entering the Taiwanese working world soon. Anyway, they care about the future of the country - so not only will these workers be them soon enough, it would be a very unfortunate thing indeed if they missed where the next big movement was coming from and did not contribute their own experience, followers and support to this very important issue.

Business Assholes need to pay attention because otherwise they are going to be shocked when they wake up one day and find they can't grind Taiwanese down to nubs day after day for circus peanut pay.

Foreigners need to pay attention, because we need to fight for better labor rights, protections and immigration rights too. Foreigners not in Taiwan need to pay attention, because all your semiconductors are belong to us. 

Everyday people need to pay attention, because life is eventually going to start to get difficult for them.

And the media needs to pay attention, or they are going to be as caught off-guard as they were by the Sunflowers. Something tells me that this is exactly what is going to happen, though, because the Taiwanese media.

I don't know what they will be called - which flower or berry or something entirely new - perhaps the White Orchids, because as much as you mistreat an orchid it stubbornly blooms? - but they are coming, and you'd best wake up.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Confucian values" are not the problem

So I was reading this article linked to by a friend on what's wrong with Taiwan and its approach to the business in the post-industrial era. 

And I have to say, I didn't care for it. I didn't absolutely hate it, but it missed the mark in a few key ways.

First, I'll give Stocker points for referring to Taiwan as a 'nation' and 'country' and not using the old 'island' cop-out that so many pussyfooting writers do. Thank you for that. More people should be so brave as to speak truth to power or just, I dunno, use language to describe a situation realistically. I don't know why that's so hard for so many writers, publications and weak-willed editors. All it takes is a backbone and some damn principles. And realistically, Taiwan is a country. It is a nation. It is also an island, but using that as the de facto descriptor is devaluing and belittling. I have trouble taking journalists writing on Taiwan seriously who do this, so much credit to Stocker for not doing so.

And he's right to criticize the ODM mindset that lower costs and ramped-up production based on what other people are ordering, absolutely. ODM itself is not the problem, the issue is that Taiwan can't compete on price. It just can't. That's not going to change. It's time to find something new.

In his words:

Taiwan’s four decades of economic development were built largely on a single business model: winning export orders by delivering a quality product at a lower price (aka CP Value). Despite the increasingly uncompetitive nature of this business model, and in spite of sales of millions of copies of books like Blue Ocean Strategy and Value Proposition Model, Taiwan has failed to break its reliance on the CP Value model; not much unlike a college student who continues to rely on mom and dad for money after graduation.

I can't honestly disagree with that.

He's not wrong, either, to criticize the educational system, which sees fantastic scholastic achievement but mostly in the realm of test scores, and even then, much of it is the result of the private after-school cram school industry:

The business environment as far as I can tell is a reflection of the classroom. People are trained into this way of thinking/acting over 16 years, and when the company they join reinforces this mode of operation, people just default to what they are used to.
“When each individual is taking his/her own test, you aren’t going to build a very innovative culture. No experimentation. No exploration. No observation. No conversation. No debate.
Sure, but I'm not sure that's the biggest reason for business problems in Taiwan.

I used to defend Taiwan's educational system more vociferously, but I've grown more disillusioned with it the more I learn about it. I will not, however, go as far as some commentators do and say it teaches Taiwanese kids to become drones incapable of critical thought. No, it doesn't do that any more than the American public school system, which is still very much in an Industrial Age mindset, does. And anyway, it's not like Taiwanese don't learn to become critical thinkers - they do, just not from school. They learn it from their families, their friends, from life. Just like most other people in the world, including Americans. I was lucky to have a few decent teachers who really were dedicated to teaching us to think, but honestly, I could have gotten through school fairly easily simply memorizing what I needed to know and regurgitating it. Often, I did, and did my real learning in other ways (such as through my parents' extensive library). So, I don't think American public schools were any better at teaching me critical thinking than Taiwanese schools are at teaching it to Taiwanese kids, so please lay off on that stupid stereotype. We are not any better. That's not to say the Taiwanese system is great, just that our pot is pretty black too.

What can I say - one of our most famous folk songs includes the lyrics "20 years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift"!

The same is true looking at testing culture: the West (at least, the US) is getting worse in this regard, not better. If anything, the Asian model should have shown that testing culture doesn't work. Taiwanese schools are more focused on bigger tests (such as the college entrance exam) than the US, though, and that is a problem. Most tests are not reliable and many have deep validity issues.

My one other true criticism is that teachers who study education in Asia, in many cases, don't actually learn to teach. They learn their subject matter well but don't go much into pedagogy, curriculum development, methodology or approaches.

Hell, if the education system were really to blame, Korea and Japan would be stagnating too in terms of brand reach. Both have education systems not that different from Taiwan's. Japan has its own economic turmoil but nobody doubts its international branding, and Korea just seems to keep climbing the ladder, outshining its old Asian Tiger rival, Taiwan in economic growth and global visibility. China, too! China is a bit of a rollercoaster economically, but people are touting it as the next great superpower, and it is already a global economic powerhouse. China's educational system is, if anything, far more repressive than Taiwan's.

So no, there is plenty to criticize about education in Taiwan but it is simply not the reason why business and international brand reach in Taiwan have been stagnating.

As for "no conversation, no debate", has Stocker walked down the street in Taipei on any given day to hear people sitting around outside their homes or the stores of their friends/neighbors debating issues of the day? Has he hung out in cafes overhearing student groups meeting to talk about politics and the way forward for the country? I have. In fact, I feel like I come across this more often in Taiwan than in the US, where "public discourse" seems to now mean throwing insults at each other over Facebook and saying stuff like "it's people like you who..." and "you [insert pejorative catchphrase here] make me sick" and "typical neocon/fundie/liberal/SJW crybaby". (To be fair, I argue with people on Facebook too, but I never stoop to that. It shows a lack of ability to support one's views with evidence).

People do converse, and they do debate. They experiment, too. Have I ever told you about my student who - as a child - would throw cats to determine their mass and velocity and tie firecrackers to lizards' tails to see what would happen? I mean, that's animal abuse and it's wrong, but you can't say he didn't experiment.

As for "Confucian values":

This leads to one of the big three challenges facing Taiwanese business as he sees it: Confucian values.
Says Stocker: “Unfortunately, too many Taiwanese are afraid to tell their boss what is going on and what should be done. Taiwanese employees don’t feel they have the right to make decisions, and for this reason they refrain from communicating (anything) with their superiors. There is no debate, there is no challenging of the status quo; there are no crazy ideas. The boss has to do all the talking, and over time since he/she is doing all the talking, he/she starts to do all the thinking as well. We end up with these incredibly flat organizations, with a boss on one layer and all employees on a second layer. Employees wait for the directive from the boss, and ignore anything coming laterally from co-workers. They also won’t collaborate with other employees to find an idea to work on, because the only relationship they need to attend to is that with the boss. It is very hard to be innovative when the only interaction is boss-to-employee in a downward direction.”
I mean, yes, I do often see a 'keep your head down, do as you're told, don't rock the boat' mentality in businesses in Taiwan. He's not wrong on the results, just on the reasons behind them.

Perhaps I'm just sick of the stereotypical invocation of "Confucian society" as a Western rejoinder to every issue they see in Taiwan. Don't like something or find it different from your own culture? Assume it's worse, and blame Confucius! It's so easy! Certainly all you have to do is go to an expat bar in Taipei to hear it. And I'm sick of it.

Because again, if that were really the problem, then how come the issues uniquely affecting Taiwan are not affecting Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong or China, or at least not to the same degree? They are all "Confucian societies" too, and again, while they have their own economic woes, they're not facing economic stagnation in quite the same way or for quite the same reasons as Taiwan is.

That's not even getting into how what Stocker describes as "Confucian values" are not actually very Confucian at all. Confucius cared about hierarchy and the chain of command, yes, but he also admonished those at the top to listen to their underlings and treat them fairly.

So clearly, "Confucian values" are not the reason.

What do I think are the main reasons?

Because what I think is important, at least on this blog?

They are wage stagnation, exhausting work culture, brain drain (a direct result of the first two) and China.

So here we go:

1.) Wage stagnation

Stocker almost gets it, here:

To the converse, if you as an individual do come across a good idea, you are going to keep it to yourself, and when the timing is right you will ‘start your own company’.

Do you, Mr. Boss Man (because you are probably a man, maybe you even have a top had and monocle or just secretly wish you did), want to know why your employees aren't sharing their great ideas with you?

Do you think it's because of "Confucian values" and all you have to do is tell them to make more decisions, talk more to each other and be responsible for their own roles as they play into the success of the company? Is that why, Mr. Boss Man?

Let me speak for Mr. Boss Man: "Yes, that is why. I shall tell my employees to talk more and make more decisions when we have our next annual meeting."

To which I say, no. That is not the reason.

The reason is that you don't pay them enough to make it worth their while to tell you their great ideas. 

I know this because I used to be someone's employee too. I used to have great ideas for how to improve our materials, our seminars, our support, our non-existent training. Years later, holding a Delta (meaning I'm now qualified to professionally assess the quality of my previous ideas), I still feel I had some great input.

I never bothered to share it with the company, though, because they didn't pay me enough to make sharing it worth it to me. I wouldn't see a pay bump, or a promotion. There wasn't a job to be promoted to. I would see precisely no benefit from sharing my thoughts with that company...why should I have given them my creative output for free, so they could profit and I could stay in the same place?

No, I kept my ideas to myself, created my own materials, syllabuses and teaching style and used it to build my own freelance business where I charge a rate commensurate with my abilities - a rate my former employer would never have paid me.

And that was the smartest thing to do.

I don't know anybody in Taiwan who would think "I have a great idea but I'm not going to tell the boss because she really cares about the chain of command and will see my speaking out as insubordinate."

No, every decent boss, "Confucian" devotion to hierarchy notwithstanding, knows a good idea when she hears it (there are plenty of bosses who aren't so decent, but let's assume enough of them get to be bosses by having some sort of talent) and if it is going to make her money, won't care where it came from.

More likely that worker thinks "I have a great idea but I'm going to keep it to myself because these people don't pay me enough to give a damn how successful their company is. It doesn't benefit me at all to help them make money while I continue to be underpaid and overworked, whereas I could stand to benefit a great deal from pursuing my idea on my own".

If you pay someone peanuts, they will give you monkey work. They may not actually be a monkey, but you will not be motivating them to talk to you with their most innovative ideas. Did anyone else read Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, in which one of the protagonists invents the idea of advertisements on chopsticks through screens that can cycle through different images/ads? And he notes that that invention made his company billions, and all he got was his regular paycheck as always?

That's how it feels when you give your best at work, throw your crazy, wonderful ideas to the boss, and watch the company make scads of money while you are consistently underpaid. You might get promoted, but wages are so stagnant in Taiwan that not even that job is going to pay you what you are worth and what you might expect in literally every other developed country in Asia, if not the world.

Again. There is no incentive to do anything but save your best idea for yourself when you know you will continue to be underpaid even if it takes off wildly after telling your boss.

And no amount of "tell your employees to collaborate and speak openly!" is going to change that, Mark.





Until companies do, they can expect more of the same. You can't just tell people to hand you their good ideas if you show them through their lousy paycheck that you don't value them. They're not going to, because they're not stupid.

Final note - if you beg the question in your article with an assumption that people in Taiwan don't think/experiment/debate/collaborate/innovate, and then go on to say they take their ideas and start their own companies, doesn't that contradict your first point? Doesn't striking out on your own with your own idea require a huge amount of chutzpah, experimentation, thought, collaboration and innovation?

If Taiwanese really were indoctrinated into being mindless drones who always listen to their boss in the hierarchy, they would be happy to drone on in their jobs. But they're not - they're starting their own companies. This is clear evidence that they aren't educated to just obey the system.

And I say good for them!

2.) Exhausting work culture

I think this one speaks for itself - how are you going to come up with your best ideas and find creative new innovations, solutions to problems in the company and market, or come up with the next big thing, if you are constantly exhausted? If you are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week for less money than you'd be making in - again - every other developed country in Asia if not the world, constantly on the verge of nodding off, you just aren't going to be an asset.

In fact, studies show that more than 6-8 hours of work per day leads to decreased, not increased, productivity. And working people much more than that leads to a steep decline - you get literally no benefit, and in some cases you start to feel a deficit, in productivity from pushing your employees to work longer hours.

How can we fix this?

Simple - hire more people. Stop asking Ah-Chen to do the jobs of 3 people and then knowingly lie to him about it being possible to finish in a normal 8-hour day. A-Chen knows you're lying and you do too. (Again this may be a reason why he's not giving you his best ideas - you overwork him. You don't appreciate him so he doesn't appreciate you. What did you expect?)

Hire 3 people to do the jobs of 3 people (I mean for Christ's sake the math isn't even hard, come on guys) and pay them fairly, at internationally standard rates. Sure, this will cost you money, but you'll get it all back and more as your company roars to life.

Also, when you are expected to stay late as nothing more than a show of loyalty, or expected to do more than you can reasonably do in one work day, you tend to rebel, don't you? At least I do. Taiwanese employees don't sit on Facebook because they're lazy or unproductive. They're rebelling in the only way they can - by giving monkey work to employers who treat them like monkeys, regardless of how creative or innovative they actually are.

I don't blame them. I would too.

You want better work? More innovative staff? Start treating your employees like people. Give one person the work of one person, not 2 or 3.

3.) Brain Drain

This is a direct result of the first two problems. Again I don't blame those who leave - if office work in Taiwan were the option I was looking at if I stayed, I'd leave too. No thanks. Pay me what I'm worth and let me go home at 6, or I'll go abroad. Bye!

4.) China

I won't spend too much time on this, but I do think it's a factor. What does every country not have to deal with that Taiwan does? China openly and actively trying to undermine its economy to make annexation easier. Few people seem willing to admit this, fewer still are willing to debate it. It's obvious to anyone who cares to look - I mean hell, China admits it openly! They can and do interfere with Taiwan's ability to negotiate economic agreements with other countries and are quite open about the reason being that a weakened Taiwan is a Taiwan that's easier for them to take over. They are quite open as well that economic talks are, for them, an entry point to later political talks that they aim to "win".

This is not news.

China is actively trying to repress Taiwan's economy so as to render it both hopeless and economically dependent on China, for reasons that are obvious to everyone with two eyes and ears and a brain to process input with.

And that's why we can't seem to get the economy off the ground.

Why am I so sure it's these issues, and not the ones Stocker points to (real issues though they are) as the true mechanics behind Taiwan's economic stagnation?

Because they are the only ones unique to Taiwan. Wage stagnation is not a problem on the same level in South Korea, Japan or Singapore, and even China pays competitively now on the relatively prosperous urban east coast. (Hong Kong is another matter - wages are globally competitive but the cost of living has skyrocketed, especially vis-a-vis housing, to the point that it doesn't feel that way to locals). It's the same for the threat from China. Brain drain doesn't seem to be much of an issue for other competitive Asian economies - if anything they're the ones getting Taiwan's best and brightest.

Exhaustion at work is an issue common to other countries in Asia, and as such may not be the key driver, but I felt I should mention it because it is such a massive problem.

Want to fix whatever is holding Taiwan back?

Start here.