Showing posts with label i_hate_the_ccp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label i_hate_the_ccp. Show all posts

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Taiwan needs backup, but Trump is not your friend

I can't stand John Bolton, a man for whom the epithet "the worst" could have been invented for. John Bolton is the absolute worst. 

But, although hearing anything from him makes me ill, it is important that we all digest the comments in his Wall Street Journal op-ed (without forgetting that he refused to testify before Congress because he is the worst). At the very least, I hope they will put to bed any notion that Trump is any sort of friend to Taiwan or Hong Kong.

Yes, this is a real belief - even people I know who can't stand Trump say "but he is good for Taiwan" or "I do like how he's strong on China". The Wall Street Journal is here to tell you that you are wrong:


I hoped Trump would see these Hong Kong developments as giving him leverage over China. I should have known better. That same month, on the 30th anniversary of China’s massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Trump refused to issue a White House statement. “That was 15 years ago,” he said, inaccurately. “Who cares about it? I’m trying to make a deal. I don’t want anything.” And that was that.
Beijing’s repression of its Uighur citizens also proceeded apace. Trump asked me at the 2018 White House Christmas dinner why we were considering sanctioning China over its treatment of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim people who live primarily in China’s northwest Xinjiang Province. 
At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do. The National Security Council’s top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China. 
Trump was particularly dyspeptic about Taiwan, having listened to Wall Street financiers who had gotten rich off mainland China investments. One of Trump’s favorite comparisons was to point to the tip of one of his Sharpies and say, “This is Taiwan,” then point to the historic Resolute desk in the Oval Office and say, “This is China.” So much for American commitments and obligations to another democratic ally. [Emphasis mine].

I quoted at length because not everyone can jump over the paywall.

Let me make one thing clear. Taiwan does not need a savior. Taiwan does not want some world-ruining, self-interested fake white knight galloping in to defend a damsel in distress with his big manly sword. That is ludicrous. 


President Tsai has been continuously strengthening Taiwan's military capabilities since she was elected (something her predecessor failed to do), and her popularity stems in part from her strong message of standing as a bulwark against China. She has been clear that Taiwan has the capability to repel a first wave of invasion from China. It can defend itself - for a time. 

It seems clear that Taiwan, in general, doesn't want to stand alone against China. I also believe Taiwan is aware of the limitations of its indigenous defensive capability, and at what point help might be needed. 

What Taiwan needs is support. Backup. On Taiwan's terms, as much as possible. And it's not in a position to slap away any hands offering it.

That's what differentiates this issue from every other mess the US has blundered into: the fact that Taiwan, generally speaking, wants the help, that it can defend itself to a degree, and that it has a functioning government that can get us through any conflict started by China, and guide us after it.

The current Congress has been good for Taiwan, passing plenty of legislation which is heartening to see after so many years of a supposed ally actively attempting to undermine Taiwan's ability to defend itself. That Congress is bipartisan, with Democrats voting for this legislation as much as Republicans. Even leftie darling Bernie Sanders has said he’d stand up to China. The support Taiwan needs is bipartisan and pan-political. It does exist. 


We need to keep building that bipartisan support, and reaching out to better potential allies and friends, rather than slapping hands away. 

Trump himself, however, has been a liability. Yes, he signed the bills passed by a bipartisan legislature, but he had to - they’d passed unanimously. In every other way he has done harm. 

In his selfishness, inconsistency and inability to execute even the fundamental duties of his office, he is not a friend. He compared Taiwan to the tiny, inconsequential tip of a Sharpie, and asked Taiwan’s biggest enemy for help winning the next election: 


One highlight came when Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him. Xi said the U.S. had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly.

Let me repeat: he is not your friend. 

Xi Jinping is our generation's Hitler and the Communist Party of China is a terrorist organization which cannot be trusted to adhere to any negotiations or agrements. I don't even think this is a mere opinion - I mean, the literal concentration camps are currently in use. Trump told him they were fine. We need to deal with Xi the way we dealt with Hitler, and that does not include appeasement, turning a blind eye to blatant annexationism, asking the New Hitler to help you get re-elected and - oh yeah, did I mention the concentration camps?

Standing in the street, arms linked, wouldn't have stopped Hitler. A protest on Ketagalan Boulevard won't stop a Chinese air assault (it will give it a target). Nobody wants a war, and Taiwan will not start one (nor, I hope, allow one to be started in its name). 


But Taiwan simply needs to be able to defend itself. There are few outcomes worse than war, but annexation by China is one of them. 

We are not going to get to choose if China decides to start a war, and deciding that backup from imperfect sources is unacceptable (or may even be the cause of that war) is irrational. If there is a war, the cause will be China, period. I can't say it will happen, but we have to accept that it is possible. It would be great to exclaim that because Taiwan is being treated like a pawn, that we simply shouldn't play the game. Refusing to play is underrated! Sadly, in this case, we don't get a choice. 

I don't want a war, but if I have to meet PLA soldiers in the streets with a baseball bat, well, it'd be great to have some backup. I can't speak for others, only myself, and only Taiwan can decide how it will meet that threat. As of now, however, its strategy seems clear: build defensive capability as much as possible, and reach out to the rest of the world for helping hands, because they might be needed. It's not Taiwan's fault that not all help comes from a perfect source.

But just because not all alliances are ideal does not mean that Trump is any sort of helping hand. Taiwan may need backup, but he will never be the one to consistently provide it. Taiwan may need friends (and may not always get to choose who they are), but he will never be one.

The people you need to help you fight Hitler is absolutely not the guy who says concentration camps are okay. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Should Taiwan formalize a political asylum process? (Yes.)

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I've used this as a cover photo before, and probably will again.
I hope someday it might actually be true. 

With the resurgence of protests in Hong Kong after China's announcement of a Beijing-imposed national security law which will certainly curtail the relative (but dwindling) freedoms that Hong Kongers currently have, there has been a lot of discussion in Taiwan on the degree of assistance the country can provide to Hong Kong. In particular, the discussion has focused on whether and how Taiwan might go about allowing political refugees to settle in Taiwan.

President Tsai's remarks on the matter, while hitting all the right notes in terms of promising that Taiwan will do what it can, have not offered much in the way of specific plans for this assistance. At the moment, Taiwan has no laws regarding refugees, nor a process for applying for political asylum. Regarding Hong Kong specifically, Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau says that Taiwan may "help" residents of these two cities if their political freedom is in danger, but doesn't specify what that "help" would be (nor what would constitute a threat). The act provides special status to Hong Kong and Macau, allowing for greater investment and a popular immigration scheme. I know someone whose family immigrated this way when he was a child, and he holds both ROC nationality and a Hong Kong ID card.

While the TPP (Taiwan People's Party) has proposed amending Article 18 to specifically allow for political asylum (see link above), Tsai is moving cautiously. Previously, the Tsai administration had said that current laws were sufficient to determine whether to allow dissidents to settle in Taiwan on a case-by-case basis, though whether this still holds true is highly questionable. Furthermore, Tsai has announced that Hong Kong's (and presumably Macau's) special status may be revoked, which wouldn't even allow for the vague promise of "help" in the relevant act - Hong Kongers and Macanese would be treated like any other citizens of China.

So, as it stands now, there are surely plenty of Hong Kongers looking at Taiwan as a place they might run to if things get really bad, which they probably will, and Taiwan has no mechanism by which to aid them, despite promising some unclear form of "assistance".

Of course, it's more legally complicated than that, but I really don't want to get into the legal complexities of separating the notion of "Hong Kong" from the notion of "China" (or the PRC) under ROC law. I'm not qualified and honestly, I'm sure if Taiwan really wanted to create a mechanism for Hong Kong refugees, it could do so.

Public opinion in Taiwan remains somewhat divided. I have no data to back this up, but I would guess that most Taiwanese support Hong Kong's struggle in an abstract way. Surely they are aware that China's actions in Hong Kong are a look into the future that the authoritarian hell-state has planned for Taiwan. Surely, when it comes to individuals who need to get out, most Taiwanese would believe that their country should be a safe harbor for them. Surely, many Taiwanese recognize that while Hong Kong may not want 'independence' as much as Taiwan does - it was never part of the protesters' famous 'five demands' - they share a common enemy and their struggles are therefore linked in some way.


However, there are questions regarding the safety of allowing large numbers of refugees in - surely, Beijing would attempt to plant as many agents in that influx as possible. Furthermore, allowing a stream of Hong Kongers, who can naturalize more easily than foreigners like me, to potentially gain the right to vote has some people questioning the wisdom of large-scale resettlement. In theory, enough of them may maintain a 'Chinese' identity (rather than a Taiwanese one) that they'd support unification with China, were it to democratize. For many Taiwanese, however, their identity exists independently of China, meaning they would not support unification under any circumstances and wouldn't appreciate a population of newcomers who might feel differently.

Some Taiwanese might even feel that, until fairly recently, Hong Kongers looked down on Taiwan - while I can't personally comment on this, I can imagine it happening, and do believe it's happened - as sort of 'country cousins' who were relatively less prosperous. Now that Taiwan as emerged as a freer and more equal society, Taiwanese who have experienced this attitude from Hong Kong might be thinking - "oh, you mocked us for decades and now you want our help?"

And, of course, some feel that Taiwan is always expected to give to others, but is castigated when it looks out for its own self-interest and makes decisions that are best for itself as a nation, rather than feeling obligated to always absorb the suffering of others.

Should Taiwan feel obligated to assist Hong Kong, potentially allowing refugees to settle here? No.

Is it the right thing to do anyway? Yes.

Hong Kong is, unfortunately, legally a part of China. Taiwan is not. Taiwanese, by and large, don't identify as Chinese. Hong Kong is beginning to catch up in this regard, but you'll still meet plenty of Hong Kongers who identify as Chinese, especially among the older generations (not so much the younger ones). In that way, Taiwan doesn't 'owe' Hong Kong anything, any more than any other nation - they are two different countries with two different identities, after all. To her credit, Tsai did not use Hong Kong protesters as props during her re-election campaign - the connections between her vision for Taiwan and the struggle for freedom in Hong Kong were made entirely by supporters (and rightly so - but that does not change the fact that this was not Tsai's strategy).

However, Taiwan under Tsai has made it clear that it wants to be a beacon of freedom and democracy in Asia. Tsai has said clearly that Taiwan is independent, and outlined what kind of country it ought to be - one where liberal values can merge with local culture and be the stronger for it. This isn't a question of what Taiwan 'owes' Hong Kong, which is nothing. It's a question of what kind of country Taiwan wants to be.

I do think that liberal democracies should strive to be safe harbors for those persecuted under authoritarian regimes. That means that, while Taiwan isn't specifically obligated to Hong Kong, the liberal democratic world as a whole is. As a part of that world, I hope that Taiwan will see that it would simply be the ethical thing to do. That said, this means that other nations - the UK especially, as they helped create this mess, but not only them - should also step up and support Hong Kong in the same way. After all, while Taiwan and Hong Kong bear the brunt of China's aggressive expansionism, the CCP is a common enemy to us all.

The fear of Chinese 'plants' among fleeing Hong Kongers is real, and reasonable. The CCP will almost certainly try this. However, I have never met a proponent of helping refugees, in any country, who believes that every last one should be allowed in with no vetting process. Vetting processes are rarely discussed, but they do exist in the United States - well, they did back when the United States cared about refugees - as elsewhere. Of course, Taiwan's vetting process needs to be ironclad. Nobody can reasonably argue otherwise. Of course, any political asylum process would have to take into account what's best for Taiwan, first and foremost. Nobody can reasonably argue against that, either.

I'm in favor of rules and procedures surrounding the process, to make it safe and tenable. But to support that, one must support their being a process at all, which there currently isn't.

I'm less worried about a 'loss' of Taiwanese identity. While cultural and identity barriers are often unclear, there is a 'thing' we might label as 'Taiwanese identity'. I couldn't tell you where it begins and ends, but I can say that I'm not included in it, which means the border must exist. But, one thing I have come to love about this country is that identifying as Taiwanese has the potential to be more fluid, as it is a more multicultural society than people realize (just because most of the cultural groups within it look generally 'Asian' does not mean they are the same). It's the sort of country where, perhaps, someday, the words on the welcoming sign at the National Museum of Taiwan History might actually be true:



All those who identify with and are concerned about Taiwan, who love and accept Taiwan, and who wish to live together in this land can declare with a loud voice "I am a Taiwanese". 

This posits a civic rather than ethnic identity (in fact, the entire passage argues against an ethnic identity for Taiwan, both practically and ethically), where perhaps shared cultural norms and perceptions play a part, but shared values do too, and who your parents were doesn't have to matter as much.

I'd like to think that someday, with luck, that this could include me, though I wouldn't be so arrogant as to claim it does now. It has come to include the descendants of the KMT diaspora who wish to claim it, many of whom - especially the younger ones - have come to identify as Taiwanese and support Taiwanese nationhood. So why not Hong Kong refugees and their descendants, too?


That is to say, Hong Kong refugees might not arrive thinking of themselves as Taiwanese, but that does not mean they won't come to identify that way someday. The person I know who emigrated here as a child considers himself Taiwanese, after all.

As for any Hong Kongers' previous superiority complexes, my personal feeling (though I have absolutely no right to insist on this) is that it shouldn't cloud the question. I understand the hard feelings, but Taiwan has proven itself, period. It's shown that it is simply a great nation and open society, and can do great things, it is the inferior of no one, and there is no basis to treat it as such. It's the envy of Asia with its democratic values and the envy of the world in its coronavirus response. The point is clear and it doesn't need to be made through excluding refugees.


That said, the TPP is also wrong: Article 18 isn't the issue. If Taiwan wants to be a model of liberal democracy, and liberal democracies around the world have a moral imperative to accept refugees - which I believe they do - then there should be an asylum process that is theoretically accessible to people from anywhere, not just Hong Kong and Macau.

There is no obligation. Nobody 'owes' anyone anything. Taiwan doesn't 'have to' do this, just as nobody 'has to' help others in need. I understand the source of disquiet or unease surrounding the issue, and I am sympathetic to the concerns of people who don't necessarily support this.

But, considering the kind of country Taiwan clearly wants to be, and the country I truly believe it can be (and in many ways already is), I think it would simply be the right thing to do.

Just do it properly, with proper vetting and other procedures. Taiwan is a capable, successful country. It can surely pull this off. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The CCP uses social justice language to advance an authoritarian agenda: Part 1 of Zillions



First, I apologize for not blogging much. It's dissertation time. I said blogs would be more rare, and I meant it. It'll be like this through June, if not longer. But, every once in awhile I can catch a breather, and today is one of those days.

Now, with that aside...

There’s something I want to talk about, which has a lot of associated bits and pieces, which begins and ends with the CCP adopting the language of the social justice left to advance an authoritarian, right-wing agenda. This is the first part of that, let’s see how far I get into a series of posts exploring it further before my dissertation takes.

As everyone in Taiwan knows by now, the Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, accused Taiwan of online attacks that included racism and death threats. I won't summarize: there are plenty of sources for that (New Bloom includes a video link with relevant comments). Some say the director - whom I'll call Tedros as that's how he's referred to on Wikipedia despite (I think) being his given name - accused the Taiwanese government of being behind the attacks. Or, in his exact words: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) knew about the attacks and "didn't disassociate itself" from them.

Which of course it didn't, because why would it need to "disassociate" from the comments of thousands of angry Taiwanese? You only need to do that when the attack is organized. You can tell the difference between this and organized 'cyber armies' because the language used in various posts was novel, not copy-pasted or the same arguments, almost verbatim, again and again. The memes, too, were new and creative in ways that organized troll armies simply cannot (or at least, do not) replicate.

It's almost as though he can't fathom why tens of thousands of Taiwanese people would be furious with him, after he repeatedly denied the existence of their country, ignored early-warning data Taiwan provided, excluded Taiwan from most proceedings, and then peddled (false) Chinese data far too late.

Tedros is not a stupid man. Incompetent, yes, but not stupid. He is capable of understanding the very reasonable explanation behind why he is so reviled in Taiwan. His insistence that this is something else is a choice. It is intentional. It looks quite similar to the tactics the CCP employs when it decides to ignore plain truth and push the narrative it has decided is most convenient.

Were some comments from Taiwanese racist? Almost certainly. I haven't seen them, but racism exists everywhere. However, I've witnessed racism against Southeast Asians in Taiwan and heard stories of racist treatment in Taiwan from friends who are people of color, and I can tell you that the majority of comments were not that: they were attacking Tedros and the WHO for their treatment of Taiwan and poor handling of the coronavirus outbreak - two issues that are now deeply linked.

A lot of the racist comments, it's worth noting, were in Simplified Chinese (or from accounts that only interact with accounts that write in Simplified). A wave of "apologies" from "Taiwanese" (all using identical wording, and all in Simplified) has also since appeared. So, while there was certainly some organic racism in the comments against Tedros, I wonder how much of it was, in fact, organized and planted...by the CCP.

Of course, the CCP has figured out that accusations of racism can, in fact, be weaponized. A person accused of racism defending themselves who is actually guilty of racism sounds exactly like someone who was falsely accused speaking up about it.

Let’s admit it: when you have to defend yourself as definitely not racist!  - very often that just convinces people that you are racist. Only a racist would have to insist they weren't racist, after all. If you're not, it should be obvious. You might be tempted to reach for trite right-wing cliches like "you're playing the race card!" which, honestly, just makes a person sound more racist. Even pointing out that an innocent and a guilty person defending themselves against accusations of racism sound exactly the same, and that such accusations can therefore be weaponized, sounds like a right-wing talking point! There is literally no way out of this discursive cesspit: the only way to go is down.

There are also very reasonable calls for Taiwan to do some self-reflection on the racism that does exist here (both by Han Taiwanese against non-Han Taiwanese, and against foreigners, especially directed at Black and Southeast Asian residents in Taiwan). However, that shifts attention away from the fact that Tedros is intentionally lying about the attacks being 'organized' with the blessing of the Taiwanese government.

Of course, these baseless accusations only take away from the very necessary discussion on real issues of race in Taiwan, but that's also the point.

It will be very difficult indeed to make this point to Western audiences, because generally speaking, racism isn’t weaponized in quite this way. If someone in the West says they are the victim of racist attacks, generally they should be believed. (Exceptions exist: Clarence Thomas comes to mind). You get the occasional White person who insists they’re the victim of racism, but the left usually doesn’t take the bait. They know that racism is prejudice plus power, and that White people have the most power.

I’m not at all sure that this same Western left knows what to do with accusations of racism that don’t involve White people, however. And accusations by a Black person, against a population of Asians, who themselves are marginalized in Asian discourses, supported (and quite possibly created, or at least helped along) by a repressive Asian government that claims to represent a dominant group but in fact doesn’t, in order to attack the democratically-elected government of the marginalized group? When racism exists in that marginalized group, but was not the issue in this particular case? Yikes.

This brings me to the point I really want to make: if you haven't noticed that the CCP has been adopting the language of the social-justice, post-colonial left in order to push what is essentially a right-wing, neo-colonial agenda, you aren't listening. This is just one bomb lobbed from that particular trebuchet.

The point is to deflect the media attention from all the good work Taiwan is doing, pushing their success out of the spotlight by creating a new firestorm for people to pay attention to. This was highlighted by former Sunflower Movement and current DPP member Lin Fei-fan:

我認為理由無他,正是因為台灣正積極協助更多國家的防疫工作,而台灣的防疫成果也正被國際社會肯定。我們不僅輸出手術口罩協助其他國家第一線防疫人員,陳建仁副總統也在昨天接受了國際媒體BBC的專訪分享台灣的防疫經驗。 
台灣正在被國際看見,也被許多國家肯定和感謝,這是中國想要摧毀的一切,也是中國的傳聲筒之所以要攻訐台灣的原因!

My translation:

I think there is no other reason, it is precisely because Taiwan is actively assisting more countries in their epidemic prevention work, and Taiwan ’s epidemic prevention achievements are being recognized by the international community. Not only have we exported surgical masks to assist frontline epidemic prevention staff in other countries, Vice President Chen Chien-jen also accepted an exclusive interview with the BBC yesterday to share Taiwan's experience with epidemic prevention. 
Taiwan is being seen by the world, and it is also being acknowledged and appreciated by many countries. This is everything China wants to destroy, and therefore the reason why China's mouthpiece is attacking Taiwan!" 

Since then, MoFA released the letter it sent to the WHO, and that too has been attacked (either for MoFA “overstepping”, or for them overstating the case that they “tried to warn the WHO” when mostly they were asking for more information, or...whatever.) I’m not particularly interested in this saga (and I’m not the only one). As far as I see it MoFA generally does an amazing job, the letter did raise alarms about what was going on in China, and it shows that Taiwan attempted to use the channels available to it and made no headway. That people are making a big deal over it honestly just feels like more of an attempt to cut down the amount of positive coverage and praise Taiwan is receiving.

The honest truth is that the WHO has done an awful job dealing with thecoronavirus and its refusal to acknowledge Taiwan hinders efforts at protecting global health, while trying to convince the world that it’s done an amazing job. This follows the exact same narrative trajectory of China, and that’s not an accident. While China is still recovering from the outbreak, it continues to try and confuse and destabilize the narrative on Taiwan so the world doesn’t notice that Taiwan has done the best job in the world of handling the pandemic. While the WHO should be focusing on the ongoing global crisis, it’s spending its time challenging Taiwan to fisticuffs because it can’t handle sincere criticism. Again, these matching narratives are not a coincidence.

I want to explore this a lot more, but I’ll save that for the next post.

A lot of people have since pointed out that there’s growing anti-foreigner (and specifically anti-Black, anti-African) racism in China. In fact, it’s always been there but it’s been getting worse thanks to the coronavirus. In Guangzhou, there are reports of exchange students from Africa and other African residents (the city has a fairly large African community) being evicted from hotels, not allowed to buy food, and reduced to sleeping under bridges.

The CCP doesn’t seem to have offered a coherent response, and I tend to agree with those who say it is likely incapable of doing so. Considering that these actions are directly related to the aftermath of coronavirus (plus suddenly forcing people to sleep on the street doesn’t seem like a great move public health-wise even when there’s no global pandemic), you’d think the WHO and Tedros, who are ever so sensitive to issues of racism, and seem to care very deeply about how African people are treated by Asians, would also offer some sort of response or acknowledgement.

You would be wrong.

Compare that to Taiwan, the country accused of  “racism” against Tedros. I spoke out recently regarding businesses in Taiwan discriminating against foreigners. Then, as now, I want to point out that the majority of these businesses changed their policies when approached. Some resisted and had to be complained at rather strongly - calling the discrimination what it was, being told their policies would be publicly blogged about - others were receptive after an initial polite request. Though not all listened to reason, most did.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but while this was happening I reached out to a few friends I have who work in government after one business insisted that “a visiting police unit” suggested such a discriminatory policy, to confirm that this was not a government policy. It certainly was not. (A friend in the Taipei City government actually said, “first, these businesses should be happy to get customers, business is down everywhere. Second, that’s stupid.”)

In fact, I missed it at the time, but it seems Mayor Ko specifically tweeted, asking businesses not to discriminate. Whoever wrote the tweets did not thread them, so I’m just going to post an image:



Although I’d love to have a statement from the national government specifically calling on businesses not to discriminate, this is fantastic, and the issue (mostly) seems to have died down. A few people were denied Airbnb or hotel rooms, but nobody had to sleep under a bridge. Nobody was unable to buy food.

Over in China, reports are that the treatment of Black residents described above is not only not being stopped by the government, but in some cases actively carried out by the police. The Chinese government has offered a few stock phrases - “we treat all foreigners equally” - but not much more than that.

That’s the difference. Those are the facts.

Speaking of “facts”, there’s more I want to say about the CCP using the left’s tendency toward subjectivity and (total) cultural relativism as further excuses for its authoritarian agenda, but I think that’s the subject of a future post.

In the meantime, facts are facts. Don’t be distracted.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

On immigration, Taiwan does the right thing - and Tsai Ing-wen is the leader of the free world

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Bad idea, guys. 



Super hot breaking news!

The Bureau of Consular Affairs has just announced that visa waiver, landing visa and visitor visas will automatically be extended by 30 days, with no need for further application, as long as the total stay does not exceed 180 days.

The Mandarin announcement is here, and here is the English.

The government may re-evaluate the policy as circumstances require. That's good news - it means that if the pandemic continues, the period can be potentially extended. 


Note that if you are one of the few people who has been able to extend a 90-day visitor visa, this probably doesn't apply to you, as the visa plus extension would be 180 days exactly. 

This is phenomenal news, you guys. Unlike the 'voluntary departure' program which was trying to get people to go home on their own, this gives people an explicit option to stay. That's safer for them and safer for the world, and doesn't hurt Taiwan. They are already here, they are not known carriers, and because their stay in Taiwan is contingent on the government's beneficence, they are probably not going to go around violating quarantine and being jerks.

It's also truly amazing that the government took this step, given the animus some have shown towards COVID19 carriers who have arrived in Taiwan, with some taking a "name and shame" approach, saying they 'deserve' it for traveling abroad. It can be expected that some of this anger may be directed at foreign visitors, and indeed some have asked whether Taiwan 'owes' these visitors anything, even though almost all of these cases have been from Taiwanese citizens, not foreigners. 


That shows a truly progressive and compassionate side to the current administration's policies which should be praised. 

I have to admit, I teared up a little at the news. This helps at least three of the people in visa limbo who I wrote about, including the Honduran man who cannot marry his Taiwanese partner (I asked). In a world that feels like it's off its hinges, with some people being cruel when it wouldn't hurt them to be empathetic, this is the right thing to do. Taiwan doesn't officially or ethically 'owe' visitors a thing, but it shows striking kindness to do it anyway.



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There's a surgical mask under that flowery cover

Not a lot of countries would do this - most seem to want foreigners gone as the pandemic rages - but Taiwan did. It deserves credit for that.

Is Taiwan doing a perfect job? No. It probably should be testing more people, and it absolutely should not deny testing to anyone with symptoms - whether or not there is community transmission yet, we're not going to know if there is if we don't test the community more generally. The fear and confusion over immigration issues also caused a lot of anxiety.

However, I would still say it has the best possible response. It has been more pro-active, more empathetic, more sane, and more calm than any other country - to both citizens and foreign residents - than just about any other country.

On that note, President Tsai - at this point, the true leader of the free world - calmed the nation while warning us all that the next two weeks were critical, especially in terms of preventing the onset of community transmission.

What I glean from this is that this 'second wave' of imported cases was expected, that the government does feel there is hope to stay the course, but also that they expect a spike in cases in the next two weeks, with possible community transmission. This was a calming, unifying speech but also a somber warning.

That doesn't mean we should panic. It does mean that instead of panic-buying, we have a week or so to slowly start building our lockdown pantries. My advice: don't go for the items people are panic-buying, like instant noodles. Most of us don't have yards we can exercise and get sunlight in. Do you want to emerge from quarantine or lockdown as a pale, sickly and heavily-salted blob? No? Then fill your freezer (or buy a portable freezer) with fresh vegetables (some of which need to be blanched before freezing, stock up on freezable or canned proteins (beans, tempeh, tofu - the latter two freeze well), a variety of healthy grains and whatever you need to make it all taste good. Stuff for soup, items high in nutrients (especially Vitamin C). Stay healthy.


Finally, a quick note about "blaming".

If we are talking about actual COVID19 cases, I agree with Tsai that we shouldn't be blaming those who contract the illness. It's a pandemic - getting sick should be stigma-free.

It should be obvious as well that blaming "China" isn't helpful. Chinese people have suffered under the CCP's mismanagement of the pandemic as much as the world has, and the CCP is still lying about it. I will never condone calling this thing the "Chinese virus" (yikes) - it perpetuates racism against Chinese people rather than accurately blaming the CCP, and frankly is exactly what the CCP wants. It makes them look like victims when they are in fact perpetrators and makes it easier for them to put a favorable spin on their horrible, world-endangering pandemic response.

However, I've noticed an uptick in the number of people who might be critical of the CCP at other times (or not), who seem to specifically not want to blame anybody. That, I disagree with - fighting racism doesn't mean refusing to lay blame on a government whose actions merit it - being too soft on the CCP is harmful in its own way as it allows their behavior to continue (including a disinformation campaign that is, in fact, working). We can, should and must blame the CCP. Do not let them off the hook. Do not be kind. Blame and shame, and shame and blame some more. Play the blame and shame game.

I'll quote a lot here as the article is paywalled:


We must all be specific in blaming the Chinese Communist Party for its actions. It was the CCP that hid the virus outbreak for weeks, silencing doctors, jailing journalists and thwarting science — most notably by shutting down the Shanghai lab that publicly released the first coronavirus genome sequence.
The Chinese people are heroes in this story. Chinese doctors, researchers and journalists risked their lives and even died fighting the virus and warning the world. The Chinese public’s community solidarity holds lessons for us as our own situation worsens. The Chinese are also victims of their own government’s draconian measures, which caused massive extra suffering.
“It is critical to remember that the Chinese people have no meaningful say in the measures taken by their government,” said Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy. “In the haze of authoritarian information curation and disinformation now coming from Beijing, we can’t lose sight of the massive authoritarian governance failure at the global pandemic’s point of origin.”
This is not just about the coronavirus; it’s a crucial point relative to our whole approach toward China. Our beef is not with the Chinese people; our problem is with the CCP — its internal repression, its external aggression, and its malign influence in free and open societies.

We should blame the CCP not only for their own pandemic response, but for actively keeping that information away from the world, by putting the WHO so far into their pocket that the organization ignored early warnings from Taiwan, a country they routinely exclude (again paywalled - here's the money quote):


Health officials in Taipei said they alerted the WHO at the end of December about the risk of human-to-human transmission of the new virus but said its concerns were not passed on to other countries. 
Taiwan is excluded from the WHO because China, which claims it as part of its territory, demands that third countries and international bodies do not treat it in any way that resembles how independent states are treated.

Fight the virus, yes. But don't pretend there's no reason to blame anyone. The WHO has been actively harming human health, and the CCP is a global threat in more ways than one.

Blame them. Do not shy away. Do not pretend it makes you a better or more high-minded person to soften the blow. It just means you're not helping to hold the perpetrators accountable.

They should burn for this, so make them burn.

I want to end this on a positive note, so - stay safe everyone. I suspect Taiwan is in for a bit of a ride in the next two weeks, so be prepared but do not panic.

This country has been a global leader through the COVID19 fight, and is used to dealing with CCP lies. You are safer here than anywhere else, and most of you who were afraid you'd have to leave now thirty extra days.

You are in the country that is now the de facto leader of the free world, governed by the woman who might just be the most competent president on Earth right now.

As one of the only leaders in the world handling the crisis well, while maintaining freedom, human rights, compassion and empathy while holding strong and calming the nation, she has shown an ability that is unmatched. I wouldn't want to be under anyone else's leadership in this time.

What does that make her if not the leader of the free world?

Her government tried to warn the entire human race, and were ignored. They were the leaders the world needed before anyone realized it.

Maybe the world should realize that, and recognize Taiwan.

Be safe and stay strong.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Confucius is as relevant to Taiwan's COVID19 response as Aristotle is to the US's

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We're in our house keeping our stuff in order because nobody else is going to help. 


Some outside Asia (and, honestly, some people here) seem to think Taiwan's success in dealing with COVID19 is due to "Confucian" ideals of collectivism and respect for authority which allowed the government to adopt measures that people in Western countries might find uncomfortably strict.

I don't want to search for too many examples because the entire line of thought makes me want to barf, but here's one:


In South Korea, as in Japan and Taiwan, the lingering cultural imprint of Confucianism gives a paternalistic state a freer hand to intrude in people’s lives during an emergency, says Lee Sung-yoon, an international-relations professor at Tufts University. 
“Most people willingly submit themselves to authority and few complain,” Mr. Lee said. “The Confucian emphasis on respect for authority, social stability and the good of the nation above individualism is an ameliorating factor in a time of national crisis.”

Such thinking is difficult to refute, because it comes from an Asian source (dominant narratives that don't actually describe the experiences of many, but appear to come from the "same" cultural sources, are a challenge for this reason). But I'm going to invite the furor of the Whole Internet and say that Lee is wrong. 

A cultural difference indeed exists, but at least for Taiwan, it was hard-won in living memory. First, seeing firsthand what SARS was capable of, people realized the need for immediate action and recognized government initiatives as wise (and they were). There's also the living memory of a police state in Taiwan, which helps draw a stark contrast between "a strong centrally-planned response" and "authoritarianism", because most Taiwanese remember the latter and can tell the difference.

Perhaps there is some additional "collectivism" baked into these cultures but I wouldn't go overboard with this: there's a point at which it becomes a stereotype. I see most "collectivist" action here as merely "not being stupid", and I'm an "individualistic" American.


In fact, if Taiwan had been in the WHO to begin with - or if the WHO didn't generally faff about with their thumbs up their butts - the world could potentially have been warned about this long before China officially recognized it, and "mitigation" strategies similar to the UK's might have had some effect. In fact, the UK's strategy, which was just announced to be a failure, sounds a lot like what Taiwan was doing as early as January 1. And it worked. Life is mostly normal here as a result.

That said, I can't help but quote this wonderful tweet:


And, of course, threatened by China and ignored by the WHO, there is a recognized need to "deal with this ourselves" because Dr. Tedros sure ain't coming to save us (or anyone, but especially not Taiwan). So people do as asked by a government that appears competent, which they've just re-elected by historic margins, and a Central Epidemic Command Center that is doing a better job than the WHO. The results are visible, so people trust them. That's not "Confucian", that's "not being stupid". 

Do I swan about writing editorial bullshit about how "the Western failure to contain with COVID19 is due to the cultural imprint of Aristotelianism"? No. Because that's dumb. Stop being dumb.

In fact, Confucius is about as relevant to the average Taiwanese person as Aristotle is to you.

Think the comparison doesn't work? I assure you that it does. Ancient Philosopher Guy from a foreign land (because Taiwan is not China, and South Korea isn't China either) does some philosophy which is considered impactful enough to still be studied today?

Yup, checks out. Except only one is touted as the foundation of several distinct cultures, rather than what he really was: an important thinker, sure, but not the Father of All Things.


Also, let's talk "respect for authority" and people who "don't complain". Let's talk about things that would make dear old Confucius turn over in his grave.

Not too long ago, Taiwan looked a dictatorship in the face and said "get fucked". And it actually worked! South Korea did the same thing.

And they did it without an army - against an army, in fact. They did it with few resources and no firepower. They had only themselves and the power of their words and unarmed bodies.


Did your parents and grandparents do that?

No?

Then sit down, Billy McFreedomfries.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Data and Lore (a COVID-19 story)

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Does this mean...I'm Wesley?


I had always imagined that, living on an island, I'd feel trapped if disaster struck. There are no borders to cross, only open sea. I know it's not a reasonable worry: land borders can also be treacherous, but knowing your only options are a plane or a boat (and probably not even a boat) rather than a truck, car or your own two feet can honestly induce claustrophobia.

So, while the world around us seems like it's collapsing, I'm surprised by how wrong I was in predicting my own feelings about island life in a global catastrophe. Thanks to Taiwan's pre-emptive, centrally-planned and intelligent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel like I'm living in an island of safety, calm and normalcy in a world gone mad.

I am not terribly concerned that Taiwan will be felled by COVID itself. Even if there is a spike in cases, the time the country bought itself through a strong, early and professional response will be priceless: it is time Taiwan has had to prepare for that potentiality, and considering how they've treated the issue so far, we can be fairly sure they've been using it wisely. 

People are doing their part too - for every anecdote I hear about someone not practicing good pandemic hygiene, I see 20 people who do.

Of course, my confidence extends only to health. I worry quite a bit about the economic backlash. We have enough savings to weather a brief storm, or even a somewhat-prolonged quarantine, but what about an interminable economic crisis? A lot of my clients are businesses, and when the economic crash really hits, the first thing they're going to cut is English training. My teacher training work might see an uptick, but it's honestly hard to say.

Let's not think too much about that, though. There is literally nothing I can do about it except spend less on non-essentials. Once it was clear that climate change was real, I never expected the second half of my life to be easy anyway.

So, what has Taiwan been doing right? I won't write out a whole list because there are lots of places where you can read about that: see here, here, here and here. Suffice it to say, a large component of Taiwan's response has been data collection and public regulation. Most notably, for certain people quarantines are mandatory, and everyone that person had been in contact with might also be asked (or required) to quarantine. Quarantined individuals have their phones tracked and are notified if the government can see there is a violation. The CDC calls them every day (though this is a lot friendlier than it sounds). Isolated people report their temperature online once a day. All face mask production lines were bought up (in essence, expropriated) by the government, and masks are now rationed. Huge amounts of personal health data - including masks purchased - is tracked on National Health Insurance cards. Some public transportation, including all Kuo-kuang buses and all airport MRT trains - require face masks.

This gives the government a massive amount of data to work with, which has some fantastic benefits. There is an app (which is a bit difficult for foreigners to use) that can track which pharmacies will have masks, how many, and when. Apparently one can now pre-order masks. Potential disease vectors are swiftly located and locked down to prevent transmission.

Watching the news from the US right now, where the response seems to be to run out in the street screaming and flailing one's arms, it sure feels like they could learn a lot from the way Taiwan has handled this, starting with universal health coverage.

On the other hand, I have to wonder how much of this Americans would realistically put up with. The scale of data collection really is astounding. If you are identified as a risk, you lose a lot of personal freedom - both in terms of data privacy and freedom of movement. It is, to be honest, a lot to ask.

This is the point at which a different writer might start waxing rhapsodic about Confucian societies and collectivism and the people are more willing to submit to authority because 5,000 years or...something like that.

I won't.

This is a country where people set their sights on overthrowing a dictatorship and succeeded. Where protests are practically a hobby and producing protest gear a side hustle for many. Where your average person would be pretty upset if they couldn't day drink under their favorite temple awning (or in front of their favorite convenience store). Where an entire generation of people under 40 defied their elders by voting for same-sex marriage. There's no Confucian about it and I'm sick of the trope.

Instead, I'll say this: as an American, I'm fine with the level of intrusion into my personal life and willing to give up the data. I suspect - though don't know - that most Taiwanese are too. Not because of some 'different, exotic Asian values' fake East-West divide (a divide that online trolls really seem to push, which is how you know it's fake).

Rather, most Taiwanese are okay with Big Government  right now because this particular circumstance is a true emergency, because they know that this particular data is useful and important for a centrally-coordinated response to work, and because they trust this particular government. 

While we can heave a sigh of relief that this government was re-elected (for a peek into how a Han administration would have handled it, you need only look at Trump's non-response), unfortunately, this perspective doesn't offer many solutions for what to do when you don't trust the government. I don't often agree with libertarians but they're right about this: you only want the government to have as much power as you'd be comfortable with them having if you didn't trust the people in charge, because eventually, someone you don't trust will get elected.

In other words, I'll give this information (and power) to Tsai Ing-wen. I would never be happy to give it to Donald Trump. Or Han Kuo-yu. Would you want either of them at the helm of a government that has just taken sole control of key medical supplies? Would you want either of their administrations insisting they had the right to track your location?

All that data, though, has kept Taiwan feeling more like a cozy ark on a rising flood, rather than a prison from which there is no escape. And perhaps, considering that dictatorship existed in Taiwan in living memory so they know the difference between authoritarianism and a centrally-planned response, maybe we should take their word for it that government data collection for this purpose is acceptable?

So what's happening beyond the rough seas? Between many Western countries' totally botched responses - including a massive failure to test leading to rapid, undetected community transmission - and China's repeated cover-ups and lack of reliable data, there is fertile soil for misinformation and fake narratives to take root.

I had opined, when this all began, that such an obvious and self-evidential failure and clear, documentable cover-up on the part of the CCP might just offer up a silver lining: that the CCP itself would fall. That the systemic failure would be so inescapable that they would not be able to control the narrative. I figured it would be so undeniably true to anyone with working brain that China did not "buy time" for the world, but rather that the CCP's initial cover-up is what caused the disease to go pandemic in the first place, that something would possibly - maybe - give to loosen the grip of that brutal dictatorship on a country that absolutely deserves better.

For a brief period, it seemed that the world might just hold the Chinese government to account for this, or at least report clearly on who was to blame  - not China or the Chinese people, but the CCP.

But even before the US botched its response by completely failing to prepare, one could watch the narrative change almost in real time.

First, the media started saying that China "bought time" for the rest of the world, how its "decisive" and "bold"  response - note the adjectives used instead of the more appropriate draconian and inhumane - saved lives, how it "acted quickly"  (see here, here, here, here and here).

I thought when I hate-read these pieces that, yes, dragging screaming people into their homes and boarding the doors is, I supposebold in a sense. But are we really all pretending that the initial cover-up which is directly responsible for the pandemic going global in the first place just...never happened? Are we truly allowing COVID-19's origin story to be re-written so easily?

I'm not the only one who's noticed, fortunately.





Of course, it's difficult to argue now that the US or Europe could have done better, as they have now both failed so spectacularly. The difference, of course, is that in a liberal democracy you can say so without getting shot, and theoretically can put better people in office next time.

I can empathize, however, with people whose governments did too little thinking that maybe the government that did too much - and now claims that cases are in decline - had the right of it. Even if that sentiment ignores the facts. Even if you are in essence saying "it would be acceptable to drag my screaming neighbor into their house, padlock the door and walk away with the key. It would be acceptable to do that to me, too."

These are the same people who think it's un-American to even ask them not to gather in crowds. Do they think China couldn't possibly be as bad as it actually is, or that it's OK to do that to others but "it would never happen to me" or...do they just use the cognitive dissonance like a white noise machine to help them sleep at night? I truly don't know.



Untitled
Neither of these are good! 

It doesn't help that the facts are hard to come by. It's honestly surprising to me how many people understand that the US has no idea how many COVID-19 cases currently exist within its borders, but actually believe the numbers from China, despite China's clear history of lying about them. Now people are saying cases in China are on the decline, but can we really trust that, when nothing the CCP has said since the initial cover-up can be trusted? I don't, and you shouldn't either.

The CCP understands this better than anything: in the absence of trustworthy data, you can make up your own lore.

While all of this has been going on, there's been an ongoing discussion of whether calling COVID-19 "Wuhan Pneumonia" or anything relating to its place of origin is racist, as these viruses can originate anywhere. I don't know that changing a disease's name can really combat racism, but it almost doesn't matter. I'm not qualified to say whether referring to Wuhan in the disease's name is, indeed, racist - totally not my lane. I don't use it - it's too long and seems unnecessary. Holding the CCP to account and not treating people in racist ways both seem like more important things to worry about than exercising my 'right' to call a disease by a common name.

 But I will note that in Taiwan it's called 武漢肺炎 (that is, Wuhan Pneumonia) in Mandarin. It's slightly amusing to me that the CCP insists that Taiwan is a part of China, but also that calling COVID-19 "Wuhan Pneumonia" is racist...against Chinese. By that logic, Chinese people are racist against themselves.

Anyway, I've noticed a particularly bit of nasty ret-conning on the English front too.

I support a general push not to stigmatize people by using place names in disease names going forward, but there seem to be a lot of gullible people who now think we've never called diseases that in the past, so "Wuhan Pneumonia" is a unique example of racism on this front. Of course, those same people will still use disease names like Ebola, Nipah, Zika, Marburg and MERS.

Don't laugh - I saw someone arguing that "we've never named diseases after places!" under a chart that included all of the above. So I suppose I consider users of the term "Wuhan Pneumonia" exactly as racist as I would consider users of the terms "Ebola" and "MERS".

It's been disconcerting to watch how the CCP propaganda machine has taken advantage of this confusion.

First, insisting that its response was appropriate and effective. Then, trying to tell the world (and their own people) that we should be grateful. Then, getting behind a call to label everyone saying "Wuhan Pneumonia" racist moving to a general call not to "blame China" (which, of course, runs in tandem with labeling all blaming of the CCP "blaming China" and therefore "racist"). And now, we've got CCP officials spreading rumors that the virus did not originate in China at all.

I still don't intend to call COVID-19 "Wuhan Pneumonia", but I do note that it's a lot easier to convince idiots outside the Chinese-speaking world that COVID-19 did not come from China if everyone's afraid of being called racist for discussing how it absolutely did.

And so from an undifferentiated mess of information - most of which is unreliable as China's numbers can't be trusted - we have a myth of CCP "decisiveness" saving the world. Lore spun from literally nothing into a narrative that credible people actually believe.

I had hoped that cold, hard data would carry the day. That it would be clear what works (a response like Taiwan's) and what doesn't (running around screaming like a hemorrhaging goat like the US). How draconian, inhumane methods like China's are not necessary if there is initial transparency and swift action. I had hoped that this clarity would lead to much-needed changes in how governments operate around the world, from an end to CCP tyranny to drastic changes in the US's broken system.

Instead, it seems that between data and lore, the latter can pose as the former because most people can't tell the difference.

We will all pay the price for it.


Monday, February 17, 2020

The KMT's hard red turn isn't as weird as you think

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Pretty sure "We Shall Return" was a threat more than a promise


Since the 2020 election, people have been asking how the KMT could have turned so thoroughly pro-China and along with that, pro-CCP. Once upon a dream they were the guys who fought the CCP. You know, "defeat the Communists and take back the Mainland!"

Whatever happened to those guys?


How did we get from that to disinformation and election interference campaigns by China, aimed at helping the KMT? How'd we get to the KMT arguing that we need closer ties with China - a policy the CCP supports? How'd we get Han Kuo-yu meeting officials in China, Ma Ying-jeou changing his tune from "no independence, no unification, no war" to "no independence, no war, don't reject unification" and KMT party officials attempting to wheedle and threaten an alleged defected Chinese spy into recanting his story? Or pro-unification groups broadly supporting the KMT (though that varies), a legislator who attended a speech by Xi Jinping, a KMT party list entry (later removed) who called for "beheading" independence advocates, a party list so avidly pro-unification that it had to be changed after public outcry, and some support for a "peace agreement" with the CCP?

It's true that the KMT used to espouse anti-Communist rhetoric:

Chiang spent the majority of his adult life fighting Communism either as the leader of the KMT during the Civil War in China or as the head of state of the Republic of China (ROC) leading the Chinese government in exile in Taiwan. He was unequivocal that the ROC should never submit to the will of the CCP.


But the only thing that sticks about the KMT is how they consider themselves a Chinese party, and their own - and Taiwan's - destiny as being ultimately Chinese:
To outsiders, this looks like a betrayal of their forefathers. But within the KMT ranks, they appear to have long since made peace with the paradox. “One China” has been deemed more important than the KMT’s historic opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

They may have once appended the notion that the ROC is the only rightful government of China, but since it's become clear that such a vision is hopeless, they've defaulted to "Chinese by any means, regardless of what Taiwanese think".


Their only other ideology is power, for themselves. Knowing they'll never have the power they've wanted to regain in China, they'll take the next best thing: no, not power in Taiwan. Taiwan means nothing to them.  I mean power in China through cooperation with their former enemy.

When a rival offers a better deal through cooperation than continued conflict, those who care only about their own ambitions will take it.

Does it seem so unusual, then, that absent any reason other than a generations-old rivalry with the CCP, the KMT would turn red?

People have explored the 'what' of this question - what exactly is happening with the KMT. But nobody, to my knowledge, has considered the 'why'. Why is KMT-CCP cooperation possible, after so many years of mutual enmity? 

The short answer can be found in examining the KMT's core ideology. It is not anti-communist - if anything, they've shared more elements with communist-aligned parties than they've differed over the years. Nor is it inherently anti-dictatorship - they were quite comfortable acting as dictators themselves.

That latter point doesn't need to be explored in much detail. The only thing you really need to know is that,
contrary to what KMT historical revisionism espouses, they weren't the ones who democratized Taiwan - that can be attributed to opposition forces that forced the KMT to implement democratic reforms.

As such, there's no clear reason why they would think the way the CCP runs China is inherently wrong because it is authoritarian. 

The shared quasi-socialist ideology angle, however, doesn't get a lot of attention online outside of academic sources which not everyone can access, so let's explore that.

I'm going to quote a lot of academic work here because I'm too lazy to write it all out myself, but also because not everyone has access to academic sources, so I hope long block quotes will be helpful.


First, let's be clear: the KMT has never had a "Marxist" ideology. There was no final goal of any 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. Even when they were nationalizing every industry that they could milk for their own benefit, they still existed within a system that was generally capitalist.

That said, both KMT and the CCP were borne of the ideas of Sun Yat-sen, and one of those ideas (minsheng 民生) or welfare of the people is generally interpreted as a kind of socialism - Wikipedia says Georgism. I don't know a lot about Georgism other than that it espouses the idea that labor should not be taxed, but the benefits you derive from owning non-labor resources such as land should. That sounds like it's in a socialist-like family to me! The point is, although 'minsheng' was never clearly defined, Sun Yat-sen was not exactly a rolicking capitalist. 

The connection has been made by many:
The KMT's Leninist roots go back to Sun Yat-sen, but more important was the party's reorganization (gaizao) after its retreat to Taiwan.' During the early 1950s, the KMT cre- ated a network of party cells throughout the government, military, and society to which each party member had to belong, and created a cadre system to handle party work in these sectors. The principles of democratic centralism, ideology as guide to policy, and party supremacy over the government and military were reasserted. And a ban on organized opposition inside and outside the party was enforced. It was this reorganization that made the KMT similar to other Leninist parties, not by coincidence but by intent.


Even before the KMT reddened like a Japanese maple, it showed that it was not necessarily ideologically opposed to the CCP, although neither were they the same:
KMT leaders justified many of these reforms by pointing to the success of the CCP. But although similar, the two parties are obviously not identical....

In any case, the way it spread its tentacles of influence throughout various aspects of society was certainly Leninist:



In terms of party structure and party-state relationship, the KMT regime in this period was a Leninist one. There was organizational parallelism between the party and the state: party organs controlled administrative units at various levels of government as well as the military via a commissar system....Party cadres were socialized as revolutionary vanguards....Party cells also penetrated the existing social organizations. 

Look at all that...that stuff that also comes up in Leninism. A commissar system. "Democratic centralism" (a system in which free expression is permissible until their is a group consensus, at which point members of the group must 'toe the line'). 'Revolutionary vanguards' (professional revolutionaries who run the show in the best interests of the people until true revolution can occur). There might not have been any specific  'revolution' planned for the end of this process, but surely these cadres did think of themselves as vanguards representing the best interests of 'the people':

Defining "the people" as its social base, the KMT organized a youth corps, recruited leading farmers, formed labor unions in the state sector, and prevented the emergence of independent labor unions all through leadership control and exclusive representation of these social groups.

This probably helped them sleep at night, that is, if they weren't all tuckered out from a day of genteel looting and not-so-genteel imprisonment and murder of their political opposition.

If you're wondering if social control is truly an important feature of Leninist party structures, it is:

The essence of Leninism, according to Philip Selznick, consists in the concentration of "total social power in the hands of a ruling group." Leninism views power everywhere, and therefore a combat party manned by disciplined cadres is used as an organizational weapon to remake the whole society. From a Leninist perspective, society is highly malleable, or to use James Scott's term, "prostrate". In reality, few societies are so vulnerable that they are ready to be re-engineered from above. Leninist control is necessarily embedded in social structures so that its actual impact is always less than the revolutionary rhetoric.

And if you are thinking "that just sounds like dictatorship, how is that supposed to lead to the Marxist utopia that all those edgelords on Facebook talk about when they claim to be Marxist-Leninists?" - well...yeah:

In his classical study on the evolution of industrial relations in communist China, Andrew Walder discovers the hidden realities of party-state control. Contrary to its professed unselfish collectivism, Leninism encourages the pursuit of petty interests as party cadres are given arbitrary powers to distribute scarce goods. In national factories, there is a pattern of "neo-traditionalism" whose syndrome includes organized dependency, in which workers are placed under the economic, political and personal control of work-unit superiors, and a culture of authority, in which official power assumes a moral leadership and intrudes into the most private sphere of daily life. Leninist control gives rise to factory clientelism which reproduces inequality between leaders and workers. Working life is fragmented into a fiercely individualist competition for personal favours from cadre leaders.

Historically, it has not worked as well as intended. Not surprising - if you give yourself power as a "revolutionary vanguard", that sort of power is hard to give up.

If that sounds like both Taiwan under KMT authoritarian rule, and China under the CCP - yes.  Exactly.



According to Bruce Dickson, this Leninist transformation was completed even before the similar attempt by Chinese communists. In the industrial sector, the KMT tried to "recruit skilled and productive employees and workers with leadership and revolutionary patriotism." Thus, from a very early stage, cadres were present in Taiwan's factories, where they built up a vast redistributive network among KMT loyalists.

It's worth noting that the lack of a specifically Marxist political goal doesn't mean that the KMT lacked a 'vanguard' element. It's just that they instead intended to mold society via a process called "political tutelage" (controlling the country until the 'masses' could be sufficiently 'educated' about their political rights to ensure a democratic transition).

You can imagine how tempting it would be - positively irresistible! - for a party with total control of the state as well as the education system intended to 'tutor' the people to simply...stay in power, and use that 'tutelage' to their own ends through political indoctrination.

The CCP skipped the actual tutelage and went straight to political indoctrination. The KMT adopted Japanese Meiji-era education systems that had been implemented in Taiwan, replacing Japanese cultural identity indoctrination with Chinese. They allowed a few local (sub-national) elections, and was thus able to feign a veneer of 'education', which was actually political and cultural indoctrination. The total KMT control permitted through 'temporary' provisions (when in fact they were not) enabled them to avoid giving any sort of concrete timetable for full democratization while providing a way to "co-opt local elites" as their chosen political candidates (source: that first link in the post).


In fact, pretty much every aspect of how the party ran itself follows these lines.
Leninist parties direct the action of the state by dominating both political and governmental institutions. During its first four decades in Taiwan, the KMT charted the state's course by selecting and cultivating all political and institutional leaders. 
[From earlier in the article] Leninist parties brook no opposition to their power from other parties and customarily treat factionalism as heretical to the party's ideology. While on mainland China, the KMT cooperated with other parties reluctantly and relentlessly sought to expunge factional conflict. Like other Leninist parties, however, the KMT could not extirpate factional divisions....Intra-party factionalism initially was rigorously suppressed; however, after the death of Chiang Kai-shek, policy differences appeared more frequently in party fora and were tolerated in fact (but factions were still opposed in principle).  

If that also sounds like it describes the CCP, well, surely you've got the point by now.

In fact, the factionalism within the KMT party state was such that it was basically its own complex ecosystem. For those who don't already know, that's basically why opposition from outside rather than between factions was called "tangwai", or "outside the party" opposition (also, that had not really been allowed to exist before). 


These factional disputes did lead, eventually, to break-off parties (such as the New Party). The New Party spun off because Lee Teng-hui was pushing the KMT towards prioritizing Taiwan over "reunification" and hardliners who wanted to keep the primary focus on China, well, left. But, you'll remember that Lee himself was kicked out of the KMT because they didn't like his push for Taiwan-focused localization.

It makes sense, then, that post-Lee, with a demagogue-ish DPP president in power (that'd be Chen, it's 2001 at this point), the KMT would double down on its earlier China-oriented ideology. And, when that happened, it'd make sense that the strong unificationists/China-oriented breakaway parties would circle back around to existing in their own right, but also supporting Big Daddy KMT's pro-China ideology.


The nationalization of key industries into state-owned enterprises (SOEs) also follows this political trajectory. From the link to Ming-sho Ho's work some ways up:


After the war, all these economic resources, private or public, were declared "the enemy's properties" and summarily confiscated. The KMT was determined to keep the industrial assets nationalized despite local complaints and American privatization pressure. For the KMT, state-owned enterprises guaranteed its political and economic independence from the host society. In the early period, nationalized industries made up the backbone of Taiwan's economy. In 1966, state-owned enterprises employed 13.5 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector, concentrating in upstream industries.

Some such state-owned enterprises in Taiwan that you may be familiar with include Taiwan Salt, Taiwan Sugar, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor, the China Petroleum Company and...well, plenty more. There have been organizational changes; I couldn't tell you what the exact structure of these companies is now. Their function as SOEs in the past, however, is absolutely in line with everything above. They are often seen as a form of 'state capitalism' (when the state engages in commercial/economic activity), a term which has also been used to describe the Chinese economy under the CCP. Lenin himself considered state capitalism to be a 'final stage' of capitalism before Marxist revolution.

That revolution was not the goal of the KMT, but from a political and economic structural standpoint, there has historically been little difference.

Of course, the actual effect is one of enabling total party control (all from Ho's work linked earlier on):



The full-blown transition to Leninism in state-owned enterprises came with the KMT's re-organization in 1950-52. In order to exert a firmer control over this hostile island, the KMT proclaimed it was to build "a social base with the vast labouring mass of youth, intellectuals, agricultural and industrial producers The central reorganization commission set up a special taskforce to speed up the building of a party branch in every nationalized factory and a party cell in every workshop. There was an impressive growth of worker party members from 26,505 in 1952 to 44,312 in 1957. In 1954, the KMT claimed membership of between 25.3 and 45 per cent of the workforce in selected industries.

SOEs are not necessarily bad - they're a fairly common way of structuring, for example, transit companies as public transportation is good for a city, but doesn't always turn a profit. They can help bring needed services to a community even if there's no market incentive to provide it. However, the KMT's SOE scheme mainly served to enrich itself:
Mainlanders [basically, the non-local KMT] continued to enjoy their privileges over the Taiwanese. Compared to other government positions, state-owned enterprises offered better rewards since more than half of their income derived from the handsome rationing of necessities. Thus, a sustained wave of mainlanders continued to move into state-owned enterprises through private guanxi. Nepotism was rampant.... Unionizing was also an integral part of the KMT's Leninist transformation....officials began a unionizing campaign in major public and private sectors in the mid-1950s....Far from empowering grassroots workers, the KMT's guidelines made it explicit that unions followed the party leadership. Without exception, union officials must be KMT members and were handpicked by the party branch.

Hey, doesn't that also sound more or less like the way the CCP does things? 

If you're wondering "how did Taiwan move from that model to something far more free-market leaning?" - simple. The US government pressured them into it. Maybe you're a free-market bourgeois, maybe you're an edgy Marxist. Whatever. From a historical standpoint, it remains that reforms loosening the KMT's hold on the economy enabled small and medium-sized businesses to flourish, and that was the foundation of the Taiwan Miracle.

There is one final point to make as we discuss Leninist influences in the KMT - and that's land reform. I don't want to belabor this point. This is what land reform supposedly looked like in Taiwan:

It is only after these two [1949 and 1951 reforms] that we come to the famous 1953 reform, tendentiously called the land-to-the-tiller programme. This comprised the compulsory purchase of private tenanted farmland by the State and its resale, by installment purchase, to the former tenant....


Of course, even that is contentious (the whole piece is worth reading, although it is old). 

The KMT essentially used land reform to consolidate its own power (from Cheng's article linked further up):
[Leaders of early opposition movements] were not rooted in the contemporary social structure, which was basically composed of small farmers (a class politically captured by the KMT because of land reform) and state employees (a natural constituency of the KMT). Thus, not only was the political opposition of the fifties unprepared for strategic bargaining with the regime; society itself was not amenable to the mobilization of political opposition.

There's a lot more to be said about this which I am essentially skipping over, and a strong argument to be made that land reform was not as successful as some make it out to be - and I may write more about that in the future. The point is, from a theoretical perspective it sure sounds a lot like one of the stages of Marxist-Leninist revolution (Lenin envisioned it as one step toward the eventual goal of abolishing all privately-owned land). Of course, although one can make a case that "land to the tiller" is not an accurate description of the land reform the KMT actually carried out, for a number of reasons - one of the biggest being that they never intended to fully abolish private ownership.

The KMT wiped out a potential opposition base by appropriating the land of wealthier Taiwanese, and built up a support base of smaller farmers by distributing it (there's a lot more to say there, but that summary will do). The CCP, on the other hand, went straight to killing the landlords. One might have used far more violent means than the other, but ideologically, there isn't a huge difference.

All of this is to say that the KMT, from a historical perspective, was never as ideologically opposed to the CCP as people believe. There are differences, but they could be characterized as a strait, not a yawning ocean.

I repeat: the KMT-CCP conflict has always been far more about wanting power - rivals vying for the One Ring - than it was ever about core ideological differences. Now, I suppose we could say that by grabbing the Ring, the CCP has turned itself into Gollum. But the KMT is essentially Smeagol - having the power it actually wants (control of China) taken away, it pretends to play-act as a willing partner in the fellowship of Taiwanese democracy, but is ultimately trying to sabotage the whole project to get what it has really wanted this whole time.

No, not to abolish the CCP. They just want China. They don't want to kill Gollum - they are Gollum, in a sense. They just want the Ring.

(I didn't think that Smeagol/Gollum analogy would work initially, but you know, I think it does.)

The whole "they're damn Commies and we're Free China" talk, then? Where did it come from?

From the KMT's own mouthpieces, of course!

If you control the education system, you get to decide how you are portrayed in textbooks. It's extra helpful for you if you bow and scrape to the US and convince your buddies over there that you're the good guys, the Free China, the anti-Commies.

It's all a farce.

From quasi-socialist beginnings - claiming the same founding father as the CCP - to a basically Leninist party structure, to being quite comfortable with dictatorship themselves, the KMT cannot truly claim to be "against" anything the CCP stands for, ideologically. Their core ideology, therefore, can only be characterized as thinking of themselves as leaders of China, not Taiwan, and Taiwan's destiny as ultimately Chinese. Surely, leaders in the KMT have been offered plum positions in the new government, if they manage to make unification of the 'motherland' a reality. Surely, they believe that these rewards will actually materialize (they won't, but that's a topic for another post).

As such, their real ideological opponent is Taiwanese identity - institutionally speaking, the DPP (among others). Not the CCP.

One of the first links above concluded that the KMT has "accepted the paradox" of working with their former enemy.

I'd say that the paradox never existed, beyond what they tried to convince us was there. It was a chimera. A fake wizard behind a curtain. The KMT and the CCP were always more similar than they were different.


Knowing they won't get there any other way, and being offered a leg up by their former foe, wouldn't it make sense that they'd team up with them in order to defeat the people they actually disagree with - those who simply do not see themselves as Chinese or their land as part of China?