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

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.



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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?

Friday, February 14, 2020

If abandoning Taiwanese children is the 'will of the Taiwanese people', then the people are wrong.

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This is how this whole thing makes me feel.
Every DPP and CECC official who supports this should be ashamed. 


It's rare that I write a post which is not about the KMT or CCP, and have trouble calming down enough to write it because I'm so thoroughly disgusted.

But recently, this happened:


Leading Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members yesterday defended the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) decision to overturn the Mainland Affairs Council’s (MAC) announcement allowing the entry of Chinese children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples into Taiwan, and praised the Executive Yuan’s quick response.

Basically, that means that the Mainland Affairs Council was going to allow spouses and children of Taiwanese working in China to evacuate to Taiwan in the wake of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) epidemic. Then the DPP and health officials tasked with coordinating Taiwan's public health response overturned that decision, citing two reasons: first, that it would over-burden Taiwan's health workers, which is obviously something that must be taken into consideration, but not as a blanket excuse, but an aspect of risk assessment.

Second:


The Executive Yuan was quick in reading the pulse of public opinion, and put a temporary stop to that policy to reflect the will of Taiwanese, Cho told reporters at party headquarters in Taipei.

Even the Taipei Times calls them "Chinese kids" in the headline. But they have one Taiwanese parent - they are Taiwanese kids just as much as they are Chinese, although their paperwork may not reflect this. Taiwan may not have a legal obligation to them, but as the children of Taiwanese citizens, I'd argue there is some moral obligation.

This comes on the heels of an uproar over an evacuation flight that was meant to bring people at elevated risk back to Taiwan, but ended up carrying a number of Chinese spouses and children of Taiwanese, including one known case of infection, bumping at-risk people to take them instead, and not informing Taiwanese officials of the passenger change.

That understandably provoked public fury - or at least, it was understandable that people would be angry about at-risk individuals being bumped from the list of initial evacuees. 


This, however? No.

I'm surprised and horrified by the low quality of public discourse on this issue. There are good points to be made about public health, exactly how many children are affected, and what we can do in the face of an intransigent China who is sabotaging Taiwan's evacuation efforts.

But, although some people are saying these things, what I'm hearing instead is "Taiwanese First!", which makes me, as a foreign resident, wonder at what point I might be denied services in a crisis here. "Those kids are Chinese so they are not our problem!" - legally, no, but ethically - they are the minor children of Taiwanese. "Their parents chose for them to be Chinese, this is the consequence!" - for the parents, that has some logic - for the kids, though? They didn't choose their passport.

And, of course, "thousands of them will come over and infect us all!"

It's worth pointing out that these were the original requirements set forth by MAC for minor Chinese nationals with a Taiwanese parent to come to Taiwan:



"Allow Chinese minor children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples who... 
- have an Alien Resident Certificate or a long-term visa for visiting family or relatives  
- placed in home quarantine for 14 days after arrival. 
- only include Chinese children who are under 18 years old 
- have been living in Taiwan  
- have no one to take care of them in China 
- must apply for entry and gain approval from the National Immigration Agency"



Frankly, I think that sounds quite reasonable. It's doubtful many children will meet those requirements, and they specifically target the children of Taiwanese nationals in need. So "thousands of them will flood our system!" is simply not a rational risk assessment. We don't know the risk, but given less politicking, the government could probably figure that out. As far as I'm aware, they never even tried.

I do wonder, if these children were any other nationality, whether this debate would be happening. In which case, the problem isn't "we can't take them" but rather "we don't want them because they're Chinese".

I understand that people are upset not only about what happened on the first flight, but that the parents chose Chinese nationality for them, and that these couples have chosen to live in China, not Taiwan. Emotions are running high. There's no easy answer.

But there seems to be a lot of throwing around of whatever facts will fit someone's pre-conceived opinion, and very little time taken to reflect on whether one's response is adequately compassionate. Nobody's really thinking about what it actually would mean to not allow minor children with no one to care for them in China to come to Taiwan.

To be clear, that is exactly what the government is saying:


Chen said he believed Chinese spouses, who unlike their children are still permitted to return to Taiwan, will make appropriate arrangements for their minor children if they have to leave them in China. 
The new policy may put some pressures on Chinese spouses, but since they chose not to apply for Taiwan citizenship for their children, they have to take responsibility for making the required arrangements for them now, Chen said.


In effect, the government is stating that they may well tell parents that they can leave China, but their minor children have to stay behind. I don't know any parent who would actually choose that.

It is this simple: when given a choice between politics - the "will of the people" - and children's lives, the Central Epidemic Command Center and DPP officials chose politics.

They surely know that the real risks of letting some children in cannot possibly be as high as opponents say, as they shriek nationalist slogans like 'Taiwanese First!' - which sounds like something Trumpists would say.

To be fair, there is no good choice here. Health care capacity is an issue, and without a clear way to know who would be on those flights, it's difficult to say they should continue. However, at the end we should err on the side of helping as many people as we can, and on keeping families together when possible. 


The government could have made coherent public health argument for going slow, taking our own ability to treat people into account, and figuring out what to do about the problems on the China end. If they had said "we can't continue flights until we can guarantee that Taiwanese officials can oversee the passenger lists", I wouldn't be writing this. If they'd said "we have to ensure that they don't get priority but we'll try to get everyone out as we are able", nobody would argue with it. If they'd said evacuation needed to be stalled until these things could be worked out, this piece would not exist. They didn't.

Instead, they went straight for the nationalist sentiment - "the people don't want it, so we won't do it".

If including (some) children of Taiwanese people in the evacuation plans even if they don't have Taiwanese nationality 'looks bad' to the Taiwanese public, I'm sorry, but the Taiwanese public is wrong. 


We justifiably complain that Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Organization harms global health, especially in a time of crisis, denying human beings safe harbor in Taiwan is also harmful. Surely people will die who would have lived, if political posturing hadn't been deemed a higher priority. If Taiwan complains about the WHO putting lives in danger over politics - well, we are doing the same thing. We lose all moral high ground when we play the same damn game.

And these DPP officials are congratulating themselves for deciding that it's okay if children whom they could have saved, die (from the Taipei Times article):



DPP Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) lauded the government’s quick response after MAC’s announcement on Tuesday drew a predominantly negative response....
DPP Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said that MAC officials made a “foolish” announcement on Tuesday.
“Right now, most Taiwanese are very worried about the ‘Wuhan virus’ and they are distrustful of the Chinese government,” Wang said. “As such, people were riled up and criticized MAC officials. I see this reaction as a very good thing for Taiwan, as it sends a strong signal of their discontent about the decision.” 


I have admired both Cho and Wang in the past.

Today, I am disgusted by them.

"Distrust of the Chinese government" is not enough of an excuse to tell families that only some members can be evacuated.

I cannot stress this enough: this is horrifying. It's macabre. It may not be murder exactly, but it is murder-adjacent. 


Yes, it would create more work for health care workers, and we can't ignore that. But consider how completely overwhelmed health workers in China are - people are dying before they can even get into a hospital. Taiwan has fewer than two dozen cases, and no community spread - it is absolutely possible to formulate a strategy that takes health care capacity into account.

What kind of country is unwilling to even attempt to figure out a solution for the children of its own citizens?


There are those who say that Taiwan needs to "protect its own citizens":

“However, it is clear that in light of the epidemic, the public believes that the government must prioritize protection of its citizens, and that their welfare must come first,” he added.

And of course, Taiwan simply cannot save every child in China. But please remember, these are the children of citizens, and not even very many of them. In that light, this sounds more like a nationalistic argument than a rational one.

It would not be an evacuation of Chinese people with no connection to Taiwan. They have the right to access Taiwanese (well, ROC) citizenship themselves. The children are half-Taiwanese! In many cases, this policy will surely put Taiwanese citizens themselves at risk as well, as many will be unwilling to leave their families.

I can imagine myself in such a situation. My husband has Canadian citizenship, but I don't as we've never endeavored to live there. If there were a pandemic in Taiwan and the Canadian government said that my husband could be evacuated to Canada but he'd have to leave me behind, I highly doubt he would go. 


Some say that if these family members have never sought the proper documents to come to Taiwan, that technically they have no rights here. Legally, I don't know if that's the case - they might truly have no rights, or they might have rights (especially the children of Taiwanese nationals) but be unable to access them.

This is not a compelling argument. The PRC doesn't allow dual nationality, especially not with the ROC. In theory, one cannot 'give up' PRC nationality. In practice, immigrating to Taiwan means giving up Chinese documentation and obtaining ROC documentation. The PRC doesn't recognize these documents, but considers the new household registration to be in 'Taiwan province'. If you get such a household registration, you lose the one you had in China. So, practically speaking, you are giving up one nationality for another. There is no other way for Chinese nationals to become Taiwanese citizens.

There's an argument to be made that they 'chose China' and therefore Taiwan has no obligation to them. I get that. But - if you've gone to China for work and your spouse is Chinese, getting your child ROC nationality isn't easy to do. 


I understand that as an American abroad I lose some of the guarantees that come with being a US citizen, and I am not guaranteed a safe evacuation should problems arise in Taiwan. I too felt that the Taiwanese woman working in Wuhan who returned to Taiwan knowing she had COVID-19 symptoms was selfish - she put others in danger when choosing to work abroad means accepting that you may have to be treated through local medical care.

These are official channels we're talking about, however, and children who didn't do anything wrong. That's not the same as putting others in danger by sneaking back in with a fever.

In any case, if a Taiwanese person goes to China for work, meets someone and has a child there, it would make sense that they would stay there. Yes, it would be preferable if these families had chosen to put their faith in Taiwan, but it doesn't make them bad people that they chose a path that looked sensible to them personally.

I've also heard that this is how things are because relations between Taiwan and China are not like normal countries. This is true, but it's not a reason to separate families.


And if this is what the people in Taiwan want, they are wrong, especially if they're crying "disease knows no borders!" at the WHO, while closing their borders to the families of their own citizens.

People are justifiably angry over the way China has treated Taiwan. They shouldn't trust the Chinese government, but any belief that prioritizes politics, nationalist sentiment and hurt feelings over the lives of children is problematic.

I chose to stay in this country because I believe in what it stands for - a beacon of freedom, and not in the drum-beating American way. In standing up for yourself in the face of unimaginable, seemingly insurmountable opposition. In refusing to back down when everyone is against you, because you are in the right. In doing all of that unflinchingly, but also peacefully, because nobody wants a war.

I believe in the kind of country Taiwan can be, and I think it can do better than this.

Perhaps I was wrong. At a time when the Tsai administration, DPP and CECC could have shown leadership - not pandering to the worst impulses of people but rather demonstrating and encouraging higher standards in our actions and discourse - they chose pandering.

Independence or a unique identity from China is not enough - Taiwan has to not just stand up as a country, but decide what kind of country it wants to be.


This country could have shown the world that, unlike China and the WHO, it won't sacrifice families children for the sake of politics. It didn't.

Taiwan can be - and needs to be - better than this. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Sometimes Taiwan's problem isn't global ignorance - it's China-appeasing malice

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From Twitter account Star Trek Minus Context

Until fairly recently, I had a friendly acquaintance. We'd met in person; he wasn't just a Facebook 'friend'. After all I've written about Taiwan, all I've said, all the articles I've posted, he would still make "jokes" asking me about my life "in China". He once referred to my city as Chinese Taipei. I kept asking him to stop, but did not immediately cut him loose, because I knew he was joking and was perfectly aware that Taiwan wasn't China. Wrongly, I believed that if I could convey to him that these jokes weren't funny and only served to irritate me, he'd understand that and stop. He didn't, I got sick of it and unfriended him.

I'm telling you that story for a reason.

In recent weeks, at least three countries have banned (or temporarily banned) Taiwanese travelers over coronavirus fears. These bans weren't directed specifically at Taiwan, but rather included Taiwan in China. Joining Italy and Vietnam (the latter banning Taiwanese travelers only for a brief period), the Philippines is now including Taiwan in Chinese travel bans.


“If you look at the WHO map and the number of cases that they have, Taiwan is included in China. Since we have a temporary travel restriction and ban on China, then Taiwan is included,” Domingo said in a press briefing.

Once again, everything I said about the Vietnam travel ban also applies to the Philippines:


I want to be very clear here: I don't think the dingbats who made these decisions actually believe Taiwan is a part of China. At best it's highly unlikely. Consider the cultural, economic and geographic ties between Vietnam and Taiwan, as well as a fair amount of well-publicized controversy surrounding these ties. There's just no way that Vietnamese policymakers don't know that Taiwan is a thing.
More likely, the airhead bureaucrat who made these decisions either simply doesn't care, or is perfectly aware that Taiwan is separate from China with a separate (and more effective) healthcare system and far fewer confirmed coronavirus cases, but doesn't want to anger China. So they use this exclusion from international organizations and their own country's lack of official recognition as cover for their bad decisions, thinking they're doing the right thing by keeping China happy. 



With all of the connections, both historical and current, that Taiwan and the Philippines have - they're right next to each other! - there is simply no way that Eric "Douchesack" Domingo does not know that Taiwan is not a part of China. Probably part of his job is keeping up on health-related issues in connection with all of the Filipino workers who come to Taiwan. If not his job, then someone under him. 

He knows. He just doesn't care. He's not ignorant; he's making a choice. 

Sometimes ignorance really is the issue. I've met American exchange students in Hong Kong who truly believed that the Chinese government extended to Taiwan. I have relatives who thought Taiwan was not a democracy until I set them straight. I still get mail from people I know that put my address in China. Websites that list Taiwan as a "Province of China" often don't realize that they're using a pre-fab list that says this, and many are happy to fix it if asked nicely. In those cases, it makes sense to patiently and non-judgmentally start a conversation about Taiwan so that they might know more about the issue and reconsider their previous assumptions.

But sometimes, especially at the government and international organization level, the choice to treat Taiwan badly is not made out of ignorance. It's pure China-appeasing malice.

ICAO knows perfectly well that China doesn't control Taiwanese airspace. The WHO isn't stupid (well, they are, but not in this way)  - they are likewise aware. The UN knows Taiwan exists. Italian officials may not be so aware of Asian geography, but certainly Vietnam and the Philippines are quite cognizant that Taiwan's government is not the same as China's. IELTS and TOEFL both know it too. The Lancet is not staffed by morons, they definitely know, and yet they defend themselves with this crap, and people who should know better actually buy it (a fallacious appeal to authority does not outweigh the fact that Taiwan's health care system is different from China's, period).

These people are choosing to feign ignorance, and the result is intentional cruelty and decisions that do more harm than good.


In such cases, an approach of "oh, they must be misinformed" is simply not going to work. Raising awareness is great, when directed at people around the world - the news consumers - who truly don't realize anything is amiss. But thinking that you'll convince Eric Domingo, the WHO or people like them by making a case aimed at raising their knowledge level is doomed to fail - because the problem that needs to be addressed is not a lack of knowledge.

I will reiterate: it's this guy's actual well-paid real job that he is really supposed to do, and do well, for real money to know the public health situation of countries where such issues might affect the Philippines. Of course it is his job to know that Taiwan has exemplary public health, rather than lean on the fallacy of "what the WHO says". It's possible that he's completely unfit for the role, but I doubt it.

He's not stupid. He's an asshole. You can't convince an asshole with "clarification" or sincere discussion, because they are not interested in being informed (or letting on that they already are). 

My husband said once: 



And that's really it. A pro-Taiwan position is predicated on knowledge. People come to Taiwan's side because they learned more. An anti-Taiwan position (that is, any Taiwan position espoused by China) is predicated on remaining ignorant - you can only stay that way if you don't learn about Taiwan's fascinating and unique history and political situation and just invoke repeated, yet fallacious, appeals to authority until the other side gets tired.

At some point, that's a choice, especially when it is your job to know better.

Taiwan advocates have a really great hammer. We might call it Thor's Hammer, but it's really more like Cassandra's Hammer. Cassandra's Hammer works just as well as Thor's Hammer, except nobody believes that it can do the things it does. (Also, it earns 77% of what Thor's Hammer gets for doing the same job.)

That hammer is knowledge - we know the history of this country. We know why it's unique. We know, in painstaking detail, why and how it is different from China. 
We understand that these are facts: That Taiwan's health system is different from China's is a fact. That Taiwan's government is not the same as China's is a fact. That data consistently show that Taiwanese people want to keep it that way is a fact. That we are not overwhelmed with coronavirus as China is...well, unfortunate for China, but also a fact. These facts are not up for debate, and they form a powerful - I'd say unassailable - argument. 

When you have a hammer like that, every problem really does look like a nail. You want to inform, educate and clarify because you have a great tool for it.

That's important - raising awareness among people who truly don't know plays such a crucial role. I will never say we should stop doing it - in fact, we should do it with patience, humility and joy.

Did I mention patience?

But not everything is a nail. You can't win someone to your side with "clarification" and "awareness raising" if they are already clear and aware, but are choosing to be a douchesack anyway. You're trying to solve a problem they don't have.


I don't know how to fix the issue of intentionally harmful decision-making aimed more at the political expediency of appeasing China than actually doing the right - and most effective - thing by including Taiwan, as itself, in international affairs.

Call them out? It works to some degree - that's how we got ICAO to stop mass-blocking anyone who mentioned Taiwan and got some online participation at the WHO. It sure feels like cold leftovers when we deserve a full seat at the table, though.

Unfriend them, like I did with that guy on Facebook? I'd sure like to see Taiwan say to the Philippines, "okay, if you think we're China, please send all work applications for Filipinos coming to Taiwan to Beijing and see how that works out", but the fact is that we need to stay on good terms with other countries in the region. (It would also hurt workers who are just trying to earn a living).

Continue to push persistently, refusing to be gaslit by their feigned ignorance, while cultivating 'establishment' allies who can get things done for Taiwan? Sure, but it's a slow process.

The work is brutal and the road is unclear. I don't have any better solutions. But it must be done.