Showing posts with label ko_wen_je. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ko_wen_je. Show all posts

Monday, December 2, 2019

It's not independence that is "hopeless", it's unification: like many, Terry Gou is answering the wrong question

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Screenshot from NowNews video with subtitles added

Let me start this by saying I don't care about Terry Gou. He's just some rich guy, he'll never be president. While he's obviously got business acumen, he's foolish to think that running a country is similar to running a business. I've never forgiven him for saying "you can't eat democracy" as a way of saying he thought money was more important than freedom (and therefore unification would be potentially acceptable), and I have a whole host of new reasons to renew my dislike.

However, please allow me, after saying "I don't care about Terry Gou", to write a lot about my opinion on Terry Gou. Or rather, his views on Taiwanese independence.

The other day, at a rally for some other guy, Gou appeared alongside that candidate, James Soong and Ko Wen-je for a whole lineup of people I don't care about. Around the 19-minute mark of this video, Gou said:

搞台獨都是垃圾...台獨沒有希望、垃圾、違憲 
Translation: "All Taiwan independence supporters are garbage...Taiwan independence is hopeless, trash and unconstitutional!" 

Notably, he tried to make it sound as though he was just repeating and agreeing with something he insists Ko Wen-je said. Ko denied this, saying that he said some independence supporters are scammers and liars, but not all of them, and he respects people who sincerely believe in it.

I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, because people who actively but insincerely support Taiwanese independence are not a thing. I suppose he is trying to create a distinction between people who care about Taiwan independence, and those who only say so to get votes but again - not a thing. It's the other side of that which is true: people who have said they oppose unification, but actually don't, or quietly support it (see: Ma Ying-jeou).

The pan-blue/red and the pan-green media have all covered this, mostly from the "Ko said that wasn't what he meant" angle, which really isn't the story here. It doesn't matter who said it first. That it was said at all is the problem. UDN (pan-blue) notably focused on "Taiwan independence is hopeless, garbage and unconstitutional" - the sort of thing their readers might agree with even if they'd blanche at calling people they disagree with "garbage". Pan-green media focused on "Taiwan independence supporters are all garbage", because that's more of an offensive slur against actual people than merely a stupid opinion on an issue. Rest assured, dear readers, he said both. And both are awful. 


That's not all Gou said, but I'll get to his other stand-out remark later.

First, I'd like to tell you why I'm writing about Gou when I do not care about him. It's because his dumb remarks give me a good 'in' to make a point that's been clonking around in my head for months now.

And that is this: when we talk about whether Taiwanese (or Hong Kong) independence is possible or hopeless, most people are asking the wrong question.

They ask (and answer) "how could Taiwan (or Hong Kong) possibly gain independence? China would never allow it for Hong Kong, and never allow recognition of it for Taiwan! It's impossible! China's too big, too strong!


But what they really should ask themselves first is this:

"How could Taiwan and Hong Kong possibly become a part of China?"

Especially as it exists now, what would it take for such an annexation/integration to be successful?

It would require Taiwanese and Hong Kongers to willingly give up their rights and freedoms and submit to authoritarian Chinese rule. It would require this even though people from both places have seen the way that China treats its own citizens - that is, not well at all.

It would therefore entail people from these places not only agreeing that it's acceptable to be 'a part of China', but to actually think of themselves as Chinese. Hong Kongers no longer believe the former, in large part, and are slowly moving away from the latter (considering how common it is now to refer to themselves as "Hong Kongers" rather than as "Chinese"). Taiwanese haven't believed either for quite some time.

How would Taiwanese (and Hong Kongers) ever come to believe and willingly submit to these things? What would it take to accomplish that?

The answer is that there is no way to accomplish that. There is no way to peacefully and straightforwardly convince Taiwan (or Hong Kong) to unify. The only option is violent annexation following underhanded attacks on democratic norms.

Taiwanese are already soured - probably permanently - on the notion of being a part of China. The youth are soured on considering themselves Chinese in any sense. Hong Kong is quickly moving in that direction, which I would argue was an inevitable development given what China is like.

By starting with the wrong question, unificationists like Gou - and yes, he is a unificationist - delude themselves into believing that unification could possibly be peaceful, that a general pro-China consensus will ensure that it's not necessary for the PLA to come in and start shooting at Taiwanese, and therefore that this outcome is better than the threat of war under continued independence.

That's not what will happen, though, because there won't be a general pro-China consensus. Ever. Unification will not make the differences in culture, belief systems and society between Taiwan and China go away. The only option left is prolonged Hong Kong-like guerilla warfare - and that won't drive Taiwanese to change their minds, either. If anything, it'll only harden them against China even more.

And that way - the only way one can conceive of working - simply is not going to happen. Rather than "accept unification or it's war", it's time we accepted the real truth: "the only choices are independence, or war".

So when Terry Gou says "Taiwan independence is hopeless", what is that supposed to mean? What does he expect to happen instead? It's unification that is hopeless. How would it even work? Why do people - Gou included - allow the assumption that unification is possible to pass unquestioned, but not the assumption that independence is possible?

Most likely, if asked, he would point to the "status quo" - the ROC not claiming independence but resisting unification - as others have done. That's surely what he meant when he called independence "unconstitutional" (which is true, I suppose, but absent a threat from China, the constitution can be changed.) He doesn't seem to realize that the status quo is independence, as much as he'd like to pretend that's not the case.

Gou and others might want us to believe that 'Taiwan independence' is a terrifying unknown thing, whereas the status quo is safe, secure and known. But a version of Taiwan independence already exists - the mirage of danger is created and maintained by Chinese threats, not any lived reality. And the status quo, insofar as it is different from independence (which it isn't in any practical way) is not particularly safe.

Of course, the status quo is not tenable. China has made it clear that they do not intend to allow it to continue forever, and it's time we paid attention. It's just not smart to assume they are bluffing because that's the easier truth to swallow - when someone tells you who they are, believe them.

The longer it is prolonged, the longer China has the time to build up its military, poach diplomatic relations, throw out debt traps and economic dependencies to make the rest of the world beholden to its agenda. And the longer it is prolonged, the more Taiwanese (and Hong Kongers) will resist the idea, as they have done and will do.

Of course, I won't even entertain the notion that a unified China under the ROC is possible. Why not? Because hahaahhahahahahahaha.

So stop asking whether independence is, as Gou said, "hopeless" and "trash". Ask instead whether unification is hopeless. You'll find that it is.

UDN also pointed out that Gou said this:

第三勢力不容忍台獨、反對台獨。 
The Third Force doesn't tolerate Taiwan independence, it opposes Taiwan independence.

That's interesting, I guess. I mean, the Third Force has, since the term came into being, referred to the left-of-the-DPP folks who considered themselves "colorless" (but, in truth, were always broadly pan-green). Other than their generally socially liberal political views and activist roots, one of the things that binds them together is a support for Taiwan independence.

Now, it seems that people like Gou, Ko Wen-je and his new ego-machine and the PFP/James Soong people are trying to appropriate the term for themselves. That's a joke - the term already refers to a group of people and they can't be silenced. These guys aren't colorless, either. They are broadly pan-blue and always have been. Let's not forget that in the past year or so, Ko has consistently attacked the DPP and been supportive-ish of the KMT. James Soong was the guy behind a lot of censorship and colonial-mentality policies from the authoritarian era, when he ran the Government Information Office. Gou very recently tried to win the KMT nomination and is sucking sour grapes because he lost spectacularly. 


In other words, these guys absolutely have a color. The real Third Force has engaged in a very long internal debate on whether they are "little greens" or exist independently of the pan-green camp, instead holding the DPP accountable. It seems clear that most of them have decided that they are little greens for the purposes of the presidential election, for now, because Han and the KMT are a greater threat to Taiwan than the DPP having no meaningful opposition from the left. This is right, as it puts the country first. If Huang Kuo-chang wants to sulk in the corner about it, that shows how self-serving he's always been. 


Ko, Soong, Gou and their various party affiliations and hangers-on - are not even trying to engage in that debate. They are acting blue while calling themselves "colorless" and "the Third Force". It's just another iteration of the pan-blue camp calling DPP and pan-green ideas "ideological" and their lawmakers as "doing ideology", while pretending their side is neutral and ideology-free (of course, it isn't. No side is.)

It's also vaguely interesting to me, watching the NowNews video linked above, that whenever they need to drum up sentimental support, these guys pivot from "independence is trash" and "the ROC" to "Taiwan", with Ko Wen-je saying "give Taiwan a chance!" and the resulting chant focusing on Taiwan, not 'the ROC'. It's almost as if - and stop me if I sound insane here - that they know that voters have a stronger attachment to the concept of 'Taiwan' (their island) than 'the ROC' (a foreign government which claims sovereignty). It's like they're aware that when people conceptualize their country, in their minds that country is Taiwan.
So despite being anti-Taiwan/pro-China in platforms and rhetoric, they're quite willing to hypocritically call on that sentiment when it suits them.

Never fear, the actual Third Force, like most Taiwanese, prefer independence or the closest thing to it. These folks are an entirely different ideological force, and are likely to remain a sidelined one.

Why? Because they're asking and answering the wrong questions. And who will vote for you when you can't even ask the right question, let alone answer it?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Freddy quits NPP, my crush on him intensifies

I was going to write a nice blog post about hiking in the tea fields in the mountains behind Meishan today, but then black metal star and Sexy Legislator Freddy Lim announced to everyone's surprise (or at least mine - but friends in the know hadn't quite expected it either) that he was leaving the NPP to run for re-election in 2020 as an independent, and supporting Tsai Ing-wen for re-election in 2020.

He also pointed out that the internal inconsistency or chaos within the NPP on whether or not the party should support Tsai Ing-wen for re-election in 2020 has made it impossible for him to do what he thinks is right - that each candidate needs to stand clearly against the KMT, especially given the threats posed by the upcoming election. In questions after his announcement, he said he did not intend to join the DPP, nor did he intend to join Ko Wen-je's newly-formed party, but that he had been in touch with the DPP. 


While the news was surprising, I couldn't really say I was shocked. The past few days have been a constant stream of news about the NPP's internal disagreements, so I suppose it shouldn't be such a shock. There have been rumors of the NPP supporting Ko Wen-je (unlikely for reasons I'll outline below, and I think chairperson Handy Chiu, who really needs to change his English name, also said today that they do not, but I was unable to watch the statement he gave shortly after Lim's announcement). 



This @watchoutTW timeline says it all! pic.twitter.com/AjldkYTo72
— Pierre-Yves Baubry (@pybaubry) August 1, 2019



There has been discussion of whether supporting Tsai for re-election in 2020 would make the NPP a "little green" - basically a follower party of the DPP rather than its own entity with its own platform. NPP spokesperson (at least I think he still has that job?) Wu Cheng, who ran for city council in 2018 and lost, published an extremely long essay on Facebook outlining this internal disagreement, and I now regret that I never finished reading it. A few key points I did glean were that it's true the NPP has no consensus whatsoever on whether or not to support Tsai, that ideas like "little green" don't mean much when the question is whether the party is passively or actively building its platform and ideological grounding, and that while it may seem to some that Huang Kuo-chang (NPP legislator and former chairperson) was dominating the party with his views, that from Wu's perspective, the issue was the NPP's lack of a clear set of platforms independent of - rather than in opposition to - Huang's own ideas.

If you're wondering who's on team Little Green and who isn't - Huang has been clear that he'll leave if the party becomes too "green" (though I don't think supporting the current president simply because she's green should count as "too green", Huang gonna Huang), Hung Tzu-yung says she'll quit the party if they don't settle the issue and has expressed support for Tsai, and Hsu Yung-ming is pushing for the NPP to field a presidential candidate, which is a terrible idea so we'll just call him Terrible Idea Man.

So, again, is it any shock that such internal disarray would push out a no-bullshit kinda guy like Freddy? While he's got smooth PR and great showmanship, the beliefs beneath the veneer are indeed sincere. If he's got a clear idea of what needs to be done to stand for what is right, then he's not playing around or trying to get attention. He would only do something like this if he truly believed the NPP's internal "chaos" - my translation of his phrasing - was actively detrimental to doing the right thing.

Remember, not that long ago the loudest people in the NPP (and their assorted allies) were decrying Freddy's defense of Ko Wen-je. That defense was not well-articulated, but the purpose was clear: Freddy believed that as a legislator representing an urban district in Taipei, where Ko is the mayor, would be wise to get along well with that mayor, even if you don't think he should go on to become president.

He didn't leave the NPP then despite that criticism, so to leave now means that he must mean business. The problem is real, the internal dispute is actively harmful, things fall apart and the center cannot hold. 


What's interesting to me is that leaving the NPP - essentially creating a new fracture - is Freddy's way of aiming for greater solidarity. He further said that all smaller parties should compete in all districts in order to resist the KMT.

It doesn't make sense on the surface: wouldn't you stick with your people even if they can't form an internal consensus, if you thought uniting against the KMT was important? Wouldn't you want those parties to work together to figure out who can win in a given district rather than split the progressive vote in contentious districts?

But it makes a certain kind of sense, or has a certain abstract logic to it. The NPP, in navigating that internal disagreement, was creating room for more division among progressives who are for or against Tsai (mostly because they think she's not progressive enough, despite enacting transitional justice, raising the minimum wage, making strides in renewable energy and spending political capital to make same-sex marriage a reality - but apparently that's not good enough). By leaving, Freddy is sending a clear message: quit it. We all need to stand together against the KMT, so if you're going to argue that we should not stand with Tsai, that's not a useful way to look at the bigger picture right now and I'm not going to give it my tacit approval. 


That view can stand alongside the belief that elections beyond the 2020 presidential campaign should draw participation from a number of parties. It's not necessarily logically inconsistent. It's another way of saying "we need to unite behind Tsai for president, but that doesn't mean we have to be 'little greens'."

In effect, he's calling out the notion hinted at by people like Huang and Hsu that supporting Tsai is (or may be) a move towards becoming, or remaining, 'little greens' rather than growing their own platform and base and acting as a party that holds the DPP accountable, as they'd always intended.

After all, becoming a party that's simply a small, more progressive flank of greens may be one way to slide into irrelevancy. But then breaking from the DPP too harshly is also a fine way to turn into a fringe/radical party, which is just another kind of irrelevance. 


Some might be asking if this is the end of non-DPP progressivism in Taiwan - if we're back to the same old two-party shenanigans with various splinter parties who support one side or the other.

I don't know. For now, perhaps. But honestly, the true progressives need to do what Freddy has done here (and what I think Lin Fei-fan did by going to the DPP rather than the NPP). They need to 
realize firstly that not that many Taiwanese are as progressive as they are and their ideas are not shared by a majority of the population. That means more needs to be done to win over society. It means teaming up with the center, even if the center is slow to act. Doing so doesn't mean you have to support the center indefinitely.

Or, as a very smart friend of mine once said, activists have to realize that change won't happen just because they march, protest, strike, write and occupy. Change happens because they do those things, bring their ideas to the rest of society and show the establishment that their causes enjoy some popularity and can be winning issues. Activism needs friends in the establishment to get things done, and the more progressive members of the Establishment need the activists to get society to care about those issues. In Taiwan, the activists need Tsai, and Tsai needs the activists. 

Secondly, they - Taiwanese progressives - need to realize that while their issues do matter, that the China issue is particularly critical right now. Han Kuo-yu - an obvious unificationist - is the KMT nominee and seems to be good at lobotomizing people in a very Trumpian way. The KMT has gone from "well we support the 92 Consensus but not unification!" and Ma Ying-jeou's "no independence, no unification..." to "we support a peace treaty with China" (!!!) China can't be put on the back burner as something that's not a direct and immediate threat, because it it has very much become one.

I have more to say and links to add but I've also got work to do and just want to get this published. Other questions include - will Hung Tzu-yung jump ship too? (Probably not). Does Huang Kuo-chang want to be Taipei mayor and eventually president? (Everyone knows he does). Will he work with Ko Wen-je to that end? (I think it's unlikely). Will anyone else jump ship from the NPP? (Maybe not immediately, not sure. Does Ko's new party matter? (I don't even want to think about that right now.)  Will the left be able to unite to get through 2020? (No idea, but Freddy is right in saying that it must happen.)

Enjoy the rush job, come back for linked sources later if you're feelin' it. 


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Mayor Ko is a Gay-hating, Misogynist Turd

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doctored image (test and arrow mine) from Wikiquote



So, I've tried to be a Very Good Blogger these past few months by keeping my swearing and general foul-mouthedness in check, so I think I've earned this one.

Because I think it's most appropriate to the story to do an end-run over the serious-faced analysis about what it means and what are Ko's intentions exactly and just call it like it is without any of the wannabe pundit BS, I'm just gonna say it straight: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je is a homophobic, sexist buttclown.

The misogyny has been amply covered, because there is a lot of it. I won't re-tread on that - links to his previous comments about women are covered in the link.

The gay-hating, though? That's new, so let's rumble.

According to Liberty Times (link in Mandarin), while in the USA - which was its own whole drama thing - Ko commented that he voted against marriage equality referendum in the last election, but that he "allowed Taipei to hold the Pride Parade" which shows that "Taipei City is very tolerant".

Don't let his talk about "tolerance" and Pride fool you. First, that's a basic human right (the freedom of assembly) in Taiwan. Oh, thank you so much, Mayor Ko, for giving LGBT people the right to freedom of speech that they already had anyway! Barf.

Second, "tolerance" is not enough. Equal rights and tolerance are both necessary: without tolerance, equal rights can ring hollow as people, even when exercising their rights, may face discrimination. But without equal rights, merely "tolerating" someone else's existence doesn't confer upon them the dignity of actual equal status.

Voting against marriage equality is an anti-gay, anti-equal rights act. Simply put, if you do not think same-sex couples do not deserve the same rights that opposite-sex ones enjoy, you do not believe in equal rights, and you specifically want to deny them to LGBT people. That is a fundamentally anti-gay viewpoint. There's no other way to put it. The two cannot be reconciled. You can talk all you want about "being tolerant" but if you want to deny a group a human right, that is not "tolerant". You are telling opposite-sex couples that they shouldn't be alowed to inherit from each other, make medical decisions for each other, have visitation or next-of-kin rights, adopt, be on each other's insurance or any of the other things opposite-sex couples can do just because they have different junk.


That's anti-equality. Period. There is no "loving" or "decent" way to interpret this.

What's more, "but I allowed Taipei to have Pride!" is a weak-kneed cop-out. Tolerating someone's existence without open comment or harassment and letting them march down the street, but wanting to keep them second-class citizens, is simply not good enough, and is not actually tolerant. Tolerance means accepting that people who aren't like you are human too and therefore have the same goddamn rights you do, period.

Anything less - oh it's so nice, we're so nice to you, you can march and walk and wear your costumes! - is not good enough. There is no excuse. There is no cover. There is no sappy, manipulative "love the sinner" or "acceptance" or "lifestyle" rhetoric.

Either you believe in equal rights or you do not, and Ko Wen-je does not believe in equal rights.


I also wonder what he hoped to accomplish with these comments - his most supportive base are the youth, who are also overwhelmingly pro-equality. Did he expect that he could say this to win older anti-equality voters, but keep the youth with his comments about Pride?

I hope not, because that would mean he thinks the youth are stupid. I certainly hope they don't let this go.

Confusingly, this comes after addressing the right-wing Heritage Foundation touting Taiwan's social values as akin to those of the West (marriage equality is common in the West now) and talking about elections as social movements toward change. To a bunch of right-winters. Huh.


Which...okay, if you think that, why did you vote against the goals of the biggest social movement since the Sunflowers, and arguably the most progressive and Western-aligned, which asked for the most evolution from Taiwanese society?

Because you're a jack-bucket who says whatever and doesn't care, that's why. You proved that with women; now you're just adding LGBT people to the roster. Screw you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Yes, Ko Wen-je said a sexist thing again

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The ladies of Taipei according to Ko Wen-je


So, it's time we all just admitted frankly that Ko Wen-je is a sexist jackass.

This time, it's over comments that "Japanese women make themselves up more beautifully" than Taiwanese women, with Taiwanese women not wearing makeup "go directly outside and terrify people", and that being aesthetically pleasing not only shows dedication but is a responsibility (presumably, of women).

I mean, I totally understand. What with Ko Wen-je being such a well-manicured hottie, he sure takes great care of his 'aesthetics' and women can't help swooning over him, I mean, just look at that carefully-maintained visage that makes ladies' hearts go a-flutte - -


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Oh yeah THAT guy really has standing to talk about how women need to make themselves prettier. 



Oh, wait, that's not him. Sorry. The other guy is Ko. Hmm. Gotcha.

Do you like gardening, Mayor Ko? Because that is one massive glass house ya got there.

Obviously, it bothers me that the mayor of the city I live in, who is likely to be re-elected, is a sexist jerk.

It bothers me that he remains popular despite being a sexist jerk (if he'd committed actual sexual harassment he'd probably be a goner politically, but apparently stupid, sexist comments aren't enough), and that the media seem to cover for him.

I mean, there's no excuse for his recent comments, but please enjoy some smokescreens for sexist comments in the past:

Ko "clarifies" that both unmarried women and men over 30 are a "national security risk" (note verb choice)

"Gaffe-prone" Ko says he's "still learning to be a politician", which sounds like apologia for comments that are shitty even when non-politicians make them - note the way the prominence of Ko's "explanation" and the use of "gaffe" downplay the nature of what he actually said. And not just one thing - this is over two separate comments, both of which were horrible!

It also implies, from Ko's perspective, that everyday men say these things and that's OK (men I know have assured me they and other men typically don't, even in all-male company), but politicians shouldn't. No, dude. You shouldn't make comments that a woman is "so pretty" that she's not fit to be mayor but that she should instead "be a receptionist or model for tourism promotion materials", or "I didn't become a OB-GYN because I'd have to make a living between women's legs" even if you are not a politician. So there's nothing to "learn" to not say about women in order to be mayor. You're just an asshole.

You really think after these sorts of comments that the women of Taipei think you can do a good job as their elected representative? What woman would want to be governed by you?


So, this time around, let's not do that, okay? Let's call it what it is. Ko Wen-je definitely has his distinct personality and so he makes off-color remarks. Fine. I do that too! I live for off-color things (as long as they're not mean to the wrong people). But can we just admit that off-color sexist remarks belie sexist beliefs no matter your personality? Thanks.

But what bothers me more is that he's the best choice we've got in the upcoming election.

I don't care about one stupid comment, not really. I care that he keeps making them and yet there's no other solid choice to vote for.


I'm not writing this stuff because I want to trash Mayor Ko for no reason, and I'm not writing it because I want him to lose the upcoming election (what I say here won't matter in that regard anyway). I'm aware that the other two choices are worse: Ting Shou-jung is a China-loving, anti-independence sack of empty slogans and Pasuya Yao...I mean, lol.

If anything, that's the problem: Ko is a jackass - a smart, hardworking jackass, but a jackass nonetheless - yet we don't have a better choice. We finally get the first non-KMT mayor since Chen Shui-bian and he's...a jackass. It burns.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

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

44378478_986461788204459_3214075326409736192_o
The screenshot that launched a million words


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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



44426256_911279235743800_1094803265582792704_n
From 幹幹貓: probably one of the most common things I read to improve my colloquial Chinese. It's all in Mandarin but you should check it out!

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

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

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

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

Which...yeah.

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

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



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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, September 21, 2018

Yes, Ko is using Xi's language on "one family"

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 9.29.56 AM
from ETToday


A piece by former Sunflower leader Lin Fei-fan came out today, warning of Ko's embrace of Xi Jinping's and China's oft-repeated phrase, "the two sides of the Strait are one family", essentially calling Ko's seeming doublespeak on China a strategy out of the Ma Ying-jeou playbook: insisting he's not pro-unification and then acting the opposite.

I'm already anticipating the criticism that'll flow in over such a prominent figure in Taiwanese Third Force politics essentially taking a shot at Ko as the Taipei mayoral election nears and no better pro-Taiwan candidates are running (or arguably, none who could actually win Taipei exist).

One thing in particular I expect to hear, which I'd like to dismantle right now, is the idea that Ko's and Xi's exact wording don't match: that Xi uses "兩岸一家人" (a translation of "one family" that implies a single household or very immediate relatives) and Ko uses "兩岸一家親" which implies a more distant familial relation, like cousins: the idea being that you can share ancestors or be related, but not be under the same household.

However, CRNTT/China Review News/台灣中評, essentially Chinese state-sponsored media in Taiwan and Hong Kong, published a lengthy article on the 19th Party Congress in 2017, in which the latter phrase - the one used by Ko - is explicitly quoted as being used by Xi:

兩岸一家親”是習近平總書記積極宣導的兩岸關係和平發展新理念,這一新理念的內涵極為豐富。“兩岸一家親”的基礎是兩岸同屬一個民族和國家。“兩岸一家親”的對台政策意涵是用“一家人”的思維和邏輯,“將心比心”更加彈性地處理台灣問題、兩岸分歧和對台讓利。“兩岸一家親”理念要求兩岸同胞彼此信賴,彼此扶持,不斷擴大和密切兩岸交流交往,在融合發展中撫平歷史的傷痕,共同推進中華民族偉大復興的歷史進程。

My rough translation: "The two sides of the strait are one family" is a new concept for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations actively promoted by General Secretary Xi Jinping. This new concept is extremely rich in content. The basis of the phrase "two sides of the strait are one family" is that both sides of the strait belong to one nation. This policy towards Taiwan is to use "family" rhetoric and logic to "reconcile hearts" and deal more flexibly with the Taiwan issue, cross-strait differences, and benefit Taiwan. The "cross-strait family" concept requires compatriots on both sides of the strait to trust each other, support each other, continuously expand cross-strait exchanges, smooth the scars of history in the development of integration, and jointly advance the historic process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Barf.

Anyway, that's what Chinese media in Taiwan is saying. It's useful to get a sense of what the Chinese government thinks, and they are explicitly using the exact same phrase as Ko: not 一家人, but 一家親. Here's another source from ETToday and another from China Times (pan-blue/pro-China media in Taiwan) which contains extensive quotes from Xi. Here's an English translation of Xi's words in 2017. You have to dig, as this wasn't one of the top points of his address, but it's there.

Basically, it seems as though Xi used the old phrasing  (一家人) up through about 2013, then switched to the newer one echoed by Ko after that (一家親), while occasionally switching back to the more 'immediate family' (一家人) translation. However, both retain the same translation in English.

I am sure that China does this sort of thing intentionally - taking words that have subtle, hard to parse translations in other languages  and twisting them to suit their own ends. Because it's hard to explain these things in English, those who don't know Mandarin buy too easily into CCP-approved ways of thinking about these concepts.  Another key example is the way they allow confusion to blossom over the concept of 華人 (Chinese, as in, something from Chinese culture) and 中國人 (from the nation called 'China'): essentially trying to control the debate about what it means to be 'Chinese' by equating it linguistically with anything 'Chinese' being 'a part of China'. Both words, however, translate as 'Chinese' and it's difficult to explain the difference unless you learn the language. It's also difficult for people who don't want to be lumped in under the CCP's idea of what it means to be 'Chinese' to use these words.

"一家親" in its "extended family (not necessarily of one household)" context might have been embraced by many Taiwanese, just as having Chinese cultural heritage (華人) might have been. Now, you can't say those things - you can't express an opinion that you are proud of your Chinese ancestry but don't want to be a part of China - without sounding like a unificationist. That suits some people very well indeed.

Note, in fact, that these points on the Chinese renderings of the phrase "two sides of the strait are one family" are not included in Lin's article: there's just too much you'd have to say to make it clear, and you'd lose readers' interest. It takes up valuable digital real estate - but the fact that it is so hard to discuss in other languages is exactly the point.

Some might ask whether Ko really means to echo Xi and China in his choice of words. I don't know - he's the kind of person who would stumble into this sort of thing unintentionally, having a tendency to...um, not think too much about how he comes across when he talks. He tends to stumble around answers to questions he really should see coming and have rehearsed, polished answers to, but apparently doesn't - not that I generally find Taiwanese politics very polished, mind you.

There's also the terrifying fact that Ko's milquetoast KMT opponent Ting Shou-chung uses the old, even more pro-unification "兩岸一家人" - a sign that Ting, not Ko, is the one in China's pocket? That both are useful idiots, blathering pro-China rhetoric that may sound different to Taiwanese voters but is seen in exactly the same way as China - and that this is intentional on China's part? That Ting is using the phrase in a bid to get the KMT back into the CCP's good graces - they miss their Daddy it seems - but the CCP has decided Ko is a better bet? I don't know.

But Lin puts forward a convincing case that we should at least keep our eye on Ko, and hold him accountable for his words: that CCTV seems to endorse him, and that China certainly is looking to co-opt Third Force and third-party politicians in Taiwan as it sees its inability to push its agenda forward through the KMT, and that his city-level exchanges with Shanghai are problematic. While he doesn't say so explicitly, the CCP's use of specific terminology is very deliberate. These exact phrases - like 兩岸一家人/一家親, or 中華民族偉大復興的歷史進程 ("the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation") - are significant to them and are generally deployed using exactly the same language each time. They are signals, to some extent dog whistles to those they've co-opted. If Xi has changed his wording, Ko is using it too (and defending that use), the phrase seems to have been given prominence above the language of the so-called "1992 Consensus, and CCTV is happy about all of this, it could very well mean something.

This isn't to say that I think Ko is a unificationist. He strikes me as more of a too-smart-for-his-own-good catspaw or useful idiot. It wouldn't be the first time a seeming pan-green loyalist was manipulated into doing the CCP's bidding, but I don't know what motivates Ko. All I can do is point out that, when it comes down to the very specific terminology put out by the CCP, Ko's words do in fact match up.

I certainly don't think Taiwanese voters will embrace this "one family" doctrine either: when it comes to actual sentiments of most Taiwanese people, Ko's words are not as divisive as some may believe. Just because he's selling potentially problematic ideas doesn't mean the electorate is buying them.

Some will probably say Lin is trying to tank Ko's re-election. If you read between the lines of what Lin is saying, however, it's not that we should not elect Ko. I would bet CA$H money that he fully expects Ko to win, and that he's fully aware that Yao's a joke who doesn't stand a chance and Ting is far worse a choice than Ko. Ting's clearly anti-independence stance is a huge problem, and Yao's off partying like it's 1999, naming Chen Shui-bian (yes, that Chen Shui-bian) his "supreme advisor". LOL.

I'd bet a full case of wine that Lin's goal is to get the world to look more closely at Ko and hold him to account for his words, but not necessarily to refuse to vote for him. He's someone who pokes holes in establishment narratives and criticizes where criticism is due, regardless of the consequences. That's often (though perhaps not always) a good thing.

I am sure he doesn't believe that Taiwanese voters will suddenly go pro-China either: several times in the piece it points out that the KMT is not likely to regain its lost popularity, and that Ko's words on China do not echo the sentiments of the Taiwanese people. His concern is that the Taiwanese people are deliberately ignoring his words out of convenience, for lack of a better candidate, and that's a dangerous path to follow (see: Ma Ying-jeou).

I'm not sure this is the best way to make the case for Taiwan in English in international media, as it's really something for Taiwanese voters to think about and Taiwan gets limited screen time on any media outlet. The rest of the world is confused enough by China's consistently winning the rhetoric war on the China-Taiwan debate (though less so these days), and needs to hear a clear, clarion-bright call bringing the case for Taiwan: not muddy, difficult, unclear domestic political situations that Taiwan is trying to hash out itself. I'd like to see more 'clear cases for Taiwan' and less 'domestic Taiwanese politics' for global readers.

But that doesn't mean Lin is wrong.

And every time the 1992 Consensus is called out for the pro-China garbage it is in English-language media, the better. I am only sad that the word "fabrication" was not used, because that's what it is. More of that, please.