Showing posts with label taiwan_news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taiwan_news. Show all posts

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Light News Petiscos and Wine

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Greetings from Coimbra! Their university is great except they have a Confucius Institute. But the building is well-marked and I kind of spat at it, so...that accomplished nothing but felt good. 



Hello from Portugal, where we are traveling for a bit before I take up my 2nd semester at Exeter. Because I’m on the road, I won’t be keeping up much of a regular blogging schedule. But, here are a few takes for you - perhaps a bit behind the news cycle but whatever - I’ll try to keep them quick. I have wine to drink and lots of it. Also, port.

We’re not really getting beyond the tourist hotspots, which a few years ago I’d say was a shame. And, in fact, I’d love to have the time to explore the lesser-known gems of the country. But, as I grow older and travel more, I grow more at peace with staying on something like a tourist circuit while abroad, unless I have good reason to depart from it. I don’t have a special connection to the countries I visit other than (I hope) helping their economies with my well-spent tourist dollars, zero dollars of which go to buying cheap trinkets in souvenir shops, so what connection would I have to a regular neighborhood of no particular interest to travelers? Trying to pretend the local cafe or restaurant, the local park, the local place of worship has any meaning for me as an outsider feels cheap, like a debased way of seeming like I’m better than a regular tourist, which of course I am not. You build connection by returning to places frequently over time, which as a traveler I cannot do.

That’s not to say I never have a reason to go out of my way: in Greece we traveled far beyond the tourist center of Athens, to seek out the church where my great grandfather had worked, and which my grandfather had attended as a child. We had coffee from the local shop and walked around the local streets, and had good reason to: my ancestors had lived in that neighborhood for many years. It goes without saying that a good restaurant recommendation will get me to go anywhere.

And, of course, Taiwan is no longer ‘abroad’, it’s home. That’s different. I have connections there. 

All that to say, yes I’m just going to Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra and Porto, but I’m okay with that. 

Anyway, there’s a hot take for you. Here’s another - let's talk AIT. 

I don’t know what to say about the new AIT opening - some people say it’s a sign of ‘upgraded relations’. Others write ludicrous headlines (“angering China”? I'd say "eat me" but CNN is clearly chowing down on something way meatier) Still others say it doesn’t mean much, which seems like it could be the case given that the US sent no-one important to attend. Personally? I think it’s just as confused and schizophrenic as US policy on Taiwan has always seemed - even if, officially, it is clearer (and more pro-Taiwan) than people think. We want to build a big office in Taiwan! But we don’t want to draw attention to it! We care about Taiwan relations! But we don’t want to talk about that! It’s the same old dance - he loves me, he loves me not. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Though if you really want to know, at the end of the day, what those who matter in the US think of Taiwan, skip the new AIT opening and look at who makes decisions about arms sales to Taiwan. 

Moving on. Korea. 

The Facebooks are ablaze with WHAT IT ALL MEANS!!! re: the Xi Jinping Marionette Spectacular I mean Trump-Xi oops Trump-Kim meeting. You already know what I think it means. Few, however, seem worried that China would surely seek to fill that void of regional influence - after all, better that the regional power in Asia be Asian, yes? Plenty of people are talking about how anything that gets US and US imperialism out of Asia must be a good thing.

I don’t know if those people like Chinese imperialism, or just aren’t aware it’s a thing (though I would guess it’s the latter). It’s an easy thing to overlook: it’s not fully realized yet and the CCP is trying hard to make sure it stays under everyone’s radar, whereas US imperialism - and all those bombs we drop to advance an agenda mostly beneficial to us - is well-known and more than fully-realized. It’s easy to criticize.

It’s even easier to criticize knowing that you can do so and you won’t get shot. Try criticizing Chinese expansionism in China and see how long you are not ‘disappeared’. That’s the key difference of course - both China and the US are primarily interested in what’s best for them, and despite what they say the US doesn’t really stand for either global democracy or human rights - but at least under a US-led system you can say so.

What worries me is that in the wake of WHAT IT ALL MEANS!!! is that until perhaps just today, not many people seemed to be talking about China at all. Even those otherwise criticizing Trump's performance. I am certain - and anyone else who is watching ought to be as well - that this was all manipulated to benefit China (before you accuse me of ‘anti-China hysteria’, remember that I live in Taiwan, a country China has said obliquely it will annex by force.) Not to sound like a tired cliche-ridden “China expert”, but isn’t the Art of War all about conquering through manipulation or a clever strategem, so that your opponent doesn’t even realize they’re losing, and only if that is impossible to use force? Well…

So who realizes that we’re losing? Not The Atlantic, who mentioned China 7 times in this piece (I counted) but didn't seem to be able to pinpoint who was both manipulating the show and who benefitted from it. Not the BBC, which I had on most of yesterday evening in Sintra. The National Post gets it, but nobody I know reads it. My preferred outlets continue to not understand Asia. South China Morning Post, for the first time since they became a CCP propaganda tool, seems to get it right. But nobody I know in the US regularly reads SCMP.

But, because the average US liberal or moderate doesn't read these outlets, this particular observation seems lost on them. Not a peep. You’d think China wasn't even a player. A lot of my smarter friends hadn’t even seemed to consider that they were (“Why a [fake] Chinese proverb for a Korea summit?” one friend asked. “Because Xi Jinping is running the show,” I replied, to their surprise - they’d been expecting I’d agree that this summit had nothing to do with China, because none of the media they read have mentioned it.)


And Hau “Muppetface” Lung-pin went to China to talk about his hope for "unification" because he’s a massive jerk-off, being all kinds of Mean Girl to Taipei mayoral incumbent Ko "Reminds Me Of My Dad" Wen-je. As in he jerks Chinese authorities off. Fine. What bothers me isn’t this - Hau’s gonna Hau - but that it won’t matter. The vast majority of Taiwanese not only don’t agree with Hau’s far-right jerk-offery, they vehemently disagree with it.

But it doesn’t matter. Those who hate Hau (or even mildly dislike him, or think he looks like a Muppet but isn’t as smart as one - I don’t mean the Muppet characters, I mean the actual cloth Muppets are made of) are gonna find him odious anyway. Blue voters who watch blue media will either not know he said this - because the media they watch won’t report it - or assume he meant something milder, or defend it saying it’s his “personal views” which he is entitled to (and he is, but that doesn’t make him less of a jerk-off who’s dumber than a scrap of fake fur with google-eyes). Why would they assume this? Because if the media they watch does report it, this is the commentary they will offer, which people will swallow.

And nobody who has a message to get out to those who aren't listening is either trying, or able to get their attention, whether that's in Taiwan or the US. And the blue voters will vote blue and the Americans will talk about Korea as though it wasn't a massive back-door win for China, and we're all going to die.

And so it goes.

And if you’re feeling low,
Stuck in some bardo
Why, even I know the solution
Love, music, wine
And revolution!

It’s time for wine. 

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Brendan is happier than he looks in this, he just...does this for cameras? I dunno. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Just a little light news commentary

Greetings from San Francisco!

Lao Ren Cha has been silent these past two weeks because I've been traveling in the US visiting family and friends, and frankly just haven't had the time. I wasn't even supposed to be in California, but I missed my flight and as a result I'm going to miss Taipei Pride 2017. I had had a rainbow skirt made for the occasion and everything.

But, with a bit of time to kill before my flight, I'd add a little commentary to two stories that caught my eye.

First, a petition to ban the Chinese flag in public places has passed the 5000-signature threshold for a government response. 

I've made the case before that pro-unification demonstrators should be banned (and also made the case that they shouldn't), but I hope it's clear that I don't necessarily buy my own devil's advocate argument.

It's true that China bans the ROC flag, and this would be tit for tat. It's true that pro-China protesters have a track record of violence, it's true that the Chinese government is an existential threat to Taiwan and must therefore be treated differently from other foreign governments, and of course we all ought to know by now that few of these pro-unificationists are sincerely expressing an ideal. They're either gangsters, associated with gangsters, or as I suspect in many cases paid by the CCP as "fake civil society" agitators. Many protest not to convince Taiwanese - a lost cause if there ever was one - but to create appropriate photo ops in China of "pro-unification Taiwanese".

All of these are reasons, I suppose, to prohibit them from demonstrating.

But you know what? I don't think it matters. Yes, China bans the ROC flag, but we are better than them. It is a stronger example to show that we can allow the flag of a threatening country to be shown in public without fearing that its very image could destabilize Taiwan than to ban it out of fear. Treating China as an existential threat is important, but also a separate issue from allowing Taiwanese citizens and legal residents to exercise their rights of speech and assembly. Pointing out the irony that they are demonstrating in favor of a country that would take away their right to demonstrate is another way to handle this without putting an unnecessary gag on free speech.

And yes, we need to do something about the violence, but using "they are violent!" as an excuse to disallow certain kinds of protests is a path we really ought not to be going down. It could theoretically be used on anyone. Keeping an eye on certain individuals known to be violent and a law enforcement presence similar to that seen in other, peaceful protests is the way to deal with it - as well as finally locking up gangsters known to be pro-violence, pro-China agitators who have committed crimes (that is to say, White Wolf).

Certainly, we could ban them because they are disingenuous, but this is very hard to prove, and also a problematic approach. Do we also ban anyone from protesting who has received money in any capacity or is employed by an organization that advocates for the issue behind the demonstration? Do we ban paid political party staff from marching in support of an issue their party also supports? We can and should put more restrictions on foreign funding in Taiwan, but I suspect a lot of these payments are personal - think "red envelope full of cash" - and difficult if not impossible to trace.

As for the point that these demonstrations are more to generate visuals in China than to impact anything in Taiwan - who cares?

In short, there is just no way to reasonably ban these guys in a free society, although they should be held more fully legally accountable for any violence they incite. The best we can do is make sure the general public is educated about who they are and why they are doing this.

As for the second story, in this article on indigenous Taiwanese reclaiming their names, this line caught my eye:

First of all, many people could not pronounce his [Neqou Sokluman's] name because he chose a rare character. And whenever he went to a hospital or to a government agency, the staff would ask him in English, “Are you Taiwanese? Can you speak Chinese?” and treat him as a migrant worker from Southeast Asia. [emphasis mine]. 

It goes without saying that indigenous Taiwanese, and everyone, frankly - should be able to have and use their real name. I'd only add that it is also necessary to educate the general public on not only the existence of such names in Taiwan, but also the need to respect them. I'll also point out that the rule that one must adopt a Chinese-character name is not limited to indigenous people - if a foreigner registers a marriage in Taiwan with a Taiwanese citizen, they are also required to adopt a "Chinese name". In addition, it's not at all fair that I can have both my English and Chinese names and nobody whose opinion matters raises a fuss about it. And, of course, I have more than one Taiwanese friend who has been forced to choose and use an "English name" that they don't want. That's not right.

Although these situations are not the same as what indigenous people face, one can draw a few comparisons.

But...what really bothers me is this: I don't want indigenous Taiwanese to be treated better than Southeast Asian migrant workers. I don't want anyone to be treated better than Southeast Asian migrant workers, because these workers ought to be treated with just as much respect as anyone else, as equal human beings. I don't want the phrase to even have a reason to exist, because you can't equate poor treatment to the experience of a group if no group is treated poorly.

This goes way beyond elevating one group and right to the heart of treating all people with respect regardless of socioeconomic status, visa status or national or racial origin (or gender, or orientation, or creed, or weight, or age).

People deserve respect because they are people, not because they are "indigenous" or "Taiwanese" or the right kind of foreigner (so says the Garbage Foreigner), and everyone should be able to have the name that they want - their name - and just be who they are.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Neither marriage equality nor Taiwanese independence are strange or scary - stop making them seem that way for clicks

As we all know, and the reasonable among us have celebrated, marriage equality is finally set to come to Taiwan. I personally do not think any of the worst fears of retaliation by anti-equality groups will come to pass, because the ruling was clear. Inequality is unconstitutional, therefore, there must be equality. Unequal laws passed off as "marriage equality" will not suffice and it seems to me will be open to immediate challenge in court.

You wouldn't know that from reading Taiwanese English-language media though.

Have a read through these articles, or even just check their headlines:

Same-sex marriage age to be set at 18

Cabinet mulls introducing marriage age of 18 for same-sex couples

What's your first impression upon skimming the headlines? Was it that the marriage age for same-sex couples seems like it will be different (and older) than that currently set for opposite-sex ones?

Look again at the first paragraphs (or first few paragraphs) of each:


The Executive Yuan yesterday said that its proposal to legalize same-sex marriage would set the legal age for such unions at 18 and engagement at 17, while prohibiting those within the sixth degree of consanguinity from getting married.
The Cabinet held a second ad hoc meeting to establish the goals that it is to work toward in the legislative process to legalize same-sex unions.
After reviewing the chapter in the Civil Code governing marriage, the Executive Yuan said that homosexual couples would have to be at least 18 to get married and at least 17 to become engaged, Executive Yuan Secretary-General Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) told a news conference in Taipei.
The Civil Code stipulates that heterosexual couples must be at least 18 to be legally united and at least 16 to be engaged.
* * * 
Taipei, June 14 (CNA) The Executive Yuan is considering making the minimum age at which same-sex couples can get engaged and marry 17 and 18 respectively, irrespective of gender, a Cabinet official said on Wednesday.


In fact, in the middle or at the bottom - not in the headline, not at the top - of both articles, it is clarified that the marriage age for heterosexual couples is proposed to change too, so that the age regulations will be the same no matter the sex(es) of the couple:

Chen said that the Cabinet would recommend that the legal age at which heterosexual couples can be engaged be changed to 17 so that the rules would be consistent.


* * *
Although Taiwan's Civil Code currently has a different minimum age requirement for men and women in heterosexual unions, the Executive Yuan's proposed legal amendment would make the minimum engagement and marriage age the same for homosexual and heterosexual unions, Cabinet secretary general Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) said during a meeting.

I understand why Taipei Times and Focus Taiwan did this: marriage equality is a hot issue, and articles about it get clicks. Articles on changing the marriage age are less likely to be read - marriage age changes, especially fairly small ones, are just not that interesting. You can basically get what you need to know from the headline.

It's the same rationale behind why China seems to be horned into every single article (even headline) in the international media about Taiwan, even when it isn't in any way relevant. So we end up with stupid headlines like Tsai Ying-wen elected president of Taiwan, China angry or China likely to be upset about marriage equality in Taiwan? (I made those up, but they're pretty close to the truth). China gets clicks, Taiwan doesn't, so editors complicit in mutilating Taiwan's story in the international press shove China in there like an unlubed butt plug.

And I know this is why they do it because more than one journalist friend has told me so. They *shrug* and say "it's better that the article be published at all than it be spiked because nobody's going to read about just Taiwan." Quite literally if you want to be in the news at all you have to bend over and take it. 

So it is with marriage equality, except it doesn't even come with the excuse of "if you want this news out there at all you have to accept the butt plug" that the China-shoving does. It's just put in there to be sensationalistic and get clicks over what is a relatively minor news item, which deserves to be published but maybe wasn't going to get all that many clicks anyhow...and that's okay for something that, again, is just not that interesting. It's not serving any greater purpose.

It's just as damaging domestically, however, as the China butt-plugging is internationally, if it's also happening in the Chinese-language media (it probably is, but I'm traveling right now and don't have the time to properly check. Some back-up on this would be greatly appreciated).

What articles like these do is make marriage equality seem riskier, stranger, scarier, more sensational and more 'exotic' than it really is by highlighting what the rules are likely to be for same-sex unions while downplaying that the proposals would make these rules the same for opposite-sex couples. It damages the idea of marriage equality as a step forward in human rights, in a greater application of equality for all, and, frankly, as something normal, even mundane - which it more or less has become in much of the developed world. The ruling was a big deal. Marriage equality coming to Taiwan is a big deal. Setting the marriage age and proposing to change the heterosexual marriage age to be consistent is not. Continuing to treat marriage between people of the same sex as somehow different from marriage between people of the opposite sex encourages readers to think that way, and confirms the biases of those who already do. It's not neutral and it's barely accurate.

It's not that much different from the international (and sometimes domestic) press playing up every single tremor of disapproval from China, presenting their statements without context, making everything seem more terrifying or unprecedented than it really is, instead of accurately reporting the truth on the ground, which is rather mundane: Taiwan is independent, China doesn't like that, but China can fuck right off and so far not much has really changed. It is not neutral, barely accurate (or not accurate at all), creates sensationalism and otherness where none need exist, encourages a certain thought process, and plays to biases for those who already have them. It hurts Taiwan in the same way that writing about marriage equality this way is detrimental to a broader acceptance of equality.

Going back to marriage equality, what's worse is that there does seem to be at least one problematic proposal on the table that, from the reporting, would seem to affect opposite-sex couples but not same-sex ones. From the Taipei Times article:

Same-sex couples younger than 20 who want to get married must obtain the approval of their legal guardians, or the marriage could be voided should their legal representatives file an objection, she [Chen Mei-ling] said.

This is buried about halfway down one article and not mentioned in another, and yet to me it appears to be the real news item here - unless this proposal would cover all couples equally, it is a sign that the Executive Yuan is mulling a rule that would create unequal marriage laws, which, as I've said several times, will be open to all sorts of challenges as the ruling is unambiguous in calling for equality. 

But neither Focus Taiwan nor Taipei Times can seem to get their heads out of 'what'll get the most clicks' land and report actual news.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Two articles at rather distinct odds came out over the past day or so. One is very much worth reading. Let's start with that one, from the Washington Post, written by several young Taiwanese including my friend Brian Hioe.

I have complained before that the Western media ignores Taiwanese voices and, when they do seek them out, they use them to suit the message they've already decided they want to convey. As a result, public opinion in Taiwan, if it is considered at all, is made out to be more divided, muddled or discordant than it really is - or that it agrees with Western or Chinese narratives more than it actually does.

I stand by that, and am so thrilled to see strong Taiwanese voices taking the initiative and getting their own work published in major Western media outlets. They were never going to come to Taiwan, so it is good that many Taiwanese have gone to them.

Of course, this is also the nature of privilege. If you are Dr. Some White Guy Who Is An Expert on China, you don't have to seek out media and try to get work published: they seek you out. You don't have to push, or take the initiative - they contact you. If you are a qualified Taiwanese voice, however, chances are you are going to have to make the extra effort.

Generally, I love this article. There was a kerfuffle over the title (when I first read it, it was entitled "Taiwan wants One China: but which one does it want?" or something like that, which made no sense and was at odds with what was actually in the piece. In fact, if Taiwanese wanted One China that would imply they either wanted:

a.) One China (the PRC) and One Taiwan (which happens to be my position)
b.) One China, the ROC (okaaaaaay, but not gonna happen, dreamface)
c.) One China, the PRC, with Taiwan as a part of it (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA)

Nowhere in that title is there room for "we'll take an independent Taiwan as the ROC separate from the PRC" (that is, two Chinas), which, although it is not my position, is the most popular one at the moment. I do think this will change in a generation or so, however.

But good on the writers, who asked the Washington Post to change the title. The paper obliged, and now it reads "Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese, not Chinese". Good. Nice.

One small quibble:

In the U.S.-China Normalization Communiqué of 1978, the backbone of the policy, the United States “acknowledges” that there is one China and that Taiwan is part of China.

As far as I am aware this is not the case - the United States acknowledges that China's position is that Taiwan is a part of China, not that Taiwan is a part of China necessarily. If I am wrong, please correct me, but that is my understanding. I also appreciate that it mentions 1992 but not the fictitious 1992 consensus. It's good not to bring up things that don't exist in one's newspaper article.

Anyway, those are small things.

I don't have much else to say beyond what the excellent article already says, so enjoy some quotes. They are like a cold, refreshing mint lemonade on a warm day.

1. Taiwan is de facto independent. The Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese, not as Chinese.
The official stance of Taiwan was that Taiwan is part of China. Butthe China that this stance refers to is the Republic of China (based in Taipei) instead of the communist People’s Republic of China (based in Beijing). (One interesting fact is that the special institution National Unification Council, which defined the official stance in 1992, was “ceased” in 2006 along with the Guidelines for National Unification.)
Since the 1970s, PRC became diplomatically acknowledged as China by most nation-states, including the United States. That is, ROC no longer asks to be seen as representing all of mainland China. Its constitution, which claims sovereignty over the whole mainland, does differentiate between the “free area,” or the island of Taiwan, and the “mainland area,” after a series of amendmentsthat have been added since the 1990s.
But the ROC has never been part of the PRC in its history.
Good, nice, very good.

What’s more, ROC residents increasingly identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. That identity has changed significantly since the island became a democracy in the 1990s. In 1991, ROC and PRCrepresentatives met with one another for the first time since the 1949 civil war. At that point, about one-fourth of Taiwan’s residents identified themselves exclusively as “Chinese”; 17.6 percent as exclusively “Taiwanese”; and nearly half said both Chinese and Taiwanese.
But by 2014, only 3 percent still identified exclusively as Chinese — and more than 60 percent Taiwanese, hovering around there ever since. Today, only one-third of Taiwan’s residents think of themselves as both Chinese and Taiwanese. Among those who are 29 or younger, born after martial law ended in 1987, 78 percent hold an exclusively Taiwanese identity — as do nearly 70 percent ofpeople younger than 40. If this trend continues, a solely Taiwanese identity will prevail as residents’ consensus.

Yes, yes, yes. Clap clap clap. I like this very much. American friends - this is all true and really something you ought to know.

For Taiwanese younger than 40, pro-independence support reaches 84 percent. Perhaps most startling, 43 percent of the under-40 generation would support independence even if it meant China would attack Taiwan under the risk of war.
On the flip side, unification with China has become unpopular. Even under the most favorable scenario — in which there would be little political, economic or social disparities between mainland China and Taiwan — only one-third of Taiwanese citizens say they support unification. That’s a significant drop from the 60 percent who supported unification in 2003.
Yes - and this is something many Americans are unaware of - and many leaders as well. There seems, outside of Taiwan, to be this assumption that peaceful unification is possible and best for all involved.  It is not possible, and not best for Taiwan, however.

Threats from China that Taiwanese independence will result in war are taken seriously. Taiwanese admonishments that attempts at unification will result in conflict are ignored. It's as though the world still believes that the Taiwanese buy the ROC myth and that they fully believe their constitution's claim to China - that the ROC and PRC are rivals for China because a government they never elected, which in fact invaded from China, said they were, and now the government in China threatens them with violence if they even think about changing it to reflect the public will.

It is time that the West realizes that the historical claims of the ROC are not an accurate representation of what the Taiwanese actually want.

Unification is not possible. It will never be possible. Many "experts", even some who work for reputable outfits, make the current status quo sound as though it exists because China has simply not put forward a suitable proposal for unification.

This is false. Bush is wrong here. There will never be a suitable proposal for unification. Not because China won't try, but because there is no possible proposal that China could put forward that would tempt the Taiwanese, because they are not Chinese and do not see themselves as Chinese, and that is not going to change, nor can a change be forced. The only possible peaceful path is one of an independent Taiwan.

So, anyway, that's the good article. Really, it's excellent. Go read it.

After that cool drink of mint lemonade, you can read this one (or rather, in fact, don't, just don't unless you like hate reading) which is like squatting in the dirt gnawing on roots and twigs.

This? This is a steaming bowl of stanky used douche - I mean not only like it was used so now it's kinda gross, but like some of it also ran up your buttcrack like it was a Roman aqueduct and so now it's kind of butt-stanky too with maybe some poo or hair in it, and also you were on the rag so it's...

Ahem. 

Also there is a pube floating in it.

Aherrm. Sorry. Anyway.

This fuckstick slammed his fists on an unfortunate keyboard like an angry macaque and a few words inexplicably came out, and what we got was this.

My eyes want to file assault charges after this thing accosted them in an alley. The only good thing I can say is that I had actually never heard of this bum-bungler nor the "Neo-Whatever Eastern Whatever" or what the fuck ever this site is, because I read real news by real journalists and experts and hang around smart people pretending I am smart as well. What bothers me is that somehow he has a name for himself and even a Wikipedia page? Like, really?

Why? Off the tip of my dick I can think of like twenty writers who deserve Wikipedia pages before this ball-dangler does.

I won't bother to take down the article's central points. They sort of speak for themselves. The only thing I'll mention is that that stupid survey that pegged Taiwan as the "third most ignorant country" was also a steaming turd-pile, not to be taken seriously. I won't go into the questions asked and sample sizes - but the samples were too small and the questions stupid and pointless - suffice it to say that it is not an accurate reflection of Taiwan.

Instead, I will provide you with a running translation of some of this douchecracker's major "points", such as they are.

Shockingly, almost all the people I approached in December 2016 in Taipei either refused to discuss the topic, or appeared thoroughly ignorant about it. Some did not seem to even understand the concept of the ‘West provoking China’.

Translation: "Shockingly, when I approached random strangers in December 2016 and was a total asshole, shouting at them if they gave me answers I didn't like, I was surprised to find nobody wanted to talk to me!"

“Our enemies?” Did the Defense Minister say “our enemies”? Taiwan is a renegade province of China, whose ‘independence’ is recognized by only 21 countries (down from 30, two decades ago).

http://journal-neo.org/2016/12/31/taiwan-ignorance-danger-of-war-and-a-high-school-nazi-parade/


Translation: "I am a blithering idiot who not only has no knowledge whatsoever of the current state of Taiwan-China ties, but also struggles with basic life skills like forming words into sentences that make sense and reflect the true state of the world. Also, with this attitude I am quite surprised that nobody in Taipei was interested in telling me how they felt."

I will give him credit here: he's right about checkbook diplomacy. I'm not a fan of it either.

I asked him about the present tensions between Taiwan and Mainland China, about the West playing an increasingly aggressive role in the region.

He had no opinion.

I asked about the fascist anti-Communist and pro-Western legacy of Chiang-Kai-shek. He began to look nervous:

“I just work here for 8 hours a day. I don’t know anything about this place, really…”
“But you work here, in the middle of this enormous propaganda center!” I insisted. “Haven’t you heard about the millions massacred on Mainland China by his troops? Haven’t you heard about the tens of thousands killed here, in Taiwan?”

“No. I know nothing,” he laughed. “At school we learned nothing about this… I’m just a volunteer…”

In one of the halls, high-school students were taking selfies. “Do you like Chiang?” I shout at them. They all laughed, happily, showing me “V” sign with two fingers.

Translation: I do not understand the simple idea that when I approach people and ask them rapid-fire questions using high-level vocabulary in English*, which involve sharing the pain and struggle of their nation's history, they don't want to answer me because, again, I come off like a total fucking asshole and who would want to talk to someone like that? Furthermore I am incapable of parsing the non-answer, appeal to ignorance or half-baked reply as a common way in Asia of saying "I don't want to share my thoughts with you because you seem like a big fucking jerk". Instead I just dismiss them as stupid.

*I do not for one second believe that this twatmangler speaks fluent Mandarin or Taiwanese. 

At the “228 Memorial Museum” dedicated to the government-orchestrated massacre of Taiwanese civilians, I spoke to an 86-year old Mr. Chang, a survivor of the atrocities.
On the official museum site it reads:
“It commemorates the victims of the 228 Massacre which took place on 28 February 1947. The 228 Massacre was a rebellion by the Taiwanese people against the recently arrived Republic of China (ROC) troops. The ROC government responded with a brutal crackdown that ended with tens of thousands of Taiwanese people killed.” 
“Was Chiang Kai-shek really ‘democratic’?” I asked sarcastically.

Translation: I DON'T KNOW WHY THE FUCK I ASKED THAT "SARCASTICALLY" TO A PERSON WHO HAS SUFFERED UNTOLD HORROR BUT PERHAPS IT IS BECAUSE I AM INCAPABLE OF A FULL RANGE OF HUMAN EXPRESSION AS I NEVER FULLY INTERNALIZED A THEORY OF MIND!

Bizarre Chiang’s cult, Nazi high school parades and thorough political and historical ignorance! Continuous efforts to corrupt tiny poor countries in all corners of the world… Playing into the hands of the West, provoking China. What a place Taiwan has become!

I give him credit for being right about Chiang - but not  his inability to see that most Taiwanese also understand this but just don't want to share that with a total fucking asshole. Nor the contradiction inherent in rightly slamming Chiang but slavishly insisting that Taiwan is, in fact, a part of China, which in Taiwan is something only Chiang's party believes. What does he expect Taiwanese to do, hate Chiang (which they do, mostly) but still vote for the KMT? Understand the atrocities of the invading ROC, and yet agree with their party line? This isn't just him being Craptasticus McCunterson (though he is), it's plain stupid. Pretty much everyone who agrees with him about Chiang - which is most people - are pro-independence. The two are irreconcilable.

Nevertheless, here is my translation: 

bhjirwhpu9afos'c890[aerw klmXZGIUOXGEGRGRGogjgjlhgrj;eainphgopuy80748
OYUAGIYjiopgrijpmihjeqhiofeqhipadvhijpHIJPHOUGGIYHIPGEHIK;GRJO[RNK
erajp]9iavdnoji
rghjip
rnip
rghql;olo[kko[hrwinpghrwjo[hrwjo[gko[]gqekp]feqihpefqhgopufqwebvouyegqmino[brw['pjnlo

No but seriously, "Nobody wants to talk to someone who comes off like a massive douchesmuggler" shouldn't be, like, a hard fucking concept. It's not even unique to Taiwan, or Asia. In the West perhaps we'd say outright "you seem like an asshole and I don't want to talk to you", or just "hey buddy get outta my face" (my preferred New York reply), but the non-answer or fake ignorance is Taiwan's (and Asia's) way of expressing the same.

Get a clue, or get the fuck out of Taiwan.

That said, apparently this "philosopher" has worked on "every continent". That's good news! I look forward to his working from Antarctica! 

http://journal-neo.org/2016/12/31/taiwan-ignorance-danger-of-war-and-a-high-school-nazi-parade/

Friday, December 30, 2016

Post-Truth, Taiwan Style

It has come to my attention recently that the tentacles of post-truth America, at least on the issue of marriage equality, are beginning their slimy coiling around the debate in Taiwan.

Earlier this week, I was discussing marriage equality with a pro-equality student (I wouldn't have brought it up otherwise), who indicated that "it may be some time, because there are more people against marriage equality now". I asked him why he felt that way as, in fact, most polls pretty consistently show a majority of Taiwanese are in favor of it. He said that he'd seen the two rallies on December 26th on the news and the anti-equality side seemed a lot bigger.

I told him that most journalists I know believe that not to be the case - police estimates have the pro-equality rally at 5,000 and the anti- at 4,000: better, more accurate estimates have the pros at 30,000 and the antis at between 10,000 and 20,000. He knew nothing of the less civil, more hot-headed actions of the anti-equality crowd, and had been led to think that maybe the pro-equality side was pushing too hard (in fact, that side was widely reported to have been civil, welcoming, friendly, well-behaved and safe).

It felt not only like the news was trying to gin up disagreement where there is little, or make the two sides seem more equal in number than they are or have more similar levels of support than they do, but to actively make it seem as though Taiwanese are, by and large, opposed to marriage equality when this is simply not the case. The disagreement is not nearly on the level of a 'culture war', and society is not nearly as 'divided' as reports suggest (though it is true that support is not universal).

I have tried to find examples of what my student spoke of, but was unable to - and I personally do not own a television. I was unable to find relevant clips online, but I do believe my student: why would he lie about his impressions?

It echoes an online conversation I was briefly involved in, but left, that included two expats who insisted that marriage equality was being "forced" on Taiwan by "the West" when we shouldn't do that because they "have a different culture and values" (sure, but if they did in that way, then there wouldn't be support for marriage equality). One admonished us pro-equality supporters not to "push something on the Taiwanese that they don't want" (again, because I can't say it enough times, marriage equality has majority public support).

That's not all, of course. Don't even start me on this bullshit. They actively twist the truth to make it sound as though the people swiftly condemned marriage equality: nothing could be further from the truth. The pro-equality rallies, despite not having well-organized church networks behind them, consistently draw larger crowds. This is straight-up American-style 'fake news' (not a fan of the term but I'll stick with it for now) coming to Taiwan on the backs of bigots.

Another report I've heard of from a few sources is that rumors are being spread that the proposed changes to the civil code would also make sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor (so, basically statutory rape) legal. This is a straight-up lie - the proposed changes would do no such thing - but it is beginning to gain traction.

There's also this poll, which I have my doubts about. The change is far too quick, and doesn't at all square with the turnout we've seen at pro-equality rallies. The question about "pushing legislation through" (rather than simply supporting marriage equality or not) seems oddly worded, at least in English. The sample size is not great, but acceptable, however, I am not sure at all that they adequately got a sample of a variety of ages over 20 if they used land lines: do younger people even know what land lines are? They are almost certainly guaranteed a skewed sample of older folks who are more likely to waver, or not support, equality. The younger people they claimed to have included wouldn't have a land line phone to be reached on! (I don't know much more about this poll - here's a link in Chinese to the guy whose foundation ran it. I don't know who he is, and I have never heard of this particular organization. Have fun.)

Of course, I shouldn't be surprised. Being generally anti-journalist - because accurate reporting on their beliefs and methods would make them look bad, so they have to spread lies - and knowing quite well that the tide of opinion is not swinging their way and likely never will again, the easiest recourse is to lie. Not only that, but to distort, appeal to emotion over logic, insist on respect and an equal platform for unequally-sourced and evidenced views, to insist on respect and ears lent to their religious ranting, to try to equate intolerance of their bigotry with their intolerance of basic equal human rights. In a word, to troll (because I do think purposely making the pro-equality side angry is a part of this). When your views are not supported by logic, evidence, scientific findings or rational debate, but you have decided you must believe them, you basically have to become an ignorant comment thread come to life. Your only choice is to spread 'fake news' through outright lies or carefully-edited media, and appeal to a post-truth world.

In short, it's easy to make it seem as though your side has the most support, when you decline to mention that the other side has almost twice as much: that's what both that MassResistance steaming turd of an article and the video linked above are doing.

Don't believe them. Be smarter than that.

What bothers me is how little I can do about it. I can write about it here, but it would take a level of language ability I don't have to write something in Chinese, and I would gather most Taiwanese not only don't read Lao Ren Cha (hahaha) but don't often read English-language media in general. Even if I did pursue this in Chinese, would the people who need to read it do so? Most likely not. Would it be an effective counter to the barrage of 'fake news' coming from the bigots? Again, most likely not.

It's already had an effect - people are starting to say "well it looks like society really is divided" (it's not, not really), and the government is giving the anti-equality crowd a bigger platform, and more political influence, than they deserve. Remember, the anti-equality fight is mostly led by Christians and Christians make up less than 5% of the Taiwanese population, although they wield considerable influence in both major parties (and the influential ones tend to be wealthy).

I do feel like action needs to be taken, but I'm at a loss as to how.

Another worrying point? Amid all of this post-truth nonsense carried out by people with troubling agendas, right now in Taiwan we're witnessing a generally popular, though with predictably faltering approval ratings, generally 'progressive' DPP administration falter a bit as it tries to wield power, coming across alternately as weak and indecisive or frosty and technocratic. They're grasping for the center and finding it's not holding very well (though that's my own personal impression). Although the liberal/conservative divide, such as it exists at all in a context easily understood in Western terms (which is to say, not really), is not along party lines in Taiwan, certainl elements of the DPP come across as overly conservative, causing more progressive elements to consider dropping support or to drop it altogether in favor of one of the many parties to the left of the DPP, such as the NPP (or any of the others). I've already heard cries of "if the DPP doesn't pass marriage equality, I'm not voting for Tsai in 4 years!" which, to my Bernie Babe ears is alternately appealing and worrying.

On the other side we have a party that looks like it's falling apart, with weird infighting, internal decisions on how party voting will be carried out and apologies for whatever-the-hell from Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu, people calling for her to step down or whatever and all sorts of things that I barely pay attention to, with a group of ultra-ROC-nationalist pro-China zealots and their deep blue supporters on one hand and a more Taiwanized KMT (which I still hate, by the way, the KMT is gonna KMT no matter what and I'm not interested) on the other, and Jason Hsu in there screaming that they all should be better than they are, or ever will be.

KMT Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu


At the center of it all we have crazy-ass Hung, and a potential presidential run by Rich Boss Man Terry Gou. OK, sure. Not so appealing, right? They don't look like they're poised for success anytime soon.

But...does that sound familiar to anyone else?

I know it seems unrelated, but in an environment where one party is a bit weak and unable to convey its basic message while the other one is wracked with infighting, and no third parties are strong enough to really shake up the system, where both major parties either are bleeding support (in the case of the KMT) or might well do so if they don't get their progressive act together (that is, the DPP), all I see is well-fertilized ground for all sorts of insidious post-truth rumor-mongering to take hold and propel Taiwan to the same electoral clusterfuck the US just experienced, because nobody knows what to believe anymore, and will simultaneously denounce professional journalism while eating up lies.

Anyone? Y'all have seen this before, right?

Am I the only one who's worried?

Monday, July 20, 2015

The WSJ's Taiwan Coverage Is Bad And They Should Feel Bad

I could be writing about lots of things - I never blogged our trip to Taidong and the East Rift Valley, nor have I updated my Indian food post with reviews of Khana Khazana and Sagar Indian. I could be adding Fuzhou Hill to "day hikes in Taipei when you woke up late". But oooooohhhh NOOOOO. We can't have that when there is shitty journalism to tear apart.

Instead, Josh Chin and his fucking terrible WSJ article/blog post have got me so riled up that I have to rant about that instead. So thanks, Josh, for ruining my flow. For interrupting my qi or whatever. For writing a steaming piece of crap.

Granted, the subheading is not bad: China is in denial about its alienation of Taiwan and needs to rethink its approach to the island, the top official in charge of managing Taipei’s relationship with Beijing said on Friday.

So far so good. But then:

The comments from Mr. Hsia, delivered in a conversation with The Wall Street Journal in New York, show how mainland China’s declining image in Taiwan has complicated relations ahead of the island’s presidential elections, whose outcome could frustrate Beijing’s desire for closer ties.

No, Beijing does not just want "closer ties". Beijing wants to TAKE OVER Taiwan. True, but misleading as it doesn't mention China's end goal, which is of the utmost importance.


Relations between Taiwan and China have long been fraught; the two sides split in 1949 following a civil war.

NO THEY DID NOT JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. The KMT and the Communists split in 1949, that happened in China (and the war started before that anyhow so it's a weird definition of "split"). If you were to write that the ROC, which currently occupies/governs (depending on how you want to look at it) and the PRC split, sure. But "Taiwan" and "China" did not split in 1949 as Taiwan was not a part of China at that time - it was a territory of Japan. It was distinctly not Chinese to begin with at that time, so how could it have possibly "split"?


Student protesters opposed to a trade pact with Beijing took over Taiwan’s main legislative chamber last year.

The protesters were not "opposed to the trade pact", they were opposed to the purposely "black box" back-room dealings that brought it about. They weren't fans of the pact for sure, but how could anyone be opposed to it or not, in full, as nobody was allowed to actually know what was in it? And they weren't all students.

A poll conducted by National Chengchi University shortly after the elections showed 23% of Taiwanese people supported independence for the island, the highest level since polling began in 1992. The number of people identifying themselves solely as Taiwanese, as opposed to Chinese, also set at new high at 60.6%.

That only counts people who call for independence immediately. If you count people who feel the status quo should lead to independence that number jumps considerably. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that number, the one that is a more accurate gauge of Taiwan's current political climate, somewhere above 50%? To quote the lower number but not the higher is almost purposely obfuscatory. Or maybe it's actually obfuscatory.

And 60.6%? True, but citing only that fact and not the one that shows that something like 90+% of Taiwanese view themselves primarily as Taiwanese, again paints an inaccurate picture. To the point of it being "truthy" rather than true. 
Despite that, Mr. Hsia said, Beijing has continued to act in ways that irritate people and officials in Taiwan.

"Despite" what? That implies the numbers above are favorable to China, and they are not.
The KMT is expected on Sunday to confirm Hung Hsiu-chu, an outspoken former teacher, as its candidate to take on Tsai Ying-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party in presidential elections next fall. Ms. Tsai, who is widely favored to win in polls, has said she favors maintaining the “status quo” with China. It’s a position shared by most Taiwanese, according to government polls.

Tsai Ying-wen and the majority of Taiwanese do favor maintaining the status quo, but this is another bit of truthiness, as both Tsai and a majority of Taiwanese want that status quo to eventually evolve into independence. Leaving that part out leaves out an important part of the equation and shows the majority viewpoint in Taiwan in an inaccurate light.
“If you truly wanted to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people, make a good example in Hong Kong. Obviously it’s not helping,” he said.
This implies that it is possible to "win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people" to the point that they would actually allow you to take over their country.

And that is not going to happen. I'm not sure it's possible. Why imply that the impossible can be accomplished?


Oh...and don't read the comments.

So, thanks Mr. Chin for writing a "status quo let's not anger China" pile of dung. You probably thought you were being provocative of China by writing this. But, as usual, your rag got the situation in Taiwan all wrong. Again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Willful Ignorance

Was reading this today:


And my first reaction?

DUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Yes, that was my very first reaction. Imagine a curvaceous white lady with a half-eaten slice of Ginger Superman pizza in her hand at So Free leaning over a copy of the Taipei Times and shouting that, thereby startling the two high school girls sharing the rough-hewn bench with us.

But seriously.

Barry Watts, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told a US congressional commission this week: “Why use military force if economic entanglement leading to economic capture is succeeding?”

DUHHHHHHH.

Except for the Art of War reference, which was a bit precious if you ask me. Precious as in it sounds like some Hollywood crap from a Gordon Gekko meets Jackie Chan flick.

I studied this stuff in college - which makes me about as qualified as some dork who read a few books and thinks she's an expert - basically meaning that I'm no expert - and I could have told you this.

In fact, I'm fairly sure I did tell you this. Maybe not you specifically, but someone, and possibly after I'd had a glass of wine or two.

And what's sad is that it's not hard to see how true it is, so Washington and the world's seeming naivete over what's going on can't possibly be true ignorance or failure to understand, because it's really not that complicated (but then neither is the concept that deep water drilling is a bad idea and alternative energy needs more investment, but they don't seem to get that either).

It's willful ignorance. It's pretending you don't understand. It's quite possibly strategic incompetence. It's turning away because recognizing the issue means you might have to do something about it, if only for show...and the US clearly doesn't want to do that.

Which means the US clearly doesn't care that much about Taiwan, or at least not enough to stop pretending they don't know what China's up to.

And that's sad, because it basically means were ****ed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Made in Taiwan...And Proudly So


In the not-too-distant past, I've seen several references to Taiwan's old reputation as the font of all consumer junk. You know, the way Taiwan used to be, with it's clogged skies and sooty factories, turning out cargo ships worth of Barbie dolls, second-rate microwaves and vacuum cleaners, cheap clothing and plastic items - basically all the stuff that's now Made in China, busy across the strait ensootening China's air.

There's this post on Regretsy: "Eventually. Hot Topic starts making their own version in Taiwan, and the circle of ****ery is complete".

There's this post, clearly confusing "Made in China" with "Made in Taiwan" - a recurring theme I saw when planning my wedding - people either praising or complaining about knock-off items "Made in China" or "Made in Taiwan". I've seen this on older forum posts, including in private forums (from which I don't feel comfortable taking quotes - if people prefer to keep their forum private I will respect that).

Here's the thing - all of us who've been to Taiwan, or even follow global economics, know that while you can still find consumer products Made in Taiwan, really, the vast majority of them are now Made in China, or Made in [Insert Southeast Asian Country/India/Bangladesh Here]. Taiwan's gone from making the world's cheap pens and plastic dolls to making the world's semiconductors, research and development heavy ODM computer products, high-end whiskey (I'm not sure it's as good as they say it is, though) and top-rate tea.

So...what is it with people back home still associating Taiwan with, well, cheap pens and that Dustvac they once had that broke after six uses? Is it that they're just not aware that little bits&bobs and shoddy electronics are no longer made here, or do they not care, or worst of all - do they think that Taiwan and China are basically the same place? Do they really think that all of their super-fancy computer products are made in the USA and that Taiwan is stuck with flashlights and knock-off handbags? Heck, the super-fancy computer products are often designed in Taiwan and yet, like your umbrella, also made in China (not always, though - some Taiwan design manufacturers do have Taiwan-based fabs).

I don't really have an answer to that, but wanted to comment on the phenomenon.

And yet...here in Taiwan I'm seeing a move in the opposite direction.

There are tons of indie designers here that are gaining a lot of local support, both for their talent and for the fact that they are Taiwan-based. The weekend market at the Red House Theater is packed, and a similar (but pricier) marketplace set up in a building at Kaohsiung's Pier 2 was equally crowded when we were there. I'm a big fan of the handmade soaps, locally-designed and made earrings and necklaces, reprinted vintage advertisement postcards and locally designed and printed postcards and notebooks to be found all about, as well.

I've also been hearing more and more, as my years in Taiwan march on, from friends and students that they purposely buy and prefer to spend their money on products Made in Taiwan - that rather than treat the label with derision, as many in the West still do, they treat it as a source of pride. As the quality of Taiwan-made products has increased quite a bit, this makes a lot of sense. If you look around, it's rarer to see "Made in Taiwan" stamped surreptitiously on the underside of something, a little half-embarrassed mark in plastic where it's hoped that nobody will catch a glimpse.

Now, you see it sewn right on the side of hiking boots (my old pair, which were worn through due not to lack of quality but simply how much I wore them, had just this label prominently displayed). You see it stamped on the front of food products in proud sans serif. You see it on stickers announcing that these batteries or that scarf were made not in a dodgy factory in China - which is fairly often run by a smarmy Taiwanese boss, but we won't go there today - but produced in Taiwan and therefore of superior quality.

I have students who always buy I-mei sweets ("guaranteed to be made in Taiwan", said one), who give their college-bound children, nieces and nephews Datong electric cooking pots ("it's kind of a tradition. Every college student has one. It would be so sad if they stopped making them"), purposely choose a Chimei TV even though other brands seem more prestigious, and are happy to say they own an Acer computer - which, while not as durable as the competition, do make up for it in price. The other day I was given an ice cream sandwich (probably I-mei, but I'm not sure) in class - they had hundreds of extras in their freezer, left over from a trade expo - with "MADE IN TAIWAN" printed in huge white letters in a black circle on the front.

"Made in Taiwan is a sign of quality," one student remarked, "although I'll buy imported products as long as they're not..." (shudder)..."made in China. Of course sometimes I can't avoid it, but I try."

I'm no social scientist, but I'm going to put my neck out there and say that this feels like a trend to me - just like the old "Made in the USA" or "Buy USA Made" hullaballoo back home.

I, for one, am happy to see it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Taiwan gets more media attention

...this time for a story in the New York Times on jitong, or "shamans" who become possessed by gods and spirits and can divine things, deal with illness or consult people on their troubles.

If you've read the past few entries in this blog, you'll remember that my friend and I saw a jitong a few weeks ago at the Qingshan Wang festival:


...but the sight was far scarier than the happy drinking monk who possesses Ms. Chang.

The article says that the practice still survives in China as well, but I'd never heard of it being done there, not in modern times anyway. It seems like the sort of thing that would have been quickly eradicated by the Cultural Revolution.