Tuesday, September 13, 2022

In Taiwan and Hong Kong, subversion is contextual


I read an interesting piece in Hong Kong Free Press today, about Hong Kong residents mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The pull quote did indeed pull:

A business executive who gave her surname So admitted that Elizabeth II’s death had made her nostalgic and that she felt “less of a connection” with China’s Communist Party leaders in Beijing. “I only realised how good it was after I lost it,” she said, referring to the city since its handover.

An 80-year-old retiree, who gave his surname Poon, was holding a bunch of red lilies and spoke bluntly. “In the past we had human rights, equality before the law, and protections in many aspects,” he said.

“But now, I would not comment on the present, I dare not.”

This sort of thing catches my eye, because in my echo chamber, it's socially acceptable to mock, criticize and deride the royal family and feel nothing -- except perhaps pleasure -- at the death of a queen. I don't particularly disagree: I'm no monarchist and I do not believe some people are naturally born to higher stations than others. 

What would likely be less well-received is expressing sadness, condolences or fondness for a dead monarch and her family. I haven't expressed anything like this because I'm neither sad nor fond, but it feels like subversion to consider saying anything like it around my own friends. I know I sound like a "conservatism is the real subversion!" right-wing shock jock here, but bear with me. 

Of course, I'm aware that there are other social circles and echo chambers where the opposite is true, and there are people who suffered under British imperialism, and who don't appreciate being tone-policed for their lack of solemnity or grief.

I know in my gut, however, that there is a whole range of possible feeling about some events that don't boil down neatly to "White Supremacy and Exploitation" or "God Bless the Noble Queen".

How do I know this? 

Because I live in Taiwan, where people sometimes express nostalgia for the Japanese colonial era, even though it was exactly what the name implies: colonial. Taiwanese as second-class citizens, no human rights to speak of, cultural brainwashing disguised as "education", freedom of speech allowed to a degree or banned depending on whether the central government was feeling benevolent that year. 

One only feels "nostalgic" for an era like that if the era that came after it was even worse. 

You can see it in Hong Kong now: who would mourn the end of a foreign colonial power on your land, which did not grant Hong Kong anything like democracy? Who would have complex feelings about the death of that foreign colonizer's queen? 

Anyone who realizes that the current era is worse, it turns out. Which is to say many, if not most, Hong Kongers. Beyond news about absurd prosecutions under the National Security Law, you can see it in the demographics: just about anyone who can leave is doing so, or trying.

To the rest of the world, this might look like colonizer bootlicking. In fact, more than once I've seen it called that: Hong Kongers who miss the old British system and imply they do not care for their new, more local masters are called all sorts of names. Taiwanese who point out that the Japanese era looks pleasant in comparison to the KMT brutality that followed are similarly called brainwashed, colonizer-loving, kissing their own chains.

I assure you the opposite is true. Just because a new colonial master is more local (say, the CCP or KMT) does not make them better. In fact, they're likely to be worse, as few around the world want to call this colonialism what it is, when the colonizers and colonized "look the same". The international community mostly looking the other way -- "hooray, they're decolonized now, China will definitely be better for Hong Kong because they're all Chinese, so good luck"? This opens up whole new horizons for brutality! 

The same thing happens when either Taiwan or Hong Kong express more hope in countries like the United States, or want more connections with the international community (including the US and UK) than China. Don't they know these countries are the Great Satans, the Imperializers Supreme, the Bad Guys? Hong Kongers and Taiwanese are mocked for turning to the 'evil' West rather than embracing Chinese regional hegemony. 

Yes, it's leftists who do the most mocking. And when you tune out all the obviously paid trolls, a rather large proportion of them are Westerners (some white, some not) mocking Asians for being realistic about the horrors of CCP rule. 

In the end, this produces a set of opinions that look like bootlicking to your average Western leftist (or even progressive or naive liberal), but are actually subversive, hewing to the principles of the non-tankie left -- freedom, justice, human rights -- if not their most common modes of expression.

Indeed, I have friends who are not white and not monarchists, yet currently have complicated feelings about the death of Queen Elizabeth II, likely for exactly these reasons.

I think it's better to recognize and understand that, rather than dismiss any sort of sentimentality, say, the British monarchy, as an exercise in White supremacy or Medieval notions of nobles and subjects. It runs at times a little too close to Western liberals and leftists once again telling some Asians how to feel. 

"If you're anti-imperialist, you should oppose this" isn't wrong, per se; it is actually how I feel about the monarchy and a great deal of US and UK foreign policy. To someone in Hong Kong or Taiwan, however, it might sound rather like how the CCP wants them to feel. It's not the same as "you are obligated to hate those foreigners and their colonial structures in order to prove you are a true Chinese and embrace our colonial structures instead!" But on the surface, it's not far off. Refusing to buy into it at all is, in that sense, a form of subversion.

Taiwanese who express an interest in Japanese culture aren't brainwashed colonial subjects. It's part of Taiwanese history, and frankly a somewhat brighter part than the KMT's White Terror, if only in comparison. Hong Kongers who express nostalgia for the British colonial years aren't Western bootlickers. Neither is right-wing, "CIA", a "color revolution", "imperialist" or "colonizer-loving" for wanting the same access to human rights and democratic norms that Westerners, including the leftists who mock them, enjoy. That's true however imperfectly they are applied or accessed in the West.

Here, too, I understand the impulse of those Western leftists. I was raised in a liberal home (90s liberal, so still pretty problematic by today's standards), went to college and only really saw "colonialism and exploitation" through models of what we had done to the rest of the world. Imperialism was something white people did, colonizers were always "foreign" and you could tell because they looked different. "Decolonization" looked a lot like handing Hong Kong "back" to China or the US getting its nose out of Asian affairs. I had only a vague concept of the CCP's evils (I was young during Tiananmen Square, but I remember), and no concept of Taiwanese pro-democracy activism.

I had absolutely no context for someone saying "mourning the past is not a crime" as a way of pointing out that in their supposedly "decolonized" current society, mourning the past is absolutely a crime -- and shouldn't be.

In other words, Queen Elizabeth II is just one tableau onto which people, including Hong Kongers, expressing our own perspectives and emotions, but the result is a kind of funhouse mirror because that canvas is not remotely blank. It's not even flat. Whatever is expressed is about the queen, but also not about her at all. 

To us, the monarchy looks like a big fat cog in a system of class-based oppression. It's hard to wrap one's head around it taking on another quite opposite meaning in a different context: a yearning for freedom, or at least the simulacrum of it that was lost.

It would have been easy to fall into that same "America always bad, China must be better" trap, because I lacked context. There is a pre-2006 me who simply had no frame of reference for this particular type of subversion: for mourning a dead queen not because you love being a subject, but because the current government is so much worse. For looking further afield because your regional neighbor is a huge asshole who wants to subjugate and slaughter you. For nostalgia as resistance against a narrative pushed on society by more recent colonizers. 

Now, that context is clear. I hope you see it too.

Monday, September 12, 2022

What is a country? (Taiwan, for one.)


There's a lot of tankie and tankie-adjacent horptyglorp about how Taiwan cannot possibly be considered a country. This is wrong, and I am delighted to tell you why. 

This is the first of a two-part post: in a day or two I plan to do a little mythbusting of all the specious claims made about Taiwan by people whose opinions are most likely bought and paid for.

So what evidence actually supports the case for Taiwan nationhood? There are multiple ways to determine this: by internationally agreed-upon convention; by the status of various binding treaties; or by whether or not the state in question is recognized by other states. 

The fact that there actually is more than one valid interpretation or way to come to a conclusion about Taiwan's status is proof, in itself, that there is no singular "international law", "One China Policy" or "UN recognition" that determines Taiwan's status. 

What's more, by any one of those interpretations, Taiwan, or the government that currently presides over it, either is a country (by convention), or its status is undetermined (by treaty). I happen to ascribe to the former view, but the latter deserves some space as well.

Let's dispense quickly with the "nationhood derives from recognition by other nations" argument. A sovereign government on Taiwan does indeed enjoy a small amount of official recognition, which means it is a country. However, t
he convention discussed below explicitly states that official recognition by other nations is not necessary. I don't see a strong argument for it as the final determiner in what makes a country.

Convention, or treaty?

The most obvious support comes from the widely recognized Montevideo Convention. Though it was conceived and signed at a International Conference of American States in the 1930s, it's widely accepted as a standard by international organizations. 

According to the convention, a state is a state when it has a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. 

Taiwan has all of these things, and more (for example, it has a military and a currency). 

Taiwan does need constitutional reform and a name change, but honestly, states amend their constitutions and change their names all the time, and as noted above, the ROC constitution doesn't actually claim all of 'China'. From an international perspective, the ROC as a state, for now, is not meaningfully or functionally different from Taiwan not being part of what just about everyone recognizes as 'China'.

Here's what I find interesting: the "ability to enter into relations with other states" doesn't necessarily entail diplomatic recognition. Relations can take on many forms. In fact, the convention is quite specific about this (emphasis mine): 

The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states. Even before recognition, the state has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its conservation and prosperity, and consequently to organize itself as it sees fit, to legislate upon its interests, administer its services, and to define the jurisdiction and competence of its courts. The exercise of these rights has no other limitation than the exercise of the rights of other states according to international law.

By this measure, there is simply no question. Taiwan is a state. It is a country. Like Czechia or Eswatini, it can change its problematic name without changing the fundamental fact of its sovereignty; like many countries, it can do the same with its constitution. It simply chooses not to (yet) in order to signal that it is not the entity raising tensions in the region -- that's China.

What's more, there's no law, not even a rule, that a country is only a country through admission to the United Nations. UN recognition would be nice to have, but it's not a need to have. Of course, the UN cannot be considered objective on the matter of Taiwan; with China acting the bully on the security council, Taiwan can never expect fair treatment from that international body. 

Taiwan as undetermined?

To me, the convention argument makes sense. It establishes a clear-cut path for a nation to arise and govern itself without other nations needing to validate it. I favor this because it allows for autonomous nation-building and self-determination. It does away with the presumption that only others can tell you what you are, and circumvents imperialist tendencies to look to great powers (or large international bodies bullied by those great powers) to determine the fate of smaller states.

In other words, it's the best possible balance between the importance of nations working together and finding agreement, and the fundamental human right of self-determination.

But let's talk treaties anyway. Another common argument is that Taiwan is a part of China because this or that proclamation, declaration or treaty says so. Usually the reference is to the Cairo Declaration, but that was non-binding. Some refer to the various treaties surrounding Japan's surrender of Taiwan, but neither of these clarifies the status of Taiwan. 

Rather than repeat what's already been said about this, here's a fantastic link, and a few choice quotes for those who hit the paywall:

At the end of World War II, ROC troops occupied Taiwan under the aegis of the wartime Allies. Ever since, the then-ruling Kuomintang (KMT) has claimed that Taiwan had been “returned to China” and was now part of the ROC. In reality, Taiwan remained formally under Japanese sovereignty until April 28, 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 (SFPT) came into effect. Under the Peace Treaty  Japan renounced control of Taiwan, but no recipient of sovereignty was named. This was a deliberate arrangement by the wartime powers. The United States did not want either of the murderous, authoritarian Leninist parties claiming to be the true government of China, the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the KMT, to have Taiwan. Thus, under international law, Taiwan’s status remains undetermined to this day....

I'm not sure I agree fully with this interpretation. It's true that if we go by binding treaties, Taiwan's status is undetermined. But if, as above, we follow broadly-accepted conventions on what makes a country, then Taiwan's status is clear: it's a country. However, the "undetermined" argument has a place in this discussion. Anyway, let's continue:

Only two internationally recognized documents directly bear on Taiwan’s sovereignty are legally binding in the sense that Gao means: the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and the Treaty of Taipei between Japan and the Republic of China on Taiwan. The Treaty of Taipei is deliberately subordinate to the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and neither assigns sovereignty over Taiwan to China, whether in its Communist or Nationalist incarnation. Instead, they are silent on the issue of who owns Taiwan, merely affirming that Japan gave up sovereignty over the island....

When then Foreign Minister Yeh Kung-chao was questioned in the legislature after the signing of the Treaty of Taipei, he said that “no provision has been made either in the San Francisco Treaty of Peace as to the future of Taiwan and Penghu.” When a legislator asked him, “What is the status of Formosa and the Pescadores?” He responded:

“Formosa and the Pescadores were formerly Chinese territories. As Japan has renounced her claim to Formosa and the Pescadores, only China has the right to take them over. In fact, we are controlling them now, and undoubtedly they constitute a part of our territories. However, the delicate international situation makes it that they do not belong to us...."

Even the Republic of China knows that there's no binding international law, treaty or convention that renders Taiwan theirs, let alone Taiwan a part of China or not a country in its own right.

This is the same Republic of China that, years after a foreign minister admitted the ROC had no legal right to Taiwan, devised a 'two state solution' and overtly referred to it as such. The same Republic of China whose (non-KMT) presidents routinely call the country they govern "Taiwan" and have, on multiple occasions, defined it as 'independent'. The same Republic of China that meets all the definitions of a 'state', not a province.

Taiwan is a country

What should define Taiwan today? This is easy: it can only be defined by what Taiwanese people want for Taiwan. What they want isn't hard to see unless you are deliberately not looking: most identify as solely Taiwanese, not Chinese. Those who identify as both mostly prioritize Taiwanese identity, and most consider the status quo to be sufficient qualification to consider independent.

Does that sound like 23 million people who don't want their own country? No. It sounds like a populace happy with Taiwan continuing to be independent from the People's Republic of China to me. 

If there's a take-home here, it's that Taiwan's current de facto independence is, essentially, independence, and broadly agreed-on conventions of what makes a nation do indeed apply to Taiwan. By that measure, Taiwan is a country. There are different ways of interpreting this, but no sincere effort to understand Taiwan's status ends with 'well it's clearly part of China'. There is simply no perspective that renders such a claim true: the PRC doesn't govern it, and Taiwan doesn't claim the PRC mainland.

What all of these points of view do have in common is simple: there is no international law that makes Taiwan 'part of China', but plenty of international conventions and interpretations of statehood that support the idea of Taiwan as not just deserving of independent statehood, but already having it. 

Friday, September 2, 2022

The Not-So-Secret Garden: The Hsu Family Mansion in Dashe


I haven't felt like commenting on current affairs this week; if I have nothing unique to say, I don't necessarily see the point of blogging for the sake of it. 

But here's what I do want to talk about: Kaohsiung! I go for work a few times a year, and try to arrive early so I can meet up with friends and enjoy the city. Just before I got COVID -- and remained positive for a highly irritating 18 days -- I took one of these trips, stopping in Taichung on the way. In fact, that's probably how I got sick.

On this trip, I went out to Dashe (大社) to meet one of my oldest friends in Taiwan. She picked me up at Metropolitan Park station and we stopped at a well-regarded dumpling chain for lunch. Then, we decided to find the Hsu Family Mansion (許家古國). For a sleepy town, Dashe is packed with old farmhouses and mansions; in fact, it might be packed with them because it's sleepy: there's no particular reason to tear them down! You can read about some of these places here, although I haven't even been to every place I'd like to see in the area yet.

The Hsu house is notoriously hard to find. Despite being in downtown Dashe, in a lane but not far at all from a main road, my friend who actually lives in Dashe did not know where it was -- only that it existed. "It's like a secret garden," she said. Somewhere in the lanes in a more built-up part of the city, but we had no idea which lanes.

I had to find this place. I knew I wouldn't be the first. Local bloggers have been posting about it for ages. Ultimately, that's how I found it: a local blog with a picture of the correct lane marker


It turned out to be extremely easy once we knew the lane. It's very close to the intersection of Sanmin and Cuiping Roads (三民翠屏路口). The intersection itself is fairly interesting, with several Japanese-era buildings, and the temple (accessed by stairs or an elevator) is eye-catching, with some neat mid-century floor tile and a place to hang gold paper wishing papers that overlooks the road. It's dedicated to the Linshui Ladies, three women from Fuzhou who became Taoist priests and founded their own religious school (some say the term only refers to the oldest, Chen Jinggu). The large Japanese-era building next to it may be related to the Hsu family, and the smaller one across the street, now painted a creamy white, was once a hospital.

Head east on Cuiping Road and turn left at Lane 37, which is also the first lane you'll come across. Keep an eye out to your left until you see the roof of an old house peeking out over newer buildings. 


Technically, you have to cross private property to access the Hsu mansion. In reality, it's a tiny alley that winds past a few houses, and nobody really minds if you walk down it. The actual mansion and its courtyard are indeed private property, however. Someone now lives in the old mansion -- I'm not sure if she rents it or is a Hsu family descendant, and it seemed rude to ask -- and if she's home it's polite to ask if you can take a few photos. She said yes to us, and remarked that "foreigners" love to come here, implying she thought the whole thing was kind of overblown for just an old house. From all those blog links above, I am reasonably sure Taiwanese who enjoy hunting for heritage architecture come here more often, but I guess we big-noses stick out more. 



If you stop by and the resident is not there, it should be fine to take a few photos, but be respectful. It's someone's home. 




The Hsu mansion is an example of heritage arts where the artist matters more than the patron. Obviously, the Hsu family was prominent in Dashe; a Hsu was the chair of the Dashe Farmer's Association. The house was built in 1910, during the Japanese era, and isn't especially unique architecturally. What makes it stand out are the colorful Majolica tiles, the green glazed bottle railing on the second-floor balcony, and the outstanding brick carvings of Zhang Jiao (張叫). 

The Zhangs of Dashe have been known as shadow puppet artists for generations, since one of their ancestors founded a troupe in Dashe over 200 years ago. They became quite famous in the 1940s, performing around the world; the then-patriarch Zhang Decheng eventually awarded official 'national treasure'-level status for his creation of the intricate leather shadow puppets. Zhang Decheng died in the 1980s, but his grandson carries on the tradition. 

Zhang Jiao, Zhang Decheng's father, created the brick carvings that adorn the first floor of the Hsu Family Mansion, including the spring scrolls around the door. His work once graced many old houses in the Dashe area, but most have been torn down, so these examples of his artistry are rare and valuable. Zhang Jiao was also known as "Hanfan" (憨番), which are those creepy little carved dudes, often resembling Westerners, one sees holding up beams in old temples. 

On an interesting tangent, I'm not the only one who's never heard of a Hanfan outside Taiwan, and the story goes that they were modeled after Dutch colonists, as a means for locals to vent their frustrations -- the Hanfan always carry a heavy burden such as a roof beam and generally look a bit ridiculous. I've also heard of Hanfan being carved to resemble the person sponsoring the temple's creation, basically as a way for artists to show they're annoyed by the rich dude issuing orders. Why was Zhang Jiao, famous sculptor and scion of the Zhang shadow puppet family of Dashe, nicknamed "Hanfan"? Somebody surely knows, but it isn't me. 

In addition to the Zhang Jiao brick carvings and Majolica tiles, the Hsu mansion also has cochin-fired pottery reliefs (you can learn more about those here) telling various folk stories, though these seem to mostly be on the second floor balcony where they're difficult to see, and you can't go up. You can kind of see it on the sides of the second story from below, but I couldn't get anything like a good vantage point.


Taken together, the house itself may be an architecturally simple two-story affair, but it is striking nevertheless. Its reputation as a 'hidden spot' or 'secret garden' (although lots of people have been here and it's often written up on government tourism websites) only enhances its allure. One blogger praised its fine use of "color theory", and I tend to agree: it's beautiful because all of those bright colors -- especially the blues and greens -- contrast against the red brick, which itself is beautifully carved.


In other words, the Hsu family certainly had money to spend on cochin pottery reliefs, carved brick from a renowned local artist and a profusion of Majolica tiles, and clearly someone involved in the design process had a flair for maximalist color and pattern.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Marsha Blackburn tweet sucked. Use it to educate and criticize, but not attack

I hate this too, but hear me out. 
(From Marsha Blackburn's tweet, embedded below)

Senator Marsha Blackburn is in town, and just tweeted a picture of herself at Freedom Square/Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, where she rather offensively claimed to have learned about the "work" of Chiang Kai-shek at the memorial hall dedicated to "remembering" said "work." 

Anyone who's read a thing about Taiwanese history understands that Chiang's "work" consisted mostly of slaughtering or imprisoning hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese and refugees from China, usually without due process. Rampant corruption and nepotism, attempts at cultural and linguistic eradication, mismanagement of resources and revenue, media and personal censorship and the endless pounding-down of "Free China" propaganda and vilification of Taiwanese identity are his legacy.

You know...work.


As such, the tweet itself went beyond tone-deaf and straight to offensiveness. It's an erasure of all the harm Chiang inflicted on Taiwan, and all the Taiwanese he massacred. It absolutely merits principled criticism.

On top of this, my views on Blackburn are strongly antipathic, for reasons unrelated to Taiwan. As an American politician, her positions are the polar opposite of mine. Frankly, she horrifies me. The internalized misogyny alone must burn her already-charred soul like a mofo. If I were her constituent I would not vote for her. Marsha Blackburn is not a good person.

The tweet was crap, Chiang Kai-shek was crap, and Marsha Blackburn is crap. 

To be fair, most of the responses I've seen have been either civil criticism or attempts at clarifying why the tweet is clueless and offensive. But I've also seen just enough outright attacks that I want to say something.

So, I'd like to advocate for a generous response to her Very Bad Tweet. This may be my most generous take yet, considering my seething and active revulsion towards both the senator and the former dictator. It takes a lot to overcome that. I posit that one should try.

First, chances are this stop was planned for Blackburn. I doubt she woke up and said "hey, I'd really like to visit Dead Dictator Memorial Hall today!" Someone took her there.

Did she have to write a tweet that implied he was a decent guy whose legacy is worth learning about in a positive (or even neutral) light? No, but there's a pretty fair chance that she -- or the social media manager who writes her tweets -- is honestly ignorant of this history. 

I was ignorant too, at one point. Not to the same degree, however: the first thing I learned about Chiang was that this so-called "leader of Free China" was "corrupt and awful to the core", only better than Mao in that his body count is perhaps lower. (I had a particularly good Social Studies teacher when I was young). But I didn't know the extent of his atrocities until I came to Taiwan and not only started reading about its history, but met people affected by the KMT dictatorship.

This indicates a solid opportunity to educate, or offer more accurate perspectives and historical facts. If she hears about the Twitter storm at all, tweets attacking her ("you probably love the idea of mass executions!") aren't going to lead to a change in perspective. Among other possible responses, advocating for her to visit the various museums and memorials, dedicated to human rights in Taiwan might

I know that's hard to swallow, given that this is a woman who thinks taking away the rights of other women is not only acceptable but desirable. But understanding the true horror of Chiang's reign is not quite the same as having an ongoing conflict with basic facts in one's own political milieu. 

Of course, one can argue they come from the same mindset -- and honestly, they probably do. "Imprison all my perceived enemies and execute them without trial!" and "Lock Her Up! Her Emails! Punish Sluts By Banning Abortion!" attitudes are more or less the same neurons firing in different contexts.

And yet, because Taiwan is not her typical political milieu, she might be more open to suggestions that maybe she's gotten it wrong in putting a positive spin on Chiang Kai-shek's bloody legacy. Perhaps. 

That's not the most important point, though. She's one senator. There are more important reasons than simply "educating Marsha Blackburn" to respond to tweets like this in a specific, goal-oriented way.

I don't mean refraining from criticism: she's earned it. I mean offering that criticism in a way that might actually be digested. 

The first is that it would be very easy for foreign officials considering a visit to Taiwan to see these harsh responses and think "well maybe Taiwanese don't actually want us there", and stop visiting. The same is true for calls to criticize all visits by people one doesn't support generally, or all visits by any officials, simply because they aren't ideologically pure enough, or are too "establishment" and therefore must be tarnished or unacceptable allies in some way. To be fair, most are deeply imperfect if not outright problematic -- my point is that it doesn't matter as much as one might think. 

Taiwan does need establishment support. Progress usually happens when social movements have some relationship with power. The ones that don't get ignored. The American left (I don't mean liberals, I mean the left) isn't very powerful not because they're entirely wrong, but because they not only don't have establishment support, but actively antagonize and thus neutralize potential alliances.

If Taiwan did the same thing, and rejected support based on stringent ideological purity, it would have no international support at all. Not just from the US -- there are ongoing attempts to alienate Japan, too.

Worse still, not all Taiwanese or advocates for Taiwan agree on ideology, ensuring absolute isolation. Maybe This Guy is a boomer Republican and craps all over "radical left" Nancy Pelosi's visit, and That Guy thinks Pelosi isn't leftist enough. Then That Other Guy craps on Blackburn's visit, or Pompeo's. Tammy Duckworth comes as part of a delegation and Boomer Republican craps on that too...

Soon, you have no visits at all, just a big load of crap. Maybe these critics have earned leftist (or rightist) cred for themselves, but they haven't done a single thing to actually advance support for Taiwan among people with the power to make a real difference.

Even worse, they've ignored the fact that most locals seem to want these visits: not because they think the officials in question are all great people, but because they understand the necessity of it. 

I'm never going to support Marsha Blackburn. But I will support her support of Taiwan. Not personally -- I don't think I could bear to speak to her -- but because it's good for Taiwan to have bipartisan support so that no matter who is in power, Taiwan has international friends. Love it or hate it, this is what that means. It also means if you don't like Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pompeo, you still grit your teeth. Maybe you say nothing, or offer personal views only.

I too struggle with what it really means to want strong support of Taiwan internationally, and have for some time. It means swallowing a hell of a lot of squick. It means not shrieking in anger every time someone I would rather spit on than shake hands with visits Taiwan. It's absolutely brutal. I know.

But if you advocate for bipartisanism sincerely, this is what it entails. I'm sorry.

There's another reason not to go into full-on attack mode: it makes pro-Taiwan advocates sound like, well, Chinese troll "ambassadors" and other embarrassing mouthpieces. Again, I know this is hard to swallow, but what looks from our side like targeted criticism probably reads as straight-up trollish dunking to anyone who doesn't have a strong grasp of Taiwanese affairs. That's probably most people reading Blackburn's tweets.  That's a fantastic way to convince hundreds of thousands of Americans that people who advocate for Taiwan are assholes and Taiwan therefore isn't worth supporting. At that point we're basically doing the work of the CCP trolls for them. 

Keep in mind that not everyone reading Blackburn's Twitter is some conservative jackass; plenty of liberals hate-read her on social media! Right now they mostly seem to be asking that she just stay in Taiwan or cracking jokes about her wearing a mask in Taiwan, where it's legally mandated. Some are asking why she went at all, seemingly not realizing it's normal for officials from democratic nations to visit each other.

They aren't really engaging with why Taiwan matters. They're mostly not engaging with why Chiang was a bad dude, or Taiwan's impressive progress since his death.

Perhaps we have a chance to make a tiny dent in that bipartisan wall of ignorance. I say we take it.

Of course, by all means criticize the tweet. But criticism with an appeal to learn more is not the same as an all-out attack. 

(Feel free to attack Blackburn on any of her other horrific views, though. Being in favor of forced birth and against human rights for women is a good place to start.) 

Finally, I'd like to offer an idea that even I don't particularly care for, but is worth pointing out. For years, the USA kind of quietly supported the KMT -- probably seeing them as the best bet in terms of maintaining "peace" across the Taiwan Strait. That peace was always a false one, but I suppose it looked good at the time to those who didn't realize that China was using rapprochement with the KMT to secure a path to annexation, a path that inevitably leads to war.

Only very recently have US administrations seemed to warm up a bit to the DPP, in part because the KMT simply isn't that popular in Taiwan and democratic choice should be respected, but also likely in part because in the 2020s, the US has finally figured out that appeasing China does not lead to peace; deterrence is a far more likely (though not guaranteed) prospect.

And yet, I find it so weird that this very small, very recent pivot has got so much of the Taiwan Internet Commentariat obsessed with the (false) idea that the US is using Taiwan to anger China, that the US is going back on its promise not to support "Taiwan independence" (very wrong, for many reasons), or that the DPP are the real 'authoritarians' and 'imperialists' because they have 'imperialist US' backing. Or that the US 'created' the Taiwanese independence movement (so very, very wrong). 

Tone-deaf tweets in which senators visit outdated monuments to dictators who vehemently opposed Taiwanese independence show, I guess, that these visits are not really about a sea change in US policy on Taiwan, or any sort of agenda the US has toward that end. It certainly shows that there's no partisan leaning toward the DPP in Taiwan, either. Official visitors can't possibly be in the pocket of some 'Green Terror' stricken DPP (lol) if they're visiting Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and cluelessly tweeting about it. 

With all that in mind, feel free to criticize the Marsha Blackburn tweet. It's so clueless that it's absolutely earned that. But be smart about it: do it in a way that might actually get through to her team or the readers of these tweets. 

I suggest you do this even if you don't like Marsha Blackburn -- and I most certainly do not. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The InterPride thing is straight-up weird -- and InterPride might be lying

I want to be very clear about something: I will always support Taiwan in taking a principled stand on any issue. Whatever cost people in Taiwan deem worth bearing to maintain their national dignity, I'm with them. No questions asked, no exceptions.

There are costs for sticking with one's principles -- all of which are fabricated by the CCP to harm Taiwan; they don't arise naturally. For this reason, I tend to think it's better to take a principled stand than cave in and accept things like "Chinese Taipei", "Made in Taiwan, China" or any naming convention that calls Taiwan a "province". 

Whatever consequence the CCP has cooked up in their "How To Be Jackholes To Taiwan" lab, generally, I think it's better not to bow and scrape to their bratty demands.

With this in mind, I have to say: I find the whole InterPride thing just a little weird.

For those who don't know the story, here is the core of WorldPride Taiwan 2025 committee's statement.

I've omitted some introductory and concluding paragraphs for brevity and 
highlighted points that will come up later; you can skip ahead if you've read it already.

When discussing and negotiating the event contract’s terms and conditions, the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan Preparation Committee (consisting of Taiwan Pride and Kaohsiung Pride) was unable to reach a consensus with InterPride, the event licensor. There were major discrepancies between our stances on the event’s naming, understandings of Taiwan’s culture, and expectations of what a WorldPride event should look like. 

In the back-and-forth discussions, InterPride repetitively raised their concerns and doubts about whether Taiwan has the capacity, economic and otherwise, to host an international event like WorldPride. This is despite our team consisting of highly competent Pride organizers who have successfully organized some of the largest Pride events in Asia. Although we have presented past data and relevant statistics to prove our track record, we were still unable to convince InterPride. However hard we have tried to cooperate, our efforts did not result in an equal and trusting working partnership with the event licensor. 

The final straw that led the negotiation to a deadlock was the abrupt notice from InterPride, requiring the name of the event to change from “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” to “WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025”. This is despite the fact that the name “WorldPride Taiwan 2025'' was used throughout the entire bidding process: From the bid application and the bid proposal evaluation to the voting process and the winner announcement back in 2021.

We had made it clear to InterPride that there are some significant reasons why we insist on using the name "WorldPride Taiwan 2025". First, the name "Taiwan Pride" is of symbolic significance to the Taiwanese LGBTIQ+ community as it has been used for Taiwan’s first and still ongoing Pride parade since the first edition in 2003. It was not named after the city but the nation as a whole. Second, WorldPride Taiwan 2025 was planned to connect several Pride events and activities across Taiwan, with many cities, in addition to Kaohsiung, participating.

After the winner announcement, upon reading InterPride’s congratulatory letter which mistakenly named Taiwan as a region instead of a country, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) helped organize a tripartite meeting with InterPride and KH Pride on November 16 2021. In the meeting, the three parties (MOFA, InterPride, KH Pride) agreed on using “WorldPride Taiwan 2025” as the name for all the sequential events and activities. However, during the recent contract negotiation, InterPride suddenly made it a requirement that WorldPride 2025 can only be named after the host city rather than the country (“WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025” instead of “WorldPride Taiwan 2025”). This unexpected requirement essentially reneges on the previously made agreement.

In the face of many uncertainties such as InterPride’s inconsistent attitude toward the event naming and doubts about our team and the Taiwan market, we have to make the painful decision to terminate the project of hosting WorldPride 2025 in order to strive for the best interest of the LGBTIQ+ community in Taiwan.

Certainly, I support Taiwan in standing up for itself. So when InterPride announced unexpectedly that WorldPride 2025 would have to be called WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025 instead of WorldPride Taiwan 2025, I supported the committee in terminating the event. After all, if you can't call a country a country or an event by the name of the country it's in, Taiwan doesn't need you and deserves better. 

It seems (or seemed) rather obvious that at some point in the middle of event planning, InterPride got a call from Beijing insisting that "Taiwan" not be used. 

That said, I can't help but notice that the other WorldPride events do indeed lead with the city name, not the country name. Their Twitter typically tags city pride organizations. WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025 would have been more in line with that convention than WorldPride Taiwan, even if events were planned across the country.

But then, if that was always the way these events were named, why agree to "WorldPride Taiwan 2025" and then suddenly insist it can't be used? Why not clarify that city names are their policy and make no statement about nationhood at the outset? They literally had a whole meeting about this in 2021!

Basically, WorldPride Kaohsiung 2025 or WorldPride Kaohsiung Taiwan might make more sense within their naming conventions, but why say that now

It's especially weird as the naming issue was specifically discussed earlier in the process. There was no misunderstanding or incorrect assumption: the Taiwanese coordinators asked explicitly for the event to reference Taiwan, with strong reasons given for the choice of name, and InterPride explicitly agreed. InterPride's own statement elides this:

Here's the weirdest thing about this statement. According to the Taiwan organizers, "WorldPride Kaohsiung Taiwan 2025" was never offered as an option. From CNA:

後續InterPride也在今年7月26日的信件中指出,經過理監事投票決議通過,活動名稱只能使用WorldPride Kaohsiung或Kaohsiung WorldPride,並沒有Taiwan在裡面,因此InterPride的留言完全不符合事實,「從來沒有給過我們這個選項」。

My translation:

In a follow-up, InterPride also pointed out in a letter dated July 26th of this year that after a vote by the directors and supervisors, the event name can only be WorldPride Kaohsiung or Kaohsiung WorldPride, with no "Taiwan", meaning InterPride's message is counterfactual. 
"[They] never gave us this option." [According to the interviewee]. 

This is very weird. Why would InterPride lie about this? If they're not lying, why would the interviewee in CNA say they were?

There's no mention of the 2021 meeting in the statement, either: just a reference to a compromise they say they offered (but apparently didn't). 

Neither is there a mention of previously referring to Taiwan as a "region" rather than a country.

The statement also ignores other issues brought up by the WorldPride Taiwan 2025 preparation committee: that they felt their competency to host the event was being questioned, that the partnership was not a trusting one, and that their attempts to prove they had the track record to host the event smoothly were ignored. All InterPride said on that matter was that they were working with the Taiwanese side "to ensure they would deliver the event they promised to our members", which to me sounds like a confirmation that they didn't trust Taiwan to pull it off. 

I don't know what went on behind the scenes here, what the concerns were or why InterPride would act this way. Most Pride events in Taiwan are fantastic, but there have been questionable decisions in the past. For instance, at the past pre-pandemic Pride I attended, the weird route and shunting of the event to the side of the road caused significant backups and delays; I spent nearly 40 minutes at an intersection near Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, got so overheated that I began puking somewhere around Zhongxiao Dunhua, and promptly went home. I don't know if this poor planning was a Pride issue or a Taipei City government issue; maybe it was both.

However, if InterPride does not trust the host country of the largest Pride in Asia to coordinate their event, especially when their statement ignores other relevant details, it seems to me that InterPride's own judgement might be what's questionable here. I may have had a single bad experience, but Pride and other large events in Taiwan generally run smoothly. So what was really going on here?

The InterPride website does name countries in the text blurbs for these events (Rome, Italy, for example, or Sydney, Australia. Only Jerusalem doesn't get a country, for reasons we can all guess at). Was that the problem? And if the only real issue is that they usually use city names, why call Taiwan a "region" when the collaboration was announced? Why not just name the country, like everywhere else? 

Basically, there's a lot going on here. It's absolutely baffling. But, at the end of it all, the inconsistencies and elisions from InterPride seem more problematic and questionable than those from the Taiwan committee. The implication that InterPride was treating the Taiwanese committee like a bunch of incompetents especially rankles.

It's possible but very unlikely that the Taiwan side wasn't managing things well,  and yet the condescending "oh, I'm not sure you can pull it off, sweeties" feels like the sort of unfounded treatment of Taiwan by the West that should be familiar to anyone following international media discourse on Taiwan. Taiwan's economy is consistently treated like it's not advanced (it is) or that it's worse than China's (it's not, and that's even if China's reported economic data can be believed, which it probably can't.) Taiwan is treated like it can't handle the international stage (it can) or doesn't have the will to defend itself (it does). 

That said, the Taiwan committee's reasoning makes sense. From the CNA article above:


My translation:

A-Gu [the interviewee] said, "since applying for WorldPride, InterPride has repeatedly misnamed [Taiwan] as Taiwan Province, Taiwan region, etc. This has happened in statements, the 'country' section of the website, in the data review, during tripartite meetings -- the country's name was incorrectly changed. This repeated issue may lead to even greater problems in the future after signing [an agreement], which is the main reason why the preparatory committee decided to stop the event.”

In other words, InterPride kept screwing up, and the Taiwan WorldPride committee realized they were going to keep misnaming Taiwan, possibly to even worse effect. If this had happened -- let's say WorldPride was almost underway and couldn't be canceled -- it would make the committee look extremely bad and also be unacceptable and disrespectful to Taiwan. After all, they knew InterPride was repeatedly misnaming the country! So, they pulled the plug.

This makes sense. InterPride's stance doesn't.

Even in reporting of this issue, AFP copy across multiple media outlets calls Taiwan an 'island', not a country, and leads with China's claims. Even when reporting on Taiwan wanting respect and the use of its own damn name, international media can't seem to get it right. (Al Jazeera's report is slightly better, but not by much.)

I'm not even Taiwanese, and I'm absolutely sick of it! 

In fact, looking at previous WorldPride events, the only non-Western city I see on that list is Jerusalem. Every other location was or will be in a Western country -- North America, Europe or Australia. This is one of the first times, then, that WorldPride has worked with non-Western coordinators. Could there have been some cultural miscommunication or even insensitivity? 

I honestly don't know. I don't want to get into "I'm just asking questions" mode like some right-wing media jackass, but there really are a lot of questions to be asked. The whole thing, from calling Taiwan a "region", to agreeing to "Taiwan" at a meeting, to suddenly reneging on that with a unilateral "compromise", then pulling a *shocked Pikachu face* when Taiwan pulled the plug -- it's just weird. I have so many questions, and most of them are for InterPride. And most revolve around whose calls they've been taking.

I can't say definitively what happened, but if I'm going to pick a side on this, then I'd pick Taiwan. Taiwan wanted this event so much that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stepped in after InterPride's first gaffe calling Taiwan a "region". If MoFA gets involved, you know it matters to the organizers. They wouldn't cancel that on a whim, or single mistake.

The Taiwan committee's explanation for pulling the plug makes sense. If this were really about the tradition of naming WorldPride events after cities -- essentially a branding dispute -- InterPride wouldn't have mislabeled Taiwan in other ways, waited until after a trilateral meeting on the issue, agreed to an alternative, and then lied about a compromise they never offered. It's not just audacity, it's mendacity. Taiwan saw that, and said "no thanks". And they would know: this sort of nomenclature disrespect happens all the time. Just look at any airline website! 

If the local committee felt that this problem would keep occurring and Taiwan would keep being disrespected by InterPride, I believe them.

It wouldn't make sense for the Taiwan side to have called it off for the wrong reasons, so I'm going to trust that they did it for the right ones. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Appeasement Will Work For Taiwan

By Thadtaniel McDorpington III

Several decades ago, while earning my degree in China Studies with a focus on governance in China, I had the privilege of visiting Taiwan for a short period of time. As with young Cao Cao in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I learned much in that short trip, for which I am humbled to say I was invited to give a short talk on China at a conference at the Grand Hyatt. 

My taxi driver from the airport was an affable man. Though I don’t recall his name, I will never forget what I learned about Taiwan from him. Apparently, Taiwan was founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who declared it the Republic of China in 1949, before which time no one lived on Taiwan. However, “Taiwan” also means “Formosa”, which is Portuguese for “Beautiful Island”. 

This depth of experience in Asia has caused me to take a deep interest in the discussion around the visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, and qualified me to publish this op-ed in a paper of record. 

As I consider the dangerous signal that Pelosi’s visit to the Republic of China would send to Mainland China, I can only think of the wisdom of two great men. Sun Tzu, who said “the wise warrior avoids the battle”, and Neville Chamberlain, who famously avoided war by extolling the virtues of “peace in our time”. 

Indeed, it is peace in our time that we need for Taiwan, as it would be terribly inconvenient if the United States were to provoke a war by sending a high-ranking official to a place that the People’s Republic of China does not govern. 

After all, if America is a great power, isn’t the greatest show of power to listen sincerely? If we listen sincerely with open minds towards cooperating with China rather than creating conflict by pointing out “genocide in East Turkestan” and “threats of subjugation and mass slaughter in Taiwan”, surely there is a path to peace here in which everyone gets some of what they want. Perhaps Taiwan can even keep some of its democracy!

Of course, I did not come to this opinion alone. Many analysts concur, some of whom have even spent up to a year, or even two years, in Taiwan. We all agreed at a local bar — they didn’t recommend the hotel bar, that’s how you know they are old-timers — that Taiwan has no will to fight China, and there is no data whatsoever showing otherwise. 

In fact, Taiwanese believe they are the real Chinese, as stated in the Republic of China constitution. There is no other data showing any other consensus in Taiwan. Continuing to believe this is a controversial topic gives analysts like us relevance. We simply do not acknowledge any other data showing a general consensus on Taiwanese identity as it may require us to find another issue to write about, or even force us to ask Taiwanese people what they think beyond the single poll we always cite. 

The United States should not step into this muddy and unclear situation. Who knows -- maybe some Taiwanese want to be subjugated by China! 

What’s more, international support for Taiwan could be disastrous: it might hurt shareholder value or even create a smartphone shortage. Although I did not ask any Taiwanese for their perspective, surely they would agree that compromise with China would be in everyone’s best interest as well. I can say from my experience of three nights at the Grand Hyatt that the Taiwanese are a friendly and hospitable people, and they would certainly bend over backwards to ensure the US does not suffer any supply issues with its devices.

After all, from my all-expense paid press junket to Beijing, I can state with confidence that Xi Jinping is a man of reason, and will happily grant to Taiwan all legitimate rights and interests that they request. Of course, Xi himself will determine which rights are “legitimate”, but that’s a minor discussion point. 

Perhaps the Chinese on both sides of the strait could agree on a system where Taiwan continues to hold elections, but there is some flexibility vis-a-vis who wins those elections. There are many creative solutions to the Taiwan Problem which has vexed Western analysts for decades.

My experience working for a think tank that publishes and hosts events related to Taiwan which include unique and relevant perspectives from noted Taiwan experts such as Thorp Borpworth, Bradjohn Golfingshorts, Carolinda Catspaw and Jacobscreek McGillicuddy only underscores my concern. As a khaki phalanx, unanimous in our thoughts, these men and one woman agree: if China issues threats due to US actions, that is clearly American provocation and must be opposed resolutely. Even Noam Chomsky agrees, which matters for some reason.

The only way forward, therefore, is appeasement. Beijing is extraordinarily angry that the United States wants to do a thing, and thus the United States must under no circumstances do that thing, as it may provoke a war. Taiwan is very important to China, and therefore all of our efforts should be centered on assuring China that we are not a threat to their intended annexation of the island. That is the only way to ensure peace (for us), and will surely convince Mr. Xi not to invade Taiwan once he knows the international community will not stand in his way.

Certainly, we must not ask the Taiwanese government if they want Pelosi to visit. They might say 'yes' or indicate that they don't fear China as much as we do, and that would not be in line with our views as analysts. We might even learn that they approved of the visit in advance! As our views are paramount, and this goes against them, the best choice is simply not to inquire. 

We must clearly show Mr. Xi and the People’s Republic of Mainland China that we will not oppose any action they take, but rather cater to their will on any action we take, in the hope that perhaps we may kindly request (but not insist) that they not take actions we disapprove of. I believe this will be successful: Mr. Xi is a man of his word and keeps every promise he makes.  

To do otherwise might harm China-US relations, which only the US can do. China, of course, can do whatever it wants up to and including a genocide. To stand up to China would not be in line with my wise, sober and nuanced analysis. Opposition to prioritizing relations with a genocidal dictatorship over solidarity with Taiwan is merely the dark hand of ultraethnonationalism caterwauled by those who did not attend a prestigious university.

If we fail to stop tensions from rising and China starts the war that the United States provoked, then it will be disastrous for both sides — the United States and China. That relationship certainly cannot be soured by something like a visit from a high-ranking official to Taiwan. Otherwise how can these two great powers work together in the future to decide the fate of Taiwan in a peaceful way?

Nancy Pelosi should not visit Taiwan. After all, as the Chinese say, it is best not to climb a tree to seek fish, but rather show kindness like Duke Xianggong. Why not peace with Xi?

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The 2022 Updated Teacher Training Post


A few years ago, I wrote a long post detailing every teacher training opportunity in Taiwan, from short certification courses all the way to a discussion of whether or not to do a PhD. That post is still relevant (and I've updated some links as well), but I'd like to offer a narrower focus. Cut out the noise and just look at a few key options that might be the best fit for the person who asks this:

I'm a foreign English teacher in Taiwan and I want to get some accredited training to do my job better. How can I do that without leaving Taiwan?

Depending on your needs, prior experience and teaching credentials, any one of these programs might be right for you. You may even choose to do more than one -- I stacked a CELTA (which is like a CertTESOL) on top of a Delta (like a DipTESOL) and topped it off with a Master's. Or, you can take one course and call it good -- you'll still know more and improve more quickly than just about any teacher that doesn't invest in their professional development.

The Trinity CertTESOL and TYLEC

These are fundamental certifications -- the CertTESOL is similar to the CELTA (although it is slightly harder) and focuses on the basics of teaching. You can take this and go on to teach children/young learners, however, your teaching practice will generally be with adults. Both courses require some pretty intensive input sessions -- the CertTESOL usually meets every weekday morning for a semester. You'll have to teach quite a few assessed lessons, do observations and take exams, as well. While it's possible to do this while having an afternoon job, you will be extremely busy. However, people do it. (If a 4-week intensive option is ever offered, you'll want to take time off for that -- it is not possible to take that course and work at the same time.) 

The CertTESOL can be taken by pre-service teachers, that is, people with no teaching experience, but is also helpful to teachers with experience who have no prior training. It is hard work, and you'll want to be ready for that. The CertTESOL is accredited at Level 5 in Europe and the UK. It's a 130 hour course, not including significant self-study time.

The TYLEC is a little different. The acronym stands for the "Teaching Young Learners Extension Certificate" and is a level up from the CertTESOL. It's actually significantly more difficult, accredited at a Level 6, so applicants do need significant teaching experience or an initial teaching qualification (which doesn't have to be the CertTESOL, by the way). It focuses on teaching younger learners and, as with the CertTESOL, you'll have quite a bit of input. You'll also have to keep an observation journal as you observe other young learner classes, and teach your own assessed lessons for more than one level of learner. The 60 hours of guided learning do not include a similar amount of necessary self-study.

If you want an initial high-quality qualification that will help you teach any age and level of learner, and have no prior certification and not much experience, go for the CertTESOL. If you are committed to teaching young learners and do have significant experience or a qualification (better yet, if you have both), the TYLEC is probably a better fit for you.

Both of these courses can be taken at InspiredCPD

The Trinity DipTESOL

Similar to a Cambridge Delta, the DipTESOL is for committed teachers who have an initial qualification and significant post-qualification teaching experience (usually the rule is two years, though it might depend on the quality of that experience). It's equivalent to a Level 7 on the European accreditation system. It requires more of a time commitment (150 hours of input sessions, plus far more self-study), but is split into multiple sections. 

As such, it's also more expensive than a CertTESOL or TYLEC, but if you're committed to teaching as a career, I would say it's worth the money (I have a Delta and found it to be the most challenging and rewarding of my various qualifications).

The CertTESOL runs about NT$55,000, the TYLEC is $70,000 and the DipTESOL runs about NT$110,000. Payment terms are flexible, however. 

Why not CELTA and Delta, you ask? Because while there are online options for both -- I did a Delta from Taiwan -- the Trinity courses are now offered face-to-face in Taiwan.

The DipTESOL can also be taken at InspiredCPD

The International Teaching Master's from Framingham State University (Master of Education with a concentration in International Teaching)

Brendan is currently enrolled in this program and seems quite satisfied with it. So, rather than talking about a course I didn't take, I'll let him tell you about it:

The program I’m in is entirely online due to Covid-19 (though I don’t know if that will continue to be true for future cohorts). It consists of nine courses, each of which lasts for about five weeks and are designed to be doable while also working full-time. The courses are spaced so that we get a month-long break between them. Tuition fees are currently just over $650 per course.

The material is clearly designed first and foremost with K-12 education in mind, which is different from what I do in my own work (my students tend to be university age or older). But I personally see this as a positive: my formal education in the field so far consists of a CELTA and a DELTA, which are about language teaching for adults, so it’s nice to be able to get a broader perspective on teaching. The professors are aware that the students are from a variety of teaching contexts, and there’s been nothing so far in the material that I haven’t been able to make relevant to my own situation.

Of the material I have studied so far, I would say the most relevant has been the course dealing with special education and learning disabilities. Although much of it was focused on young learners with disabilities, much of it can also be applied to adult students, and it really got me thinking about how I can more actively work to make my teaching accessible to all.

I like this program because I feel it is making me more well-rounded as a teacher and is helping fill in a lot of the gaps in my professional knowledge. I don’t know what I’ll be doing professionally ten years from now, and I feel this program is helping to prepare me for multiple options.

It's worth noting that the Framingham program is not specifically about English teaching, and there's nothing in it that focuses on TESOL in itself. However, it's useful for a wide range of teaching beyond TESOL. Framingham does offer a program focused on English teaching, but it's not available as often due to lower demand.

The link in the header to this section will take you to the program's main page. You can also get on the mailing list here

A teaching certificate through TCNJ or Teach-Now (through Moreland University)

Both of these programs focus on general teaching, not TESOL specifically. Both require practicums. TCNJ (Teacher's College of New Jersey) hosts lectures in Hsinchu -- or at least they did pre-COVID -- there's a solid chance they've gone online in recent years. Contact them directly to learn about their post-COVID setup, to see if there have been any changes. The program requires no dissertation but does lead to a Master's. From my last post:

TCNJ also qualifies you to take the Praxis II (teaching qualification exams in the US), available on a very limited basis in Taiwan.

The program requires you to be teaching more than English as it's not specifically a TESOL course but rather one for general young learner education, and your practicums are done at your own work location. The program doesn't require a dissertation but it does require you to take the edTPA.


TeachNow costs $6,000 and runs for nine months, but is flexible. There are nine modules -- a friend describes it more as a BEd program than a Master's, but praises the training as practical and reflective. "Quite sweet" he called it. They have rolling admissions so you can join anytime. There are virtual practicums in the last few months -- you have to teach 5 classes and record them. You should have a mentor in your local setting and through the program, and you cover everything from technology in the classroom to classroom management, lesson planning and learning culture. 

There is of course self-study which can take a variable amount of time. One friend in the program says it takes less than they say, another says that a single practicum cycle including recording and editing the lesson for submission takes 6-8 hours. I don't know how easy it would be to do if you don't have access to a local mentor through work, but it may be a good option. 

A friend doing TeachNow through British Council in Vietnam says that the program has definitely made him a better teacher. You can't get a better endorsement than that! However, unlike TCNJ, you'd mostly be interfacing with the program online. TeachNow leads to a K-6 teaching license.

For both TCNJ and TeachNow, you have to do the teaching license exams. TeachNow gives you a teaching license in Washington, DC but it can be transferable. If you're not American there are some extra steps to follow, but theoretically it can be rolled into a UK qualification like QTS (Qualified Teacher Status).

Other local and online options

These training opportunities are not the only ones available for foreigners looking to improve their teaching qualifications and abilities. My earlier post outlines some online options including MATESOL, PGCE (a British qualification) and programs through Nile, Bell and The Distance Delta. It also covers local options through Taiwanese universities, the Teaching Knowledge Test and a local certification program which runs 35 hours and now includes online options. Have a look there for more details.