5/20/2008

Four Year Anniversary



Where were you four years ago, when President Chen was being sworn in for a second term of office? It suddenly occurs to me that I was in Ohio, piling stuff in the back of my Toyota for a honeymoon trip to New Orleans. On Monday, my wife and I took a day off from work to celebrate four years of marriage. We bundled our little daughter off to the babysitter's and then headed off for lunch at the Grand Fomosa Hotel followed by the afternoon matinee, where we saw Iron Man, based on a Marvel comic book I used to read as a kid. One thing that really struck me about our time off was all the other people taking a day off too. My wife kept asking: "Doesn't anyone have to work anymore?" The restaurant we ate in was packed (although with a little help from a lunch party hosted by the Belize government - I guess big wigs in town for the inauguration) and even the theater, at 3:05 p.m., was half full.

Today, when I returned to work, I was greeted by mayhem, as Ma was being sworn in as President across the street at Taipei Arena (see above cell phone pic). Although I'm happy to see Chen go (I'll work on this in later posts), I'm also a bit worried to see this American-educated president take the helm. Mainly, I'm concerned that he's in way over his head with the Chinese. As much as Chen's "us and them" attitude and constant picking on out-groups disturbed me, I think I could even be more uncomfortable with Ma's, or least his party's, insistence that we people here in Taiwan are Han Chinese. To me, that seems naive. Taiwan is made up of people from all over the place. At least one in five babies is now born to a "foreign" parent. And that's not even getting into the Aboriginal contribution to the Taiwanese blood-line. There also seems to be a bit of disingenuity going on here. I mean what are guys like James Soong, Lien Chan, Ma, and others, with their American degrees, houses, bank accounts, passports or green cards or what have you thinking when they're chatting it up with someone like Hu, Wen or one of these other odd-balls?


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BTW, some people are now questioning the double-standard in aid, why the government here is willing to give so much of our tax dollars to China for earthquake relief, NT$2 billion, versus a piddly NT$6 million for the Burmese, who are probably even in worse shape: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2008/05/16/2003412099 It's nice to see all of the Tzu Chi volunteers now out raising money for Myanmar. Just in case you're wondering, they're the ones wearing blue polo shirts and white pants, out on every corner, at every MRT exit and even at today's inauguration, shaking donation boxes and looking pleasant. I just looked up their Website: http://www.tzuchi.org/global/index.html

10 comments:

Winston L. said...

The KMT does not, nor does any other political party in Taiwan, insist that the people in Taiwan are Han Chinese. Rather, the KMT insists that Taiwan, including all of its diverse residents, is a part of China.
Why would the DPP government with about a week remaining in power pledge NT $2 billion for China earthquake relief and only NT $6 million to Burma? First of all, you have to take a less simplistic view of the DPP and Taiwanese in general. True, the DPP seeks political independence from China, but the DPP as a party does not consider itself non-Chinese with respect to ethnicity, even though many DPP members are not ethnic Chinese, because most DPP members are ethnic Chinese. Most DPP members are genuinely concerned with the tragedy in China - this is a natural reaction that ethnic Chinese, in whatever country, feel for each other. I can tell you that in the US, the Taiwanese and mainland Chinese have really come together in the effort to help the earthquake victims. That the DPP does not feel the same about Burma is understandable. As to those who claim the DPP is trying to score political points with the donation, I doubt it because the DPP had little to gain politically with so little time left in office.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"The KMT does not, nor does any other political party in Taiwan, insist that the people in Taiwan are Han Chinese. Rather, the KMT insists that Taiwan, including all of its diverse residents, is a part of China."

There is a story that Dostoevsky told Turgenev he ought to buy a telescope, that way he'd be better able to better see the Russia he liked to imagine and then write about from Paris. What are you talking about? The KMT has been pounding it into the minds of the Taiwanese that they are Han Chinese for 50 years. They forgot to tell them about 300+ years of Han and Aboriginal intermarriage, or about how China first tried to sell Taiwan back to the Dutch in 1683 and then deserted it in 1895, or of 212 years of absolutely incompetent rule between. The numbers speak loudly enough: 159 uprisings in 212 years, or the saying: "Every three years an uprising, every five a rebellion." In my opinion, there are very few "ethnic Chinese" here in Taiwan.

"That the DPP does not feel the same about Burma is understandable." I heard an estimate that 134,000 Burmese had already died, and that two million were displaced as of today. How is this understandable?

Winston L. said...

With your definition of "Han Chinese", most people on mainland China would not be Han Chinese either.

I don't recall that Kerr ever provided a cite to authority for his quote: "Every three years an uprising, every five a rebellion."

"I heard an estimate that 134,000 Burmese had already died, and that two million were displaced as of today. How is this understandable?" It's understandable because the Taiwanese are not Burmese.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Oh no, I took the quote out of Roy, but yeah, sure, he could've very well been quoting Kerr. It isn't necessary for Kerr "[to provide] a cite to authority for his quote" or even possible. Who cares where it comes from? It is relevant, as it shows that historically the Taiwanese didn't give a fig for "being a part of China", as the "KMT insists".

Reeb said...

Mainly, I'm concerned that he's in way over his head with the Chinese.

Patrick, I feel exactly the same way.

Exacerbating this problem is the severe financial mess that is unwinding on Wall St. The US financial system is about to have a major hiccup in the next few days/weeks/months. (both a bond market crisis and derivative market unwind). Taiwan and Ma are not going to be prepared for this. I fear this turmoil may even be the window of opportunity for China to finally make their move on Taiwan. What to do.....

-marc

btw, a great US economic website is marketticker

Every day there is a new "ticker". It is very insightful. The forums also have several very sharp investor types. I like to read the daily ticker feedback, breaking news and rumors. Globaleconomicanalysis is also good.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Thanks Marc,

They're both good sites. I think you can throw in a failed Olympics on top of everything else to really put China in the right mood for kicking Taiwan around.

BTW, the Taipei Times ran an article in its weekend section on the spoiled brats of Taiwan's music scene, and how they're hoping to cash in on the earthquake to promote themselves in China: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2008/05/23/2003412640

It's interesting to see has-been Wu Bai out there, sucking up (he also played at the inauguration). If he really wants to make a comeback, he ought to dump all that electronic crap from his recent albums and just simplify. This BMW doesn't really seem to go with the image either.

Anonymous said...

Why is every white men in Taiwan I know so anti-China/anti-Han Chinese and pro "Taiwanization"? Perhaps it is because you guys enjoy the benefits of being white in Taiwan's western worshipping culture and don't want those privileges to be taken away once the people here recognize their Chinese heritage and regain their self confidence.

What makes you think you have the right to speak on the issue anyway? Are you a citizen of Taiwan? Have you served in Taiwan's military, assumed the civic duties of the citizens here? If not, why do you suppose you are entitled to opine on the identity and fate of the people of Taiwan? The question of Taiwan is for the people of Taiwan to decide.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"What makes you think you have the right to speak on the issue anyway?"

I have the right to speak on the issue simply because I feel like it. If that's not enough for you, you might want to peruse the Constitution of Taiwan:

"Chapter II. Rights and Duties of the People Article 11: The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing and publication."

Just in case you do not think that Article 11 should extend to "white men" like myself, check this out:

"Chapter I: General Provisions Article 5 There shall be equality among the various racial groups IN the Republic of China [Taiwan]."

You've written that "Perhaps it is because you guys enjoy the benefits of being white in Taiwan's western worshipping culture and don't want those privileges to be taken away once the people here recognize their Chinese heritage and regain their self confidence."

In all honesty, I don't care if Taiwan is "[W]estern worshipping" or not. In addition, I wish with all my heart Taiwanese people can gain confidence from their identity. After all, both my wife and daughter were born in this country. Why would I want them to feel anything but proud of this fact? But I think deriving pride from a supposed Chinese heritage is misguided, mainly because this is fighting the truth. The truth is that 88 percent of Taiwanese people have some Aboriginal blood. Another 20 percent of Taiwanese are born into transnational families. With a birth rate that is dipping under one, the source of a future population is something to consider. Even when we look at the history of China, with all of its people coming and going, the concept of a Han people as you probably see it, meaning pure or something Taiwanese can derive pride from, is dubious. I put comments on deriving pride from the Han on the same plain as what Nazis espoused over a half century ago.

The US has made a significant contribution to Taiwan. It was the Seventh Fleet and 40 billion dollars in aid (in today's terms) that kept Taiwan out of the hands of the Communists. My own grandfather risked his life flying bombing missions over Taiwan to ferret out the Japanese. These are military contributions that most people in Taiwan would be hard-pressed to match, and easily account for a military contribution from me. Indeed, my grandpa was adamant in saying he served so that his kids and grandkids would not have to. Four years of fighting was more than enough of a down payment in his mind.

Your comments smack of racism or xenophobia at the very least. I am adhering to the Constitution of Taiwan when I say that there is, nonetheless, room for people like you in my Taiwan, even if you are a carpet-bagger that now lives in the US or some other Western nation.

Anonymous said...

You schooled that mofo bad. Classic.

Anonymous said...

The debate happens everywhere. Who are "real" Taiwanese? Who are "real" Canadians? Sarah Palin can tell you about "real" Americans, who live in small towns, trust in God, speak English, want to "win" in Iraq, keep out foreigners, bear arms, and
are "regular" people, unlike others who want to destroy "our way of life" and "take away our freedoms".

Vince, Surrey