5/04/2012

China versus Taiwan?


A friend pointed out this post to me. I think I'll put up a link to what interested him: http://goo.gl/5dKDG

In a nutshell, the author compares Taiwan to China, using the format of a first-time visitor to these parts and what she walked away with (anger, epiphany, disillusionment, friendship, etc.). The former country is kind of good, the latter is not good at all. Okay. Both the author and the visitor are entitled to their opinions (I am not really trying to argue for a side here). I will say this: the woman he chooses to focus on offers up her own experiences while he does not prefer (see above link) to bring home a certain point of view. Here's a quick list-off of what caught my eye from his side of it (italicized):

China vs. Taiwan is a very interesting comparison

No, it is not. It has been done to death. 

Both share common roots, yet the people are so different (or is it like comparing a mountain to a molehill?)

Well, Taiwan also has a distinctly aboriginal / frontier history. I'm no expert, but I think China has something like fifty-five different cultures, at least according to the official line. Back to Taiwan: I do know this is controversial, but many think that since Taiwan in her history had a closed door to female immigration from China (from the late 1600s until around the start of the 1800s, it was basically illegal for Chinese women to come here), most Taiwanese people have aboriginal DNA. The molehill in this analogy is Taiwan; this will only serve to annoy. 

I'm not surprised by her experience, but I wonder, if she wasn't a white girl, how the experience would be like. Fact is, being white in this part of the world sparks a lot of interest and emotions among some of the locals: curiosity, contempt, interest, despise, admiration, mistrust and a mix of positive and negative cliches...

What cliches are you speaking about?

I'm speaking from my own experience. 

The author is male. I'm not saying men and women cannot experience the same stuff. Her experience, as a female, has been stressed by the author though. 

I'm not really liking the "yet the people are so very different" twist either because I come away with this take after reading the post, based on the set-up: we are supposed to see Taiwan and China as the same at the start. If not, the post doesn't really have a reason for existing. "Yet the people are so very different" looks like a story-telling technique. It has this tone: "I know what you were thinking and have thought, but are you ready for this? Get ready to have your eyes opened!"

For me, Taiwan's distinctness isn't much of a shocker. After all, China and Taiwan have been separated for 117 years (politically, that is -- an argument could be made that the separation dates back further), so it should go without saying they do not share exactly the same culture and by extension, behavior. If the author has posted up because some Taiwanese people and some Chinese people look similar and are able to communicate with each other, that could also seem problematic, especially in this transnational world we live in, where lines grow increasingly blurred.

I suggested to the author, who is from Slovenia, that he might not really enjoy it too much if a non-Slovenian were to set up camp and go about inviting the rest of us to talk about how Slovenians are distinguishable or indistinguishable from other peoples of the former Yugoslavia, or even Soviet Union. What I really meant to say is this: if the author had brought up his own experience, whether in Taiwan, China or back in Slovenia, a more honest and enlightening piece of work might have ensued. How I engage people still needs work. 

The blog author closes out with a few questions. Here are three: Do you think what she [the girl who may be white] wrote is generally true or too subjective? Do you think what she wrote is generally true or too subjective [let's have another go]? Did you find it interesting?

a.) Do you think it is generally true? I don't know -- what's the point? I have brought my response over to my own blog because I don't really feel like running the gauntlet of censors at another site. Having said this, I rarely comment on other blogs these days. There are about five or six that I read on a normal basis. This post was brought to my attention; in all truth, I don't know anything about the guy posting other than what I was told when it was pointed out to me.
b.) Do you think what she wrote is too subjective [OK, let's have another go at this]? No. It's just a series of anecdotes. Most of us can appreciate a good anecdote and recognize it for what it is.
c.) Did you find it interesting? Meh.

8 comments:

MKL said...

You didn't find it interesting, yet you wrote a full review of my post on your blog. Contradictory much? :)

Who writes a long review, if he's "meh" about something? I would never write reviews about your posts on my blog, as I don't find them interesting.

I think your idea of Taiwan is purely of religious nature, completely ideological and dismissing all the internal and regional complexities (you put strong focus on the early Han settlers and the Japanese occupation, but disregard most of the rest).

I don't really feel like running the gauntlet of censors at another site

I have a commenting policy, but I do not censor views, that differ with mine. You can always comment and criticize, if it's not offensive, I don't care. And you can compare Slovenia with whichever country, I told you, I don't care about that as well.

I don't know anything about the guy posting other than what I was told when it was pointed out to me.

This part I don't believe you. You definitely checked my posts and I'm sure you know, that I'm one of the most famous bloggers about Taiwan. You've been following me on Twitter way before my comparison post. Your envy flatters me.

Anyway, thanks for this post, it put a smile on my face.

Anonymous said...

Hi Patrick! This is my first time visiting your blog. I've lived in TW and actually know both of the people you referenced in your post, so that's why I'm chiming in here.

I'm not trying to be antagonistic, but what are you getting at? It seems to be that you're arguing that MKL's review is derivative and vague, without doing much to correct the perceived deficiency - namely by adding some substance. It's pretty easy to be critical ("Meh," "Series of anecdotes," etc.) but much harder to be both critical and ameliorative. If one accepts your original argument we're dangerously close to "copy of a copy" material here.

I only say these things (attempting not to come off as some annoying internet troll) because I happen to think the comparison between the PRC and the ROC to be a pretty fruitful one. Most Westerners are simple unaware of TW's existence, as I'm sure you know. They believe it to be "China" or "part of China," or in some crazy instances (which have happened to me far too often) they think it's Thailand! So, I believe any exercise in a little compare and contrast to be a very worthy endeavor - and the debate that results (such as MKL's – and even this thread itself) to be evidence of said worth.

Anyway, hope this didn't come off as too snarky. All the best!

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I have a commenting policy, but I do not censor views, that differ with mine. You can always comment and criticize, if it's not offensive, I don't care."

I agree with your policy then. I don't often get involved in making comments on blogs (other than shoot-the-breeze stuff with friends). I do read a few, as I have already pointed out, but that's the extent of it. Having said that, I have encountered one or two posts since 2006 (when I started to blog) that got under my skin. When I posted about why, I was censored. This is the second time I have liberated my response to my own blog.

"You definitely checked my posts and I'm sure you know, that I'm one of the most famous bloggers about Taiwan. You've been following me on Twitter way before my comparison post."

a.) James pointed you out to me. I am happy you are bringing to light Taiwan's culture (in your own way). I have read through a few of your posts, but I suppose I should read some more before I sign off.

b.) I will "follow" anyone who comes to my attention as a Taiwan-based blogger on Twitter. The only time I am ever on Twitter is to post up tweet photos (which is something I constantly do from my iPhone) or provide links. It doesn't go much further than that.

Ideology doesn't register here. To me, it's a worn out word, a relic from the cold war if you will. I don't even think I remember what it means now, come to think of it. Here's the plain and simple: I focus on early settlers from China, the Japanese colonial era (it was not an occupation because Taiwan was ceded to Japan and that is just a fact, not ideology), aborigines, early immigration, the Dutch colonial era or what have you because I studied these topics in school; in other words, they interest me. This blog exists for the amusement of the blog author. I have made the mandate clear in the past.

"Your envy flatters me."

If flattery, real or imagined, works on you, then that's cool.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I only say these things (attempting not to come off as some annoying internet troll) because I happen to think the comparison between the PRC and the ROC to be a pretty fruitful one. Most Westerners are simple unaware of TW's existence, as I'm sure you know. They believe it to be "China" or "part of China," or in some crazy instances (which have happened to me far too often) they think it's Thailand!"

a.) I thought it was tiresome. That's why I responded. I am just speaking against a propensity to boil things down (he's at it again v. me, see "you only write about ideology, etc." which is fine / bugger me all you want because I think it's funny.)

b.) I have some anecdotal evidence for Taiwan being mixed up with Thailand. But can you quantify "Most Westerners are simple unaware of TW's existence, as I'm sure you know. They believe it to be 'China' or 'part of China?'" I think you are exaggerating here with the "most" part.

James said...

@Anonymous: Both of the people he references? He doesn't actually reference me but I can't think who else you can mean.

You've lived here and you know me and MKL? Perhaps you mean in passing as I am pretty sure I don't know anyone who knows him.

Of people who are no longer on our dear Ilha Formosa, I can think of but one who I don't know enough about for it to be possible. If you are said individual, then I can understand why you might have wanted to remain anonymous but I still find this cloak and dagger stuff pretty lame.

I'm not mentioned by name in the original post. Patrick then outs me (not that I care - it wouldn't have been to hard to figure out) yet you say you know us while hiding behind some anonymous handle. Each to their own ...

'I'm one of the most famous bloggers about Taiwan'

Oh, get a grip man. Yes, yes you are. So?

I'd be a liar if I said I didn't envy the amount of traffic you get but, at the same time, I'd never post some of fluff you do.

That's me, though. I know Patrick fairly well and you are way off the mark if you think he is envious of your success. This space of his is just for him to hold forth on anything that tickles his fancy and he has never been that fussed about the number of hits he gets. You simply can't blog in the way he does and expect the kind of response that you get.

I also know for a fact that he visits your blog even less frequently than I do - and the post in question was the first time I'd stopped by in a long time.

I wonder if you're for real with your 'famous blogger' crap sometimes. Maybe it's my default, self-deprecatory Britishness but it's all rather cringeworthy, old bean.

James said...

typos: 'While we're at it, I don't (find) anything at all contradictory about discussing something one doesn't find interesting.

'10 or ' = '10 of'

'peaked' = (cough) 'piqued'

It's early on a Monday ....

James said...

bizarre: that last post refers to one that didn't get through - twice.

Let's try again: I didn't really get the point of Patrick's post here.

That said, I don't find anything contradictory about discussing something one doesn't find interesting, even in depth.

I think we are conflating 'interested in' - in a very narrow sense - with 'interesting'. Following MKL's brand of luoji, a film review lambasting a movie as awfully dull means the reviewer, paradoxically, finds it interesting. (check this hatchet job on Damien Hirst, for example. Are we seriously saying the critic finds his work 'interesting'?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/may/22/damien-hirst-two-weeks-review)

Horses for courses, I suppose, but I think MKL has a cheek talking about 'interesting' posts. I have never found anything on his blog anywhere near as interesting as some of the posts I've seen on Patrick's. Why? Because I've never come away with anything I didn't already know, except, perhaps, MKL's take on those things, which is almost never original, incisive or particularly engaging.

Some Taiwanese amateur historians clearly feel Patrick does a decent job with some of his posts, too, and I'll wager he's slightly more 'interested' in their opinions.

Hoisting MKL by his own petard, he falls foul of his own argument in the sentence that follows it. ;) His post might not be a 'review' but what is a review, after all, other than an extended reponse (particularly in a blog format)?

MKL, you can keep harping on about your 'famous blogger' status til the cows come home. Apart from the comments section, which sometimes throws up some worthwhile banter, and the odd dicussion designed to provoke a bit of debate, your own, original input is usually pretty insipid.

But if interest can be held as inversely proportionate to accuracy, then your comments on the Japanese influence in Taiwan are absolutely fascinating. :)

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Let's try again: I didn't really get the point of Patrick's post here."

I felt he was being deliberately provocative in order to stir something up and bring attention to himself. How he was doing it (them v. us) was to me negative and inviting of a bunch of b.s. I liberated my second answer to my own blog because I don't like being shouted at. Plus I had no use for how he was handling things.

He was pretty much begging for responses (see the last three questions before he signed off). Then, when I didn't fawn and give him the kind of response he was looking for, he went bat shit. My answering of those three questions seems to have had the biggest effect too.

I was also wondering about the "meh" part. I will address stuff that doesn't excite me for lots of reasons. Why should I only care about something that interests me and that is well-stated? I might just say to myself "Well done. I have nothing to add," and leave it at that.