Thursday, 11 October 2007

Why should I care about Taiwan's geopolitical future?

A recent exchange on Michael Turton’s blog has caused me to directly address this question. It should be easy enough to answer: Taiwan is a free democracy whose population overwhelmingly desires official international recognition of a de-facto sovereignty. Taiwan is guaranteed catastrophic invasion if independence is officially declared. Historic and legal arguments should, however convincing, be irrelevant.

So why ask the question at all? Because I see little evidence that Taiwanese people really, really care.

Yes, Taiwan continuously tries to enter international bodies. Yes, there is going to be a referendum on the UN question. Yes, there are regular protests and marches against Chinese threats. But how is any standard westerner supposed to know about the convictions of Taiwan’s population? Where is the prolific debate in languages westerners understand?

Where are the regular blanket advertisements in western media? Where are the powerful NGOs loudly making Taiwan's case and vilifying the opposition's factual and moral flaws through well financed journals and websites? Why does Taiwan not have any lobbying influence remotely comparable to The American Israel Public Affairs Committee when the case is magnitudes less equivocal?

Where is the tireless, relentless campaign to reach Chinese people with the truth? Where are Chinese people’s funded opportunities to see reason? What possible hope can there be without this?

Taiwan is a rich country of 23 million people. There are no excuses for their pathetic efforts. When they really start to show that they care, I’ll really start to feel justified in caring myself.

9 comments:

SJL said...

As heart breaking as it is, I know it's the truth. I am glad that you care enough to have this discussion. I swore to become a better writer in English just so I will be able to tell people about Taiwan. Without knowing about Taiwan, it's hard for anyone to care. However, you might not be aware of that Taiwan has this odd low-self esteem as a nation. On the surface, more and more people are saying "I am a proud Taiwanese". However, in the news everyday are all about what and in which area Taiwan fell behind this European country, that Asian country, suffer from this defeat and that rejection. If anyone have thought about making Taiwan's voice heard IN ENGLISH hoping to gear the country towards where it would like to go, that will be me. But, such changes don't take place over night.

The Taiwanese culture is also a culture that uses the punishment of sham. Worse off, there's always this unreasonable, impossible, ever rising standard for perfection. The most obvious is the way people are judged while being educated. I am sure no kids will ever say their English is good, because they are not speaking or using English like native speakers do. No one ever say, "it's ok". On that level, I am sure the nerviness and sense of sham play the part in Taiwanese not take on the voice in English.

There will be a million excuses and reasons for why Taiwan's expressions in English are not being employed; besides all that, I agree with you and I, as a proud Taiwanese, am working on exactly that.

Robert said...

Amen.

Ben, I've written a lot about the same sort of thing.

I don't know how long you've been here, or how long you've followed the developments in the ever-maddening Taiwan saga ("clusterf*ck" rather), but you might be in the same boat as me: trying to make heads or tails of what seems like an intentional disregard for common sense (which could also be what many Taiwanese officials perceive as common sense).

I've been asking myself a lot of the same questions lately....

Robert said...

SJL,

I admire what you're doing.

I hope someday, I can speak Chinese as well as you speak English so that maybe I can get some answers for why exactly people are (not) doing what they are/should be doing.

Despite the fact that so much is yet to be done, I feel like awareness of Taiwan is increasing around the world.

Let me know if I can help you with anything.

Ben Findlay said...

Sjl, good luck and keep going! It's people like you who have to take the lead.

Hopefully the Taiwanese government and - even better - rich Taiwanese will start throwing real money at the cause as China's slow raising of the stakes becomes more apparent.

Anonymous said...

The most urgent threat to Taiwan is in Taiwan

In his recent blog Ben Findlay wrote Why should I care about Taiwan's geopolitical future?, in which he talked about his observation on the lack of Taiwanese effort on the international platform:


Yes, Taiwan continuously tries to enter international bodies. Yes, there is going to be a referendum on the UN question. Yes, there are regular protests and marches against Chinese threats. But how is any standard westerner supposed to know about the convictions of Taiwan’s population? Where is the prolific debate in languages westerners understand?

Where are the regular blanket advertisements in western media? Where are the powerful NGOs loudly making Taiwan's case and vilifying the opposition's factual and moral flaws through well financed journals and websites? Why does Taiwan not have any lobbying influence remotely comparable to The American Israel Public Affairs Committee when the case is magnitudes less equivocal?

Where is the tireless, relentless campaign to reach Chinese people with the truth? Where are Chinese people’s funded opportunities to see reason? What possible hope can there be without this?



and what he learned from the above observation is:



I see little evidence that Taiwanese people really, really care.



thus an approach he follows:


Taiwan is a rich country of 23 million people. There are no excuses for their pathetic efforts. When they really start to show that they care, I’ll really start to feel justified in caring myself.



I totally agree with Ben on the lack of Taiwanese-launched international campaign. We do need to promote ourselves on the international platform. Many people, Taiwanese or not, do see this.

However, how people respond to this existing weakness depends on how much they know about Taiwan.

Many people don't understand that the most urgent threat Taiwan has been facing is not PRC military threat or any other lack-of-support from foreign countries, but the political struggle inside. There are still huge pro-china population (like KMT) in Taiwan, who rather see Taiwan as a sub-culture of China and treat Taiwanese as secondary citizens. In a sense those pro-china people in Taiwan serve as front soldiers of China. It's this infight that we have to win first. If we lose this fight to KMT, then don't have to wait for the PRC coming, we will go right back to a society in which Taiwanese are always discriminated.

Therefore we spend most of our resources at where we need most, that is, to spread the Taiwanese consciousness to our own people. There's no way we could put this nearby day-to-day threat aside to spend too much time and resources on far remote campaign.

And this is not an easy task. Think about how long it takes for brain-washed people to change their minds that have been with them since childhood. Simply asking a person to change his attitude toward his wife is not easy, if even possible. And we are talking about "mind change" of a whole country that has been brain washed for decades! This certainly limits the ability to educate more people for handling international issues.

That doesn't mean that we didn't try. Check out FAPA (http://www.fapa.org). It is one of the most influential lobbying groups in the US, second only to the Israel group. It plays a very crucial role in helping US understand the real struggle Taiwan has. Many Taiwan-friendly bills wouldn't have passed in US congress without the long time effort of FAPA.

People who know a little about Taiwan should have already learned this. Judging from Ben Findlay's question "Why does Taiwan not have any lobbying influence remotely comparable to The American Israel Public Affairs Committee", it seems to me that he is not even aware of FAPA.

In fact, it's in those long time foreign campaigns like FAPA has been doing when we realized where our real obstacle is. When we are fighting China's diplomatic suppression and international indifference up front, those pro-China people from Taiwan are pulling our legs from behind. These "pulling-legs" people include those who serve in Taiwan's diplomatic offices oversea, in which they are supposed to follow (DPP) government's orders. Many foreign friends are confused by "two versions of Taiwan" and don't know how to help. A lot of effort is thus wasted. Anyone who has observed Taiwan closely should have also known that whenever Taiwan's government launch a global campaign, those pan-bluers just jump right out to do it in the opposite way. That's how we realized that we have to reach a domestic consensus (i.e., to end the infight) before any effective international campaign can be done.

So this is where we are -- fighting hard for the domestic consensus and don't have enough resources and people to campaign in foreign platform effectively.

Ben's observation is right, lacking more international campaign is our weakness at this moment. But his response to the observed weakness is not appreciated. For one thing, this is not a new issue. People who have been fighting for a better Taiwan all know about this weakness, especially those fighting for Taiwan in the international stage.

Secondly, people who know better about Taiwan understand the difficulty involved and the priority we are facing, therefore know that a pure criticizing talk like Ben's is not gonna help. After all, it's always easy to criticize at the phenomena at its face value, but it's much much harder to get hands dirty to really spend time contributing.

In fact, instead of criticizing at the phenomena on its surface, some choose to jump in to write and speak for Taiwan using the advantage that common Taiwanese lack -- English speaking and composition ability -- to fill in the blank for Taiwan. Examples can be found in this blog and many others like Michael Turton, ah-Gu, ... etc. These are the people who are doing something helpful.
Labels: International campaign


posted Sunday, October 14, 2007 @ 11:00 AM by Taiwan Echo

Ben Findlay said...

Thanks, A very useful response.

I am and was aware of FAPA but still don't think much of the results in comparison to the cause. I doubt you do either.

I don't feel I have the knowledge, understanding or long term commitment necessary to feel comfortable fighting on Taiwan's behalf. I appreciate the efforts others make and will perhaps join them in due course.

How can one preach on Taiwan's injustices if one doesn't even understand the silence of the supposed victims?

You may not appreciate my post but I certainly do appreciate your response.

Taiwan Echo said...

Ben,

I didn't expect that someone copied my entire post into here as a comment. The original post can be seen here

An old post of mine, regarding the domestic fight as the priority, might be helpful to make my point:

"National identity" or "Visitors' convinience"

Although I don't appreciate the approach you pick after you see the problem, the fact that you are participating in all these discussions show you do care. That I appreciate. I do hope that some mutual understanding can be achieved.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I do not really think that proficiency in a language that westerners understand is of utmost importance and seriously, I do not think that itself can deter a nation or a cause. It might help catapult but without a clear direction, proficiency in any language whatsoever is plain useless.

I think Taiwan needs to come to a consensus on what they want, and let the international community take them seriously, for once.

水晶 said...

一沙一世界,一花一天堂,掌中握無限,剎那即永恆 ..................................................