Why are Taiwanese so violent???

Recently, DPP protesters attacked a Chinese envoy visiting a Confucius temple in Southern Taiwan, causing not only great embarrassment for President Ma, but also the entire Taiwanese people.

Fist fights, shouting matches, physical threats … and now this.  Are these signs of a vigorous democracy or an immature – perhaps violent society?

Here is an English account of the latest incident from AP News:

Angry protesters in southern Taiwan assaulted an envoy from rival China on Tuesday, part of an escalating reaction by the pro-independence opposition to President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy of greater engagement with Beijing.

The attack on Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait is a personal embarrassment to Ma, who has made closer economic and political ties with the communist mainland the centerpiece of his new administration.

In Tuesday’s attack, about a dozen protesters surrounded Zhang at a Confucian temple in the southern city of Tainan, then knocked him to the ground while shouting anti-communist and pro-independence slogans.

“Taiwan does not belong to China,” protesters shouted.

Zhang was helped to his feet by an escort and rushed to a waiting vehicle. He cut his visit short and back to China on Wednesday.

The assault attracted a strong response from China, although Beijing was careful not to discount Ma’s efforts to push for closer mainland ties.

“We express strong indignation and fiercely condemn such barbaric acts of violence, and demand severe punishment for the troublemakers,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Yet it also said the incident “cannot block the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”

Zhang is a well-recognized figure in Taiwan. He was formerly the spokesman for Beijing on Taiwan affairs, often depicted on Taiwanese television as making strident comments that many Taiwanese regarded as offensive.

The attack on Zhang comes several weeks before a more significant visit by Chen Yun-lin, Zhang’s boss and the point man in pushing for unity across the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait.

That visit is supposed to provide tangible evidence of reduced tensions between Taipei and Beijing and give Ma’s program of greater engagement with the mainland a big boost.

Promises of better relations with China helped propel Ma’s Nationalists to an overwhelming victory in legislative elections in January, and the presidential poll two months later.

But since then, the bloom on the China rose has faded, as Ma’s promises of a brighter economic day have largely fizzled, and Taiwanese have watched in dismay as health inspectors have stripped supermarket shelves of a succession of tainted Chinese food products.

Tuesday’s assault on Zhang reflected a profound lack of agreement among Taiwanese on how relations with China should proceed, said political scientist Hsu Yung-ming of Taipei’s Soochow University.

“Ma should have first sought consensus within Taiwan on cross-strait policies instead of zealously pushing forward his policy of close exchanges with (the mainland),” he said. “Now there can be more conflict when other Chinese envoys visit.”

On Saturday, Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party is scheduled to hold a mass rally in Taipei to support its claims that that Ma’s China policies are undermining Taiwan’s sovereignty and putting the island’s de facto independence and its democratic political system at risk.

The DPP is particularly miffed at Ma’s readiness to compromise with China on symbols that Chen put at the forefront of his own pro-independence administration — particularly his insistence that the island should be referred to officially as “Taiwan” rather than the Nationalists’ “Republic of China” formulation.

The rally is seen as a litmus test of whether Ma can ride out the current wave of DPP-led China discontent, or whether his ambitious attempts to dampen one of the post-World War II world’s most enduring political conflicts will come up short.

A large crowd — say in excess of 150,000 — would provide ballast to the DPP’s claims that Ma is out of touch with Taiwanese opinion, while a smaller turnout would suggest that notwithstanding Tuesday’s incident in Tainan, the new president is well on course.

We’ll keep you updated on the rally this weekend.

181 thoughts on “Why are Taiwanese so violent???

  1. Several points:

    First, legislative fights are almost always staged. You know because the legislators call and ask the cameras to come for them most of the time. It’s just to try to get attention, and rarely does anyone really get hurt.

    Second: the harassment (and likely pushing) of Zhang was over the line by my standard, but must be understood in context. Zhang is the kind of guy who came to Taiwan and said “there won’t be a war as long as there’s no Taiwanese Independence.” This is both official Chinese policy — and a direct threat. When you go to Tainan, which is basically the heart of anti-annexation sentiment, these threats of violence really are likely to result in at least a protest, and maybe a shoving match. But remember China is the one constantly threatening to wage war on Taiwan. Remember: “Taiwan does not belong to China,” protesters shouted.

    Third: on the whole, Taiwanese are remarkably NON-violent. You could walk around at night with NT$10,000 hanging out your fly and looking completely drunk, and nobody would do jack shit to you. If you check the violent crime statistics, I’m sure this this can be proven. I am going to go do that now, but wanted to post the point first.

  2. US State Department’s advice on visiting Taiwan: “Although the overall violent crime rate in Taiwan is relatively low, travelers should avoid high crime areas, such as areas where massage parlors, illegal ‘barbershops,’ and illegal ‘nightclubs’ run by criminals prevail.”

    Number of Chinese tourists assaulted (excluding Zhang Mingqing, a government official): Basically zero?

    And Taiwanese statistics from here: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=3231

    Murders per 100,000.
    1. Russia Federation 18.07
    2. United States 6.32
    3. Malaysia 2.73
    Taiwan 1.17
    Spain 1.08
    Japan 0.58

    Rape per 100,000.
    1. United States 34.20
    2. England and Wales 14.69
    3. France 13.38
    Taiwan 8.82
    South Korea 4.38
    Spain 3.23
    Japan 1.48

    Serious Assault per 100,000.
    1. Australia 713.68
    2. England & Wales 405.20
    3. United States 357.94
    Taiwan 37.30
    Spain 23.94
    Japan 15.40

    Robbery/Violent Theft per 100,000.
    1. Spain 169.85
    2. United States 169.02
    3. France 144.10
    Taiwan 14.35
    South Korea 11.74
    Japan 2.71

    (It’s tough to find numbers from China on these things: http://www.chinalawblog.com/2006/05/china_crime_by_the_numbers_and.html )

  3. As A-gu points out, Taiwan is hardly as violent as Allen apparently believes. In fact, having lived for several years in both Beijing and Taipei, I’ve always felt that violence (street, domestic, political – you name it) is a much bigger problem in China than in Taiwan. Perhaps Allen’s question should have been, “Why do some Taiwanese hate the CCP so much?” Much more to the point, don’t you think?

  4. The real question should be: Why violent politiks can prevail in Taiwan, or Why Taiwanese accept showboating hooliganian politiks, staged or not.

    In US, or China, any politcians started a physical altercation in public, his political career would be over. They dont even dare to swear in public.

    This is not a question for DPP only, its a question for the other side also. When A-Bian got kicked in the ass, or condemned to “go eat shit” on TV, pan blue people thought it was hilarious.

    Probably you can find a glimpse of the answer from the two Taiwan apologists above. “Taiwan is victim of China!!! so anything is allowed…”

  5. @MoneyBall “The real question should be: Why violent politiks can prevail in Taiwan, or Why Taiwanese accept showboating hooliganian politiks, staged or not.”

    This is a very interesting question and I’m not sure exactly what the answer is. The origins of violent showboating is basically that early on in Taiwan’s democratization, the DPP voice was so feeble in the legislature and media that fighting was one of the only ways they could get attention and hope to accomplish something. Also, I think the politicians were much more ideological at that time.

    Of course, those days are more or less gone, and I think the showboating just stuck around as a sort of relic. Perhaps it remains popular because Taiwanese people so often suppress political discussions among friends to prevent arguments, that the showboating fights are a kind of outlet. Like professional wrestling or something.

    Please also note I did not act as an apologist for the man who likely pushed Zhang. He went over the line. Nor am I acting as an apologist for Zhang’s threats of violence. I’m just suggesting you can’t examine the incident without understanding any context.

  6. I cannot believe that this one incident warrants suggesting that Taiwanese society is immature and violent. Allen, what are you talking about?!

  7. Why are these people so violent?

    1. lack of intelligence
    2. lack of education
    3. lack of morals
    4. lack of good jobs
    5. lack of good income

    These Taiwan bigots are easily fooled by the likes of Chen Shui-bian; they are equivalent to southern hicks you see in the USA.

  8. “… physical assault cannot be justified. Taiwan is a country of laws and brooks no violence to achieve political objectives.

    Thousands of Chinese have visited Taiwan since July 4, when policies allowing a greater number of Chinese to enter the country were implemented. Not once have we heard reports of Chinese being assaulted verbally or physically by their hosts.

    Zhang, therefore, was the exception, and the reason he was targeted has far more to do with his track record on Taiwan than blind hatred for Chinese.”

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2008/10/23/2003426711

  9. I think this jossling of visiting officials by protesters to be unseemly and uncivilised, and most certainly does nothing to aid their cause, but I do not think it has anything to say about Taiwanese society in general except that the political divisions run deep.

    It might also be instructive to those who wish to blame this on a kind of fanaticisim exclusive to Taiwan to think about the violence which is occasionally offered to Taiwanese by mainlanders – the children who were assaulted merely for displaying an ROC flag at a swimming event for example.

    Taiwan can be a violent place if you get mixed up with the local hoods (who are expanding into the mainland), but I don’t think that it is unsafe or unfriendly in general. However, if the CCP really wants the friendship of the Taiwanese people, it has much work to do.

  10. Allen, was it confirmed that they were all members of the DPP? There are people who support formal Taiwanese independence but are not members of any party, or of different organisations.

    Arguably this official wasn’t pushed – I didn’t see any hands that touched his body just before he fell. As A-gu says, the “confrontation” was a bit rough but Taiwan is still very safe. If you want to allege that Taiwanese are violent because of this, what should we say about Chinese people given the mass riots and arson attacks on buildings in Chinese cities that we see each year?

  11. I enjoy watching the female politicians hitting each other in public on TV. It is better than the female wrestlers in US as they’re staged. It busts the thousand years of tradition of nice, civilized, silent, obedient image of a Chinese female. Two thumbs up, ladies!

    If they have younger politicians (a lot of good-looking female students from Taiwan when I went to grad. school in US), we should have a popular TV show or at least one hour in Taiwan’s Most Funniest Video.

    Samples:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY68au9Rztk

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo-TajmBr1s&feature=related

    Hong Kong/Singapore ladies, it is better to get your anger out of your system with a nice fist fight than spending hundreds with a psychologist.

  12. @Raj

    “this official wasn’t pushed – I didn’t see any hands that touched his body”

    of course you didn’t, of course … what was the chinese saying? Your ass decides where your head is ….

    “If you want to allege that Taiwanese are violent because of this, what should we say about Chinese people given the mass riots and arson attacks on buildings in Chinese cities that we see each year?”

    When China was criticized, and China defenders brought up more or less equivalent things US did, what was the argument you ‘ve been using hundreds of times? need a hint? LOL this is just too pathetic……

  13. What is the fuss here?

    An old man trips over a tree stump by himself somewhere in Taiwan. Why should this become a major incident? Who cares?

    Even if rightfully outraged citizens over-commit themselves, it was the fault of Zhang Mingqing because he was just itching for a beating, according to the famous words of the founding father of the nation of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian.

    Sarcasm aside, what was wrong with Zhang Mingqing saying that there would be no war unless Taiwan independence is declared? That is a realistic statement of the situation. Everybody knows that. Mainland China has enshrined that in the separation law; America says that it will not provide military help to Taiwan if it should declare independence; even Chen Shui-bian was smart enough not to broach independence while he was the President and therefore the Supreme Commander. Why get upset over Zhang Mingqing for stating the obvious? Why not beat up Chen Shui-bian for not going ahead while being president (and Supreme Commander)?

    The reality is that Wang Bing-yu (the Tainan city legislator) as well as the other DPP candidates needed to get media exposure in order to run for the Tainan city mayoral election. I am sorry to say, but democracy means getting elected by whatever means which means getting any kind of media exposure (and if things don’t work out, you lie such as about the non-existent tree stump in the Confucius Temple plaza).

    This is so obvious that it is not even worthy any discussion.

  14. @andyjh #7,

    I cannot believe that this one incident warrants suggesting that Taiwanese society is immature and violent. Allen, what are you talking about?!

    You are right, if this were the only incident, I’d be guilty of making a mountain out of a molehill…

    Unfortunately, I believe it is more indicative of a broader pattern, and not an exception. In visiting Taiwan, one cannot deny the type of visceral hatred that many pro-independent Taiwanese show toward Mainlanders (and even fellow Taiwanese who are not pro-independent). Their hatred goes beyond any normal sense of logic and comprehensibility.

    I am a Taiwanese and do not believe Taiwan is a violent society (thanks to a-gu for providing the hard facts that backs up my intuition). But when one time I was at a pro-Ma rally that was flanked by several smaller anti-Ma rallies and carelessly got mixed up in the anti-Ma crowd, I could not believe how scared I felt simply because I was wearing the wrong colored hat.

    To be fair, no one laid a hand on me. No one really cursed me per se. But there were gestures, inflamed looks, and demeanor that suggest that things could explode anytime. I felt I had to quickly take my hat off, hide the hat underneath my shirt, and make a quick unceremonious escape before things turn potentially ugly.

    This is not a society I’d want to live, and here is my bottom line.

    I don’t mind having a political discourse with fellow Taiwanese who are pro-independent minded (my father-in-law being an example). But when emotions quickly run so high (the fist fights symbolize that emotion, irrespective of whether they are staged or not), it is almost impossible in real life (this board being an exception) to have substantive, sensible cordial discussions.

    With both my in-laws as well as extended family, we simply have a rule to not discuss politics over meals (it takes just one to spoil a dinner party). Taiwan as a society is not violent yet. But there is the invisible hand of division, hatred, and visceral violence that divide not only the legislators or holders of mass rallies – but also families as well.

    In terms of offering a platform for political discourse, it is my personal opinion that Taiwan’s democracy offers one of the most violent, inflexible, and repressive (no real political discourse) platforms in the world.

  15. Hey Allan, aren’t you Taiwanese? Honestly I wouldn’t say Taiwan is any more violent than Mainland. I’ve seen people drop their bikes and start a fist fight over a little scrape in Shenzhen, and I’ve gotten kicked out of taxi because effing WSR don’t speak Tawanese. But you are right when it comes to politics there are plenty of powder keg type in Taiwan.

    Anyways do we know all the facts? If they guy was harrased by protesters and ended up on the ground, somebody should be arrested. Were any of the protesters arrested for intimidation or disorderly conduct? Ma probably don’t have the reach in southern Taiwan, and local offical probably just turned a blind eye.

    BTW, to comment #1 ““there won’t be a war as long as there’s no Taiwanese Independence.” – the same language exists in US code against Native American independence.

  16. @Stinky Tofu #3,

    Perhaps Allen’s question should have been, “Why do some Taiwanese hate the CCP so much?” Much more to the point, don’t you think?

    Fair enough. I understand that there is Mainland’s anti-secession act, past missile tests, as well as a still developing economy … but I really have yet to understand (in both intellectual as well as emotional terms) why some Taiwanese hate the CCP so much.

    Heck I was raised to hate the CCP and still feel some inner burst of pride when I raise the (now outdated) slogan of 反攻大陆 (militarily take back the Mainland). But even that emotional vestige doesn’t translate into the type of political/emotional/irrational hatred that I seem to see out of pro-independence Taiwanese these days…

  17. Geez, Allen~ when I saw the title of this thread I reckoned you were in the mood to type a lot since it wasn’t “Are Taiwanese violent?” but “Why are Taiwanese so violent???”. Making that assumption with this crowd? Bombs away!! I have a feeling this thread will last awhile… 🙂

    Being that I’m neither Chinese nor Taiwanese so in no position to decide the issue, I try to look at the situation as objectively as possible. This is my take on it:

    1) The Taiwan National Security Council had the responsibility to insure the safety of its guest. This it did not do. From what I read, there were two plainclothes policemen to guard Zhang. That was inadequate and so I fault the Ma administration for not doing its job. Blame should not be placed on local authorities when the visitor was there on government business.
    2) Under no circumstance is a violent attack on a guest in your country warranted, no matter how much you dislike him. The attackers should be prosecuted and convicted if they did what was reported. There were plenty of witnesses so it shouldn’t be difficult to prove one way or the other
    3) An experienced diplomat does not make incendiary statements while visiting an area of a nation that profoundly disagrees with his and his country’s position on war vis-à-vis independence and feels threatened by his country. He was a guest and needed to observe diplomatic protocols. For this needless provocation, I blame Zhang.
    4) Taipei City Councilman and DPP member Wang Ting-yu actively led the attack on Zhang. He should not just be disciplined by his party, but prosecuted if he broke the law. His actions reflect directly on the DPP.

    There is definitely animosity between the KMT and DPP factions, but what I find most interesting and encouraging is that a large segment of the population is independent. They voted for Lee in 1996, Soong in 2000, narrowly for Chen in 2004 and overwhelmingly for Ma in 2008. In a way, they are the silent difference makers in the political scene. They aren’t rabidly pro-unification nor are they pro-independence. They want to concentrate on the economy and quality of life and are not as influenced by the hard line rhetoric on either side.

    Are Taiwanese more violent than other cultures? Not that I ever noticed. As A-gu said, I could walk around Taipei at night, wasted with a wallet full of cash bulging in my pocket and be perfectly safe. There might not be any numbers from China but I also felt completely safe there. My wife could be walking down a dark alley at 3AM in Shanghai and not have to worry at all.

    @MoneyBall #4: I think a recent amendment to the constitution will begin to change what you mentioned. Until recently, the legislature was enormous and filled with many questionable characters, because of a quirk in the system that elected multiple candidates from large districts, so someone who came in 5th might get a seat though he/she was totally unqualified. Now that they have gone to mostly single district elections, congressmen will be held more directly accountable for their actions. It’ll be interesting to see if this city councilman loses his seat in the next election since he is local and not national.
    @A-gu #5: Very well put. Oh, the old Taiwan legislative fights weren’t staged. I know that because my brother in law was a senator back then and once he had a finger broken during a session. I can’t speak for today’s actions, though.
    @bob #5: 1) Intelligence is evenly spread across a population regardless of country. No country is more or less intelligent than another. 2) Taiwan is more educated than most countries. 3) You can make a moral argument and I’m certainly willing to listen, but you didn’t. 4) Taiwan has a better job market than most countries. 5) Taiwan has a higher income than most countries. Note: Every country has its version of “hicks”.
    @Chops #9: Most Taiwanese I met had no problem with Chinese people. However, very few Taiwanese I met respected the Chinese government. Might that explain the difference in behavior?
    @eswn #14: Sarcasm appreciated. 🙂 What was wrong from my point of view was that Zhang was in Taiwan diplomatically representing his country. They are in the earliest stages of direct cross-strait relations and he should have been professional and kept his mouth shut. Making a statement in your own country can be acceptable when making that same statement in another country is not. Sometimes you have to modify the process if you want to achieve the goal.

    A couple of people have mentioned having to speak Taiwanese in the Taipei taxis. My wife can speak Taiwanese but she isn’t comfortable in using it because she is Hakka. But she’s had a few instances when the political climate was “excited” when she had to pull it out from her memory for that reason.

    I read today that Zhang said he had helped Taiwan tourists during the Sichuan earthquake and he was sure they would have been sympathetic. But he made a remark that surprised me. He said they didn’t know how to speak putonghua. Every Taiwanese person I’ve ever met can speak putonghua. Do any of our Taiwanese commentators know if this is true?

  18. Well, thats some inflammatory title. Very catchy.

    From the videos, it looks to me he received a one handed shove toward his left where he collided with someone but he didn’t keep his feet when he stepped back from the collision. But that’s just my opinion. The investigators will figure out what happened and and the media will broad cast a computer generated reenactment of the scene.

    Zhang Mingqing and whoever arranged his trip probably should have used a little bit more brain power before walking him into taiwan independence HQ. This is not to say it’s ok for protesters to engage in aggressive, in-his-face harrassment. And saying Zhang deserved it on national tv, that’s going to hurt later.

    With that out of the way, what’s with this talk of failure of democracy and failure of rule of law? Democracy means that heckling mob (if big enough) can vote someone into office to heckle their point of view on tv. Rule of law means no amount of favors can get a guilty party out of punishment, or pressure an innocent bystander into taking the blame. Democracy won’t apply to this incident for a while and determination on rule of law needs to wait till at least next week to see if anything is being swept under the tree root.

  19. A brutal attack on an old man, whatever his political stance, is ugly and disgusting as it is. There is no whatsoever excuse for it and no civil society should tolerate such babarian behaviour. It merely dragged the infamey of Taiwan politicians to a new low. But what appalls me most is the tolerance and understanding of this kind of midconduct conferred by some speakers in this forum and also Taiwan media.This state of affair sheds a new light on the dark side of Taiwan.

    Why is it so? I don’t think Taiwan is a violant place in general; I’d rather see it as a startling divided community lacking commonly accepted moral values. On one hand some rational people in the North, on the other hand the hooligans from deep and green South. Worse is the babarian culture embeded in the green camp has not been effectively constrained. What we can see is a cowardness of Taiwanese people as a whole.

    But we can also see a historical connection to this – Taiwan is by and large still a rootless society which was only recently transformed from a backward primitive community to a mordern economy. It has no legacy of original values, and importanly no track of an tradition of gentry which carries these moral and cutural values. There is no distinctive element of Taiwanese identity except a struggle for “otherness” from mainland China. What is proud of by many Taiwanese is a democracy, which however becomes a laughing stock as evidenced by the continious political voilance, culminated at this recent disturbing event.

    Failing address their moral standing, Taiwanese do not deserve respect and they have no dignity.

  20. @Li Qiang #20: I agree trying to justify violence against a visitor because of his political affiilation is abhorrent, but from that point on your argument isn’t logical. You’ve fallen into the trap of fallacy of composition.

    Fallacy of composition happens when a person reasons from the characteristics of individual members of a group to a conclusion regarding the characteristics of the entire group (taken as a whole). More formally, the “reasoning” would look something like this.

    Individual K things have characteristics A, B, C, etc.
    Therefore, the (whole) class of K things has characteristics A, B, C, etc.
    This line of reasoning is fallacious because the mere fact that individuals have certain characteristics does not, in itself, guarantee that the group (taken as a whole) has those characteristics.

    I could use the same fallacious argument to condemn every country in the world. It’s a really easy one to fall into, especially when something you read about affects you emotionally.

  21. DDP has done lot of nice work recently. Chen’s money laundrying and his mother’s nice statement “I am not Chinese, do not speak Chinese, received Japanese education, speak Japanese only……”. The people are cerntainly not violent but the politics over there is. Polititians pushing each other, slapping, throwing lunch box, attempted political assassination?……. Quite violent and very extreme indeed. Junior polititians.

  22. @Li Qiang #20

    I stand by the stance that it was not brutal if it’s an attack at all. The verbal support for the actions that ended with an old man lying on the ground is more “brutal”.

    There might be a contradiction with what you’re saying about a rootless Taiwan. There’s a huge volume of support that taiwan society/cultural behavior is rooted in the chinese culture on the mainland. If it is rootless, theres is no need to “struggle for otherness”, taiwan would simply not have that much in common with china. Perhaps more on what you mean by “rootless” and how recently taiwan was a backward primitive community.

    BTW, political violence is not uncommon in a young democracy (unfortunately), it gets out grown eventually (maybe after a generation grows up under the democratic way).

  23. Geez, Steve. Taiwan is a country? Since you are “non Chinese nor Taiwanese and not in a position to decide the issue” what are you doing here? Teaching every one a lesson? A little bow from me to the super. Thank you.

  24. @kui #24: Ad Hominum Fallacy
    Person A makes claim X.
    Person B makes an attack on person A.
    Therefore A’s claim is false.
    The reason why an Ad Hominem of any kind is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made or the quality of the argument being made. This was the basis of your criticism and not a logical argument.

    Li Qiang was disgusted by what happened and spoke from his heart. I respect that and was just pointing out an easy to make error in logic that we all fall into from time to time.

    Since senior PRC diplomats are coming to Taiwan to negotiate a closer relationship that would hopefully lead to eventual reunification, that act acknowledges that China accepts Taiwan as a country “de facto” but would never accept it as a country “de jure”, and would go to war if that happened. They’ve been pretty clear on that. If they did not accept the “de facto” status of Taiwan, there would be no negotiation possible. Who would they negotiate with? A few weeks ago, Ma Ying-jeou said in an interview with the Japanese media, “The Chinese mainland is the territory of the Republic of China.” Does that mean the PRC is not a country? Seems like a country to me, both de facto and de jure.

    Your comment sir, sounded more like an attack against me personally, and whether I should be allowed to comment on this site. Since it seems others have no problem with it, why should you? I can’t vote in Taiwan (my wife can, similar to Allen) nor am I a Chinese citizen, so I have no axe to grind. Do you?

  25. @Steve: “Li Qiang was disgusted by what happened and spoke from his heart. I respect that and was just pointing out an easy to make error in logic that we all fall into from time to time.”

    I’m not so sure. The first part about the attack on an old man – yes, that’s from the heart, and I would respect that. But the rest I’ve heard too much here on the mainland. It’s perfectly OK to stand by the mainland position politically, but I don’t feel much acceptance for viewpoints about Taiwanese culture as being something close to a madhouse. It’s quite common here – people say the most bizarre things about Taiwan (I guess many Taiwanese do the same about the mainland) and how horrible it is, and yet this horrid, wretched hive of villainy must return to the mainland. It doesn’t make much sense.

  26. The violence towards Zhang Mingqing in Tainan is despicable, but not surprising when put in the context. This incident in itself certainly does not lead to the conclusion that Taiwanese are violent. In fact, they are not, as shown by A-Gu’s data, and also based on personal experience.

    I do want to bring up two points. One, China should not have sent Zhang Mingqing, especially not to Tainan, if the intention is to build momentum for the continous warming-up of the cross-strait relationship. He is the wrong guy given his track record from a Taiwanese perspective. I also think that the trip by Chen Yuanling needs to postponed. Taiwan needs to work on building concensus. The ruling party needs to neutralize the opposition to a certain degree if they want their initiative of enhancing cross-strait relationship to be successful. This brings to my second point.

    The Taiwanese society, after 16 years of rule by pro-independance presidents Lee and Chen, has become a deeply divided society, with each side holding rigid and uncompromising ideology. It will take leadership, but also TIME to reverse the trend. The society needs to gradually move to the center, and pan-Green crowd need to come to senses and become more rational. Allen’s person story of not being able to even touch on the topic of mainland-Taiwan relation over dinner is a very telling one. It is unbelievable, but I know it is true because I experience the same problem with a friend of mine who was from Taiwan (south). We were great friends back in school in early 90’s, back then cross-strait relation was never an issue for overseas Chinese, but now it is clearly a problem. Pan-Green people seem to take serious issue with anything or anyone mainland related, with their anger always ready to boil over. Their feelings are clearly irrational, in my view, a result of 16 years of politik of fear and smear in Taiwan.

    I still believe that such anger and deep division in the Taiwanese society is palatable, but it will require leadership, sensitivity, and patience on the part of authority on both sides of the strait. Maybe we can start out by asking a question: “what are the legitimate grievances of the pan-Green crowd against mainlan China?”

  27. There is very very seldomly any legitimate justification for violence. So this incident should be unconditionally repudiated. That it was directed at an older gentleman makes it more emotive, but no more or no less wrong. And in any such violence, the victim should not be blamed, regardless of his nationality, race, creed, or political views. I am curious though, with the guy on an official visit, where was his security detail?

    I think, if this was a pro-independence Taiwanese politician who got roughed up while visiting the mainland, that people wouldn’t be so quick to question “why mainlanders are so violent”. So maybe the rhetoric needs to be dialed down a couple of notches.

    As for Allen claiming this incident to be representative of general Taiwanese society, it should be pointed out that violence directed at an anti-independence figurehead and rampant emotions at a rally against a pro-China politician seem to be sod from a similar source. To suggest that such emotions pervade all Taiwanese in all situations seems to be a gross over-generalization. And since people speak out against over-generalizations of China, so too should they speak out about this.

  28. @Wukailong: I’ve also been puzzled by exactly what you referred to. I’d go out with a bunch of Taiwanese and have a great time. I’d go out with a bunch of Chinese and have a great time. Each would complain about the other, yet both seemed just fine to me. Each group seemed to feel they had nothing in common with the other. One thing I did notice was that mainland Chinese who had immigrated to the States and received their green cards then visited Taiwan, had a much better opinion of Taiwanese than those who had never been there. Maybe now the increased tourism from the mainland will change minds and attitudes? Sometimes when I read comments on this blog that criticize Taiwan, I wonder if the authors have even been there. Was their concept of Taiwanese society strictly conceived through the media?

    Taiwan is a very nice place to live. The terrain is diverse and beautiful and there are so many sites to check out in such a small land area. FOARP and I both loved the mountains east of Miaoli, as steep as anything in Guilin. One difference that is very noticeable comparing the two countries is when you go inside the temples. The ones in China are nice but more like museums. The ones in Taiwan are busy as hell; filled with worshippers praying with the incense sticks coming out of their foreheads, getting their fortunes read, etc. From our condo in Taipei, we would walk a few blocks south for breakfast near Longshan Temple and it was always chock full of people. I felt Taiwanese were a little more indirect than Chinese, not indirect like the Japanese but influenced by them. The further south in Taiwan, the more indirect the culture became.

    Chinese were very direct; more like Americans, to be honest. I thought there was more humor in China, more kidding around, more energy (Shanghai had more energy than any city I’ve ever encountered). I’d also say they were less sophisticated and more serious about life. Thought it might not sound that way from some of the comments on this blog, I felt Chinese were extremely kind and hospitable to me as a visitor to their country. They went out of their way to make sure I enjoyed their land, and were always willing to accompany me anywhere I wanted to visit. One aspect that amazed me in China was that below the humor, there was an underlying pessimism, even among very successful people. When you got them to open up and really talk about their feelings, there was always that feeling that sooner or later things would go wrong and they would not be successful. I think time will cure that attitude. I guess I have more confidence in China than most Taiwanese (excluding Allen) and more confidence in Taiwan than most Chinese.

    You’re right; it doesn’t make much sense. Some of the arguments I’ve heard from mainlanders when putting down Taiwan go directly against the idea that there is only one China.

    A Chinese guy in Shanghai who got along fine with Taiwanese once said something I thought interesting. He said, “When the first Taiwanese came to China, they were in the farming business. They had money but no education and no culture, so Chinese felt that at least they had superior culture and education. The second wave of Taiwanese were manufacturing businessmen. They had education and money but no culture, so the Chinese felt at least they had more culture than these people. The last wave of Taiwanese in China were high tech people, who had education, culture and money, but Chinese still had it in their heads that they were inferior. He thought it was just a matter of time before both sides reconciled with each other but if this blog is any indication, that time hasn’t yet arrived.

    Wukailong; you live in China. How are you treated? Do you feel more in common or more differences? What do you feel is the best way to bridge the differences?

  29. @Li Qiang #20,
    You said,

    On one hand some rational people in the North, on the other hand the hooligans from deep and green South. Worse is the babarian culture embeded in the green camp has not been effectively constrained. What we can see is a cowardness of Taiwanese people as a whole.

    But we can also see a historical connection to this – Taiwan is by and large still a rootless society which was only recently transformed from a backward primitive community to a mordern economy. It has no legacy of original values, and importanly no track of an tradition of gentry which carries these moral and cutural values.

    Failing address their moral standing, Taiwanese do not deserve respect and they have no dignity.

    I think in many ways, you are very insightful – though I don’t quite agree with the last line of your quote above.

    You are right that Taiwanese are on the whole quite passive. Instead of openly challenging DPP “violence” and “vulgarity,” the vast silent majority of Taiwanese have simply chosen to remain passive, quietly shaking their head their living rooms (when they watch the news), allowing the country’s political fiber to atrophy.

    You are also right about Taiwanese lacking “moral and cultural values” (I’d have preferred the simpler and less loaded phrase “cultural standing”). But I don’t think you can blame the Taiwanese entirely. In some ways the DPP is right, the history of modern Taiwan is nothing but that of a “pawn” of great powers surrounding the island.

    Taiwan’s identity has changed over the last century from an impoverished, peripheral Chinese outpost – to a Japanese colony – to a “province” ruled by a paranoid “Chinese government” (at war with its much larger nemesis and desperate about keeping its last province) – to a major limelight in international geopolitics (between the West and China).

    Living in a country that is not quite a “country,” few young people in Taiwan today grow up cultivating the moral spine or turpitude to dream or make a difference. Having seen their parents worked so hard and sacrificed so much only to be disillusioned, many young people have become cynical, preferring to focus instead on simple materialism and the latest pop fashions. Many of the most capable and young are either working on the Mainland or in America.

    Sometimes, I think the independence movement may be nothing more than power hungry men trying to satisfy their ego by playing the only game that Taiwan can play – a game of geopolitics between U.S. and China?

    I don’t know…

    In any case, this is Taiwan of today – a shadow of a potentially strong and proud people that can help China gloriously usher in a Chinese century but has remained too confused to do so. It is sad … but it is my people.

  30. The irony is that, if Li Qiang buys the party line, then they’re HIS people too. And he’s not showing a lot of tolerance for them. And I wonder if one could accurately replace “Taiwanese” with “Tibetan” in his statements, and not lose any fidelity insofar as representing his general sentiments.

  31. Come on folks, give me a break. You think that city legislator Wang really has personal grudge against mainland China? He’d be the first one jump on the bandwagon to hug that panda when given chance. Lai Xing Yuan, former member of New TW Alliance, used to be vicious as a snake spitting at China 7X24, now her scene changed, she’s behaving herself like a cute kitty. These people are politicians, they lie in their dreams. Faith and belief is not their job, convincing you that they are on your side is. Navie people who “feel for Wang” is the reason that this kind of hooliganian showboating politiks are so popular in Taiwan.

    This is why democracy can go so wrong sometimes, because the electorate can be TOO stupid.

  32. @Allen: “In any case, this is Taiwan of today – a shadow of a potentially strong and proud people that can help China gloriously usher in a Chinese century but has remained too confused to do so. It is sad … but it is my people.”

    It’s very sad to me that you see Taiwan’s only proper role as helping usher in a Chinese century, or see moves in any other direction as “confused.”

  33. Those taiwanese are certainly violent bastards! They should learn from the example of their completely peace-loving compatriots on the other side of the strait!

  34. @A-gu #34,

    It’s very sad to me that you see Taiwan’s only proper role as helping usher in a Chinese century, or see moves in any other direction as “confused.”

    No … not the ONLY role – but one of Taiwan’s golden opportunities (I won’t apologize since I have warned you that I am an “ultra nationalist”!).

    As for the “confused” part, I didn’t mean to say the DPP supporters are “confused” (although that is a tempting thought…), only that Taiwanese as a whole have been “confused” (e.g. paralysis in politics, legislature, etc.).

  35. @ Moneyball

    of course you didn’t, of course … what was the chinese saying? Your ass decides where your head is …

    We have a saying too – put your money where your mouth is. I.e. if you saw some hands push him over, show us a link to the video and post the time where hands pushed him over. Go on, I’d like to see these invisible hands.

    When China was criticized, and China defenders brought up more or less equivalent things US did, what was the argument you ‘ve been using hundreds of times? need a hint?

    What the hell are you drivelling about? Criticism of things that go on in China/done by China is not the same as using a single example of a number of people hustling a foreign official as evidence that an entire people are violent.

    No one is saying that what happened was ok because Chinese are “more” violent. The point I was making was that taking a single example of violence in Taiwan and then asking the question “why are Taiwanese so violent???” would be no different from taking a single example of urban unrest in China and asking “why are Chinese so violent?” If someone did that here you would accuse them of racism and having an anti-China agenda immediately.

  36. @ EugeneZ

    Taiwan needs to work on building concensus. The ruling party needs to neutralize the opposition to a certain degree if they want their initiative of enhancing cross-strait relationship to be successful.

    Your idea of building consensus involves neutralising those who don’t agree with you? Surely that defeats the entire point of building consensus. Also using the word “neutralise” is a bit ominous. I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that so perhaps you could reiterate your point a little bit more clearly?

    Pan-Green people seem to take serious issue with anything or anyone mainland related, with their anger always ready to boil over. Their feelings are clearly irrational, in my view, a result of 16 years of politik of fear and smear in Taiwan.

    Well Taiwan keeps getting threatened by China. China keeps defeating Taiwan’s attempts to have meaningful interaction with foreign organisations that it would benefit from being a member of. China sells dodgy food-products to Taiwan. There’s plenty to be annoyed about from their perspective. You fail to realise that not just “pan-green” people are annoyed about China – many independent and even “pan-blue” supporters are unhappy. Just because Ma was elected does not mean everyone who voted for him loves China and has no complaints.

    Also the KMT have their own role to play in this. Did you ever stop to think that after decades of repression the DPP and allies don’t trust them? That when they keep talking about “re-unification” they don’t take the official line about no unification without democracy, etc and that they might honestly suspect the KMT will do a deal with the CCP that will ensure permanent KMT rule? China has plenty of fingers in the HK political pie and that doesn’t encourage most Taiwanese, let alone the DPP, that promises made so far would mean anything.

    You complain about former President Lee, but his term in office was pretty much the only properly democratic KMT one before the DPP came to power. In opposition the KMT repeatedly tried to frustrate the DPP’s attempts to rule, even trying to stage a “soft coup” after the 2004 election. The KMT have not tried to co-operate with the DPP in the past, so why should the DPP now assume that the KMT’s motives are all honourable?

    The DPP will only trust the KMT and CCP after both parties have stopped trying to suppress it and years have gone by where genuine goodwill has been demonstrated. It’s not down to paranoia, it’s down to decades of experience.

  37. No Steve. Did not mean to launch any personal attack. I do not agree with you. This is one country ruled by 2 governments. Each government claims to be the rightful ruler of the country. DDP is only a clown in the game. The real players are KMD and CCP. They killed each other in the past and only become a little bit more civilised recently. Hopefully they will make more progress and one day they could coexist. Then people of China can celebrate a 2 party system. From what I observed, the CCP is quite flexible. They had abandoned communism and what else they can not do? Moving too fast is dangerous and changes will take time to happen. I expect CCP to make lots of changes to itself but I donot think they should change too fast. Do not you notice one common ground? Neither the CCP nor the KMD want to split the country? Bill Clinton once said the problem was created by history and should be left to history. Do not you think so?
    Since you have a Taiwanese wife you certainly know that in Chinese culture there is no “de facto” relationship. Nagotiation is always possible when there are 2 parties who want to resolve the problem peacefully.

  38. @ kui

    Since you have a Taiwanese wife you certainly know that in Chinese culture there is no “de facto” relationship.

    Why should Taiwan be bound by Chinese culture? Culture can be set aside to deal with a situation pragmatically. Taiwan’s independence is effective and that has to be recognised by China, whether in public or private.

  39. Allen: “Why are the Taiwanese so violent??” I’m a little disappointed by the title of the article, it sets a table for confrontation rather than conciliation or understanding. I like that contributors to FM generally use thought provoking rather than attention grabbing headers. The discourse here is a temperate reprieve from the shouting and finger-pointing at other sites. Maybe I’ve just had it with media in general, haha.

  40. @Ted #42, @Steve #18, @cephaloless #19, @Raj #38 (and others…):

    About that “catchy” title – I am actually flattered that you all thought it’s attention grabbing! But to be honest, I didn’t mean it to be. I have observed Taiwan’s brand of violent and vulgar politics for a while … and this latest event simply tipped me over enough to ask this question that’s on my mind for a while.

    @Raj (and others): I am not trying to conclude Taiwanese are violent simply because of this one event. I know a lot of Taiwanese are fed up with the violent and chaotic nature of their politics (this being the latest example) in Taiwan for the last decade, and was simply writing about something that I think a lot of Taiwanese have on their mind…

    One rampage does not make a society violent. But it is an opportunity for self reflection. Think of this piece as a short critique – not a headline attention grabber.

    So why am I writing a self critical piece on a “China” board? I know there are many Taiwanese reading here. I know there are many Mainlanders here. It’s a good opportunity for the two people to discuss something that is controversial but not too high-stakes together.

  41. @Raj #39,

    Taiwan needs to work on building concensus. The ruling party needs to neutralize the opposition to a certain degree if they want their initiative of enhancing cross-strait relationship to be successful.

    Your idea of building consensus involves neutralising those who don’t agree with you? Surely that defeats the entire point of building consensus.

    I had a different take on the choice of the word “neutralize.” In a democratic political context, “neutralizing” the opposing simply means addressing the legitimate grievances of opposing sides’ supporters. I don’t see what’s wrong with neutralizing DPP by addressing the legitimate grievances held by DPP supporters (although I personally do not know what that might be).

    Perhaps we interpreted differently the term because you are reading the word “neutralize” in a military context (e.g. neutralizing a military target) while I am taking it in its political context?

  42. Allen

    But to be honest, I didn’t mean it to be.

    Well, be more specific. As I said to Moneyball, if the situation were that a Taiwanese blogger were writing on yet another riot in a Chinese city and said “why are the Chinese so violent???” I doubt the response from Chinese visitors would be as restrained as the responses to this post have been.

    And I’m not sure how you can just be talking about politics if one of your questions is “Are these signs of a vigorous democracy or an immature – perhaps violent society?”

    ++++

    Perhaps we interpreted differently the term because you are reading the word “neutralize” in a military context (e.g. neutralizing a military target) while I am taking it in its political context?

    I wasn’t thinking about a military context, but given the KMT’s repressive history it is a somewhat inappropriate and perhaps insensitive term to use. Also, politically the KMT could do plenty to harm the DPP other than by merely addressing voter grievances. For example, it could gerrymander electoral districts. Not that I am saying the KMT will do that, but again given the history it isn’t a good word to use.

  43. @Allen

    I’ve only heard of “neutralize” in the political context describing disappearances, blackmail, assassination, etc. In a democracy, the two sides reach a “consensus” by each giving ground, exchange favors, and whatever else they do that voters may or may not find acceptable. So I also have a problem with talk of neutralizing the opposition. Addressing the legitimate grievances of opposing sides’ supporters is an example of giving ground which eventually leads to consensus. Neutralizing would be jailing the opponent so they can’t disagree with you.

    I’m as tired of violence in the political arena of taiwan as much as anybody else so I applaud your effort to bring it up for discussion. But the title, since you don’t mean it to be just catchy, doesn’t really do it. In fact, I get the feeling that some of the comments took off from the title as a spring board and only emphasized the violence of the taiwanese (like some taiwnese bashing). That’s actually expected anyway but a more direct title would at least focus the bashing on the political arena and leave society alone.

    And I’ve said before, young democracies can be a little rough. If the government is a young (new) democracy, it was fought for by people who aren’t afraid of confrontations and making noise. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get the previous (pre-democratic) regime to back off and play by the new rules. Some of these guys are too revolutionary to sit in a gentleman’s government and continue to be confrontational and make noise in a bad way. One of the posts above mention new laws that’ll help filter the legislature of the wilder elements and I trust the violence weary majority to have a big hand in not voting them back in. Thats not going to stop all of them. So, short of jailing them if they break the law in new noisy protests, we just have to wait till they’re too old to lead marches (hopefully in the next generation when todays babies grow up and register to vote but know nothing about the old guy hollering about meaningless reform).

  44. @kui #40: I surely don’t mind at all if you disagree with me, but you put forth no argument or even a position. You asked a question, and then wanted to know what I was doing here; (sarcastically?) implying I was teaching everyone a lesson, and finally a “bow to the super”. How is that not a personal attack? In what way did you attack the message and not the messenger? How do I reply when there was nothing to reply to?

    This reply has an argument from your point of view, so now we can discuss our ideas and opinions. I agree with you that the CCP has made a lot of changes and will continue to do so. I also agree that changing too fast would create chaos. I said back in 1989 that China wasn’t ready for democracy and it would have been a disaster because there was no underlying legal system and democratic structure to support it. Democracy, if desired, can only develop successfully from the bottom up, not from the top down.

    The CCP has been very flexible economically. They gradually moved from a static system to a more dynamic system over the last 20 years. That system change has allowed hundreds of millions of people to improve their lives, and is very commendable. They have abandoned economic communism to a great degree. I’m not as quick as some to condemn the environmental excesses. I can’t think of any country which industrialized without going through the same process. I’m sure China will clean itself up over the coming years, since it is in their interest to do so.

    After this we diverge in our thinking. The “One China” policy is observed by both Chinese and Taiwanese governments. It is a principle with two interpretations. The CCP interpretation is that China is both China and Taiwan with the CCP as the sole legitimate government, and the KMT’s interpretation is that China is both China and Taiwan with the ROC as the sole legitimate government. The PRC slightly revised their interpretation in the Anti-Secession Law of 2005, when it said there is one China whose sovereignty is indivisible, but did not explicitly identify this China with the PRC. The goal of the “one China” doctrine is to eventually unite the two countries under a single government. The word “country” has no specific diplomatic meaning. “Sovereign” is the key word here. You can just as easily say “geographic regions” as you could “countries”. Using the word “country” is fine, but using the phrase “separate country” is unacceptable to China, and also currently unacceptable to the ROC. You might have felt I was saying “separate country” but I was not; I’m guessing you assumed it.

    The DPP has won two of the past three presidential elections, so I don’t think you can write them off as a player yet. Their current popularity is low, but recently Ma’s popularity has cratered. Saying the “DPP is only a clown in the game” without saying why doesn’t give me much to work with. The DPP and KMT aren’t important, what is important is whether the PRC is able to give the Taiwanese people a “reason to buy” into a reunification. Once they do that, peaceful reunification would be able to advance, probably as a series of steps to an end result. I don’t agree with your sentence, “Neither the CCP nor the KMD want to split the country?” The country is already split; how can you reunify if you are not split to begin with? Don’t you think they both want to eventually reunify and heal the split?

    Yes, I agree with Bill Clinton and I assume with you. History will eventually solve this problem.

    I’m not sure how having a wife from Taiwan has anything to do with a “de facto” relationship. What I do know is that the only way possible for the PRC to negotiate with Taiwan is for there to be a “de facto” relationship, though no “de jure” status would ever be recognized on either side. Who would the PRC negotiate with? They did not negotiate with the Chen administration because they felt he would only use the negotiations to increase his support in Taiwan and justify his move towards independence, so they felt it was not in the PRC’s best interest. I happen to agree with them on this point; because of the animosity involved, I don’t think either side would have negotiated in good faith.

    These days, are they not negotiating with Ma’s government? How could they do this if they believe no “de facto” government exists? It is in the PRC’s best interest to treat Ma’s government “de facto” because it furthers China’s goals.

    kui, you wonder why I have an interest in this issue if I am not Chinese or Taiwanese? Maybe it’s because I hate wars, maybe it’s because historically small wars can turn into big wars and kill millions of people, maybe it’s because I don’t want to see my children or grandchildren die on the other side of the world fighting for a cause that has nothing to do with my country’s sovereignty, maybe I care enough about the people in both China and Taiwan (including relatives in Taiwan and many friends in both countries) to hope their disagreements never devolve into massive loss of life. As a political problem, it is very complex and not given to superficial analysis. The negotiations won’t be simple, they won’t take a couple of years and be done with, perceptions and attitudes on both sides will need to change. Batting it around on a blog won’t change those circumstances, but it might change a few perceptions and attitudes to allow some compromise in the future so war and the horror of war can be averted.

  45. @Allen #45, Raj #46, cephaloless #48: Allen, I knew what you meant when you used the word “neutralize” and didn’t take offense to it at all, but its political meaning has actually been used lately in analyzing the Russian political atmosphere. Putin and Medvedev’s recent election has “politically neutralized” the opposition, which means it has used its governmental control to reduce them into becoming a non-factor in Russian politics. It definitely has a negative connotation, meaning there is no longer a “buffer zone” between the party in power and the people. A party not in power can take discontent and use it in a positive way to try and regain power. When no viable party exists for that purpose, the only methods of expressing discontent are strikes, demonstrations, terrorism or revolution.

  46. @Allen,

    Thank you. You can read my mind (my post for sure) !! When I used the word “neutralize”, I may have picked the wrong word to use for the purpose, but I did mean “addressing the opposition’s legitimate grievance”, I did not mean “making them disappear”. I think people can figure that out if they read my whole post. I actually talked about the need for sensitivity by KMT and Mainland governments in dealing with Pan-Green. I am first to admit that I can use more of that starting with myself since I am from mainland. The anger on Pan-Green’s part against mainland China and mainland Chinese is very highly inflated, like the housing market 2 years ago, we all need to be more sensitive about this.

    I also ended my post with the question “what are the legitimate grievances of the Pan-Green crowd?” If someone can articulate that with a calm tone, I would really appreciate it. I have lost friends because of this issue, and Allen can not talk about things freely at his dinner table at home. There are serious issues there, so, please, let us hear some calm, rational voices from the Pan-Green side.

  47. @Allen #15

    You said something very interesting and emphatic, Allen.

    This is not a society I’d want to live, and here is my bottom line. …

    In terms of offering a platform for political discourse, it is my personal opinion that Taiwan’s democracy offers one of the most violent, inflexible, and repressive (no real political discourse) platforms in the world.

    This took me back to Seattle and numerous conversations with my Taiwanese friends now living in Seattle. My friends have emphatically said the same thing (with slight variations), “I don’t want to live in Taiwan any more!” or “Seattle is my home now. I don’t want to go back and live there anymore.” They would not tell me why at first. I just knew that their emphatic, forceful statements told me a lot. My mind thought, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.”

    Eventually, they would tell me that they consider Taiwanese to be mean and cruel, especially the workplace. They would come to visit, but that is it. Some would tell me that they felt that various family members were very cruel to them. But there is one talk which has been burned into my heart and brain.

    One of my friends, who I will call Jane, is very categorical about never wanting to go back to Taiwan. Well, one day Jane was talking to me about her “Chinglish”. She is very well spoken, but occasionally stutteringly grasps for English words or mispronounces words. Well, she started to stutter. I told her it was ok, not a big thing. Then Jane started to cry and even sob. I was afraid I had offended her. After she stopped her sobbing, she told me about her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. They have ridiculed her for stuttering and mispronunciations. Jane obviously has been traumatized by her experiences in Taiwan, which may include more than the ridicule. I just don’t know.

    I have several close Taiwanese friends living here in Taipei. One or two of them have indicated to me that they have strongly considered leaving Taiwan altogether. They have not told me why.

    So Allen, you are Taiwanese and living in America. What is your take on this? I am just curious.

    I live here in Taipei, and feel comfortable and safe. But I am not Chinese/Taiwanese. I don’t have family here. I am not married to a Chinese woman or don’t have a Chinese girlfriend. I am retired so I am not in the workplace. I don’t speak much Mandarin. I can’t read or write Mandarin. So it is hard for me to get a realistic grip on this.

  48. @kui #24
    @Steve #25

    Since you are “non Chinese nor Taiwanese and not in a position to decide the issue” what are you doing here? Teaching every one a lesson?

    A tad bit sarcastic and presumptive aren’t we, kui? Ad hominem attacks tell us more about the attacker than the attackee. And what, pray tell, do you know of Steve’s interest in Taiwan in the first place.

    That said, it is probably better to be honest in the hopes that dialog progresses, which it seems to have later in this blog. Thanks.

    Steve, well said in #25.

  49. EugeneZ

    “what are the legitimate grievances of the Pan-Green crowd?”

    I’m not Taiwanese, but I guess they would be:

    *China refusing to accept that Taiwan is effectively independent.
    *China refusing to rule out war to resolve the problem.
    *China refusing to negotiate without Taiwan accepting it is a part of China.
    *China blocking access to international organisations like the WHO (and I’m talking about direct communication, not just membership).

    *The KMT clinging on to hundreds of millions of dollars (US) in assets that should be Taiwan’s.
    *KMT refusal to put cross-Strait agreements to a referendum.
    *KMT attempts to subvert the democratic process by having their local level officials ignore instructions from the central electoral commission during national elections.
    *KMT referrals to the ROC and not Taiwan as being a country. They see that as evidence the KMT want unification and will not respect the views of Taiwanese if they conflict.

    Can’t think of anything else at the moment.

  50. Oh, and perhaps other domestic matters like the KMT keeping preferential rates of deposit interest for civil servants, which costs the country billions of dollars to shore up KMT support – civil servants traditionally voting for the KMT.

  51. @Raj #25

    Hmmm… Curious. Would you please expound a bit on this? This almost sounds like using taxpayer money to buy the support and loyalty of the civil servants. How many and what perscentage of civil servants take advantage of this, how much civil servants’ money is on deposit and what is the differential on the interest rates?

    … KMT keeping preferential rates of deposit interest for civil servants, which costs the country billions of dollars to shore up KMT support – civil servants traditionally voting for the KMT.

  52. @Jerry,

    “Using taxpayer money to buy the support and loyalty of the civil servants” is EXACTLY what the KMT plan was. Massive, massive bribe. Here is some background on the so called “18% savings interest rate” plan, which the military, teachers and civil servents could take advantage of (the three pillars of society you’d need to keep happy in order to maintain your political monopoly, basically). It’s slowly being phased out now, which is obviously good, but the KMT won’t kill it yet.

    http://taiwanreview.nat.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=23389&CtNode=128
    “A key contributor to the post-retirement income raise is a preferential 18 percent savings interest rate available to retired military personnel, civil servants and teachers. This high interest rate was designed in the late 1950s to assure reasonable economic security to government retirees who earned comparatively less than other professions. The government made up the difference between the actual bank rates and the 18 percent. The policy has now been limited to apply only to years of service prior to 1995, but retirees well into the next decade will still have a lot of pre-1995 service years. And given that current bank deposit interest rates hover between 1 and 2 percent, the government is facing a serious financial burden in bridging the interest gap.”

    You can do some searches on this and gain more information. Here’s just one article about how much of a problem this 18% savings rate is causing in terms of money:
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2006/12/02/2003338773

  53. Beside Japan and Singapore, most countries in Asia are corrupt, so why single out Taiwan.

    If we included the hidden assets of the corrupt politicians and their friends/relatives, we would have more on top 100 richest people in the world. Go Asia! Taiwan has its good share.

    If we spent only half in weapons and bribery, most Asian countries should be on top 50 richest countries in the world. Again, go Asia!

  54. Here is an update on the protest – for those interested (Reuters article). DPP has been trying to flame up Anti-Mainland feelings on heel of the public fear/anxiety about dairy import from the Mainland – this being the latest result.

    As for the vulgarity of it all, the tone of the article is actually quite tame. But even here, it mentioned one protest banner depicting Ma’s Nationalist Party and the Communist Party of China as two dogs having sex. Such is the tenor of Taiwanese democracy.

  55. @Raj,

    Thanks for listing out the “Green Grievances”. It would be better for the discussion, at least more credible if you were Taiwanese, better yet one of the Pan-Green who has to live through these grievances day in and day out. Having said that, I still would like to comment as follows:

    (1.) The greivances against KMT are easy to handle. Taiwan has a democratic political system and process, so these grievances can be and should be addressed through a vote. Simply vote them out of office just as the American people are about to do in 10 days – to vote the Republicans out of Oval office and the congress because they have caused a lot of grief for American people.

    (2.) The grievances against China or China’s Taiwan policies are much harder to deal with. I think there is a valid point that the government on Mainland should take a longer term view, have more self-confidence, become more patient in trying to achieve reunification, and as a result, can and should show more flexibility, sensitivity, and overall adopt a softer approach towards all people in Taiwan. After all, things are going in the right direction for China. China is on the rise economically, and is becoming a more open (and less repressive) society, over time, the Taiwan independance cause will die out, slowly but surely. Fifty years from today, the strength of Taiwan indepedance movement will be as strong as the movement for Alaska indepedance in America today.

  56. To Allen re: Reuters article:
    I can’t remember who wrote it, nor which thread it was in, but someone had thrown out 200K as a number of demonstrators that might legitimize the anti-China sentiment. So I would say 500K, if independently verified, might qualify as a strong demonstration of that sentiment, at least by that metric.

    The dog banner does sound colourful. However, i wouldn’t equate that with the tenor of Taiwanese democracy, though it might represent the tenor of that particular protest. Mind you, Taiwanese legislators have fist-fights, throw shoes, and spit on one another, all in the chambers of government, so I would agree that Taiwanese democracy is certainly colourful, probably all the time.

    I found Ma’s spokeman’s statement interesting, in that he feels ROC is a “sovereign, independent country”. I’m starting to get confused with the semantics of those 3 words, but hopefully no one is launching missiles just yet.

  57. EugeneZ

    Simply vote them out of office just as the American people are about to do in 10 days

    That’s possible on the national level (i.e. for the president), but if the legislative under KMT control cleverly gerrymanders the districts and bribes certain groups what can the remainder do to oust them from the legislative? The task is still possible, but it remains much more difficult especially as there is still over three years left to run and a lot of laws can be passed in the meantime. The KMT will still have all that money until they lose the legislative and the presidency – but arguably it will be very difficult to shift them from the former until they don’t that much cash to throw around.

    S.K. Cheung

    I can’t remember who wrote it, nor which thread it was in, but someone had thrown out 200K as a number of demonstrators that might legitimize the anti-China sentiment. So I would say 500K, if independently verified, might qualify as a strong demonstration of that sentiment, at least by that metric.

    I don’t think there is anyone “independent” to verify it. A-gu has the following summaries.

    *Huashi TV said 600,000.
    *Formosa TV said 600,000.
    *TVBS said 500,000.
    *ERA said 400,000.
    *The Police said 200,000 (though they always under-estimate numbers in almost any country).

    Those figures are good and mostly better than what the DPP hoped for.

    I found Ma’s spokeman’s statement interesting, in that he feels ROC is a “sovereign, independent country”. I’m starting to get confused with the semantics of those 3 words, but hopefully no one is launching missiles just yet.

    I think that former president Chen used to say the same (maybe even about Taiwan) too. Nothing happened then either.

    TonyP4

    Beside Japan and Singapore, most countries in Asia are corrupt, so why single out Taiwan.

    I would have to say that Singapore lacks proper democracy and freedom of speech. The ruling party tends to drag anyone off to the court (where they almost always win) if they criticise them too much. The one time they lost in the Privy Council they abolished the right to appeal there. Would an open, democratic and clean party do that? I don’t think so. Only people who have something to hide would block appeals to an outside, independent court.

    That lack of oversight means that I don’t think we can be so sure about the true level of corruption there.

  58. A-gu #57,

    “Using taxpayer money to buy the support and loyalty of the civil servants” is EXACTLY what the KMT plan was. Massive, massive bribe.

    Without getting into the merits of the program, I just want to object a little to your use of the term “massive, massive bribe.”

    What does that really mean? If the government provide a program that is costly and that benefit too disproportionately a few people, you can definitely voice opinion against it. But to call it “bribe” (an especially emotionally charged word in Taiwanese politics) seems just a cheap shot.

    I mean … should we call all gov’t benefits bribes? Is social security a bribe? Is universal health care a bribe? Is peace and security a bribe? Are good roads a bribe? Is political stability a bribe? Is a prosperous economy a bribe?

  59. Given that China is the side threatening to attack Taiwan and continue murdering Taiwanese until Taipei submits to Beijing, I’d say the Chinese are the violent ones.

    I also find ESWN’s coverage of this thing, and all the other anti-DPP stuff he has posted recently, rather pathetic. He largely ignores Taiwan except when the opportunity arises to turn a negative lens on the DPP, and then he goes into overdrive. KMT shenanigans never get mentioned.

    And ESWN’s fixation on a treeroot. . . Is the absence of a treeroot evidence that he didn’t trip? I don’t get it. . . He could have tripped with or without a treeroot. . . He was clearly getting chased backwards and in danger of losing his balance, even on perfectly flat ground. Whether there was a treeroot, a trip on flat ground, or a push seems sort of beside the point. “An aggressive crowd chased him backwards and caused him to fall”. That seems to describe the incident regardless of the petty details of treeroots and what not. Of course ESWN is obsessed with their having been no treeroot because this: 1 – ‘proves’ he was pushed, and 2 – ‘proves’ the DPP lies. Get a life ESWN!

    And the the business about the ‘punch’? I haven’t seen the full footage. Every clip ends where there is supposedly contact between a hand and the guy’s head. I have not seen footage of the Chinese envoy reacting to this blow. Until I see footage showing his head getting knocked around I’ll be skeptical as to whether that was a punch.

    Obviously not nice to knock the old guy over like that.

    But really, he is not a nice old man. He’s an evil war-mongering shit sack who thinks he can threaten Taiwanese with wholesale murder one day and turn up and get the VIP treatment the next. I hope Taiwanese harass each and every pro-murder-of-Taiwanese Chinese government official that visits their nation.

  60. To RUMman:
    wow, i’m expecting you’ll get some bites on #65. I would only say that, nice guy or not, old or not, war-mongering or not, he doesn’t deserve to be physically assaulted (if that actually did occur).

    “And ESWN’s fixation on a treeroot” – LOL. Maybe we can call it the “Immaculate Treeroot” as a nod to Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception; or maybe “the Treeroot of God” like Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” “goal” (which of course was a blatant hand ball, which is also why FIFA needs to wake up to the 20th century and allow video reviews, but I digress…) in that World Cup final (1986?).

  61. To Raj,

    “I would have to say that Singapore lacks proper democracy and freedom of speech. The ruling party tends to drag anyone off to the court (where they almost always win) if they criticise them too much. The one time they lost in the Privy Council they abolished the right to appeal there. Would an open, democratic and clean party do that? I don’t think so. Only people who have something to hide would block appeals to an outside, independent court. That lack of oversight means that I don’t think we can be so sure about the true level of corruption there.”

    http://www.transparency.org/news_room/in_focus/2008/cpi2008/cpi_2008_table

    Transparent International ‘s 2008 Corruption Preception Index table, Singapore is ranked #4 as the Most not-corrupted country in the world, HongKong #12, Japan #18, China #72.

    And guess what, the so called “the biggest democracy in the word” —- India, ranked #85, even worse than China, the biggest corruption indeed, Talk about “proper democracy and freedom of speech”.

    So why don’t ya go worry about that big piece of shit land first.

  62. Transparent International ’s 2008 Corruption Preception Index table

    Note the word “perception”. That’s a subjective, not objective term. And that’s the whole point that I was making. Singapore is seen as having very little corruption but the lack of oversight means we don’t know whether, for example, it should be listed fourth, tenth or a bit lower still. There is disagreement over the figures, as in 2007 that organisation ranked India and China at the same level – but in 2007 the World Bank’s governance indicators put India ahead in controlling corruption. There are no 2008 numbers yet, sadly.

    Of course corruption could be a lot worse there – it is better than most of its neighbours.

    So why don’t ya go worry about that big piece of shit land first.

    How about you not start being racist?

  63. Allen

    I mean … should we call all gov’t benefits bribes?

    No, because they’re usually handed out to benefit people that need them – or they at least benefit most people, including those who really need it. Civil servants do not need massively higher rates of interest on their deposits – those who could do with help saving don’t get it. So, no all government benefits should not be called bribes and yes it is fair to call this particular benefit a bribe.

  64. “I would have to say that Singapore lacks [proper democracy] and freedom of speech.”

    As they say in Singapore, “No money, No “proper” democracy, lah.”
    Money talks and ……walks…..he who has the gold makes the rules….blah blah blah….

    October 22, 2008 10:20 PM
    2008 contests for White House and Congress add up to the most expensive
    U.S. election in history

    WASHINGTON — The 2008 election for president and Congress is not only one of the most closely watched U.S. elections in years; it’s also the most expensive in history. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimates that more than $5.3 billion will go toward financing the federal contests upcoming on Nov. 4.

  65. “Note the word “perception”. That’s a subjective, not objective term. And that’s the whole point that I was making”

    what nonsense, every rank out there is based on perception, every rank is subjective, find one “objective” rank for me, is it made by God?

    “How about you not start being racist?”

    Why is calling India shit land racist? since when telling it as what it is is racist? check this out, http://cache.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/worldlook/1/193345.shtml .
    now tell me what word you want to put in ( ) to the sentence of “India is a big piece of ( ) land”.

  66. what nonsense, every rank out there is based on perception, every rank is subjective, find one “objective” rank for me

    Lol, you’re talking rubbish. Plenty of rankings deal with hard data, like the number of children who pass exams, the size of a prizon population, number of executions, etc. They might not be flawless but they’re based on data rather than opinion.

    Why is calling India shit land racist? since when telling it as what it is is racist?

    So there’s nothing good about India? Nothing positive at all? If you believe that, then you are racist. If you don’t then don’t use such a negative term.

    now tell me what word you want to put in ( ) to the sentence of “India is a big piece of ( ) land”

    I wouldn’t put any word there because it’s terrible English.

  67. Nobody

    As they say in Singapore, “No money, No “proper” democracy, lah.”
    Money talks and ……walks…..he who has the gold makes the rules….blah blah blah….

    October 22, 2008 10:20 PM
    2008 contests for White House and Congress add up to the most expensive
    U.S. election in history

    That’s all very interesting, but it is still the case that in the US the opposition parties can criticise the incumbant administration without getting dragged off to the courts, being (virtually guaranteed) made bankrupt for “defamation” and then being blocked from running for political office as happens frequently in Singapore.

  68. @Raj #69,

    I mean … should we call all gov’t benefits bribes?

    No, because they’re usually handed out to benefit people that need them – or they at least benefit most people, including those who really need it. Civil servants do not need massively higher rates of interest on their deposits – those who could do with help saving don’t get it. So, no all government benefits should not be called bribes and yes it is fair to call this particular benefit a bribe.

    Why should civil servants not need massively higher rates of interests? It is just another benefit? In the U.S., gov’t workers, including military people, get very, very cushy benefits – retirement, banking services, loans for housing, health insurance, etc. Are those benefits bribes?

    Should we call gov’t benefits you don’t like “bribes”?

  69. @Raj #54, A-gu #58,

    1. China refusing to accept that Taiwan is effectively independent.
    2. China refusing to rule out war to resolve the problem.
    3. China refusing to negotiate without Taiwan accepting it is a part of China.
    4. China blocking access to international organisations like the WHO (and I’m talking about direct communication, not just membership).

    5. The KMT clinging on to hundreds of millions of dollars (US) in assets that should be Taiwan’s.
    6. KMT refusal to put cross-Strait agreements to a referendum.
    7. KMT attempts to subvert the democratic process by having their local level officials ignore instructions from the central electoral commission during national elections.
    8. KMT referrals to the ROC and not Taiwan as being a country. They see that as evidence the KMT want unification and will not respect the views of Taiwanese if they conflict.

    Note: I’ve added numbering.

    I hope this is just a list of “grievances” and not a list of positions/demands. Because if it’s just a list of DPP positions/demands, I don’t think there is no solution here….

    Regarding 1-3, 6, and 8, we need to find if there are any reasons behind 1-3, 6, and 8. For example, if there are specific concerns about closer integration, we can address those.

    If there is none, and this is simply identity politics (Taiwanese nationalism) – then really, there is nothing to do except to wait things out, and if there is still no resolution, then have a civil war either between north and south Taiwanese or between the Mainlanders and Taiwanese.

    I’ve mentioned this before, many people on this board mocked me, but this is really a civil war issue. And we could yet go to war again over issues such as those listed in 1-3, 6, and 8.

    Regarding issues like 4, we should address mechanisms on how Taiwan can get the benefits of interacting with international organizations through China’s membership instead of irrationally claiming it must join as a new member as a sovereign country. Taiwan should not play political football with the health of its people. It needs refrain from a otherwise perfectly workable one-China framework.

    Regarding issues like 5 and 7, it’s really not worth my time to address such political spitballs (there are so many, and I have so much more accusations I can put here against the DPP but won’t, because it would simply divert from the core issues being discussed here). But to the extent 5 & 7 represent legitimate concerns, they are legal issues that can be addressed in the courts.

  70. I ran this by my wife for a pan-Green Taiwanese person’s point of view. To put her comments in context for non-Taiwanese, there are four group identifications in Taiwan; Aborigine, Taiwanese, Hakka and KMT. My wife is Hakka (kejia ren) and her family has been in the Miaoli County area for over 200 years. She is currently an independent and felt Chen betrayed his party. I’ll list these in two parts as Raj did and number them per Allen’s suggestion:

    1-China’s attitude towards the Taiwanese people. When mainland Chinese bring up the Taiwan question, they have no interest in Taiwanese opinion. For them, there is nothing to discuss and either Taiwan eventually joins China or China destroys Taiwan. She feels this is rude, disrespectful and simplistic. Negotiation is a discussion between two parties, not inflexible demands by one.
    2-China’s refusal to allow Taiwan any diplomatic space. When Germany was split, each side was represented in the UN. Thought Korea is split, each side is represented in the UN. The WHO deals with health issues and is a humanitarian organization. In the past, China has not only kept Taiwan out, but has not promptly shared information with the Taiwanese health officials though it is their responsibility to do so if they are truly representing Taiwan as they say. She feels China’s diplomatic hard line attitude only intensifies negative feeling among many Taiwanese, and Taiwan membership in these organizations would not go against eventual reunification but actually create warmer feelings towards China among the Taiwan people.
    3-China’s lack of quality control in their industrial and agricultural processes. She feels neither their food nor industrial products are safe, yet these products are exported to Taiwan and poison the Taiwanese.
    4-China’s massive corruption in both government and business. How can China rule Taiwan when its own government is corrupt? How can corruption in China be exposed when the government actively uses its power to cover it up except when it benefits the ruling clique? How can Chinese companies do business in Taiwan when their current method of doing business revolves around “hong bao”? Won’t this increase corruption in Taiwan?
    5-KMT was purely obstructionist during Chen’s administration. They did not vote to benefit Taiwan but only to make Chen lose face. This hurt Taiwan’s business, defense and infrastructure interests for eight years. No matter the issue, the retort was always “blame Chen”.
    6-KMT tried to stage a “soft coup” after the 2004 election to usurp the vote of the Taiwan people. They really don’t believe in democracy. They make up conspiracy theories and incite the people with them without offering any proof.
    7-KMT is the party of Jiang Jieshi, a mass murderer whose dictatorship left the Taiwanese without basic human rights for thirty years. It’s structure is Leninist and designed around a one party government. It is the same party structure as the CCP. Note: In my experience, Jiang is typically hated by Taiwanese and beloved by diehard KMT members. The same goes for Song Meiling. As soon as Jiang died, she left Taiwan to live in NY.
    8-KMT as currently led by Ma Yingjiu has no party discipline. The party members don’t listen to Ma. Ma has no backbone, either in dealing with his party, the economy or with China. He promised to improve the economy but under his administration, it has been a disaster. He makes concessions to China but gets nothing in return.

    Allen, these aren’t positions or demands. They are the opinions of one person.

    Everyone, that one person is not me so don’t direct any comments at me or at my wife. She’s not part of our group and has no idea her comments are being posted, or she wouldn’t have given them to me in the first place. She doesn’t get into political arguments with others or even in her own family because she listens and asks questions. She tends to keep her opinions to herself. EugeneZ had asked for honest opinions so here is one to bat around.

    To understand her opinions, I’ll tell who she supported since the time of Jiang Jieshi and why.

    She felt Jiang Jingguo was better than his father. He allowed more human rights and was a better leader both economically and politically. In the first presidential election in 1996, she voted for the KMT and not the DPP. She felt Lee Denghui did a good job both economically and as the father of Taiwan democracy. Unlike Allen’s experience, China’s shooting those missiles into the Taiwan Strait to her was an attack on her country, and changed her mind from eventual reunification to feeling it would be impossible to reunite with China. It was after that incident that she changed from calling herself “Chinese” to calling herself “Taiwanese”.

    She has never liked Lian Zhan. She felt he talked down to people and was a closet dictator. She did not trust James Song and felt he was a populist, and supported Chen in 2000. Her main reason was the elimination of “black gold” in the government rather than independence. If she had not voted for Chen, her second choice was Song. In the 2004 election, the bloom had worn off the Song rose and Lien was still an unacceptable candidate, so she still supported Chen. In all of these elections, her family (one of 8 siblings) was in general agreement.

    In the last election, the family split. Chen was considered incompetent, the KMT obstructionist but Ma was considered to have been a pretty good Taipei mayor. Some supported Ma and some supported Hsieh. She leaned towards Hsieh on that one, but didn’t dislike Ma compared to Lian.

    When I asked her about the 18% rates of deposit, she added something new. She said many Taiwanese have a relative or relatives in the civil service, so they give that relative money to invest at the 18% return. She feels both the 18% return is wrong and the way it is abused is even worse.

    Hopefully, her comments will provide food for thought. She has many mainland friends. The rule here is that Chinese and Taiwanese friends just don’t discuss politics.

    And just so there’s no misunderstanding, if anyone here makes a personal attack against my wife, I shall hunt you down like the vermin you are and kill you!!

  71. “like the number of children who pass exams, the size of a prizon population, number of executions, etc”

    How are these related to curruption index? you have a corruption index rank based on “hard data”? well share with us, I really want to see how that ranks India and Singapore.

    “So there’s nothing good about India? ”

    Compared to Singapore? there is none. You wanna tell me one? “proper democracy and freedom of speech”? lmao!

    “I wouldn’t put any word there because it’s terrible English.”

    The onlything terrible in that sentence is “India”.

  72. To Steve,

    Most of your wife’s opinions towards China are fairly understandable, but regarding #2 I thought it was Taiwan kept mainland China out of UN since 1949, then US pushed China through in the 70s, Taiwan withdrew to protest. I could be wrong.

    I am more interested to learn how your wife feels about the current situation between China and Taiwan, does she think Ma is getting too close to China? She thinks Chen,Yun-Lin’s coming visit is good or bad for Taiwan and why? How does she like that new lady boss of DPP?

  73. Merlion~ thanks for the link to the corruption survey. I’ve done business in quite a few Asian countries, so I can give a personal perspective in terms of corruption as it applies to business.

    In general, the survey seemed to have the countries in about the right order. Japan has little corruption in general business. The corruption it has tends to be in the awarding of construction contracts, innumerable “bridges to nowhere”, the ties between the ruling party and the yakuza (organized crime) but in business, the only thing that seems a bit corrupt is businessmen giving expensive gifts to their customers just before New Years.

    I never encountered any business corruption in Singapore, though guanxi is very important there. Nobody, when you used “lah” at the end of your sentence, it cracked me up! Now I’m missing my chicken/rice! We had a pretty large office there and our local guys didn’t like the nepotism of the Lee family, but day to day business is very clean. Of all the countries in Asia, I felt Singapore was the most westernized in terms of its business environment.

    Indonesia used to be the worst place to do business, but the current administration has done a nice job at cleaning it up. It’s still not good but getting better.

    Vietnam and China are pretty similar. Put it this way, you can’t do business in either country without corruption. Western corporations operate under different legal structures and have to keep their books clean (though there are ways to get around western laws, and everyone does it because they have to). Chinese businessmen prefer to do business with western or even Taiwan businesses rather than their fellow Chinese, because they feel they can trust them more. As they used to say in China…

    What’s the difference between the good life and the bad life?
    In the good life you~
    Work for an American company
    Eat Chinese food
    Live in an English house
    Have a Japanese wife.

    In the bad life you~
    Work for a Chinese company
    Eat English food
    Live in a Japanese house
    Have an American wife.
    🙂

    Korea wasn’t that corrupt but was a difficult place to do business. Like Chinese companies, they want to renegotiate after the contract has been signed. You have to build in a “renegotiation” margin into your price so you can come down a bit later.

    Japanese are tough negotiators but once the contract is signed, they stick to it.

    We were approached by several Indian companies to represent us doing business there, but we stayed away. The import laws are so protectionist that our pricing would have been just too high. Their product was very low quality so that is why they wanted outside sources, but the government made that all but impossible. Therefore, I can’t comment on their corruption level.

    I never quite figured out the Philippines, except that they have an upper class where everyone knows each other and the main point of discussion is whether you went to the U of P and who your classmates were if you did go.

    All nations have degrees of corruption and that corruption can manifest itself in different areas, so I think it’s very hard to pinpoint exactly but you can get the general sense of it by doing business and talking to other businessmen.

  74. Merlion, my understanding of the UN deal was that the ROC represented China from the formation of the UN until the reapproachment between China and the United States. I think it was more the west keeping China out of its Security Council seat than the ROC’s influence. Jiang Jieshi was still under the delusion that he represented all of China. The deal was actually to give Taiwan a seat at the UN but not China’s seat, which China would have accepted, though not happily. Jiang furiously turned this down. Thus, Taiwan has no seat in the UN and another reason the Taiwanese hate Jiang so much.

    As far as the current situation, she thinks three links are a good idea and that it is silly to fly through HK or Naha to get from Taipei to Shanghai, etc. She along with Ma would like to see that move from chartered to regular, daily service. She doesn’t have a problem with Ma negotiating with China, she just thinks he’s a lousy negotiator. She also feels if Ma moves too fast, faster than the Taiwanese are willling to accept, then the political situation in Taiwan will get really bad and Ma would not survive the next election. But her #1 concern with Ma is his handling of the economy. All politics are local and the #1 issue is always the pocketbook issue.

    She has no problem with Chen Yun-lin’s visit. She sees nothing wrong with interaction between the two governments, and thinks it would lead to less chance for misunderstandings to arise. She likes the new lady boss of the DPP and thinks she has been reasonable. She wishes Chen would retire. She thinks the DPP spends too much time running for president and not enough time and money building up their grass roots organization to win more congressional seats. She also thinks they talk too much about China and not enough about Taiwan.

  75. How are these related to curruption index? you have a corruption index rank based on “hard data”? well share with us, I really want to see how that ranks India and Singapore.

    When did I say there was a corruption index based on hard data? Where did you ask me to find one? And I would never say that Singapore would be ranked below India.

    Compared to Singapore? there is none.

    So a country is “shit” if it doesn’t compare well to Singapore? Then in that case China is shit too – according to your logic.

  76. Allen I don’t understand half of what you wrote.

    If there is none, and this is simply identity politics (Taiwanese nationalism) – then really, there is nothing to do except to wait things out, and if there is still no resolution, then have a civil war either between north and south Taiwanese or between the Mainlanders and Taiwanese.

    What does that have to do with 1-3? This is about China’s list of demands, not Taiwan’s. Taiwan never demanded China recognise it as an independent nation before it would discuss anything – so why does China have a right to make demands?

    Regarding issues like 4, we should address mechanisms on how Taiwan can get the benefits of interacting with international organizations through China’s membership instead of irrationally claiming it must join as a new member as a sovereign country.

    Who says it must join as a sovereign country? Taiwan would accept joining as it is a member of the WTO. It might even accept not being a member if the WHO just kept it updated like it did everyone else. Why does Taiwan have to be kept out of the loop or get everything much later?

    But to the extent 5 & 7 represent legitimate concerns, they are legal issues that can be addressed in the courts.

    The courts apply the law. If the KMT changes the law nothing can be done through the courts.

    Why should civil servants not need massively higher rates of interests? It is just another benefit? In the U.S., gov’t workers, including military people, get very, very cushy benefits – retirement, banking services, loans for housing, health insurance, etc. Are those benefits bribes?

    Because civil servants are employed, often (around the world, anyway) have copper-bottomed pensions unlike in the private sector and a large number of other benefits as you mentioned. They are already in a decent position and don’t need help with savings. The people who need help are either unemployed or on minimum wages.

    Should we call gov’t benefits you don’t like “bribes”?

    Or should we say that if you like a government “benefit” it can’t be a bribe?

  77. @Raj #82,

    1. China refusing to accept that Taiwan is effectively independent.
    2. China refusing to rule out war to resolve the problem.
    3. China refusing to negotiate without Taiwan accepting it is a part of China.

    If there is none, and this is simply identity politics (Taiwanese nationalism) – then really, there is nothing to do except to wait things out, and if there is still no resolution, then have a civil war either between north and south Taiwanese or between the Mainlanders and Taiwanese.

    What does that have to do with 1-3? This is about China’s list of demands, not Taiwan’s. Taiwan never demanded China recognise it as an independent nation before it would discuss anything – so why does China have a right to make demands?

    1-3 are involve identity politics because they are only issues only if you don’t feel Chinese; that’s why I asked for legitimate underlying concerns in my original post…

    4. China blocking access to international organisations like the WHO (and I’m talking about direct communication, not just membership).

    Regarding issues like 4, we should address mechanisms on how Taiwan can get the benefits of interacting with international organizations through China’s membership instead of irrationally claiming it must join as a new member as a sovereign country.

    Who says it must join as a sovereign country? Taiwan would accept joining as it is a member of the WTO. It might even accept not being a member if the WHO just kept it updated like it did everyone else. Why does Taiwan have to be kept out of the loop or get everything much later?

    Taiwan can be effectively in the loop without joining as a member (i.e. symbolically as a sovereign) – i.e. as part of Mainland’s representation – so let’s work on how that is going to work rather than bicker about joining as a member state.

    But to the extent 5 & 7 represent legitimate concerns, they are legal issues that can be addressed in the courts.

    The courts apply the law. If the KMT changes the law nothing can be done through the courts.

    Still a legal question. If you want legal reform in general – fine. But it’s not a KMT question (nor a DPP question), it’s legal reform question (by the way – if you must dig, you will find the DPP are guilty of just as much if not far more legal interferences than the KMT).

    Should we call gov’t benefits you don’t like “bribes”?

    Or should we say that if you like a government “benefit” it can’t be a bribe?

    Actually … I wouldn’t call any government “benefits” – whether I like it or not – a “bribe.”

  78. 1. China refusing to accept that Taiwan is effectively independent.
    2. China refusing to rule out war to resolve the problem.
    3. China refusing to negotiate without Taiwan accepting it is a part of China.
    4. China blocking access to international organizations like the WHO (and I’m talking about direct communication, not just membership).

    1 and 3 are pretty close to inverses of each other: PRC wouldn’t talk with taiwan unless it’s part of china, PRC does not see taiwan as separate from china. Not sure how much is left to negotiate if taiwan is already part of china (the one under CCP rule). Terms of KMT surrender to CCP? Or maybe CCP surrender to KMT 😛

    4 is a direct result of 1 and 3. It also makes that island a great place for international criminals to escape to. It’s a blackhole on this planet where police forces of nations around the world can send requests to PRC but not be in PRC police jurisdiction. Oh, wait, taiwan has excellent semi-official relations with those police forces to ship criminals back to them. I decided to make up a non-health related story this time to point out how much more trouble #4 is and how separate that island is from china in reality at this moment.

    2 is edging on belligerent.

    So what if it’s about identity. Is it so bad to be more loyal to the land you were born on than that other piece of land with guns pointed in your general direction? Ok, forget the guns, who died and made CCP/PRC in charge of the whole chinese culture? (well, ROC under KMT … just a semi joke)

    Those other points I agree they are legal issues. Hope the people wake up and get the necessary reforms pushed through to get the former dictators restrained.

  79. Steve,

    Raj,

    Yeah, Yummy, Hai Nan Chicken-Rice (Actually invented in Singapore)…

    emails from former Singapore resident:
    by trimmy
    Oct 22 2008
    11:54 AM Here we go again, bashing successful Singapore. We define what “democracy” is, and insist that Singapore is not a democracy unless they allow their citizens to freely ridicule and libel their leaders, accuse them of links to terrorists and be allowed to chew gum. When will we accept the fact that some cultures don’t take ridicule lightly? Or must all societies conform to the western standard of acceptable behaviour? How long must the west be told that their vision of “democracy” and society does not fit all situations? Singapore is successful. In the words of Dr. Chee “lack of transparency and accountability will simply result in huge problems DOWN THE ROAD for my country.” (caps added). “Down the road.” There has been no major problems since independence in 1963. Singapore is not exporting or harbouring terrorists; it does not have huge income gaps; there is no sub-prime mortgage crisis; their leaders understand economics; there is virtually no corruption. So what are we trying to fix? Leave her alone. I suggest all the pro bono time and effort of these lawyers be donated to advance the cause of women in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Don’t waste your time helping rich people. And to the Singaporean leaders, call yourself a Lee-cracy and perhaps those who claim to “own” democracy will leave you alone.

    by naan
    Oct 23 2008
    4:01 AM I worked with Chee when he was a young upstart in the SDP (Singapore Democratic Party). He is manipulative, scheming and is absolutely power-mad.

    He sees himself as the only “saviour” of the whole opposition politics movement here in Singapore and revel in the image of such as portrayed by the western media.

    He does not subscribe to any notion that there is differing ideas of how to engage Singaporeans and the ruling partisan (ironical actually – as this is precisely what we have been fighting against since the early 90s).

    The world (especially the medias in the west) needs to know who he really is.

    He is definitely no Nelson Mendela or Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Oct 23 2008
    6:45 AM email from NM in Singapore:

    Subject: about singapore

    Dear Ms Francis,

    I would firstly like to say that I am a Singaporean and i am quite happy living in Singapore. I am thankful that we don’t have such serious problems like in other countries. (School shootings in the USA come to mind) So I feel that this obsession with the idea that Singapore is in a dictatorship is very misguided. In fact it almost looks like a voyeuristic obsession for these people who don’t like it when other countries don’t have a US style of democracy. Singapore isn’t a big problem right now. The world economy is a much more serious problem. I’m sure you’ll agree with me on that.

    The ‘problems’ in Singapore are minor compared to other countries. Why always pick on Singapore? Why not concentrate your efforts on other countries that really need help. Like Zimbabwe for example. Singapore, unlike Zimbabwe have fully stocked supermarket shelves. And our inflation rate is not over 2 million percent. Burma could also use help.

    I fail to understand Bob Amsterdam’s obsession with trying to ’embarrass’ Singapore. i actually laughed when i read that. And I wont want to waste my time taking the case to the UN. These people (Chee included) have greatly exxagerated the situation in Singapore. Zimbabwe and Burma are no exxagerations.

    And in your interview when you asked Chee if there are any opposition parties left, the real answer to that question to that is yes. In fact there are 2 opposition parties in Parliament now. I consider these 2 parties the smart ones because they got into parliament through votes. Not by going to jail all the time. Chee’s party should learn from them.

    That’s all I have to say because i find it annoying when foreigners bash my country. I doubt you’ll like it if someone were to say things about your country which aren’t true.

    Yours sincerely,

  80. TommyBahamas~ I’m pretty ignorant about Singapore’s opposition politics but I read recently that some opposition guy passed away. I didn’t realize there were more besides him. Who is Chee? How long has he been around? I tried to look him up on the net but couldn’t find a good summary.

    All the Singaporeans I’ve ever met have great respect from Lee Kuan Yew, but most thought he hung around too long. Most didn’t seem to like Goh Chok Tong and felt he was just a caretaker for Lee. Lee Hsien Loong wasn’t popular with my colleagues at all. They felt he was nowhere near his father in terms of competence.

    What do you think? Do you generally agree with those sentiments? Or do you like LHL better than they did? I need to iterate that they told me these things six years ago so their opinion of him might have changed since then. I was last in Singapore two years ago but didn’t have a chance to see my old friends; it was a short, very busy trip.

    Merlion, on that trip I actually spent most of my time near the real merlion! Singapore is replacing their sports stadium with a new one and is building a temporary stadium on the water to the left of the merlion with plans to put a stabilized floating field on the water itself, with about a 20,000 seat capacity (the seats are on land). I also had the chance to tour the “durian roof” building. I love the look of that building, almost as much as I love durian and mangosteen!

    There was also plans to build a casino on the right side of the bay as you’re looking out from the merlion, and they were going to build a foot bridge so you could walk from one side to the other. Is that project moving along? I seem to remember one of the Vegas casinos got the contract. On that trip, I stayed at the Scarlet, a boutique hotel on Erskine Road which I heartily recommend. The rates were reasonable, the location perfect and the rooms very nice. The club on the roof has a great view!

  81. @Steve (#30): “Wukailong; you live in China. How are you treated? Do you feel more in common or more differences? What do you feel is the best way to bridge the differences?”

    Sorry for the late comment.

    Actually, I’ve never really felt that Chinese are that different from any other people. Early on I felt kind of worried about the expat circles that were constantly complaining about their life and Chinese in general, so I tried to get to know some people and even live with a family (which was illegal at the time, but I was happy to stay with them until the school ordered me back). Meeting people and living close to them has shown at least to me that most differences are on the surface. I think people complaining about differences are the ones who already have that view when they left (true for both Westerners and Chinese).

    I came to Beijing in 1997 the first time, and it’s a vastly different city now than it was then. There are much less restrictions than there used to be, like where you could stay, whom you could talk to etc.

    As for bridging the differences, I think it’s most important to work with what’s close at hand – oneself. Trying to understand other perspectives as they are encountered and also understand that people think differently – all Chinese people do not have the same opinion, just as everyone doesn’t think the same think in the US or Europe. When one stop seeing people as “Chinese” and just as people, then life becomes much easier.

    In my case, too, it helped to read a book about Sun Yat-sen and his vision for China. I think that transformed me in a sense – I could understand Chinese nationalism emotionally, and didn’t feel it was as illogical as I first thought. On the other hand, living here for quite some time has also made me appreciate “Western” values more than I did previously.

    Another thing of bridging: in daily life, I think of viewpoints that are more specifically Chinese as a form of political correctness. It works pretty much the same way, with some things that can’t be said and other viewpoints that are favorable:

    * Taiwanese independence – well, just don’t call Taiwan a country and be aware it’s a sensitive issue, almost to a religious degree.
    * Tibetan independence – same thing. DL is evil, and a puppet of the West.
    * FLG – well, it’s scary, and don’t talk about it too much because our government can be scary too, if you do.
    * Human rights – that changes to get more and more positive every year, but there is always something evil and Western in there

    And like everything else, none of this holds when you are with close friends. In the West, I would say topics of the same intensity includes:

    * Democracy and human rights – the religious degree comes to mind… 😉
    * Racism and sexism
    * Rights for homosexuals (maybe more in Europe than the US)
    * The Holocaust

    If one is careful not to talk too much about sensitive issues with people one doesn’t know too well, and show respect to others, I think there won’t be too much of a problem.

  82. “I think people complaining about differences are the ones who already have that view when they left (true for both Westerners and Chinese).”

    above is a bit unclear. It should be:

    “I think people complaining about differences are the ones who already have that view before they arrived to the new country (true for both Westerners and Chinese).”

    Just for fun, some other opinions in China I consider PC are the following ones (though these are not as sensitive):

    * Corruption is mostly caused by local officials, and the leaders of the country are trying their best to root it out.
    * We are progressing very fast, and of course we have some problems, but all countries do.
    * The Western world wants China to be chaotic.
    * China will carry out political reform, but it must be slow, and we shouldn’t copy the West blindly.

  83. @Wukailong

    I’m not so well traveled so I’m glad to hear someone else say that people are not all that different from each other. Sometimes talk of cultural differences just turns into a shield to keep people from seeing the vast areas of similarities.

    There’s a list of taiwanese grievances up there but no list for mainland china yet or can those sensitive and not so sensitive items Wukailong listed count as grievances. Anybody have more?

  84. Wukailong #88 & 89: That’s a good list. In my company they call the most sensitive issues the “3 T’s” Tibet, Taiwan and Tienanmen square (western spelling). Religion and Politics are generally out of bounds as well. I am constantly pressed, even in groups of 30 or more, to present my views. A skill I’ve acquired since my arrival is the ability to casually deflect provocative comments on these topics and others you mentioned, especially in group settings.

    I think I’m pretty moderate and open-minded, but an open vigorous discussion of these issues during my day-to-day… No thanks:)

    I also agree with your observation that when you get past our preconceived notions of each other, there are more ares where we agree than disagree.

  85. @Raj.

    “Why should Taiwan be bound by Chinese culture? Culture can be set aside to deal with a situation pragmatically. Taiwan’s independence is effective and that has to be recognised by China, whether in public or private.”

    You have ruled out any common ground for talks and negotiations. Obviously China will not recognise the independence you are talking about. What is next?

    Steve,

    I think you bring in some input from your culture that I as an old fashioned Chinese found very hard to accept. But at least we agreed on one point that war is not needed. Apologize for aggressive comments.

  86. To Steve #76:
    thanks for that. Nice to have, even vicariously, insight from someone who lived through Taiwan’s political changes, rather than just reading about it in a book. Also quite enjoyed the disclaimer at the end there.

    I think it’s also interesting that each politicians’ handling of the economy factors so prominently in your wife’s evaluation of them. It’s like when Clinton said “it’s the economy, stupid”. During good times, people don’t mind engaging in a little navel gazing. And I think this whole possible far-off distant future reunification thing is a colossal navel stare-down (though I much prefer a navel stare-down to a naval stare-down). But when the economy tanks, as it’s about to worldwide it seems, then people have a lot more practical issues to worry about. And during such times, legacy projects probably get pushed to the back-burner in terms of importance.

  87. To Wukailong #88:
    that’s a good point. About the only time I would talk about China to complete strangers would be on this blog. And the only time I think about china during a dinner party with friends is when I go to load the dishwasher 🙂

  88. Taiwanese are no saint, they are just normal people being used by politician/agitator to split fellow human being for their own benefit.
    China is apparently working on its way to be the most prosperous and influential nation in Asia and may be the world. It need peace in its surrounding to concentrate on economic development. Again there are lots of outsiders not happy with this.
    China will be silly to want to conquer Taiwan. Given time Taiwanese will want to enjoy the prosperity bring about by joining China.
    The noise we heard in Taiwan are just noice, no much can change, the die has casted. Save the argument and lets go back to work.

  89. “Why should Taiwan be bound by Chinese culture? Culture can be set aside to deal with a situation pragmatically. Taiwan’s independence is effective and that has to be recognised by China, whether in public or private.”

    According to whom? You? why dont you go ask that big piece of shitland aka india, to recognise the independence of Jammu-Kashmir in both public and private? let us know what the indian goverment tells you.

  90. @Steve #76

    Thanks for your and your wife’s comments, Steve. Having lived here in Taipei for 11 months, it is still very difficult to figure out the politics here. I have some comments and questions.

    2- … The WHO deals with health issues and is a humanitarian organization. In the past, China has not only kept Taiwan out, but has not promptly shared information with the Taiwanese health officials though it is their responsibility to do so if they are truly representing Taiwan as they say.

    The slowdown of info during the 2003 SARS epidemic was inexcusable. Has this situation improved? Has communication been expedited. Personally, I think Taiwan needs a direct connection to WHO. People’s health and sometimes their lives depend on it. Is it too much of a stretch for me to conclude, that on this issue, China cares more about politics and face than it does about peoples’ lives, health and safety?

    3-China’s lack of quality control in their industrial and agricultural processes. She feels neither their food nor industrial products are safe, yet these products are exported to Taiwan and poison the Taiwanese.

    This concerns me, too. Not only for Taiwan, but for the US, Vietnam and Japan and other countries.

    7-KMT is the party of Jiang Jieshi, a mass murderer whose dictatorship left the Taiwanese without basic human rights for thirty years.

    I think both Chiang Jieshi and Mao Zedong were murderous thugs. They were cut from the same cloth. The cults of “worship” surrounding both of them make me wonder (and sometimes disgust me); I just can’t understand. The only reason I would go to CKS’s or Mao’s tomb is the same reason many Spaniards go to Franco’s tomb — to make sure that they are still dead. Tyrants don’t deserve this kind of respect.

    That being said, we should not bury ourselves in the past. I could carry a chip on my shoulder for the holocaust, Nazi tyranny and Russian persecution of many generations of my family. I don’t. That chip would poison me and put my soul and spirit in a miserable prison. Not for me.

    We should not forget. We should not dwell on past grievances. Forgive, yes.

    8-KMT as currently led by Ma Yingjiu has no party discipline. The party members don’t listen to Ma. Ma has no backbone, either in dealing with his party, the economy or with China. He promised to improve the economy but under his administration, it has been a disaster. He makes concessions to China but gets nothing in return.

    I know nothing of the KMT or DPP party structures. Ma may be mishandling the economy. But let’s not be too harsh on him. The global economy is in a meltdown. The Nikkei 225 is down over 6% on Monday. The Topix is down over 7%. The Hang Seng is down nearly 10%. The CSI 300 is down 7%. Shanghai Composite is down over 6% Taiwan is down over 4.5%. The KOSPI is up nearly 1%. ASX is down 1.5%. The Philippines SE is down over 12%. Not very healthy.

    On a longer view, Bloomberg’s Global Equity Market Cap index shows that the world markets have melted down in the last year. Total capitalization in global equity markets has fallen from $62.5 trillion ($62,500,000,000,000) one year ago to $31.2 trillion (($31,200,000,000,000) on Friday evening. That is a lot of paper value disappearing (over 50%) in one year’s time. The Taiwan currency has devalued 3 yuan per dollar (TWD) since July, from 30.5 TWD per dollar to 33.5; that is a big drop. There is a global recession, which will cut down on global consumption and hence Taiwanese exports. So, it is hard to evaluate Ma’s economic performance, in light of this environment.

    One last thing. In #52, I had noted that Allen had mentioned that this is not a society in which he would want to live. I have heard similar remarks from my Taiwanese friends who live and work in Seattle. Some of them seriously question whether they would ever want to come back to live and work here. Some of them are very emphatic. Some are emphatic and crying. One of my friends, who lives and works here, would love to get out of Taiwan. She just can’t afford it.

    Steve, if you or anybody else can provide some insight on this, I would be most appreciative. I elaborated more in #52 when I originally wrote about this. I have abbreviated my remarks here, so if you would like, you can read #52.

    In general, living here in Taiwan works well for me. Some of my friends tell me I am lucky I can’t understand the news on TV, which are broadcast in Mandarin. 😀

  91. Hi, Steve,

    Re: “Who is Chee?”

    Here’s a blog on him:

    http://cheesoonjuan.blogspot.com/

    Here’s more:

    Posted: October 21, 2008, 8:00 AM

    “The frustrating thing is that people continue to see Singapore as a rules-based society. I want the international community to realize the abuses,” said opposition leader Dr. Chee Soon Juan in an exclusive telephone interview yesterday from his home in Singapore with the National Post. “Fortunately, International organizations are getting involved like Lawyers Rights Watch, the International Bar Association, the International Commission of Jurists. All have criticize Singapore.”
    Dr. Chee, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party, will be on trial for the eighth time in a handful of years. This time he is accused of the “crime” of holding a meeting with more than five persons without a permit. The Singapore constitution guarantees freedom of opinion, expression and assembly.
    “Every time we applied for a permit we have been turned down and the minister said that he would never grant a permit,” said Dr. Chee.
    His ordeal began after he joined the opposition party and criticized the cronyism and secrecy of the Singaporean government. Since then, lawsuits have bankrupted him personally, are about to bankrupt his political party, have sent him to jail because he is unable to pay fines anymore, have cost him his university position as a lecturer and denied him basic legal rights such as legal representation or the right to cross-examine or present a defense.
    And every time he criticizes such unjust treatment he is sued for defamation, then fined huge amounts or sent to jail.

  92. Steve,

    I have only been to Singapore about 5 times over 30 years, but I have Singaporean friends.

  93. @Steve #80

    Thanks for the information. As an obsever I dont like Ma, he’s an indicisive softie, good for nothing. I m very disapointed by Tsai (DPP lady boss)also, she lacks of will and disipline to run a party full of mad dogs, at the end of the day she will be the one gets run to the ground and thrown under.

  94. @Merlion: “According to whom? You? why dont you go ask that big piece of shitland aka india, to recognise the independence of Jammu-Kashmir in both public and private? ”

    Personally, I welcome more debate on any contested area (and that’s a point I’ve been making before). Kashmir has been neglected for a long time, and I believe I’m not the only one curious about where the separatist sentiment stems from.

    As for India, I haven’t been there so I don’t know how dirty it is, but regardless, please refrain from calling any country a “shitland”, OK?

  95. Here’s another Singaporean’s POV:

    Folks, Singapore is a mere dot in the global map. It doesn’t deserve so much attention other than being
    the super-safe and secure haven for the super-rich to park their billions along with some of their kids until they are old enough to head home to take over the family business and or to greener pastures in Euro-north-American and Aussie. It’s just a convenient stepping stone for these super-rich, a bit like a smaller-version Switzerland. The bulk of the citizens, Permanent Residents, migrant workers in Singpaore are there to service this stepping stone
    while the going is still good.
    With the global financial meltdown it remains to be seen how this little over-built-up stepping stone would fare in the years ahead. I’m sure the ruling super elites must be worried sick. The latest multi-billion Integrated Resort Project grand vision is threatening to be the first and most visible casualty of the current depression. Shelving or aborting the IRP will be admission of failure too painful for the ruling super-elite to bear so they just have to bite the bullet and
    hope for the best. I’d like to wish them all the best.

  96. @ 96

    According to whom? You?

    According to anyone who has eyes and can see that Taiwanese run their affairs and China has no control over them, other than to push other countries around and try to limit interaction with the island.

    why dont you go ask that big piece of shitland aka india, to recognise the independence of Jammu-Kashmir in both public and private?

    Why would they recognise a territory which they control in part as being independent? Whereas that other “big piece of shitland” (as defined by your theory that any state which compares badly to Singapore is one) China controls no part of Taiwan. But I think that anything is possible re Kashmir if India and Pakistan can keep improving their relations.

    —-

    @ 92

    You have ruled out any common ground for talks and negotiations. Obviously China will not recognise the independence you are talking about. What is next?

    There is plenty of common ground for talks and negotiations because there was change between 2000 and 2008. Do you think Ma arranged everything for the flights after he became president? Most of it was negotiated whilst Chen was still in charge, but Beijing didn’t want to give him any credit for it so it waited until the KMT was in power.

    In fact the difficulty of finding common ground for wider talks was in part thanks to the KMT. After Chen won a second term China was facing the reality that if it wanted to improve relations it would have to be more flexible in how it agreed to hold discussions. But the KMT decided that it was better to sabotage the DPP government’s efforts and hold Taiwan back than see their opponents benefit and things improve, so it sent its officials over and convinced China to hold out as much as it could with the hope that it would return to power in 2008.

    There is no reason why China cannot privately acknowledge that Taiwan is independent. Is China so proud that it cannot admit to being wrong even amongst itself? To acknowledge that Taiwan is independent does not mean unification of some sort cannot happen. It just means that China would approach it from a different angle or with at least drop the aggressive/unpleasant rhetoric.

  97. Allen

    1-3 are involve identity politics because they are only issues only if you don’t feel Chinese; that’s why I asked for legitimate underlying concerns in my original post…

    That’s nonsense. You’re telling me that if a Taiwanese person feels “Chinese” they don’t have a problem with China threatening war on their home if they (China) don’t get their way? And given that only a tiny minority of Taiwanese regarding themselves as being exclusively Chinese then clearly most Taiwanese would regard these as important, legitimate issues.

    Taiwan can be effectively in the loop without joining as a member (i.e. symbolically as a sovereign) – i.e. as part of Mainland’s representation – so let’s work on how that is going to work rather than bicker about joining as a member state.

    Taiwan can’t trust China, as its assurances about health/food safety keep getting exposed as being meaningless. China stops Taiwan from being kept in the loop even without membership. If China wants Taiwan to not push for membership then it needs to show Taiwan that it can be trusted. Until that happens and the Chinese government thinks PR control of bad news is more important than stopping its own babies from getting sick, why will Taiwan think it will be given special treatment?

    But it’s not a KMT question

    It would be a KMT question given they’d be making the law in the first place.

    Actually … I wouldn’t call any government “benefits” – whether I like it or not – a “bribe.”

    That’s not logical. Of course governments can use benefits as bribes. To say that can never be the case is ridiculous.

  98. Sorry Allen, but 18% annual savings is far more than anybody could get doing any (safe) investment, even in the best of times. You must see the difference between 18% annual profit (a bribe) and a health care package (at least a perk). These are apples and oranges here.

  99. @Jerry,

    Just want to follow up on what I meant when I wrote in #15 “This is not a society I’d want to live….”

    I meant only that I would not like to live in a society with Taiwan’s political climate based on hatred, uncivility, vulgarness, and lack of reason.

    I did not mean that the political climate would chase me out of Taiwan!

    Taiwan is still a good place to live. I personally have chosen to live in the U.S. because I grew up in the U.S. and have made U.S. my home. I think I have a better job here than I can ever get in Taiwan…

    Many others (especially the young and capable) in Taiwan have chosen to live in the U.S. and Mainland for economic and professional development opportunities.

    I don’t know the context of why your friend would not like to live in Taiwan. Besides lack of economic opportunities, many of my Taiwanese friends don’t go back because many families also have lots of expectations of their kids in Taiwan – and living abroad provide a less stressful environment.

    I’m sure there are many other reasons – all quite specific to the individual…

  100. @A-gu #106,

    You must help me out here. I am not trying to compare apples and oranges. For me, even had the gov’t had raised everyone’s salary by say 50%, I wouldn’t say it’s a “bribe” for the civil servants.

    Now we can definitely disagree whether the 50% is good policy or not or cynically debate which demographics it is served to please (or appease as the case may be). But to me, it’s all perfectedly within the standard realm of politics!

    I don’t see how it helps to call this a “bribe” – which usually involve illegal private payments in exchange for personal favors or influence – without us starting to call every gov’t policy you or I don’t like (because it’s designed to serve some segments of the population more than others, which happens all the time as part of governance) a “bribe”!

  101. @Jerry #97,

    The only reason I would go to CKS’s or Mao’s tomb is the same reason many Spaniards go to Franco’s tomb — to make sure that they are still dead.

    That’s actually very funny to me! 😀 😀 😀

  102. Why do some people say china is becoming the most prosperous and influential country, undisputed leader of the world, etc, like it’s inevitable (and seem to imply it’ll be a continuous, uninterrupted process)? It seems to make sense to not throw things into the pot that could disturb this process, like pulling a certain chaotic island back into the fold with those taiwanese being so violent and all. Let say PRC is developing into something better in the future, more lovable to all (even korea wanted in). Is everyone actually expecting unification in the distant future or would unification today screw up everybody’s 50 year plan. If unification today is not part of the better plan, why keep the island in limbo until the plan is mature. Thats like 指腹为婚 (prenatal betrothal) not knowing if either child would survive to marrying age.
    — end rant

    @Allen

    I agree its hard to logically justify calling things like that a bribe, and perhaps using the word “bribe” gets the thinking started off in the wrong place. Like your example of the government raising the civil servants’ salary, I can’t call it a bribe either. Probably runs into “responsible use of tax dollars” issues but we can leave that out of the argument. We can take some thoughts from business monopolies: unfair competition. Those civil servants would loyally do their job for high pay (lets go ahead and lump benefits in here). Lets say there is another political party promising fair (lower) government wages, theres no reason for those well paid civil servants to vote the other party into power and lose a chunk of pay. It’s hard to define “fair compensation” for a job but if it can be defined, anything above that starts to make whoever you paid more “loyal”. Same goes for government disaster relief. If the government pays the tall people more to build tall houses, tall people like this government while short people complain. If it was fair, tall and short people like/dislike the government equally. Staying away from the ‘b’ word, if things were fair, civil servants and their equivalent office workers should like/dislike the government equally.

  103. @cephaloless,

    If it was fair, tall and short people like/dislike the government equally. Staying away from the ‘b’ word, if things were fair, civil servants and their equivalent office workers should like/dislike the government equally.

    In the US, we know each political party has its own bases of support. For example, in the U.S., the Republicans may appeal to religious people while the Democrats may appeal to gay rights activists. When a party wins an election, it’s perfectly natural for the party to pursue policies that constituents prefer (that would be its mandate).

    Given the above, I don’t understand why for gov’t policies to be “fair,” “civil servants and their equivalent office workers should like/dislike the government equally.” If civil servants and their equivalent office workers is among the KMT’s base of support – it’d be more the power for KMT to pander them.

    I don’t care about the KMT v. DPP politics in this case (actually don’t).

    I am only following up because I thought everyone would agree this to be an aspect of “democracy” – and didn’t expect this much resistance!

  104. @cephaloless,

    Actually, I think I’ll moderate my post in #111. When a party wins a democratically elected office, it should rule in the name of unity – not disunity (i.e. pandering only to its constituents at the expense of others).

    So if your point was that the KMT need to be more inclusive – and not provide policies that disproportionally benefit its base at the expense of those of the DPP – you will get no argument from me. A less divisive gov’t in Taiwan will only make Taiwan more stable, peaceful, and prosperous…

    Just hope the DPP will maintain the same “culture” if it ever (I hope not) regains power again…

  105. @Allen

    Very insightful. Put down words that I didn’t even realize to say at the time. Thanks for the feedback.

    And that’s a big SHOULD with democracies. Once a group is voted into power, its the government of everyone and not just that group and it’s supporters. Normally the consequence is the swing voters see the unfairness and vote the selfish group out of power eventually.

    We’ll see if DPP gets its act together in the next few years, I just have a lot less faith in KMT reforming into this kind of shape.

  106. @Merlion, Wukailong & Raj~ A friend of mine arrived in India a week ago on his first trip there and after wandering around for a day, sent me this message:

    “Take a pack of melting Skittles and make a pair of pants out of them. Find the nearest carnival and drop a sheet of high-grade LSD. When you start to feel sick, make your way to the Hall of Mirrors and ask the carnie to play The Mars Volta on the intercom and enter the Hall. Open any Lewis Carroll novel and read every other line. This, and only this, will give you a slight glimpse of what India is like for the novice.” 🙂

    I think Churchill’s assessment of Russia might also fit India; “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

  107. @Allen #107, 109

    #107

    Thanks for the response, Allen.

    “I meant only that I would not like to live in a society with Taiwan’s political climate based on hatred, uncivility, vulgarness, and lack of reason.” Maybe some of that spills over into other realms? Or it is all somehow connected? Maybe this spills over into family dynamics and the working environment. Don’t know.

    “Many others (especially the young and capable) in Taiwan have chosen to live in the U.S. and Mainland for economic and professional development opportunities.” I agree wholeheartedly. I have heard that a lot. Even from the young people who are just on holiday visiting their families here. Like the young, attractive, tall Chinese woman at HOLA in an MIT shirt who was standing in line ahead of me. Now, I don’t see many people in MIT shirts here, so I had to ask. She works for Cisco in the Bay Area. I had told her I had worked for Microsoft and retired here in Taipei. She looked at me in surprise and asked me if I was kidding her. Nope. Why would I ever retire here? So we discussed “why I like it here” for a while. I asked her if she would ever move back here to work. Laughingly, she told me no. She just loved working in the Bay Area. Besides, she could never make that kind of money here in Taiwan. Then I jokingly told her that she would probably never have to spend that kind of money to live here. We both laughed. 😀

    “Besides lack of economic opportunities, many of my Taiwanese friends don’t go back because many families also have lots of expectations of their kids in Taiwan – and living abroad provide a less stressful environment.” That sounds very possible in my friends’ cases.

    Your quote also reminds me of another of my favorite issues here in Taipei: bǔ xí bān. A concept which I will never understand emotionally. To me, cram school is such a specious charade and is borderline cruel. I can understand remedial classes when there is a specific need. I can understand additional preparatory classes for MCAT, Medical Boards (USMLE), LSAT, Bar Exams, GREs and the like. But to me, as a general remedy (for what?) or punishment 😀 , it is iatrogenic and meretricious (I lovvve both those words). Additionally, I believe that kids can learn plenty from just being a kid, playing, socializing and practicing the skills they will need as adults: resourcefulness, cooperation, problem-solving, etc. Sorry for the rant. 🙂

    Thanks, again. Every little bit of insight helps.

    —————-

    #109

    Well, I would like to claim that I am the genius behind that quote. Alas and alack, I am not. Oh well. I am guilty of the CKS and Mao extrapolation. The original quote I stole from Rick Steves, European travel expert, in his “Europe Through the Back Door: Spain” episode. God knows who he stole it from. (Rick lives in Edmonds, WA. His TV shows are on PBS. Furthermore, he has a radio show every Saturday on various NPR stations. Videos, information, and books are @ http://www.ricksteves.com/)

    I am glad that it provided some laughs.

  108. @Jerry – When I hear Taiwanese bad-mouth Taiwan (or Chinese bad-mouth China, or Brits bad-mouthing the UK) for something I think is unfair, my first instinct is to point out that most countries have their problems. Certainly I find people in Taiwan more likely than most to engage in introspective angst, it seems that almost everything that happens there is taken as a sign of the beginning of the end. The question should not be “why are Taiwanese so angry” but “why the angst?”.

    People in Taiwan certainly have more to proud of in the way of acheivements than Mainland Chinese do, and at least as much as the people of Hong Kong do, yet they do not take pride from these accomplishments. The Taiwanese lack any kind of substantive identity – if nothing else all the ‘are you Chinese or Taiwanese’ polls show this. I have heard people admit to being Huaren but not to being Zhongguoren, jokingly refer to themselves as ‘taike’ but then say how much they don’t like the attitudes of the benshengren, and (a classic one in my old company) make grand pronunciations about how Taiwanese are different to Mainlanders when talking to non-Chinese and then make equally grand speeches about the differences between women zhongguoren and tamen laowai when talking to a mainland audience. The majority of people in Taiwan feel some level of Taiwanese identity, but a substantial minority feel threatened by it because their primary identity is Chinese – this is, I would say, where Allen’s comments of Taiwan’s ‘politics of hate’ come from. The Chinese brand is one that the old KMT and the CCP between them have done much to deface in China, nor is an appeal to the free-wheeling but Chinese identity felt by many in Hong Kong a solution, not least because Taiwanese and Hong-Kong Chinese don’t see eye-to-eye. The new KMT government had a chance to revive and reclaim the Chinese identity, but it has not done so. In fact recent events have merely re-inforced the difficulty of a democratic Taiwanese government ever seeing eye-to-eye with the CCP.

    The Taiwanese identity is also somewhat problematic, nobody has a clear idea of what it is, other than a kind of crippled body-politic that has grown in Taiwan (and perhaps before that) since 1895. Despite what a small minority of Taiwanese wish, Taiwan will never be America’s ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’, the 51st state, or otherwise permanently placed under the American aegis – whilst the communist threat remains the US guarantee remains, but American power is on the wane. Taiwan as an independent nation would always be a junior partner in any of her relations with any of her immediate neighbours, independence, even if recognised by the world community, would still leave Taiwan vulnerable to attack. To add to this sense of impermanence, Taiwan is regularly rocked by powerful earthquakes and swept by awesome typhoons. At any moment nature can reduce Taiwan to a state of shocked destruction equal to that which a mainland invasion might bring.

    Still, I am in fact very optimistic about Taiwan’s future, so long as freedom is maintained and corruption slowly reeled in, there is every chance that the people of Taiwan can heal the divisions in their society and create an identity that can be shared by all. Indeed, you already see this happening, especially in the devlopment of so-called taike culture, a mutual admiration for the effects of bin lang and of the people who sell it. Taiwan remains an interesting place to be, free, peaceful, lively, and with constant reminders in f the form of air-raid drills, minor tremors and typhoon warnings, of just how fragile and precarious the current state of affairs really is.

  109. @kui #92: Apology accepted and appreciated! kui, I think sometimes when we get emotional about an issue, we might take a word or phrase and misconstrue the author’s intent without really understanding his/her entire viewpoint. As we all get a better feel of each other’s attitudes, it’s a lot easier to put everything in context. We are all a product of our experiences and upbringing. Because I have lived in both China and Taiwan though I am neither Chinese nor Taiwanese, maybe I might sometimes be able to bridge certain gaps between the two sides when the arguments get fierce? Nah, probably not, but at least I can try.

    @Jerry #97: I’m still smiling inside thinking about your daughter’s nickname 🙂

    As far as I know, the WHO information exchange between Taiwan and China has not improved, but someone please correct me if I am wrong. You’d think China would get information to Taiwan faster than to the WHO since they are “compatriots”, but in the past few instances of health alerts, the Chinese local governments have all initiated cover-ups. I’m not sure if the central government accepts this or just punishes the provincial governments after the fact to save face. One thing I have noticed is that the punished official is always the mayor or governor and never the local party chairman, who under China’s system has the final say. Therefore, I suspect the government is more interested in protecting the party than in protecting the people’s welfare, and prefers to place blame on the governmental rather than party level. This creates a lag in dealing with these kinds of issues that neither benefits China, Taiwan nor the rest of the world, and magnifies the feeling among pan-Greens that China has no real interest in the Taiwan people themselves.

    “The only reason I would go to CKS’s or Mao’s tomb is the same reason many Spaniards go to Franco’s tomb — to make sure that they are still dead. Tyrants don’t deserve this kind of respect.”

    I’ve used Rick Steves’ guidebooks several times in Europe and highly recommend them, with one exception! As Rick has stated, he actually liked cafeteria food in college so do more research on restaurants when you travel. If you are married to a Chinese person, you’d better put in the work to find the better restaurants or you’ll have a horrible trip. If you put my wife in hell but gave her great food, she’d be perfectly content. But put her in heaven with a lousy meal, and she’d be miserable.

    What he’s best at is giving his (subjective) opinions on the sites. Other guidebooks just list them all out and you have to try and figure out which are worth your time and which are not. He is very specific on their value but might suggest certain sites for certain fans of that particular artist only. I also like his sense of humor, but that’s just me.

    Back to Jiang Jieshi… I believe amongst pan-Green supporters, they feel the attitude of Jiang still exists among the “old guard” in the KMT, but not the younger members. Witness the squabbling between the Ma Yingjiu and Wang Jinping factions. As the older factions dies off, this should die a natural death.

    Jerry, I agree with you that no one could have prevented a market falloff in Taiwan in recent days. However, the biggest complaint against Ma is that he has “fiddled while Rome burns”, so to speak, and seems to disappear every time something goes wrong. I think he is being buried by his own campaign rhetoric, where he pledged to bring back the “good old days” of high economic growth. The problem is, you can’t achieve the growth rates of a developing economy once you have a developed economy. My other point is that no matter where the crisis starts and no matter whose fault, the local guy will be blamed for the local economy, whether he can control it or not.

    Back in 2002, the Taiwan NT was around 33-34 to the US dollar, so it’s actually back to where it was, and once again your American dollars have more value.

    “One last thing” ~ Jerry, most of the people I know in Taiwan have no intention of leaving and would not want to leave. Maybe the ones who left have done so because of family situations? Some women are very unhappy with their in-laws, especially if they married the oldest son. It is a major cause of divorce there. Others feel pressure from their families not only to do well in school, but on whom to marry, where to live, etc. Chinese parents can sometimes be very controlling. Moving away can let them escape the day to day pressure.

    A common expression younger Taiwanese and Chinese Americans use is that they are “disoriented”, especially if they have lived here since elementary school. They feel American and not Chinese/Taiwanese at all. My wife as an immigrant will always feel a tie to her native country, but for them it is similar to my feelings towards Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark. Yes, I had ancestors from there and have a natural affinity for those countries but no, I don’t identify with them either culturally or politically, except in some small ways. Even though my wife still feels those ties, when she visits Taiwan the locals can tell she lives in another country. She’s not sure why but they just can, so something must have changed over the years.

    My wife has eight siblings. None of them want to leave Taiwan, though we could sponsor them if they wanted. They love living in Taiwan. Only one of my colleagues in Hsinchu (there were 60 in that office) had any desire to leave.

    Which Taipei neighborhood are you living in? Have you had a chance yet to explore other parts of the island?

    So Jerry, since you can’t understand the news, do you spend your evenings watching those commercials for the toll free lines that have young, nubile girls writhing around in various stages of undress??? (Ya gotta live there to know what I’m talking about. 😉 )

    @FOARP: Great comments! My observations from my time there agree with yours. It’s funny; when a Chinese born American who has received his green card and is able to visit Taiwan arrives, his first remark to me has always been how different it is from China. He can see a cultural difference right away, though it’s essentially the same culture. Taiwan engineers in China say the same thing. I could also see it. I think maybe Taiwan has its own cultural identity, but the Taiwanese can’t really see or feel it until they leave the country. FOARP, whenever I think of taike, I’ll recall a family of five riding down the street on a 50 cc. Vespa…

  110. @Jerry, so why do you want to “retire” in Taiwan? You are right: most people who have money would prefer to retire in the U.S. – or for some maybe Europe – like London or Paris.

  111. @Allen – I know exactly why I someone like to retire to Taiwan, even though I’m more than 40 years off retirement age (68 years old for anyone under the age of the 30 in 2004 in the UK, in case you’re wondering). It’s simple – the weather is nice 98% of the time, temperatures under 10 degree centigrade are considered extremely cold, the food is delicious, the people are respectful towards the elderly, the scenery is fantastic, there is much to see within a small area, and the pension will stretch further. London and Paris are places to be young and rich, I’ve got the first (although I found my first grey hair today – bummer) and I’m working on the second . . . and so are about 6 million other young people in London. I have no ambition to retire to the rat race that is London.

  112. “the weather is nice 98% of the time”

    Thats pretty optimistic. I remember when weather forecasts used to come as 晴时多云偶阵雨 (clear, sometimes cloudy, with occasional downpour) 😛

  113. FOARP,

    Lucky you – to be soooo young and with such a good mind. I am a lot nearer to retirement age than you, but not yet as mature as Jerry, perhaps even Steve. And for sure, will never be as smart as either.
    I have never been to Taiwan. I’ve always wanted to, but I was put off by the visa thing back then. Now, I am looking at Yunnan or Chengdu or maybe even Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia – anywhere where people are laidback and easy-going. Yours and Steve’s descriptions of Maoli sound so good, except perhaps the cost of living there is higher than in the Mainland and the other options I mentioned?

  114. @Hongkonger: Of your choices, the Thai are the most laid back and easygoing, as long as you don’t mind an occasional military coup or revolution, ha ha. I haven’t been to Malaysia but expats I met in China who lived there really liked it. I’ve also met women who felt uncomfortable because of the Muslim dress code, so I guess it’s a matter of individual preference. HCMC in Vietnam gets great reviews from the people who have visited, typically much better than Hanoi, but I never met anyone who decided to live there. Jerry, did you get a chance to stop by on your trip?

    I had tickets for Chengdu but that project delayed and I never made it out. My Chinese friends said it has a very high quality of life (and also mentioned the pretty and spicy girls) and isn’t expensive. Kunming in Yunnan is known as “eternal springtime” so it might be the San Diego of China when it comes to weather, but I’m not sure about the lifestyle.

    A-gu has it right; Taipei is the Seattle of Taiwan with a lot of rain and humidity. However, it’s suprisingly easy to get used to. The climate is sub-tropical but just south of Taichung you cross into the Tropic of Cancer so southern Taiwan is balmy, with definitely less rainfall. However, I like Taipei and my wife and I have a condo there for a back and forth retirement future between Taipei and San Diego, because we like what Taipei has to offer from a lifestyle POV. Comparing the cost of living to the mainland is really dependent on where you retire. The big cities on the mainland are no longer cheap, with Beijing and Shanghai now ranking as two of the most expensive in Asia in many areas. Taipei is also not cheap for housing but cheap for everything else.

    If you get to a Miaoli or city similar to that, the costs are much lower but my guess is that somewhere like Chengdu is less expensive. Miaoli is a great town, big enough for there to be a lot to do but small enough to feel that you are a part of the place, unlike Taipei with its 5 million or so people. You are definitely in Hakkaland so it has a different feel than other places. As the old saying goes: “Every man wants a Hakka wife but no woman wants a Hakka husband. Why? If you marry a Hakka wife she’ll work hard, but if you marry a Hakka husband he’ll put you to work.” Right FOARP? 😉

    I think when it comes to retirement, you just need to see the place first and you’ll usually know right away whether it fits you or not. The first time I landed in Shanghai, I felt like I was returning home; everything just fit me. It’s my favourite city in Asia and on my top five list in the world. But others go there and hate it, so it just depends on your style.

    Check out Taiwan; it has a very unique culture and is definitely worth seeing. Stepping into Longshan Temple in Taipei, you’ll see people worshipping like you’ll never see in China. Religion is much, much stronger in Taiwan and I think certain elements of the Chinese culture that were submerged during the Mao years still exist there. It’s hard to explain, but in some ways it is more Chinese than China.

  115. It’s hard to explain, but in some ways it is more Chinese than China.

    I suppose that China cut part of itself away during the Mao years and that in some respects can be seen in the modern country – how so many temples have essentially become nothing more than tourist attractions. But in Taiwan, Chinese culture wasn’t just preserved but even forced down people’s throats by the KMT to the detriment of local traditions. A shame, really, but at least it means some things lost in China can be found in Taiwan.

    I’ve always found it ironic how some Chinese will complain about Chiang “stealing” all those treasures from the Chinese museums, yet if they had been left there would they have still been safe today?

  116. @Raj #124,
    You wrote:

    But in Taiwan, Chinese culture wasn’t just preserved but even forced down people’s throats by the KMT to the detriment of local traditions. A shame, really, but at least it means some things lost in China can be found in Taiwan.

    Raj … Raj … Raj…

    Are you accusing the KMT of “cultural genocide” on the Taiwanese people?

    I know physicists (or at least science fiction writers) have theorized on the existence of parallel universes. Perhaps we do live in two distinct separate ones – and we are actually having an inter-universe communication!

    How awesome!!

    But this “cultural genocide” is too small for the KMT. If I can only find a parallel universe where the KMT actually colonized Japan, the Americas, and Europe – now that would be something…!

  117. From my limited experience.

    * When I was in Taipei a long time ago, it was as hot and humid as Hong Kong where I was born. Taiwan ladies are beautiful esp. those from China originally.

    * Living standard in Thailand is quite low. I can have a massage every day for an hour for peanuts. It is very relaxing, not for sex like the body massage. Do not eat in the street as they may use the same bucket of water for everything.

    * Malaysia is not for me. You cannot drink and have fun that much. If you carried some illegal drugs even for your personal consuming (I do not take drugs), you’ll be shoot to death. The Muslims cleaning up after is terrible and I cannot eat any food they prepare with their hands. It is only me.

    * Ladies from central China are very beautiful. I do not know why. Chonqqing has too many hills for me. It is huge.

    With the good exchange rate and US saving, we could have a very good life in China and SE Asia. The only drawback you may have to die earlier due to too many good food, bad air, bad water, and too many good servers…

  118. Thanks Steve for your response. BTW, I am Hakka. My grand father was a well known TCM doctor in his time. And from what I was told, my grandma (She died when I was really small) was a hardworking and damn wise hakka woman.
    By the way your wife is often mentioned in your comments , I gather she too is a wise hakka woman. “Some people have all the luck…” Haha…:-)

  119. Is it a myth that Hakka women work hard while the men fool around all day. There are exceptions of course.

  120. @Allen – A friend of mine likes nothing better than to go on about how the DPP and the KMT between them committed ‘cultural genocide’ against his people – the plains aboriginals (pingpu zu). Needless to say, about the only evidence he can offer of this is that the government does not funding teaching of his tribe’s language in schools. This might not be fair or correct, but ‘genocide’ is far too harsh a word.

  121. TonyP4: No, you might have misunderstood the joke. Both Hakka men and women are extremely hardworking, and it come from their history.

    Hakka were northern Chinese from the Yellow River valley who moved to southern China because of war, famine and government disintegration. From what I have read, the largest migration was near the end of the Tang dynasty. They came to southern Fujian/northern Guangdong province but were not accepted by the local Cantonese, so they located in the mountains and built tolou, round buildings that housed many families and were easy to defend against marauders and attacks from the Cantonese population. The land was poor so Hakka were known to start working in the fields before the sun rose and finishing after the sun went down. Since that time, they have migrated to Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Indonesia and other Chinese enclaves throughout the world, including San Diego, ha ha.

    Prominent Hakka were General Yue Fei ( jìn zhōng bào gúo) of the Song Dynasty, Hong Xiuquan of the Taiping Rebellion, Feng Zicai was commanding general in the only war China ever won against a western power, Sun Yat-sen, Charlie Soong and his three daughters, Mei-ling (loved power), Ai-ling (loved money), Ching-ling (loved China), Xue Yue, known as the Patton of Asia, Zhu De, Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang, Lee Teng-hui, Annette Liu, Tsai Ing-wen, Ma Yingjeou, Martin Lee, Lee Kwan Yew, Thaksin Shinawatra, Raymond Chow, Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun Fat, Li Ai, Yang Jinghui and Lin Dan. I like to tease my wife that every troublemaker in Chinese history was Hakka!

    Hakka women have never bound their feet. There is a story about an invading army that saw a local army marching perfectly down a mountain in precise military fashion. They send scouts closer and they realized the troop was composed of Hakka women carrying wood down the mountain. They were so impressed by their discipline that they figured the men would be unbeatable and left that area.

    I once talked to a chinese doctor near where I live. When he found out my wife was Hakka, he told me that in medical school in Taipei, Hakka was spoken more in the halls than putonghua or Taiwanese. When scholars studied ancient tablets with writing on them, they found that by translating them into Hakka, they could better understand the meaning rather than using putonghua. I have also read but cannot confirm that the Hakka language is very close to the language spoken during the Tang dynasty in Chang’an, their capitol. After moving to southern China, they held on to their original language and it has changed very little over the centuries.

    I married well~

    Hongkonger, how did I do???? 🙂

  122. @Steve,

    Bravo, as usual 🙂

    Chow Yun Fat is from a fishing village on one of the outlying islands of Hong Kong. He is perhaps the most loved HK movie stars, because of, among other things, his hakka-ness..haha. i.e. big family mentality, non self-centered, down-to-earth, real, sincere, hardy and especially respectful to the elders characteristics.
    Much like its culture, hakka food are not ostentatious, but oh, so tasty. The farm lands of the New Territories of Hong Kong were almost all once belonged to hakka farmers and fishermen. But since the 80s, most of the farm lands were bought up and developed by government and private developers. Many hakka farming families became suddenly rich. Many would send their sons and daughters to England. So, if you meet a younger HK chinese person who speaks with very heavy UK provincial English accent, he or she is most likely a descendant of the hakka natives of HK’s New Territories.

  123. Dear Steve,

    Hakka is a very conservative dialect but Tang dynasty Chinese is probably most closely reflected in S. Min dialects. Still, lots of Tang poetry rhymes better in Hakka, Cantonese and S. Min than it does in modern Mandarin.

    I’m sure the same is true for Hakka and Cantonese to some degree, but I’m also sure you can often understand certain phonetic aspects of characters better when using S. Min readings. For example:
    虎 hu3 “tiger”
    號 hao4 “sign, name, number suffix” & hao2 “howl, wail”

    You might wonder why “hu” was being used as the phonetic component in “hao.” If you check S. Min pronounciation, however, you find 虎 = hó͘ and 號 = hō — the ancient phonetic similarity is much more obvious.

  124. Hongkonger: My wife has a big family mentality (8 siblings), is not self-centered but is down to earth, real, sincere, and especially respectful to elders. Rather than use the word “hardy”, I’d say she is very athletic since that is a nicer word to use, ha ha. I never realized it had anything to do with her ethnic background; I just figured it was her unique personality. When she was young, they wanted to train her for the Olympics but her father would not allow it; rich girls don’t do “sports”. When she wanted to become a flight attendant, her father said “No way. Serve me food and drinks and I’ll pay you.” Don’t misunderstand, her father was a great guy and my wife was his favourite child. They were extremely close but he was just old fashioned in that way.

    I eat Hakka food pretty much everyday. Of all the dishes, I like what my wife calls “Hakka beef”, which is a marinated beef with flavors I’ve never had in any restaurant, Hakka or not. The other fantastic dish she makes is lamb also marinated for a long time. Many don’t like lamb dishes because of the “gamey” taste but her method totally removes it. (FOARP, be very jealous!) When we were in Miaoli last April, her cousin and his wife took us to a Hakka restaurant east of town that also had a local Hakka museum inside. It was very interesting to see all the old farm clothes and tools.

    A-gu, thanks for the linguistics information. I definitely have a Chinese stomach; unfortunately I also have an American tongue and am very stupid when it comes to languages. Though I took trains across China by myself with no problem, my putonghua was “survival” and I could never really have in-depth conversations with others, just the basics to go, do or eat, ask directions, etc. I could understand a lot more than I could say, and never learned to write the characters, though I could drive around Taiwan by memorizing the characters on the sign posts, which always amazed my colleagues.

    I’ve wanted to ask this of someone and you might be the perfect person for it. My hairdresser was born and raised in Taiwan but her family was originally from Fuzhou. She speaks putonghua, Taiwanese and Fuzhou dialect. I always thought the Fuzhou dialect was S. Min and the same as Taiwanese but she told me they are totally different. Can you explain this? I am curious.

    My other question would be: Weren’t S. Min people originally from that area? Why would their dialect be closer to Tang royalty dialect if they never lived in the north? It seemed logical to me that a people who left one area would preserve the dialect of their ancestors so the Hakka similarity made sense to me, but S. Min didn’t have that experience. You offer linguistic evidence that there is a connection and I thought you might have something historical to make sense out of it. These kinds of similarities fascinate me and I really appreciate your explanation of the language.

  125. Hi folks, thanks for busting the myth. Besides Chow and some funny dialects in Chinese movies, my experience with Hakka is limited. I hope to marry one in my next life, so the hard working lady would clean up my house better, haha.

    My image is a tough Hakka lady with the traditional dress (big hat, all cover up and in black) standing up and paddling a sampan. Sometimes stereotype never disappears – sorry about that. We’re lucky to have the vast and interesting cultures and minorities (is Hakka a minority?) in China. Thanks for the interesting history.

    For more info on Hakka:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakka

  126. To HKer:
    ahhh, Chow Yun Fat. What an actor. Ever since “Shanghai Beach” in the early 80’s. Then “A Better Tomorrow” and “Hard Boiled”, among many others. He sure had a good and influential run. Too bad he’s not had as much luck in Hollywood.

  127. Chow Yuen-fat is too good for Hollywood. They would never make anything like the Mark in A Better Tomorrow who kills off a whole group of people in a restaurant and then puts a match between his lips and stand there for a while enjoying his work…

  128. To Wukailong:
    for fear of raising people’s ire once again for going on about movies…

    Agreed! That whole sequence, starting with him in the restaurant feeling women up while he drops guns into flower pots, is one of the most memorable for me from HK movies in the last 20-25 years. That movie is like the Untouchables for me…an enduring classic.

  129. One time I was in Jiangyin in Jiangsu province with one of our salesmen named Nelson and the way back to Shanghai was on this van that had a TV built into it. They started playing an old Chow Yun-Fat movie and Nelson said, “Oh, this is a good one!” He was a gangster who gets amnesia, acts more like a child and these young kids find him and take care of him. It was really funny. Anyone here have any idea which movie I’m talking about?

  130. * Steve, this must be God of Gamblers, my favorite. He should have won a lot of awards for this role that requires him to play tough and silly in the same movie. He did both well esp. in Cantonese. My HK elementary classmate had a role in this movie.

    * He is totally believable in most movies he is in. He could be the best Chinese actor (Bruce Lee is another class by himself) in our generation and the previous. Chinese actors are tough in Hollywood – it is the culture, stereotype… Older generation still has the image of a Chinaman with pigtails working in building the trans-America railroad… it is changing fast esp. with martial arts.

    * John Woo and Chow YF introduced the world their outstanding action movies and put HK on the map.

    * I do not know Shanghai Beach is a good translation or not. It should be Shanghai Bund. Any beach in Shanghai? It is a great TV series. I told my Shanghai friend that when the series ran, no one could be found in the street in Shanghai, but she told me it was greatly exaggerated.

    * A lot of HKers imitated him wearing heavy jacket, sun glasses and with a toothpick on hot summer days. Movie copies real life, or the other way round?

    * Probably he is in over 100 movies/tv series.
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000334/

  131. TonyP4: Yep, God of Gamblers was the one. CYF is certainly a versatile actor! I can’t say who the best Chinese actor is since I haven’t seen that many, but I can say that CYF is my favourite Chinese actor.

    I think the older generation has an image of Chinese men as wearing Mao jackets and living in a bleak, Soviet style environment. The old image of the queued Chinese railroad worker is pretty well shot. Virtually every American I know has either been to China or has a friend who has traveled there, and heard the stories from them. Incidentally, in my experience these stories have been 100% positive.

    Nope, no beaches in Shanghai, so I’m sure it’s Shanghai Bund.

    I believe real life copies movies more than movies copy real life, and movies really influence perceptions. Once I was talking to a girl in Shanghai who asked me, “If you’re on a bus in the States and it starts to rain, how do you keep from getting wet?” I said, “Why would I get wet if I’m on the bus?” and she replied, “Well, from all the bulletholes in the roof!” (I’m not making this up)

    She was under the impression that America is this ultra violent place where we see drive by shooting, mugging and general mayhem virtually everyday. She figured criminals had shot up pretty much all the buses since she saw it so much in American cinema. I told her I had never been mugged, never seen a shooting of any kind and that I didn’t own a gun. There were around 15 people with us at the time and they all said, “All Americans own guns!!”

    Now, when I grew up we probably had 30 or more guns in the house and I am more than capable with them, but my wife isn’t comfortable with a gun in the house and most of our friends don’t have guns in their homes, so it’s not that big a deal. But after watching so many movies, it seems the vast majority of Chinese believe the opposite. And I’m sure the perceptions go the other way. Americans who watch a lot of HK movies probably believe gangs run HK, and that every Chinese person is skilled in the martial arts.

    My favourite Chinese martial arts film was one of the first that came out of the mainland but unfortunately I don’t know its name. A martial arts family of man, woman and child comes into a town to perform, but the local martial arts school unreasonably challenges them and the wandering martial artist is forced to fight the local master against his will. He can easily beat him but doesn’t want him to lose face so he loses, but stamps his heel when doing so, breaking the cement. An old man sees the fight and realizes this man shares his style. They talk and the old man was a school brother of his teacher. The old man then trains him in baguazhang by putting eight poles in the ground and has him walk around the eight, etc. The arts used are xingyquan and baguazhang. In the end, this man is forced to fight a foreign fighter but his family is kidnapped and he has to lose, so he stalls until the family is rescued by the master he originally had to fight who now respects him very much and is his friend, then he is able to beat the foreigner using bagua. Do you know this movie? I saw it many years ago and the martial arts are far more realistic than normal.

    I detest these new ones with all the wire work like CTHD, Hero, Green Daggers, The Promise, etc. To me they are fantasy films, totally unrealistic. I’d take Shaolinsi over all of them any day of the week.

  132. Allen

    Are you accusing the KMT of “cultural genocide” on the Taiwanese people? I know physicists (or at least science fiction writers) have theorized on the existence of parallel universes. Perhaps we do live in two distinct separate ones – and we are actually having an inter-universe communication! How awesome!!

    But this “cultural genocide” is too small for the KMT. If I can only find a parallel universe where the KMT actually colonized Japan, the Americas, and Europe – now that would be something…!

    I didn’t once use the term cultural genocide – don’t put words in my mouth. That’s what people do when they have no way of responding to someone’s argument and try to throw up a smokescreen, or they’re ignorant of the facts.

    Anyone with an ounce of knowledge about the last couple of decades of Taiwanese history would know that the KMT did repress Taiwanese culture. That is not to say they attempted to obliterate it, but they did keep it down because they saw Taiwanese identity as a threat to their rule (and surprise, surprise the DPP and other groups formed on pro-Taiwan lines). Children were forced to speak Mandarin and would be screamed at (even beaten) by pro-KMT teachers for speaking local dialects.

    I suggest you not make light of a time that was unpleasant for many people. You wouldn’t be happy for your kids to be verbally (even physically) assaulted by teachers if they spoke the “wrong” language at school, would you?

  133. LOL on bullet holes on the bus. Contrary to popular belief, it is almost impossible to get a gun in Hong Kong even for TRIAD, the Chinese Mafia. They fight with a kind of long knife, which becomes popular at one time for cooking. The best martial artist cannot fare well with a gun, so it will not work well for martial art movies in today’s setting. Mutual misunderstanding. Are movies supposed to promote understanding of folks of different cultures?

    30 years ago, I went to a supermarket on Monday afternoon, a popular day Chinese workers in restaurants to take a day off. An old, white guy talked to his wife loudly “see so many Chinese taking social welfare”. I do not think the younger folks would say something similar in public today.

  134. TonyP4: Hey, I found that movie! It’s called Wulinzhi or Pride’s Deadly Fury, also known as The Honor of Dongfang Xu (1983). The martial artists used were from the Beijing Wushu team, so it’s very accurate in the fighting sequences. The stars were pretty unknown: Li Junfeng, Li Yude and Zhang Yunxi. Do you know that one?

  135. @Raj #141,

    I suggest you not make light of a time that was unpleasant for many people. You wouldn’t be happy for your kids to be verbally (even physically) assaulted by teachers if they spoke the “wrong” language at school, would you?

    Your are right. Absolutely right. In fact, I think I am having a TOTAL RECALL experience right now! (I was in fact beaten several times for speaking the Taiwanese dialect in school.)

    DAMN those KMT officials. How dare they make me learn Mandarin so I can communicate with the rest of the Chinese people? How dare they improve the standards of living of the Taiwanese people and give me the opportunity to come to America for schooling? How dare they take my life as a farmer away from me?

    By the way … all my family all still speak the Taiwanese dialect at home. We also speak perfect Mandarin. Oh yeh, we also speak some English.

  136. I asked my wife how it was back in the 50s-60s in Taiwan. She said she didn’t remember anyone getting beaten for speaking Hakka in school but they were told to only speak Mandarin and she just obeyed the rule. She thinks it was fine to learn Mandarin and her feeling about the KMT and CCP is that if you have to choose between two bad apples, choose the less rotten one which for her was the KMT. When her cousin was in school, he had to learn Japanese (this was before and during the war) so Taiwanese had to learn a foreign language both before and after the war, the only difference was that the language changed. I think it’s safe to say that in Taiwan, Mandarin was a foreign language in 1950. Today it all worked out well since Mandarin is the universal language for the Chinese culture. My wife would probably not have many mainland friends if she didn’t speak it.

    She also said it made sense to not have different areas of China speaking different dialects. As an example, she can’t understand Shanghainese at all. From a Taiwanese perspective, if they didn’t have to learn Mandarin, they would not have had the business success in China that they’ve enjoyed for the past 20+ years. Taiwan is one of the very few countries to actually have a trade surplus with China.

    Allen, I think your argument for the increase in the standard of living under the KMT isn’t quite valid. After the war, the standard of living actually went down compared to the Japanese era. It really took off under Jiang Jingguo, but that was 30 years later. Who is to say that Taiwan without the KMT would not have developed much faster and your opportunities might not have been greater? It’s all speculation unless you really CAN access one of those parallel universes! 🙂

    Does your family really speak perfect Mandarin??? When I was in Beijing, the locals were always making fun of the Taiwanese accent when they spoke Mandarin. They also made fun of Shanghainese and everyone else that wasn’t from northern China. So… do you say “nar” or “nali”? 😉

  137. @Steve,

    You wrote:

    Allen, I think your argument for the increase in the standard of living under the KMT isn’t quite valid. After the war, the standard of living actually went down compared to the Japanese era. It really took off under Jiang Jingguo, but that was 30 years later. Who is to say that Taiwan without the KMT would not have developed much faster and your opportunities might not have been greater? It’s all speculation unless you really CAN access one of those parallel universes!

    Oh … I wasn’t trying to make the argument that KMT was the “best thing” for Taiwan (I’m no inter-universe traveler after all!). I was only arguing that change by itself is not bad – and that I appreciate many of the changes brought by the KMT (of course there are the bad, as you already read about how politics forced my family to move to the U.S.).

    Does your family really speak perfect Mandarin??? When I was in Beijing, the locals were always making fun of the Taiwanese accent when they spoke Mandarin. They also made fun of Shanghainese and everyone else that wasn’t from northern China.

    I don’t like the Beijing “accent” – so when I have to strain to understand what my Beijijng friends are saying, I often remind them to speak slower when they speak “北京方言” (i.e. specifically making it clear that I’m denigrating Beijing Mandarin as a “local” dialect!).

  138. Allen~ I agree with you about the KMT; they did some good things and some bad things. I personally think they improved as time went by. My opinion of Jiang Jieshi is similar to General Stilwell’s, who used to call him “Peanuthead”.

    I’m also with you on the Beijing inflection. I have a hard time to understand it and it sounds “harsh” to me compared to other parts of China. But I’ve had many Chinese from those other parts of the country telling me that the best way to learn Mandarin is from a Beijing teacher, since it is the correct way to speak it. Well, I don’t care. It’s “nali” for me. 🙂

  139. “北京方言” (i.e. Beijing Mandarin as a “local” dialect!).

    To believe that “the best way to learn Mandarin is from a Beijing teacher, since it is the correct way to speak it. ”

    I much prefer the NorthEasterner’s Mandarin. Correct me if I’m wrong, people in Dalian, Nanjing etc; don’t roll their tongues like they do in Beijing, right? Everytime Dalian is mention, I can’t help but refer to the fact that, I think, in general, girls there are the most lovely to behold, in the modern sense, i.e. Tall, leggy and lovely skin. Anyway, back to Mandarin. I will not say Beijing Mandarin is the standard Mandarin anymore than the Queen’s English is the standard of English, right?

    Though quite a lovely language to the ear, the Queen’s English, especially in theatres, even amusing to imitate. However, unlike Beijing mandarin, it is near impossible to find a person speaking the Queen’s English interested in the lowly teaching profession in the ESL field.

  140. @TommyBahamas: Never been to Dalian, but one of my salesmen went to university there and he also went on about the girls. I think so far I’ve heard that the prettiest girls in China are from: Dalian, Harbin, Suzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Since I haven’t been to all these cities yet, I’ll need to be enlightened by the people on this blog. I heard the girls from Harbin are very tall and it’s where the models come from. Like you, I heard the girls in Dalian have very nice skin. Chengdu girls are supposed to be spicy and make the best wives, Suzhou girls are supposed to be the cutest, Shenzhen girls the most petite and Shanghai girls… well, I’ll let you tell me what you think of Shanghai girls, ha ha.

    I’m not sure if it’s still in fashion but when I was there, the big item for women in the summer was those short, short denim shorts. Shanghai girls seemed to easily have the best legs. For me, the prettiest girls in Asia are from Taiwan. The prettiest girls in Taiwan are from Miaoli (FOARP will vouch for this) and the prettiest girl in Miaoli is my wife. Therefore, I must have married the prettiest girl in Asia~ 😉

  141. This may not be the time to get in a discussion about preserving the Holo Taiwanese language, or exactly why the KMT local language suppression was so unnecessarily destructive (after all, you could have taught people mandarin without forbidding other languages at school, and Japanese ruled the island for 50 years without eliminating local langauges to the same degree as the KMT managed in the same time frame). But I am increasingly convinced the KMT has effectively succeeded in wiping Holo out already. How can I say that when so many people still speak it at home?

    1) Anyone younger than 30 years old is decreasingly likely to maintain speaking fluency. I have only sen a handful of kids in their 20’s with real strong speaking ability. And even fewer in Taipei.

    2) Even those with speaking ability may not speak Taiwanese with their significant other due to the circumstances they met (jobs, school, etc) where Mandarin was generally used in preference of Taiwanese. This means that some perfectly fluent parents end up speaking Mandarin to each other, and will then naturally, end up speaking that with their children. I know lots of couples conforming to this model.

    3) The majority of parents now *just don’t care.* They don’t push their chlidren to speak Taiwanese. They don’t think the schools should bother teaching Taiwanese. They view languages entirely through a lense of “what will make my kid money in a globalizing world.” Hence the single minded focus on English (even more so than Mandarin; people just take for granted the kids will learn Mandarin). That’s why there’s thousands of buxibans and English kindys in Taiwan for teaching English; there’s not a single Taiwanese-oriented kindergarten. And all of this despite research showing that teaching children in their first language increases their confidence and scores across the board, including in second languages.

    4) This is the situation for Holo; Hakka and aboriginal tongues are in even worse shape.

    I think it’s pretty much too late.

  142. A-Gu,

    What you are saying applies to every dialects except mandarin. My parents are not able to speak mandarin. I speak both mandarin and hometown dialect. My children only speak Mandarin and English. I don’t worry.

    I understand Holo,Hakka are no much different from mandarin but Japanese is very different. I am not quiet sure how to compare the two situation.

  143. Allen

    In fact, I think I am having a TOTAL RECALL experience right now!

    So you’re trying to tell me that if you don’t experience something then it means no one else does? How does that work?

    How dare they make me learn Mandarin so I can communicate with the rest of the Chinese people?

    What Chinese people? The KMT kept Taiwan separate from China – there was little or no interaction for ages. If anything the KMT arrivals should have learnt the local lingo, rather than force the locals to speak their tongue because they were too bone idle to change their ways.

    How dare they improve the standards of living of the Taiwanese people and give me the opportunity to come to America for schooling?

    First, I don’t buy the “things get better under us so we have the right to give you a good kicking when we feel like it” argument. Second, it’s arguable as to how much KMT rule improved life, or whether US aid and cheap loans were what kicked things off.

    How dare they take my life as a farmer away from me?

    You were a farmer and made to do something else?

    ++++

    BMY

    What you are saying applies to every dialects except mandarin.

    But why it happens is important. Is it a gradual reduction in interest, or is it due to forceful policies from the State? With Taiwanese, it was the latter under the KMT.

  144. A-gu~ You may be correct in your assessment, but I can tell you from my personal experience that all our nieces and nephews in my wife’s family are fluent in Hakka. It wasn’t dying out in Miaoli when I lived there.(and I think FOARP would concur) In fact, it’s all I heard in the market.

    Before we moved to Taiwan, I bought the Lonely Planet guidebook. In it, the author said that Hakka was a dying language and virtually no one spoke it anymore so it seems to be a perception that people have. But when I got there, I found that it was spoken in all the Hakka towns I visited and it turned out that the author didn’t know much about Taiwan at all, since I found many errors in his book. (maybe the only LP guidebook that totally sucked)

    If you go to Sanyi where they sell all those great wooden sculptures, everyone speaks Hakka. When I was in Tainan on business, everyone spoke Taiwanese. My wife speaks Mandarin, Hakka, Taiwanese and English, all fluently. I think these days kids learn both their family language and Mandarin before they even go to school and for me, multiple language understanding makes it easier for them later to learn foreign languages such as English or Japanese.

    What you say could be more true in Taipei, since they might see themselves as very cosmopolitan and push English as a second language. I hope all the secondary languages continue to be taught at home since for me, it enriches the culture.

  145. Shanghai girls make the worst house wife as they expect you to do all the house work. Taiwan girls esp. from China are the most prettiest. It could be due to mixing different groups of Chinese. NE China girls are taller and better figure (could be due to food and climate). Most Shenzan girls are from different regions of China as migrated workers. Some one should write a similar song about the girls in China.

  146. TonyP4:

    Well east coast girls are hip
    I really dig those styles they wear
    And the southern girls with the way they talk
    They knock me out when I’m down there

    The western farmers daughters really make you feel alright
    And the northern girls with the way they kiss
    They keep their boyfriends warm at night

    I wish they all could be California girls! 😉

  147. Well Shanghai girls are hip
    I really dig those styles they wear
    And the Beijing girls with the way they talk
    They knock me out when I’m up there

    The Yunnan farmers daughters really make you feel alright
    And the NorthEast girls with the way they walk
    They keep their boyfriends warm at night

    I wish they all could be Taiwan girls! 😉
    Dalian, Harbin, Suzhou, Chengdu, Shenzhen are all great!

  148. The primary reason they expanded the Grand Canal is the emperor wanted to visit the beauties in Hangzhou/Suzchou. Historically correct? ha ha. With the polluted water, we may not have healthy beauties any more.

  149. Steve, seems awesome, almost as good as my Kung Fu (a joke!).

    Cannot find the movie from Netflix. The following seems to be close: http://www.netflix.com
    /Search?v1=Wu%20Lin%20Sheng%20Dou%20Shi%20/%20Steel%20Horse&search_submit.x=0&search_submit.y=0&lnkce=acsEnhCk

    Iron Monkey and Kung Fu Hustle are quite good, but they also use a lot of wires.

  150. “multiple language understanding makes it easier for them later to learn foreign languages such as English or Japanese. ”

    This is still true in truely multi-cultural countries like Malaysia and singapore.

    “This means that some perfectly fluent parents end up speaking Mandarin to each other, and will then naturally, end up speaking that with their children. I know lots of couples conforming to this model. ”

    This has been true with Chinese immigrants in English speaking countries for example. But with mixed marriage couples I know in HK for example, I am happy to report that some parents are more sensible. INstead of sending their kids to expensive and exclusive International schools, they make sure their kids learn the local culture/language in local primary schools.

    Indeed, Harbin girls are incredibly gorgeous! To me, Taiwanese girls are the most seductive in a good way, because they tend to be very 嗲..I have no idea what the english word for that is. The way they talk makes my knees weaken and my heart beat quicken. Schwing~ 😉

  151. @A-gu #150,

    I admit. My fluency in Taiwanese is low compared to Mandarin even though I speak 100% Taiwanese with my Grandparents.

    You wrote:

    The majority of parents now *just don’t care.* They don’t push their chlidren to speak Taiwanese. They don’t think the schools should bother teaching Taiwanese. They view languages entirely through a lense of “what will make my kid money in a globalizing world.” Hence the single minded focus on English (even more so than Mandarin; people just take for granted the kids will learn Mandarin).

    What should we do?

    I don’t think this is a political issue. It’s a globalization issue.

    Thankfully though – Taiwanese is in no danger of extinction.

    For a list of languages considered “endangered” or “near extinction” – you can look here for a listing of some.

  152. Allen, thanks for that language list. I noticed only one dialect in China was in danger, which I think is pretty impressive. Whenever I hear the word “Jurchen” I always think of General Yue Fei’s battles with the Jurchen during the Song dynasty.

    The endangered languages in Taiwan seemed to be aborigine, and I would suspect they are tribes with small populations. Are most of the young adults from the aborigine reservations leaving to move to the cities after they graduate? I should have spent more time in those parts of Taiwan. I’m afraid the only area I really saw was in the Taroko Gorge.

  153. Do not underestimate the dangers to Holo, Hakka or aboriginal languages. Most of these figures for endangered languages are calculated using the number of speakers who say “I can speak that language.” They don’t account for the sort of generational decay occurring now.

    @Allen, you ask, “what should we do?” and note this is not a political issue. I agree wholeheartedly; one of the tragedies of language education here in Taiwan is the difficulty of decoupling it from political issues. It’s been turned into a political issue for a hundred years now. And sadly, many people that are trying to help these slipping languages are doing so for political motives, while anyone who promotes these languages is *labeled* as having political motives even when they don’t.

    And I think there’s nothing we *can* do to really fix the problem unless Taiwanese parents change their attitude and make a priority about improving both their own mother tongue fluency and about passing it down to their children. Otherwise I consider it a lost cause.

    @Steve, yes most aboriginal children are moving into cities. Even most of the 20-something aboriginals I know who are in Pingtung City can no longer speak Paiwan very well, and that’s not far from Paiwan dominant areas. This is in contrast to when my wife was in elementary school, when the Paiwan kids would speak Paiwan to each other during most of their free time. The only people I’ve met who are still fluent are those who have stayed in their parents’ villages (Ami & Paiwan). They only good news is the aboriginal birthrate is higher than most of Taiwan, so there is a chance enough people will hang around to pass on their culture and language.

  154. It is harder to unit the oral language than the written language by the first emperor of China about 2000 years ago. Still, we should be thankful if you look at India (fortunately or unfortunately Britons made them learn English). Imagine the segregated market of movie industry due to so many oral languages in India. In China, one movie can be enjoyed by all and not same in India.

    For me Cantonese is the best. 🙂

  155. @TonyP4

    Don’t worry for Indian people, they can often speak 3 or 4 of their languages, and BTW Hindi and English are their lingua franca.

  156. FOARP, I love your logic. . .

    Because of ‘earthquakes’, Taiwan should not be an independent nation.

    Go [profanity removed by Allen] yourself you ignorant [profanity removed by Allen].

  157. @Allen
    @FOARP #116
    @RUMman #169

    Thanks, Allen, for your swift editing. I saw the original in the email.

    FOARP, I love your logic. . .

    Because of ‘earthquakes’, Taiwan should not be an independent nation.

    Go [profanity removed by Allen] yourself you ignorant [profanity removed by Allen].

    Wow, that was an amazingly clear, logical “cry for help”, RUMman. Oh, excuse me, I meant cogent, convincing, logical argument. Good god! ::shaking my head:: And I thought I had a bad temper.

    This is what FOARP said in #116.

    People in Taiwan certainly have more to proud of in the way of acheivements than Mainland Chinese do, and at least as much as the people of Hong Kong do, yet they do not take pride from these accomplishments. The Taiwanese lack any kind of substantive identity – if nothing else all the ‘are you Chinese or Taiwanese’ polls show this. I have heard people admit to being Huaren but not to being Zhongguoren, jokingly refer to themselves as ‘taike’ but then say how much they don’t like the attitudes of the benshengren, and (a classic one in my old company) make grand pronunciations about how Taiwanese are different to Mainlanders when talking to non-Chinese and then make equally grand speeches about the differences between women zhongguoren and tamen laowai when talking to a mainland audience. The majority of people in Taiwan feel some level of Taiwanese identity, but a substantial minority feel threatened by it because their primary identity is Chinese – this is, I would say, where Allen’s comments of Taiwan’s ‘politics of hate’ come from. The Chinese brand is one that the old KMT and the CCP between them have done much to deface in China, nor is an appeal to the free-wheeling but Chinese identity felt by many in Hong Kong a solution, not least because Taiwanese and Hong-Kong Chinese don’t see eye-to-eye. The new KMT government had a chance to revive and reclaim the Chinese identity, but it has not done so. In fact recent events have merely re-inforced the difficulty of a democratic Taiwanese government ever seeing eye-to-eye with the CCP.

    The Taiwanese identity is also somewhat problematic, nobody has a clear idea of what it is, other than a kind of crippled body-politic that has grown in Taiwan (and perhaps before that) since 1895. Despite what a small minority of Taiwanese wish, Taiwan will never be America’s ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’, the 51st state, or otherwise permanently placed under the American aegis – whilst the communist threat remains the US guarantee remains, but American power is on the wane. Taiwan as an independent nation would always be a junior partner in any of her relations with any of her immediate neighbours, independence, even if recognised by the world community, would still leave Taiwan vulnerable to attack. To add to this sense of impermanence, Taiwan is regularly rocked by powerful earthquakes and swept by awesome typhoons. At any moment nature can reduce Taiwan to a state of shocked destruction equal to that which a mainland invasion might bring.

    I may be missing something here, but it seems that FOARP was commenting on various forces which impact Taiwan: global politics, Chinese politics, local Taiwanese politics, Chinese culture, Chinese identity, Taiwanese identity, the US, and natural phenomena like earthquakes and typhoons, and inpermanence. Inpermanence is a fact of life everywhere, some places more so than others.

    Then you comment, “Because of ‘earthquakes’, Taiwan should not be an independent nation.” Huh? I just don’t understand your non-sequiturian conclusion.

    What am I missing here, RUMman? Please enlighten me. And profanity won’t serve to enlighten me. I can do that on my own, without the benefit of the thought process. 😉

    Or quite possibly, my daughter, Dr. Boo, might be able to recommend some serious “pills of the chill variety (Thanks, SK!)”. I hope your day gets better.

  158. To Jerry,
    thanks for researching what RUMman was referring to. Seemed like it was from left field. And coupled with the saucy language, i figured he must have fallen and hit his head. But now knowing what he was referring to, and seeing how he’s missed FOARP’s point, he might still be lying somewhere, unable to get up.

  159. “my daughter, Dr. Boo, might be able to recommend some serious “pills of the chill variety ”

    @Jerry,

    I dunno why I never thought of this before. Your above statement just reminded me to ask you because if you don’t know, you could easily ask your daugther.
    I think, my buddy and part-time boss, is a little deranged, crazy, nuts, a brick-short-of-a-load, loco-loco, the lights-are-on-but-no-one’s-home, etc. Ha ha . Is there sth called ADHD or whatever….yunno, some kind of Adult attention-deficiency-hyperactive-chronic-depression-hallucinating-whatcumacalit syndrome ? First off, he has delusion of grandeur, he thinks he is the savior, he brings in stray cats(people in trouble), hires anybody who’d come for interview and fires them just as easily. He tells everyone he is a genius with a multi-track mind (I call that lack of focus) blah blah…He’d cry when he speak of his aspirations and beg when fed up empoyees threaten to resign…..Any idea??????

  160. @S.K. Cheung #171

    “But now knowing what he was referring to, and seeing how he’s missed FOARP’s point, he might still be lying somewhere, unable to get up.” Perhaps this may be PTSD. Then again, maybe one of its subsets, PESD (Post-Election Stress Disorder), with possibly a little PESMSD (Post-Election Stock Market Stress Disorder).

    I had a touch yesterday of PECNNERSD (Post-Election CNN Election Reporting Stress Disorder) yesterday. I have recovered well.

    I think you mentioned sometime ago about the “dumbing down” of American media. Well, I get to watch the urbane, international versions of CNN, BBC and Bloomberg. I admit that I have been spoiled.

    So I watched Bloomberg Tuesday evening (here; Tuesday morning in NYC) and watched the ever-clueless news-babe, Betty Liu, and her less than sapient, sage questions and comments. Morton Zuckerman ate her up alive; I don’t think she even realized. She and her NYC compatriots are such a letdown compared to Bernard Lo, Haslinda Amin, Cathy Yang and Susan Li, based out of HK and Singapoor (intentional misspelling and political comment).

    So yesterday I woke up early. I tuned into Bloomberg and watched Bernard and the ever-cute, adorable and “smart as a whip” Haslinda. I felt better. I then turned to CNN. I felt worse, immediately. I got their American crew. Hours and hours of misery for the most part, but the voting analyst was amazing in breaking down the race state-by-state. He was so knowledgeable, competent and glib. He made the others look like such fools, except for David Gergen, who has always been sharp. Bill Bennett was out of his league seated next to Gergen.

    Today, I watched Bernard dismantle various Asian analysts takes on the economy and Obama. Cathy just nodded along with her set of analysts, occasionally arching her eyebrows. I don’t know where Haslinda was. That girl can nail an analyst to the wall. I think she does that by disarming them with her cuteness and then she kicks in that amazing brain and engages that glib tongue of hers. Great sport, great watching. Take note, Americans, there is intelligence out there and it is not extra-terrestial.

    BTW, the American women reporters remind me of those great-looking babes on Channel NewsAsia from Singapoor. Great-lookers reading the news without the benefit of journalism. I know that Chloe Cho would probable choke me for that comment. Actually, I think Chloe has great potential, but she never seems to get a real opportunity. Too bad.

    Here is a plug for Amy Goodman and Terri Gross. They aren’t babes, but they are serious journalists who run circles around most American women reporters and, for sure, those vacuous babes in Singapoor. BTW, I watch Channel NewsAsia for dessert, not journalism. 😀

  161. @TommyBahamas #172

    I dunno why I never thought of this before. Your above statement just reminded me to ask you because if you don’t know, you could easily ask your daugther.
    I think, my buddy and part-time boss, is a little deranged, crazy, nuts, a brick-short-of-a-load, loco-loco, the lights-are-on-but-no-one’s-home, etc. Ha ha . Is there sth called ADHD or whatever….yunno, some kind of Adult attention-deficiency-hyperactive-chronic-depression-hallucinating-whatcumacalit syndrome ? First off, he has delusion of grandeur, he thinks he is the savior, he brings in stray cats(people in trouble), hires anybody who’d come for interview and fires them just as easily. He tells everyone he is a genius with a multi-track mind (I call that lack of focus) blah blah…He’d cry when he speak of his aspirations and beg when fed up empoyees threaten to resign…..Any idea??????

    Well, for sure, Tommy, I am not a doctor. I could suggest some solutions, but they are all probably illegal, except maybe committing him to a psych ward. 🙂

    I am sorry, but Boo rarely diagnoses anything over the phone, other than her needing money. 😀 Besides, she is an orthopedic surgeon resident. If it involves removing, splinting, or otherwise mending bones, that she can do.

    All these friggin’ disorders nowadays. Go figure.

    Seriously, Tommy, if this is chronic, he needs to go see a local doctor. I don’t know, Tommy, he is your bud. Does he drink heavily or do drugs? Is he under the care of a physician? Is he suicidal? Is he chronically depressed? Does he have manic phases? Having a son who was diagnosed ADHD, had asthma as a youngster and is occasionally clinically depressed, I would recommend a competent physician. My son’s doctor has helped him. I also have a cousin who was bi-polar. She is doing very well now. I have brothers who were epileptic. Both are now cured. I have a brother who was non-classical autistic. He is doing well now. My hyper-achieving father had a nervous breakdown at 41. He is fine today at 87 years old. Appropriate medical attention and care can be very helpful.

  162. “I could suggest some solutions, but they are all probably illegal…”

    Well, he is constantly self-medicated. As for his neck pain, relief comes through sucking on home-made bongs…LOL. The guy is very friendly, but he can’t stop talking. I got suspicious when he said God talked to him when he was a boy. Cookoo, hello…..

    ” All these friggin’ disorders nowadays. Go figure. ” Could that be from SKC’s major concern woth regards to hormones in meat, and GMO vegies, fruits, nuts, beans?

  163. @TommyBahamas #175

    ” All these friggin’ disorders nowadays. Go figure. ” Could that be from SKC’s major concern woth regards to hormones in meat, and GMO vegies, fruits, nuts, beans?

    Well, Tommy, in a world where:

    There are 6+ billion people on the planet.

    Ecological footprint exceeded biocapacity by 25% in 2003 and getting worse by the year.

    Currently, there are 30,000,000 chemical compounds.

    Huge agri-giants are playing “GMO science experiment” with our food systems and biodiversity.

    Huge financial concerns can create imaginary growth betting on imaginary derivatives to the tune of $550 trillion; that is $550,000,000,000,000 ($550 x 10¹²).

    Monsanto is trying to privatize water distribution while socializing the cost of doing so.

    We are inundated by 24×7 lifestyles, news, internet, information, etc.

    We are no longer citizens or people; we are troops, collateral damage, information workers and sometimes, just plain numbers.

    Global, multinational corporations have more rights than human beings.

    Economies all around the world are built on materialistic consumerism.

    Companies will adulterate food for profit, or ship toxic food for profit, or use dangerous animal feed products, no matter how many lives they jeopardize.

    I could go on, but I will stop here.

    Well, Tommy, in such a world, I am concerned, too.

  164. #176 Hi Jerry,

    That was a scary list of, dare I say, product of evil Capitalism?
    I have never studied Marxism. Basically, I got the idea that Marxists jumped the gun by bypassing socialist capitalism and missed the boat. On the other hand, Capitalistic Consumerism days are numbered because mother earth can’t sustain
    the over mining of natural resources and relentless pollution of the environment.
    There are answers and solutions to all our problems but for the universality of human greed.

    I read that a major interplanetary paradigm shift is taking place with or without man’s help. Mother nature is exercising its Universal Rights to survive.

  165. @TommyBahamas #175

    I read that a major interplanetary paradigm shift is taking place with or without man’s help. Mother nature is exercising its Universal Rights to survive.

    Einsteinian physics is where I draw hope. We’ll just have to see.

    Regarding Mother Nature and Earth, Tommy, I am not too worried. If we keep on our present path, I see Mother Nature scratching her head 10 million years from now, “What was the name of that stupid, egotistical species? Oh yeah, homo sapiens. Not too bright and not too sapient.” Pun intended.

    I think Earth and Mother Nature will survive us just fine.

    Dr John has a very appropriate song called “The Monkey”. Hope you enjoy, Tommy.

    The Monkey

    Sung by Dr. John

    Written by Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King

    The monkey speaks his mind

    And three monkeys sat in a coconut tree
    Discussing things as they are said to be
    Said one to other now listen, you two
    “There’s a certain rumour that just can’t be true
    That man descended from our noble race
    Why, the very idea is a big disgrace, yea”
    No monkey ever deserted his wife
    Starved her baby and ruined her life

    Yea, the monkey speaks his mind

    And you’ve never known a mother monk
    To leave her babies with others to bunk
    And passed them on from one to another
    ‘Til they scarcely knew which was their mother
    Yea, the monkey speak his mind

    And another thing you will never see
    A monkey build a fence around a coconut tree
    And let all the coconuts go to waste
    Forbidding other monkeys to come and taste
    Why, if I put a fence around this tree
    Starvation would force you to steal from me

    Yea, the monkey speaks his mind

    Here’s another thing a monkey won’t do
    Go out on a night and get all in a stew
    Or use a gun or a club or a knife
    And take another monkey’s life
    Yes, man descended, the worthless bum
    But, brothers, from us he did not come

    Yea, the monkey speaks his mind
    Yea, now the monkey speaks his mind

  166. It’s a show for their voters that they are actually ‘doing’ something.

    A perfect example of why democracy has no place in China.

  167. Why are the Chinese so violent? Remember the Japan protests, the unnecessary violence against carrefour employees?

    China is a violent country compared to Taiwan

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