Friday, March 24, 2006

Meanwhile...on the other side of the Lake, Japan.... growing ever closer to Taiwan. The Washington Post has a story on it today.

With Japan seeking to shed a half-century of pacifism and reassert itself in world affairs, and China acquiring vastly larger economic and military might, relations between the two are as tense as they have been at any time since World War II.

Nowhere is their contest more visible than here in Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province that must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. In recent months, Japan has made a series of unprecedented overtures toward Taiwan, which was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945. In Tokyo, leading politicians are increasingly adopting the view that Japan must come to the island's aid in the event of Chinese aggression.

Many analysts say they believe Japan's evolving interest in Taiwan could tilt the regional balance of power. The United States, which has diplomatic relations with mainland China, is nonetheless sworn by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to defend the island territory if it is attacked.

Still can't get that TRA right. Note to self: write everybody! Meanwhile Ma Ying-jeou, former secretary to a murderous dictator, complains of brainwashing:

In contrast with the Chinese and Koreans both North and South, many Taiwanese view the years of Japanese colonial rule in sympathetic terms. Older Taiwanese often delight in speaking Japanese, the official language of their youth. Imperial-era structures, including the elegant Presidential Office Building that was once the seat of the Japanese governor, have been painstakingly preserved and declared national treasures.

Japan and Taiwan are exchanging a record 2.3 million tourists each year, and Japan remains Taiwan's largest trading partner. Large Japanese department stores and fast-food chains dominate the Taipei cityscape.

"The Japanese built universities, roads and other infrastructure. They educated us, they turned us into a more modern society," said Hwang Kuan-hu, a national policy adviser to Chen. "We welcome Japan becoming more involved again with Taiwan."

Not everyone in Taiwan shares that sentiment, particularly members of the opposition Nationalist Party, which favors closer ties with China. Earlier this year, the party took offense when Japanese and Taiwanese groups jointly erected a monument in a Taipei suburb honoring thousands of aboriginal Taiwanese who died fighting for the Japanese Imperial Army in Southeast Asia. A few weeks later, most of the monument was ordered dismantled by local Nationalist Party officials.

Ma Ying-jeou, the Nationalist Party chief who opinion polls indicate is the favorite to win Taiwan's 2008 presidential election, described the incident as a good example of the emotions that could be unleashed if the embrace of Japan goes too far.

Taiwanese who revel in the Japanese colonial years "are still brainwashed," Ma said. "It was not a just war, and Taiwan could have done better" without the citizens who now recall that period with fondness.

The memorial commemorates a swath of Taiwanese history that the KMT would like everyone to forget -- that Japan once ruled Taiwan, and that the Taiwanese served it. The "emotions" that Ma fears are pro-Taiwan and pro-Japan. Japanese rule might be idealized, but there is no harm in today's embrace of Japan by Taiwanese.

The article unfortunately recapitulates the Chen-is-crazed propaganda theme so common in the international media:

U.S. officials have cautiously welcomed the more assertive Japanese stance. But they have also expressed concern that too sudden a shift could embolden Chen, Taiwan's president, to take steps toward formal independence that could ignite a cross-strait conflict.

The idea that the DPP is a bunch of crazed madman who will ignite a war that will destroy the island they love is strictly KMT bilge. Chen's leadership style may be lacking, but he is hardly going to commit political and physical suicide by formenting armed conflict in the Taiwan Straits. The DPP came to power against an authoritarian regime that murdered and imprisoned its political opponents. They didn't do so by being crazed, knee-jerk loonies. It is high time this tale was put to bed too.


STOP_George said...

My wife's grandparents remembered and recalled the Japanese era.

They said that, although the Japanese were brutal and severe in their own way, there was little crime and there was a certain "predictability" about their control. Follow the code, and you were o.k.

The KMT regime was far less disciplined wrt crime and CKS' regime was feared much more -- due to a great sense of paranoia inherent in the power.

morning said...

Hi there
My husband and I have been reading your blog for quite a while now. I recently introduced your blog to some of my Taiwanese friends and added you to my links. I hope you do not mind.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks! Of course I don't mind! That's what the blog is there for!