Sunday, September 28, 2008

Forumosa Annexes Taiwan to China

The sky and earth are already heaving as the big typhoon arrives this weekend, bringing gusting wind and rain, and flinging branches, boxes, and Golden Retrievers about our yard with gleeful abandon. Looks like I'm not traveling tonight after all....

Meanwhile, in Taiwanese-American and foreign expat forums all over, the news is spreading that Forumosa and several other local expat forums have annexed Taiwan to China. Forumosa (Forumosa Friends), TaiwanFun, and Taiwan Ho! all use a hosting service run by the Shanghai-based Meta-4:

Shanghai-based Meta4 Group Ltd., which operates WorldFriends Networks, the world’s leading provider of private label multi-lingual online personals announced US$2.5 million in venture capital funding from industry veterans including the co-founders of leading Internet dating service

As you can see from the pic above, when you register as a member for these systems, they prompt you for a place of residence (pic above from Forumosa Friends; the TaiwanFun system is exactly the same). The only choice you get for Taiwan is the utterly bogus "Taiwan (China)". Taiwan is NOT and NEVER was part of China. Claims that China owns Taiwan are not supported in any internationally recognized treaty -- the most recent one, the Treaty of San Francisco, the peace treaty that ended WWII, was purpose-written to specify that Taiwan belongs to no one. China's interest in annexing Taiwan is entirely a function of the 1940s and is purely an act of expansionism. The main source of its claim is the simple fact that it has said it will annex Taiwan and kill anyone who gets in its way. Why assist them in this process?

Thus, the correct position for any site to take, one consistent with history, international law, and democratic practice, is to not take a position on the final disposition of Taiwan. Let Taiwan be "Taiwan."

In discussions with pro-Taiwan groups the absurd argument was made on behalf of these systems that having "China" in parentheses does not really make Taiwan part of China, although the drop down menu displayed above clearly shows Hong Kong (China) and further down, distinguishes between the Virgin Islands (US) and the Virgin Islands (UK). The use of parentheses clearly does imply ownership.

For those of us who do not believe that Taiwan should be annexed to China, at minimum, these sites should offer the clear choice of Taiwan without the erroneous and offensive (China) tag. For strict political nuetrality, however, (China) should be dropped and only Taiwan offered. Let the people filling it out imagine where they live. And if the site host Meta-4 refuses to do that, switch. Taiwan sites should have a Taiwan perspective.


Anonymous said...

Sad. Why do they host in China? If they really needed, they should host in the US. It's cheap.

Tim Maddog said...

May I suggest the humble "Treasure Island (Taiwan)" as an alternative? ;-)

We might also suggest to these "local" expat forums that they use a domestic web host (preferably something that doesn't have "Chunghwa" in the name) instead of cutting costs (which might be the reason) with a foreign one (and at that, Taiwan's worst enemy).

Tim Maddog

marc said...

I checked the website and noticed these registration dates:

General Election: 11/04/2008
Register by: 10/20/2008
Request ballot by: 10/28/2008
Return ballot by: 11/04/2008

Anonymous said...

The webmasters claim Taiwan fits into, what they term, the "Chinese world". They claim they do this for neutrality.

I don't understand how this can be a politically neutral stance as they have made the cognitive choice to contextualize Taiwan by a selective set of criteria that was created by an entity or entities for a stated political ends; i.e. creating a collectivity of people beyond the scope of the individual's personal experience.

The least political terms might be Taiwan and China as they are open for individual interpretation free from the value systems of nations, states, organizations and other polities. "Taiwan" could stand in for: geographic region, province, state, country etc... The PRC does not deny there is an entity called "Taiwan". The PRC has an issue as to how this entity called "Taiwan" is placed in relation to the PRC's political sphere.

Forumosa has it wrong on so many fronts and they can not be operating in fairness or neutrality under their current structure without of adopting the hegemonic PRC viewpoint on China, Chineseness, culture, ethnicity and power.

Jenna said...

Thorn Tree (Lonely Planet's forum) had the same thing going for awhile...what it took to change was some research on other traveler forums - all of whom offer "Taiwan" as a location, rather than "Taiwan, Province of China".

That was an easy change though; the reasoon for the problem was that they imported the "standard" international list and changed it once we wrote in.

If the reason for this is a Shanghai-based server, the only option for those who are offended by that tag - myself included - is to quit the forum. Nobody manning a Shanghai server is going to change their designation.

Maybe the fact that nobody will use those forums if they have to note themselves as in "China" will send a message, however small, to Big Red.

Anonymous said...

Taiwan got 'annexed by China' on the moment that the KMT sent troops there, and on the very moment that the KMT arrived in Taiwan. So Taiwan got 'annexed to China' through the KMT. Taiwan has been 'annexed' for decades now. The question is, who is going to 'liberate' it?

Goose Egg said...

Good point about the implications about ownership that the parentheses make - whether they are actually intended to or not. I'm dropping a note to Meta-4 to consider simply using Taiwan sans "(China)"

Incidentally, while Meta-4 the company may be based in Shanghai, this doesn't mean their servers are. At Forumosa, we are not hosted in Taiwan simply because we get so much better service and tech support in New Jersey, at a fraction of the cost of what I found in Taiwan whenever I looked. Oh, and the tech guys in Jersey spoke better English, too ;) (but I would still host there anyway if my Mandarin were any good for the reasons I mentioned earlier)

Anonymous said...

This issue really bugs me too. Many websites list Taiwan as Taiwan (Province of China). I don't join any site that lists Taiwan under any name other than Taiwan. said...

There are plenty of other open source scripts that do as good or a better job anyway. So there isn't really a point using it except for the added income. said...

That's just an excuse. I think they're just defending it perhaps for money issues?

Using Meta-4 means getting residual revenue and income that perhaps helps pay for Forumosa's hosting.

However there are plenty of other services, perhaps not as lucrative, that are just as good and as easily installable. said...

Another question to wonder about is why Forumosa changes your spelling of Matsu and Kinmen to the Pinyin PRC spelling.

Readin said...

I prefer the forum called "The View from Taiwan". I suspect it will never have the problem of forcing you to list Taiwan as something as absurd as part of China.

Go Mr. Turton!

Jenna said...

If they claim to do it "for neutrality" then they're outright lying.

The only people who could believe that "Taiwan(China)" is neutral are the really biased - ie Chinese people - or the truly uneducated regarding this issue.

A neutral statement would be "Taiwan". They know that, they just don't want to change it. LPTT changed it after a simple letter, because they know what 'neutrality' means.

Dang it. I'm off to un-join Forumosa now.

kelake said...

Host in Taiwan? You have to be kidding.

Tim Maddog said...

Host with the enemy? You have to be kidding.

Notice that I was contrasting "local" with "domestic" in that line about hosts.

The least these guys could do is choose a host that's less hostile when it comes to anything other than "tech support" -- for example, the freedom to not have the name of a foreign country appended to your own locale.

Tim Maddog

Anonymous said...

yeh. the whole taiwan-china thing really bugs me too. idk y exactly but i jus think taiwan should be referred to as 'taiwan' with no 'china' or 'chinese' in it. china seems kinda, idk, like; 'im gonna get wat i want, i can do wateva i want'

Anonymous said...

From what I have seen... the rationale was something along the lines that it is trying to be neutral to all sides and besides Taiwanese are Han Chinese anyway.

This construct defies logic as it is dependent on two fallacies. The first is that inserting (China) is neutral.
China is a political and politicized idea that is subject to the motivations of political leadership. China is and has been a constantly changing concept. The idea of China as timeless, unchanging and ancient is as much an invention of an entity or entities known as "the West" as it is a modern invention of Chinese nationalists in search of authenticity for their new nation's sovereignty over a former empire.

The Second is that Taiwanese are Han Chinese. The webmaster holds a preconceived concept of very essentialized Han identities that may not be accepted by the people he/she is trying to identify. It begs to ask by what criteria he/she has decided this classification and by what power they hold to create this label for others?
This idea accepts the racialized concepts of identity, rejects the heterogenous nature of East Asia, rejects fluidity of identities and denies hybridity. This view is only concerned with concepts of imagined blood ties and vertical transmission of culture without considering the immense impact of peer group, lateral transmission of culture and cultural drift. This view rejects minorities rights and plays into the Chinese nationalist view of China as a racially pure Chinese nation. Han=Chinese? Is this website advocating Han cultural chauvinism? Does this construction place all peoples in Confucian influenced societies within the Chinese nation? How is neutrality being achieved? Are Taiwanese Han and is Han Chinese? Is there really such a thing as a "Chinese World" or "Greater China" or is this just a fanciful construct obliterated by different social structures, power relations and unimaginable communities?