Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Human Cost of China Investment

The damage by the growing Great Depression -- is recovery even possible? -- is masking another crisis already long concealed by the China boom: the human cost of Taiwan's massive investment in China.

This week my wife called one of relatives who lives across town. This woman, in her early fifties, had been taken to the hospital last week and my wife wanted to know why.

Turns out she had been spitting up blood, on account of the fact that her stomach, completely lacking in food, had developed a mass of ulcers and was more or less digesting itself. She worked as a cook in a kindergarten making $8000 a month for four hours a day cooking for 30 or so children and adults. It was their only income. She has two daughters, the one in a good high school across the city needing $2000 a month for food and travel costs, while the family had to shell out $10,000 a month for rent. To save money she had decided to do without food. They were living -- if you could call it that -- on the charity of neighbors. There's plenty of charity in Taiwanese culture, but it is not the obvious kind of people making ostentatious donations of time and cash to big institutions (we do have that), but rather, charity in Taiwan begins in and around the home....

The reason they were in this state of abject poverty is simple: her husband had gone off to China to work early in the boom and had never returned. Raising a second family there, he had never sent even a single dollar home for his wife and kids in Taiwan. Now the crisis had sent him back home to Taiwan to live with his wife. He brought no money and doesn't work. But he still has to be fed.

This is not an isolated case; it is a common pattern. Among our friends and family I can easily think of a half-dozen similar cases. Several students at my former university came to me for tearful discussions of how they had discovered that their father had a second family across the Strait, complete with half-siblings. And they themselves had no money, because Dad had "invested" it in his second wife. The next time someone tells me what great businessmen Taiwanese are, I'm going to ask him why so many of these "great businessmen" blew so much money on mistresses and other meaningless displays of wealth, instead of reinvesting the cash in their businesses, or in the future of their children.

The "investment" in China has not only pillaged capital that could have gone to develop the island and continue to raise its living standards, but has also imposed enormous costs on a generation of women and children in Taiwan -- its effects are gendered -- patriarchy mediates the linkage between Taiwan and the global economy -- and working mothers, as so often in society, bear the heaviest personal and social costs. These human sacrifices to the God of Competitiveness are hidden costs, hidden in the sense that they are difficult to count and never make headlines, and are paid for in impaired individual health (stoically borne, of course), lowered future prospects, and broken homes whose habits of interaction will now become familial norms reproduced by children and grandchildren for years to come.

In a classic paper from the 1990s, Deorientalizing the Chinese Family Firm, Susan Greenhalgh writes:
"Through close study of Taiwanese businesses, I have suggested that the gains from work in the family enterprise may go disproportionately to males. While men held positions that were economically and professionally rewarding to them as individuals, women worked at dead end jobs that brought little if any material benefit. Although hard work by all increased the "family's" fortunes, close inspection showed that those fortunes belonged not to the family,but to a select subgroup of family members. As in the Japanese family businesses studied by Hamabata (1990:91-104), the cultural ideal of everyone working for the family as a whole served as a convenient idiom to mask the harsh reality of economic inequality among intimates."
The China wave has merely served to both reconstruct and intensify those global and local politico-economic pressures that Greenhalgh identifies in a single pithy sentence:
"Taiwanese entrepreneurs adopted the family form of business organization not because they revered Chinese tradition, but because they faced intense pressures, competition in the global economy, exclusionary ethnic politics, and biased state policies that left them few choices but to create their firms out of their families."
But when the firms moved to China as the global supply chain shifted, they were no longer able to harvest the cheap labor of local family females; nor were their females able to garner even the inferior fruits of labor in the family firm. Thus, for too many women whose men have gone to China, the economic inequalities that Greenhalgh charts have meant, not lower personal incomes buffered and ensured by links to the males in their family, but stunning poverty as the fathers, brothers, and husbands they had always relied on for income flows and business opportunities disappeared out of their lives.

Hence, the poverty of so many wives and children in the working and middle classes is more than just the consequence of personal misbehavior and patriarchal values on the part of Taiwanese males. It is what happens when entire groups of people are dropped from the global supply chain as it moves on to harvest the labor of other, cheaper, even more marginalized populations.

35 comments:

Arthur Dent said...

This just confirms my prejudice against many 'Taishang' who work and live permanently in China but still get to vote in Taiwanese elections, yet bear little of the brunt of the policies of the governments they vote in, leaving their families to struggle with administrations that don't represent their interests and opinions. Shameful. Time to restrict eligibility of voting to permanent ROC citizens resident in Taiwan for more than 183 days a year for 2 years before an election.

Rolands said...

It's a kind of "culture" associated to Taiwan man here in Taiwan.
Recently, I was told by my wife, that it seems that all their cousins will seems never have a wife from Taiwan, so they must go out to Vietnam or PRC to search for a wife. On my question why - answer was a simple but explanatory i guess - "because Taiwan man now also are poor, and treas bad the wife, taiwan woman prefers to make careers alone, or find foreign husband, rather than burry a life with a unpolite taiwan man". Well.
Just my 5 cents...

Dixteel said...

It's a sad story...but good observation, Michael. A lot of people probably only think of those immoral acts of men in China as immoral but don't realize they have already created huge social problems and increase poverty in Taiwan. Even a lot of Taiwanese discuss these issues in half joking manners. They don't realize how serious this issue is.

The tragedy won't just stop on their wives, but their sons and daughters will suffer the consequences as well due to the lack of financial support and psychological effect of being betrayed by their closest relative.

But yet...70% or so women voted for Ma, whose team want to promote more investment in China...what can I say, it's a tragedy :(

STOP Ma said...

"Hence, the poverty of so many wives and children in the working and middle classes is more than just the consequence of personal misbehavior and patriarchal values on the part of Taiwanese males. It is what happens when entire groups of people are dropped from the global supply chain as it moves on to harvest the labor of other, cheaper, even more marginalized populations."

Sorry, I refuse to make social-based excuses for these pieces of excrement. They have made the decision to betray their family -- and yes, they had a choice.

There are members of my extended family that have done this and I have put my full scorn on them. It is time these Taiwanese "men" start acting like "men".
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Taiwan Echo said...

Good to see you explore this, Michael. This is a deeply-rooted problem, and is bringing fundamental damage to the basis of the society, and will downgrade the society significantly in the long run.

This is exactly where DPP and pro-green supporters should have put more of their attentions. Just stop chanting the slogan of "love Taiwan" or "Taiwan Independence" stuff like that. Those slogans won't rescue people from their situations. Exploring and emphasizing on basic day-to-day suffering of people, like Michael reported here, that's the path we should go.

george said...

it is infuriating to read. as someone born in the US of taiwanese immigrants, i have witnessed life in taiwan at a remove and cannot believe the crass greed those men showed to the detriment of their families.

Anonymous said...

Well, the behavior of the dirt bags in China is not excusable, but I'd like to point out this money for women culture that pervades both Taiwan and China requires the cooperation of the women and certain social values:

1) It is quite socially acceptable to marry for wealth. It is perfectly socially acceptable to overlook age, appearance, an existing wife/wives to be with a man. It is accepted that women will be with a man given a large enough monthly allowance. I'd be okay with Michael's wife's relative did something in desperation to save her and her kids. But this is socially acceptable and done across the economic spectrum. Especially common among female stars, singers who often marry rich businessmen.

2) Girls in Taiwan in general are "pursued", most of the time with gifts and favors and lots of _useful_ things. Useless displays of wealth would actually keep people more honest here. The woman can't string a guy along just to derive material benefits. Anyways, women want it, and men are so happy to give it.

3) This is speaking from a lot of personal knowledge from experience and friends and not a statistic, but the men AND women here seem to play around a lot. Women try for "better" men while in their fallback relationship and when they fail, they go right on continuing with their current boyfriend/husband (it never stopped). It's nuts, no one, male or female, ever feels moral compunctions over this, just maybe strong feelings of disappointment when it doesn't work out.

4) Not that it's as big in numbers, but Taiwanese women in China also spend big on male prostitutes. Often, they are wives of the Taishang spending their husband's money to do this.

Last, let's not generalize too much. Michael's tone, commenters, and my own worry me in that it gets close to a kind of ethnocentrism and sense of superiority that isn't deserved one bit.

Remember, China is generally a lawless state. The people who are most successful in China are those that know how to work the system (ie lie, cheat, use money in clever ways), and I'm sure that personality trait carries over to personal relationships. Taishang aren't representative of masculine culture in Taiwan.

It should also be noted many Taishang move their whole families to China. It's the honest decision to make, and it's what you would do if you really love and want to be with your wife and children. In a sense, the cheating started the second a Taishang decides to stay in China for the long-term and leave his wife and kids in Taiwan.

Last, for the younger generation, I think Michael has it backwards. The females have become rich relative to the men, who are made 2 years poorer by military service, yet often make no more than their female classmates for the same number of years of experience. But the culture says the man has to make much more than the woman, and women find they can't find partners that fit this profile. The men then go looking for these Vietnamese or Chinese brides who obviously have much lower earnings ability. But perhaps this isn't so different from foreign men in Taiwan coming here to look for a similar trade.

vin said...

I don't have time right now to really think about all you wrote, Anonymous, but my unconsidered impression is that I agree with a lot of it, if not all. How female behavior and choices on the broader social level play in to the creation of the tragedies and inhumane disregard highlighted in the post should be seriously considered, too.

Anyway, I wanted to throw my not-fully-considered two cents in right now: there could be some amelioration of the problems the post portays -- and of excessive female opportunism in relationships -- if divorce-settlement laws at least gave women SOMETHING. And again, I think that the only real reason this obvious partial solution to social injustice and social ill goes undiscussed is because the "harmony" value, through a variety of means, prevents nearly all discussion that could spur substantive change, permitting instead only shrill, endless, and stalemated arguing about "identity." "Harmony" has created an absurd situation where "identity" matters more than universal values and principles. And "harmony" prevents its own depredations from even being discussed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Taiwanese men never had second families or mistresses before they could go to China. They never would make stupid investments and lose their shirts either.

You know what? I bet more Taiwanese families get in trouble to due illegal gambling right here in Taiwan than through China investments.

p.s. Often its the Taiwanese wife who refuses to accompany their mates to China. Its a 2 hour plane ride, and China is now not very different from Taiwan. Its like your wife refusing to move from San Francisco to Iowa, and its silly.

p.s.s. I know one Taiwanese man who came back from China and his wife had been having an affair and wanted a divorce. The guy had been working in China to pay for the expensive private schooling for his son in Taiwan.

This is an important issue, but let's not think we could solve it by not investing in China.

A Taiwanese-American woman said...

"Last, let's not generalize too much. Michael's tone, commenters, and my own worry me in that it gets close to a kind of ethnocentrism and sense of superiority that isn't deserved one bit."

I agree with this. If I were going to stoop to the level of this post and the commentators, I would say that the reason I try to avoid blogs about expat living in Taiwan, particularly those written by people of non-Taiwanese ancestry, is that many of them contain very thinly veiled traces of racism, smug superiority and gross overgeneralizing. The irony is that many of them are written by men who have married into Taiwanese families or who work closely with Taiwanese people and should know better than to rely on cheap stereotypes. Fortunately, blog posts like these are the exception that prove the rule. I thought I would be clicking on an intelligent piece about human rights in China, particularly in light of Secretary of State Clinton's remarks there. Instead, I read bigoted, pseudo-intellectual, poorly thought out commentary. I don't disagree that traditional Taiwanese culture has strongly patriarchal strains, but as an American woman who was sexually harrassed by at least one man at most of my jobs back home (followed by yet more sexual harrassment on the streets of the city in which I lived) and cheated on by a (white, for what it's worth) male partner, I would argue that we live in a sexist world, not a sexist country, and that the phenomenon that you describe is symptomatic of that, and not any short falling that is particular to Taiwanese culture.

vin said...

A little informal checking up – hearsay from Taiwanese friends: I was wrong: the divorce laws aren’t bad; women can get money and property in a settlement. What’s lacking is customs and immigration incarcerating deadbeats as they fly in and out of the country.

After re-reading all of this and thinking about it more, I have to ask: Why did the woman let the deadbeat husband come back and sponge off her? And why didn’t she divorce him long ago? To me, there’s a huge difference between stoically bearing up when there are no alternatives and engaging in martyrdom when there are. There may be mitigating elements of the story we weren’t told, but I have to wonder if the woman is (as my Taiwanese friends said) just too traditional. And while it may normally be very hard for a traditional person to see beyond her conditioning, when the deadbeat is lying around eating and not working, and the kids are depending on Mom for their meals and care, isn’t it taking things awfully far when Mom, the sole breadwinner, surrenders her own nourishment for deadbeat Dad? This seems like dedication to conditioning of a magnitude not far off from the Officer’s condtioned dedication to the execution machine in “In the Penal Colony.” But the consequences of the Officer’s final choice fell only on himself. The consequences of the woman’s choice can fall on the children, too.

I agree with all but one thing that Anonymous wrote. Quite a lot of social values are playing in here, and while obviously on the personal level it’s the taishang who deserve actionable blame in these stories, the genesis of problems and tragedies such as these lies not just in individuals or in economic factors but in those values themselves – many of which traditional women participate in as much as others do in the society. So of what use is self-righteousness? I’m not sure that self-righteousness constitutes an ethnocentric sense of superiority (as Anonymous said it does), but I’m pretty sure it won’t make any difference in the degree to which these values keep generating ill.

As Taiwan Echo seems to be saying, though, reporting these stories certainly is valuable. It’s stories like these, and the discussion of such stories, that I guess stand the best chance of waking people up and thus fostering the selection of better choices.

vin said...

"...the reason I try to avoid blogs about expat living in Taiwan, particularly those written by people of non-Taiwanese ancestry, is that many of them contain very thinly veiled traces of racism..."

Priceless!

And damn it, Michael, don't you know without your having to be told that your job is to write about Clinton's visit?

Dixteel said...

"Yes, Taiwanese men never had second families or mistresses before they could go to China. They never would make stupid investments and lose their shirts either."

Yes, it happens before but less frequently. Because you can get caught cheating more frequently if you are cheating in Taiwan, where the wife and her families are. Also, in Michael's example, the guy doesn't just lose shirts in stupid investment, he spend the money on the second family. (well, if you call that investment, yes, it's quite studpid,...but that's more like wasting money, not investment).

"You know what? I bet more Taiwanese families get in trouble to due illegal gambling right here in Taiwan than through China investments."

Lossing money in illegal gambling might be still better than through China investments in a way. Because the money actually stayed in Taiwan. But let's not loss the focus. Illegal gambling is another issue perhaps worthy of discussion, or maybe it doesn't worth a discussion because the issue is overly exeggerated....But we are talking about investment in China here.

"p.s. Often its the Taiwanese wife who refuses to accompany their mates to China. Its a 2 hour plane ride, and China is now not very different from Taiwan. Its like your wife refusing to move from San Francisco to Iowa, and its silly."

Who is going to take care of the kids? Do the kids have to move to China as well? Maybe they should just give up Taiwan citizens and immigrate to China...to you that's probably not a bad idea, eh? 2 hrs ticket? You know how much a ticket is? Or you are so rich you don't even give a damn.

"p.s.s. I know one Taiwanese man who came back from China and his wife had been having an affair and wanted a divorce. The guy had been working in China to pay for the expensive private schooling for his son in Taiwan."

Nice guy. But are all the Taiwanese guys in China that nice?? But in any case this is a tragedy as well.

"This is an important issue, but let's not think we could solve it by not investing in China."

And we cannot help it by just encouraging more invest into China, until we get a comphrensive laws and regulations that act as security and safety nets for the families in Taiwan.

Dixteel said...

"It should also be noted many Taishang move their whole families to China. It's the honest decision to make, and it's what you would do if you really love and want to be with your wife and children."

But don't forget wives and kids are not pets that just have to move around with the husbands. Perhaps it should be more like a family decision between husbad and wife.

And it doesn't excuse the husband for having another family and doesn't support his own children when the wife is not there with him, does it? Note it's not just cheating with prostitudes. Those people started antoher family there and gave up their family in Taiwan.

Dixteel said...

Boy...sorry, just want to add another comment...I think we are losing focus here. Perhaps we should not really focus on the "moral issues." Like the problems with Taiwanese men or women or who is paying prostitudes or cheating etc. Or how girls only look for money and guys only look for breasts. Or things like there are other social problems in Taiwan like gambling, drugs, husbands beating wives etc. We know there are problems like those, but those are another issues.

The problem here is the fact that a lot of men left their family in Taiwan and started a second family in China. This creates serious issues in Taiwan society, especially during economic down turn. And in the long term it could be detrimental to Taiwanese economy. This is a side effect of investment into China, and this issue needs to receive more attentions.

Michael Turton said...

I agree with this. If I were going to stoop to the level of this post and the commentators, I would say that the reason I try to avoid blogs about expat living in Taiwan, particularly those written by people of non-Taiwanese ancestry, is that many of them contain very thinly veiled traces of racism, smug superiority and gross overgeneralizing. The irony is that many of them are written by men who have married into Taiwanese families or who work closely with Taiwanese people and should know better than to rely on cheap stereotypes.

The post says "Hey look, there's more going on here than just Taiwanese men working out their patriarchal values. These values about child rearing and male-female relations take place in the context of links to the global economy."

I even pointed to Greenhalgh's stereotype-blasting paper for insight!

Obviously, if you came here to seek stereotypes, you will find them. But the stereotypes lie in you, not me. I hope you will stop viewing others' writings through the lens of your own stereotypes about expats, and mayhap consider the possibility that your understanding of the issues lacks depth.

Michael

Arty said...

Damn, are you blaming Taiwan family problems on China? Have you ever consider those who fail at business (for some unknown reason seen to cluster around you), will do the same to their family even stay in Taiwan i.e. having a mistress and then lost everything? Okay okay it is cheaper in China but still a person's nature does not change.

My family may not be the best example, but let's say I am fully aware my father and my uncle's mistresses and they are taking care of all of them.

Michael Turton said...

Am I blaming broken families on China? One day you'll shock me buy learning to read.

Anonymous said...

From reading your blog, you don't seem to have much respect for Taiwanese other than cute girls (if we can call that respect) and maybe the occasional harmless old Taiwanese male. I'm not sure this post was all that out of the ordinary.

Michael Turton said...

ROFL. Can you give me some concrete instances of "disrepect" for Taiwanese.

One reason I don't write on culture much is that it brings the idjits out of the woodwork in droves. As the comments here show.

Michael

vin said...

"... I am fully aware my father and my uncle's mistresses and they are taking care of all of them."

Abandonment needn't be geographical or financial to have serious consequences. Meaning: are you offering an insight into one of the sources of your NPD here, Arty?

Please don't think you're special just because I noticed you here. "Taiwanese-American" has you beat hands down on this thread; she did something even you in your most self-centered moments wouldn't do I bet: she let a blind focus on her own life lead her to a leveling conclusion that commonplace sexual harrassment -- and being cheated on by a lover! -- stem from the same social-structure roots that men abandoning children does.

She wins. But seriously Arty, why don't you get help? You said on a different thread that you've done well with investments recently. Why not use the money to get some help?

Anonymous said...

"ROFL. Can you give me some concrete instances of "disrepect" for Taiwanese."

The issue is the lack of, the absence of respect.

Even though you apparently speak Mandarin, why is it that you seem to lack any Taiwanese friends and especially and Taiwanese guy friends? That's telling to me for someone that lives in Taiwan permanently, has a family here, speaks the language...

Also, you didn't say a damn thing about all the stereotyping and ethnocentric comments here by other expats but get all sensitive about someone making a general comment about expats. Well, now you know how someone Taiwanese might feel with all your generalizations and armchair pontificating. Or often times, minorities in the States.

Michael Turton said...

Even though you apparently speak Mandarin, why is it that you seem to lack any Taiwanese friends and especially and Taiwanese guy friends? That's telling to me for someone that lives in Taiwan permanently, has a family here, speaks the language...

I'm struggling to understand...what evidence makes you imagine that I lack Taiwanese guy friends.

Also, you didn't say a damn thing about all the stereotyping and ethnocentric comments here by other expats but get all sensitive about someone making a general comment about expats.

If you don't like what you see as ethnic stereotyping (identify instances, please), respond to it. As much as possible, I prefer to let the conversation flow. If I responded to every comment I'd never get any work done.

The comment about expats was directed at me, so I responded.

Well, now you know how someone Taiwanese might feel with all your generalizations and armchair pontificating. Or often times, minorities in the States.

Nope, don't. I only know what anonymous idiots making evidence-free assertions term "thinking." Alas, I am intimately familiar with that shit.

I have to go now. I'm having dinner with Taiwanese friends tonight, friday, and saturday, and have to buy gifts.

Here's a revolutionary thought -- maybe I keep my Taiwanese friends out of this blog for reasons that have nothing to do with ethnic chauvinism. I'm sure, with your brilliant insight, almost psychic in its nature, you can think of a few reasons why I might do that.

Michael

Anonymous said...

I think probably the issue here is expats are never experts on their own countries, but feel compelled to offer their great wisdom when it comes to Taiwanese issues. The very act of offering this kind of constant judgment, right or wrong, insightful or not, is the source of the tension.

It's like what W.E.B. DuBois wrote when he described how even blacks were subject to the white gaze; that is the black's perception of himself was that of the white's gaze. Think about how perverse this is (and I think very much an issue that applies to today's US and the relation between the US and the rest of the world). Not only is there no respect for the black; even what he thinks of herself is dominated by what the white thinks of her.

That is an apt framework to describe what Michael you yourself call "marginalized peoples". Many countries, Taiwan among them, view themselves largely through how American media, American commentators view them. It's why they always look to American media or American recognition to validate themselves; and the reality is, to their great harm, Americans largely don't give a shit about what the rest of the world thinks, so there's no chance that the Taiwanese gaze is taken seriously.

When it's common that Taiwanese perspectives on even just themselves are taken seriously (and those of Koreans, Kenyans, Indians, Palestinians, etc.) relative to the, let's face it, largely white male American perspective, then I think there wouldn't be the tension here in this post and in the comments.

Anonymous said...

There's much wisdom in your comments about the gaze, but I think they overstate the extent to which outside commentary affects Taiwanese self-perception. Very little of that commentary crosses the language barrier and when it does, it appears in distorted form that reflects when local elites want locals to think.

vin said...

Last Anonymous ("There's much wisdom in your gaze...):

Could you point out that wisdom please? The Anonymous you are addressing is clearly "Taiwanese-American woman"; not just the thinking, but also the writing styles, are the same in her post and in the anonymous posts that followed.

DuBois' being wise does not make mentioning him wise. I could mention Chuang-tze or Jane Austen here, but what would be the point? The person you are complimenting failed to produce a single piece of evidence for her argument even after it was pointed out that she hadn't. And she continued to ignore evidence that disproves her argument such as the fact that Dixteel and Taiwan Echo -- Taiwanese males (I'm guessing Dixteel is male, but if D is Taiwanese female, that just furthers the fact that this discussion has been ecumenical) -- were an important part of this discussion. The only person judging individuals by race here has been Taiwanese-American woman.

This person does what she accuses others of doing: she projects. She cites no evidence, counters no evidence, and addresses no counter-arguments. She just continues to generalize while accusing others – who actually address arguments and give evidence -- of generalizing. For her, feelings are facts – her feelings, that is. What wisdom is there in that?

Seriously, why did she refuse to give evidence and to address counter-evidence? The answer is easy: she thinks -- no, she FEELS -- that doing that is typically "white male" and therefore is a choice to be spurned.

vin said...

I think I should clarify something: I agree that the perspective TAW cited has validity in many cases, but she did not cite a single way in which it does here.

And I even went to Taiwanese females for their perspective on the story told. And their perspective on the woman in the story persuaded me to disagree with Michael about the woman. (And they agreed with much of the rest of what M said.) But TAW will still find a way to believe and proclaim that their views, too, are poisoned, so they don't count.

No view that disagrees with hers can be permitted. And that's "the source of the tension here": a "borderline" approach to life and to others.

vin said...

Sorry for the piecemeal comments. I'm jumping between different things I'm working on.

I agreed with your comment, last Anonymous, except for the idea that TAW in any way demonstrated a basis for applying here the perspective that she did.

Anonymous said...

"Who is going to take care of the kids? Do the kids have to move to China as well? Maybe they should just give up Taiwan citizens and immigrate to China...to you that's probably not a bad idea, eh? 2 hrs ticket? You know how much a ticket is? Or you are so rich you don't even give a damn."

In this example, the woman seems very old, and the children are out of the house. So that excuse is not available.

Yes, the kids can move to China too. They even have Taiwan schools there, though many Taiwanese now use the local schools because they are pretty good. I have also seen Taiwanese families in Vietnam where the children attend international schools.

Do you think all of the Taiwanese in America don't bring their kids over? LOL.

Also, a plane ticket to China is not that expensive. If you are investing or working in China, your salary sometimes even includes free tickets....maybe you should head over to the airport and see all the tours flying to Bali for 4 day excursions...like those my poor employees take about once per year.

Michael Turton said...

Vin, now I'm curious, what did they disagree on?

Michael

Anonymous said...

Vin, you're wrong. I wrote the DuBois comment, and I'm not the Taiwanese American woman. I can't prove it except I'm in Taiwan and the other commenter didn't sound like she is currently here. I can't be sure of why I may sometimes sound like other anons or named commentators but I speculate it's the result of reading certain things; the easiest way for this to happen (and how it happened for me) is probably an expensive liberal arts college education.

The whole DuBois reference didn't feel smart to me; in my mind and the minds of many others, it's something every white guy must read, because you will never have the benefit of directly experiencing discrimination on the scale or extent or with the force a minority or woman has.

Rolands comment, Stop Ma's comment both are denigrating of Taiwanese men instead of a general group of men that engage in this kind of behavior. Michael's original post mentions "patriarchal values of Taiwanese males".

So let's do an exercise. There's a phenomenon in the US of asshole males that we call deadbeat dads. They are usually promiscuous, deceptive, and I suppose we could say "patriarchal". Do we say something like, it's time for these American men, to start acting like men?

Further, citing that paper was contradictory and problematic all over the place. First, if you agree with the paper that there's nothing "Chinese" about this whole phenomenon, then where does the "patriarchal Taiwanese male" fit in here? It's just patriarchy.

Second, you use it in such contradictory ways. If family businesses "harvest" cheap female labor that would be earning higher wages elsewhere, and then we move the business to China and the women don't go, then aren't the women just free to take higher paying jobs? If the higher paying jobs aren't available, then the women are making a greater economic contribution than would otherwise be possible, though yes, obviously how the family spends the earnings could be in a very unfair way.

"There's much wisdom in your comments about the gaze, but I think they overstate the extent to which outside commentary affects Taiwanese self-perception. Very little of that commentary crosses the language barrier and when it does, it appears in distorted form that reflects when local elites want locals to think."

I completely disagree that the Taiwanese perception of themselves isn't strongly influenced by the American perception. Even if they don't consume English media directly, they certainly do through translations of movies, books, new clips, entertainment gossip, sports, etc, etc. American media produces so much content, and often it's just too easy to just translation and use it rather than making your own.

Walk through Eslite lately? It must be like half or more of the most popular books are just direct translations from English.

Mu said...

Two comments:

1. "Play the ball, not the man". This means, if you want to win in a discussion, you must attack or defend the arguments in the discussion - not the people saying the arguments! Regardless of whether Michael is right or wrong, public attacks on his character are neither polite, helpful or appropriate.

Of course, perhaps I am ethnocentric in my views; maybe there are other cultures where 'character assassination' of speakers is considered a developed form of reasoning. Is this the case in Taiwan?

China is now not very different from Taiwan. Its like your wife refusing to move from San Francisco to Iowa, and its silly.

Well, something is certainly silly here! :-)

I've spent time in many places in China and Taiwan, and they might as well be different planets, never mind different lands...

Perhaps a better analogy might be your wife refusing to move from Spain to Rwanda.

vin said...

In answer to each paragraph, Anonymous:

1.If you say you’re a different person, I’ll believe it. I ‘fess up to having wrongly presumed, and I apologize to all whom I presumed about for presumptions I made.

2. I haven’t read DuBois, but I’ve read James Baldwin. And after we’ve read DuBois or Baldwin, then what? My own choice (stemming from a lot of sources) is to advocate freedom with self-responsibility. If someone doesn’t like that choice, tell me why in terms of the choice, without insinuating or saying that my skin color, culture, or sex are what primarily determine my views. Or don’t, but then don’t expect me to take your argument seriously. I dismiss as laughable arguments in which the ad hominem fallacy plays any key role. And that's basically describes your whole first post ("I think proably the issue here...")

And sorry, but I think you don’t understand racism very well if you think white guys don’t experience it quite a lot here in Taiwan. Racism needn’t be virulent or even unpleasant to qualify as racism.

3. Actually, I’ve agreed all along about Stop Ma’s comment. There was no need to for “Taiwanese” in his last sentence. It was ethnocentric. And I agree that Roland’s post is, too. And I agree that Michael would have been better off qualifying that phrase with a “many” or “most,” the choice depending on his actual view.

But to use these three instances to term the whole post and thread ethnocentric is absurd. The story was about Michael’s relative by marriage, and his sense of anger was palpable. As Spike Lee has so often shown, most people of every color and culture are prone to fleeting ethnocentric moments at times of strong emotion. And I’m not sure at all that an ethnocentric moment occurred. Michael’s mind is flying when he writes these posts; we get more because he doesn’t worry about a small verbal omission here and there. You would have to look long and hard to find other instances of “ethnocentrism’ in his posts. I see no justification at all for jumping on him for a single slip that occurs in a case like this, especially given the reams of contrary evidence his writings supply.

What pissed me off, though, was that I got included in TAW’s generalization. Two ethnocentric comments and the whole post and all commenters get smeared as guilty of over-generalizing. The ridiculous irony of that!

4. Again, I agree: Stop Ma's including “Taiwanese” was ethnocentric.

5. Nothing in Greenhalgh’s quotes can be logically or sensibly construed to mean that there’s nothing Chinese/Taiwanese about Michael’s story. Her contention that family firms moving to China was not motivated by a reverence for Chinese tradition in no way establishes that abandoning wives and children can’t reflect Chinese/Taiwanese values held by many Taiwanese, including many women.

6. This paragraph is pretty silly. Take what higher paying jobs if the woman is uneducated? (Some Taishang wives are, some aren’t.) And in many cases, who’s going to care for the kids if she starts working outside the home? For the uneducated, low salary minus day care cost equals close to zilch. For the educated, day care costs still eat up more than half the salary. Your thesis only works if the mother is educated AND can find a relative to supervise the kids.

7. Sports, yes. Books, mostly agree. But news clips? Yes, the few international clips that are shown are mostly American, but the number of clips per day is so small in proportion to Taiwanese news that I think the onus is on you to demonstrate that they have much effect. Those American clips seem to make no dent in the Taiwanese perception that hearsay can be broadcast as news. So where’s the strong news influence? And about movies and entertainment gossip? I hear much, much more talk about Japanese and Korean entertainers than I do about American counterparts. And Japanese and Korean movies and TV shows might be more popular than American ones. (Something worth researching.)

Michael:

They disagreed that he needed to be fed. One made a motion for closing the door in his face if he showed up. Two others agreed. One said she would have fed him.

vin said...

Anonymous:

Rereading all this, I realize I did overgeneralize when I said that "the only person judging individuals by race here has been TAW." And I contradicted this statement later, didn't I, by saying I had noticed Stop Ma's "Taiwanese" at the outset?

I did notice it at the outset. And I did feel it was inappropriate then. But brains are highly imperfect instruments -- or at least mine is -- and I often find it challenging to follow ideas, arguments, and arguments' implications even when everyone is making an effort to be fair in addressing others' statements.

TAW could have addressed just Rolands and Stop Ma -- and if she wanted to make herself look foolish (something she showed herself quite willing to do), then Michael, too. But she included everyone, and thus she brought the dark side of the human mind into a thread that, prior to her arrival, was certainly giving me things to think about and explore (I did go out and explore)-- and I think was giving all involved a lot to think about.

I don't say this out of spite, but I really have to wonder if an expensive liberal arts school education does not often inflict handicaps. The world and human psychology don't care much about, follow, or match up with political correctness. And that's not a knock on DuBois; it's a knock on the way his ideas get used by some people today. I'd like to say it more strongly than that, but I should be careful as I haven't read him. But yes, I'm making another presumption, and it's this: He was way too smart to not pay attention to particulars and contingencies, though I do know he remained a supporter of communism and of Stalin to the end -- surely a lapse in flexibility and intelligence, the point being that even the best of us slip up.

I saw nothing proactive in TAW's approach. Who's to say that Stop Ma and Rolands wouldn't have climbed down from their statements if she had tried a different approach? (Though yes, I do notice they haven't climbed down. Maybe they're no longer checking in on this thread, and then again, maybe they are.)

Michael: Though the conditioning that led your wife's relative to take her husband back in makes me cringe, I hope she's doing OK. Easy in the midst of all the blatherings and argument here to forget that serious consequences for the lives of particular human beings are involved. Surely those consequences and those lives are what matter most.

Michael Turton said...

" Michael's original post mentions "patriarchal values of Taiwanese males".

Ah reading. If only people cultivated it as a skill....