Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Night Shorts

First, I would like to take a moment to publicly thank the fashion mavens who decreed that short shorts would be in this year. May all their clothing lines sell out forever.

Cops stop in front of my house, lights flashing, at 10:30 pm. What's going? A few minutes later I get a phone call. Turns out when we took in the groceries in the afternoon, we forgot to close the back of the van. The police stopped to call and tell us it was left open....

Max Hirsch at Kyodo has the whole story on Chinese dissident Wang Dan and his new position teaching in a Taiwan university:
A Chinese dissident who led the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 has accepted a position at a top Taiwanese university, a post brimming with political significance amid the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown and warming ties across the Taiwan Strait.

Wang Dan, one of the most visible student leaders of the 1989 protests, will teach Taiwanese history at Taiwan's National Chengchi University starting in September, Wang said Thursday while in Taipei to commemorate the pro-democracy movement that ended in bloodshed.

Wang was among a handful of student leaders who organized in 1989 massive Beijing rallies calling for democratic reform.

On June 4, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) crushed the dissent, killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of people. Beijing has never offered a full accounting of the crackdown.

Exiled to the United States since 1998, Wang studied East Asian history at Harvard University, eventually earning his Ph.D.

Wang said he has been seeking a job in academia since graduation, and his interest in Taiwanese history led him to National Chengchi University. He will serve as an assistant professor or lecturer on an initial half-year contract at the university.

The timing of the post -- publicized just weeks before the anniversary -- has fueled speculation over whether Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who recently discouraged the Dalai Lama from visiting Taiwan, is using Wang's appointment to head off criticism that he is too soft on China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory.

China has threatened to attack the island should it seek to formalize its de facto independence, the source of tensions in the Taiwan Strait -- one of Asia's oldest and most dangerous flashpoints.

But Ma has dramatically reduced tensions by engaging China in formal talks on economic cooperation and toning down Taipei's pro-sovereignty rhetoric. The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) argues Ma is trading away the island's sovereignty in the process.

Ma, according to Hong Kong media, may be using Wang's appointment to counter the DPP's criticism, as China considers Wang persona non grata, while his field tends to highlight the separateness of Taiwan from China by focusing on the island's divergent historical trajectory.

But Wang rejected such speculation, saying, ''My appointment has nothing to do with politics.''

Nonetheless, Taiwan's history -- especially the island's democratization -- holds valuable lessons for China as the anniversary nears, Wang said, adding, ''China can learn from Taiwan that there is no need to fear democracy.''

''The world needs to understand the Tiananmen Square protests exposed a deep-seated desire among the Chinese people for democracy -- the world needs to reaffirm that on the 20th anniversary of the crackdown,'' he added.
Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China, has a nifty piece in Forbes summarizing basically why it is really shortsighted to permit China to annex Taiwan, entitled Will Taiwan Defect to China? He worries, as I do:
The pro-China elements in the Kuomintang know that the Taiwanese would never willingly agree to join with Beijing in any type of political union. Although most polling on the island is suspect, the vast majority of surveys show that the percentages of the population considering themselves "Chinese" only, and those wanting to unify with China, are both in the single digits and dropping. So the only way diehard Mainlanders can make the island a part of China is for them to destroy Taiwan's democracy first.
The Australian has a piece on the protests that gives extensive space to the pro-Taiwan side and does a good job of discussing what the protests were about, and that from a Beijing correspondent. It contains a couple of errors that several of wrote him about.

Frank Ching, who appears to be a very nice man who writes from a pro-China, pro-KMT perspective, seems a bit more balanced than usual in his commentary in the China Post today with his last paragraph:

The main point is this: Beijing needs infinite patience when dealing with Taiwan. The current situation of hostility and suspicion is the outcome of six decades of threats, blackmail, military pressure and diplomatic isolation. Even though building mutual trust is the responsibility of both sides, first and foremost it requires efforts by Beijing.

Bingo: Taiwan does not threaten China -- it is China that threatens Taiwan. And not only Taiwan.... Arthur Waldron points out how inflexible and unimaginative China's Taiwan policy actually is.

Sunday I hope to assemble some stuff on Ma's first year as Preznit. Look out for big post!

And for the sheer beauty of it, TNR has a piece on translating Chinese poetry (h/t to Joel).


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16 comments:

insectlin said...

on an initial half-year contract? Why not tenure treacking job?

So, Wang must behave himself; otherwise . . .

Readin said...

The Australian has a piece on the protests that gives extensive space to the pro-Taiwan side and does a good job of discussing what the protests were about, and that from a Beijing correspondent. It contains a couple of errors that several of wrote him about.I was much less impressed. The Australian piece started with a crap in the face of every Taiwanese who attended the rally. "LAST Sunday hundreds of thousands of Chinese marched down the city streets..." and it ended on a similar insult that was just as confusing: "Taiwan has never claimed independence from China; its stance is that the Chinese people should themselves decide who should govern them." So the it is Taiwan's position that the people of China should get to decide who governs Taiwan??? Or is it Taiwan's position that the people of China should decide who governs China?? And what do either of those have to do with the previous sentence about Taiwan not having declared independence?

We also see in the article other strange statements: "But there is another, bigger spectre that is looming in the minds of some: political unification with China. It was instructive that older Taiwanese, more fearful of the aggressive People's Republic they remembered, made up the bulk of Sunday's rally in Taipei." Perhaps it is the older people who remember the aggressive Chinese who came to Taiwan with the KMT that are more fearful. Do they fear the PRC, or do they fear the Chinese in general?

Several hundred thousand people show up to protest in a country of only 23 million and "...it seems they are in a minority"??

The author says "At Sunday's rally, DPP president Tsai Ing-wen cited the KMT Government's draft revisions to the assembly and parade law as the key reason for the protest." Is that correct. Did Tsai say that the assembly and parade law was "the" key reason, or "a" key reason. There is a big difference there.

The author spent about half the article talking about the potential economic benefits of subjugation by China, but having said the rally was about the parade and assembly law, he says not a word about recent assemblies and protests where the police allowed demonstrators to be mistreated and then mistreated the demonstrators.

The author mentions that Chen is in jail, but says nothing about the violations of his civil rights and the political handling of his case. Surely one or two lines about the economy could have been removed to provide room to say something about the erosion of civil rights in Taiwan under the KMT.

Where is this "extensive space" given to the pro-Taiwan side?


And what is this "mainland" the author kept talking about? The mainland of Taiwan is the big island Taiwan as opposed to smaller islands like the Pescadores, Orchid Island, Green Island, Turtle Island, etc.. But the author seemed to be using it in a different way.

amida said...

What power would Ma Ying-jeou have over faculty appointments at Taida?! Are the HK media outlets stretching this for a story?

Michael Turton said...

Insectlin, there is no tenure at Taiwan universities. Starting out on a half year or year contract is pretty normal.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

Readin, the Sainsbury piece had a couple of really sucky things. But when you look at all the depthless media reports, or the ones that barely discussed what the DPP wanted -- like the freakin' BBC -- that was a miraculous presentation.

Anonymous said...

Michael equals pro-Taiwan with pro-TI. He sees everything black & white, and as a zero-sum game. These are characteristics of an extremist POV.

AhDoGa said...

Does anyone else find it interesting, if not strange, that a Mainlander would be appointed to teach Taiwanese history at a Taiwanese University? In college, I was hounded for citing Taiwanese books on the cultural revolution and asked to provide explanation for why I chose to do so. And rightfully so. It's like a Mexican Prof. teaching US history at a US university. Interesting implications, both good and bad.

Günter Whittome said...

As Michael said, "Starting out on a half year or year contract is pretty normal." Formally, that's the way it is. However, from what I have heard from Taiwanese professor friends, it really is only a formality. Unless he goes to classes drunk or starts selling drugs to his students the contract will be renewed automatically (something like another half year, then 1 year, then 3 years, 7 years...).
That Wang Dan's new post has anything to do with Ma Yingjiu is utter over-interpretation. If he teaches Taiwanese history at Chengchi University, it would probably be the Institute for Taiwanese History there (台灣歷史研究所). The Institute (and/or University) decide for themselves whom they appoint. The Ministry of Education would only come into play to formalise his promotion to Associate Professor (副教授) and Professor in a few years from now.

Anonymous said...

The most likely reason for a half-year appointment is if the hiree signed up to start in the spring semester. Is that the case here? Or is Wang Dan perhaps working around some other commitment?

Anonymous said...

lol.. grey or black cat he is still a chinese nationalist claiming on Taiwan.

---Does anyone else find it interesting, if not strange, that a Mainlander would be appointed to teach Taiwanese history at a Taiwanese University?--

i dunno.. i hope he will do real taiwanese and not chinese history..

cfimages said...

AhDoGa : Does anyone else find it interesting, if not strange, that a Mainlander would be appointed to teach Taiwanese history at a Taiwanese University?

Shouldn't we say, a Chinese person teaching Taiwanese history at a Taiwanese uni?

Daniel said...

Waldron seems to have a man-crush on Ma. His characterization of the man and his motives comes of like a study of the hero of some Greek tragedy, or at best suggests that Ma's some well-meaning, fatally gorgeous and dumb jock. To make matters worse, Waldron left so many typos and incomplete or otherwise flawed sentences as to suggest he didn't read what he had typed. He had some good points amongst the rubble, but it really was a mess. I do appreciate the attempt to call all three sides to see the common ground of rationality, but this essay just won't do. I volunteer myself for his proofreading. At a price. He has an effing PhD for God's sake.

Jenna said...

Oh no...not hotpants!

You guys may like 'em but for us women who don't have figures that can handle hotpants (and for those who do, but just don't care for those glorified belts) it means another season of clothes-shopping hell. Once something is 'fashionable' it's almost the only thing sold in stores, so if you don't like it, you're SOL.

I feel the same about skinny jeans. When those abominations came into fashion it took forever to hunt down basic boot-cut dark jeans.

Anonymous said...

Taiwan's economy shrank by a record 10.2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter on slumping exports, the government said Thursday, as it forecast a deeper contraction this year.

http://sify.com/finance/fullstory.php?a=jfyofpfcach&title=Taiwan_s_economy_shrinks_record_10_2_percent_in_1Q

Jonathan Benda said...

According to this article in Taiwan News, he's going to be teaching "cross-strait history" rather than Taiwanese history.

Readin said...

Readin, the Sainsbury piece had a couple of really sucky things. But when you look at all the depthless media reports, or the ones that barely discussed what the DPP wanted -- like the freakin' BBC -- that was a miraculous presentation.
I would rather that a report say nothing than have it say misleading or just plain wrong information. That way when the truth comes out it only has to overcome a complete lack of knowledge rather than having to overcome ingrained beliefs based on false information.

As the great Ronald Reagan once said, it's not what they don't know that's the problem - it's what they know that just isn't so.