Saturday, April 10, 2010

Satuday musings

Passed around a script from the TV show friends in class the other day for the students to translate and perform. One group called me over to discuss one of the pages, and after a few moments, I explained that Janice was dumping Ross, whom she had a fling with. Couldn't penetrate the problem they were having until, after I explained a bit more, several of them chorused: "What? Ross is a man?" Yes, never having see the show, reading his lines, they thought he was a girl....

FT got itself spanked over a loony comment in an otherwise good article on the US and Taiwan. It said:
"In recent weeks US officials, including Barack Obama, the president, have publicly repeated a long-held US policy stating that Taiwan and Tibet are part of China."
The comments appeared in a piece from April 7, and were written, said FT in replies to people who wrote them, by a reporter based in Beijing. I have often observed that Beijing reporters write awful stuff on Taiwan. Just another bit of evidence....

WSJ had a really excellent and wide ranging piece on the foreign bride/children issue in Taiwan...

Fear among some conservative Taiwanese of an overwhelming wave of mixed-nationality children has faded; studies show that most mixed-nationality couples have one or two children, in line with their all-Taiwanese counterparts.

"It's actually kind of disappointing for demographers," says Dr. Lan.

Today, conservatives are more likely to fret about the lack of newborns than the nationality of the mothers. Taiwan's birth rate is among the world's lowest. With prosperity and education, more Taiwanese women have embraced the freedom of single life, leaving more men casting around overseas for wives. In the 1990s marriage brokers began organizing trips for single men, mostly to Vietnam, Indonesia and mainland China.

Articles on the foreign bride issue often argue that locals select foreigners because those women still want to have kids, but it is not female preferences but economics that shapes family size. Until the government lowers the cost of having children, gives women more rights over their children, and makes the island more kid-friendly, Taiwanese will continue to shun child-rearing. Note that Montlake's position, which is a commonly heard one, blames the changes in females -- those irresponsible, freedom-embracing femmes who won't stay properly barefoot, preggers, and in the chufang, not the economic costs of having children, for Taiwan's low fertility rate. The fact that females in Taiwan largely make the same choices irrespective of national origin or economic status simply indicates that the problem is not any particular group of females, per se, but some structural factor in Taiwan. Montlake's article thus contains the evidence that refutes its own gender biases.

It's interesting that the mail-order bride phenomenon is invariably regarded as a phenomenon worthy of reportage, but the incredibly large number of foreign males married to local females is taken for granted by everyone and is never explored in the media as a phenomenon worthy of reportage. It seems to be a kind of Orientalization of Taiwanese females in which when the Other marries into Us, this is deemed so normal and understandable that it need not be contemplated, but when Others marry each Other, it is a thing well worth discussing. I suspect gender bias as well; Taiwanese males marrying foreigners is inherently interesting; Taiwanese females marrying foreigners is inherently dull. Females marrying "up" is normal, after all....

Harvard's awesome Michael Porter, boy wonder of business strategy, appeared at a forum in Taipei the other day and pushed Taiwan to adopt ECFA. It was Porter's Competitive Advantages of Nations that first got me interested in Taiwan's economy. Porter clearly knows little about cross-strait politics or about ECFA (if no one knows the contents of ECFA, how can Porter?) or about the effect of China on the nations around it or on China's habit of not honoring its agreements. He was simply voicing theological commitments to the "free trade" position in a forum where they would not be challenged. In B-schools in Taiwan strategy study has the highest status, which means that Porter's voice carries special weight.

Also on tap: Shadows in the Cloud: the investigation into cyber attacks on India and Tibetan activists. Read that and the recent accounts of Chinese cyber attacks on Indian targets, and of course, the Google experience in China, in which attacks on Google originated from Chinese government sources, against Porter's purblind enthusiasm for an ECFA with that nation.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

I thought it was deeply disturbing that Porter felt there was no viable alternative to ECFA. This statement alone seemed to support your idea that he clearly didn't know beans about the "arrangement", or if he did, he was just another Ayn Rand follower who doesn't give a feck about the people of Taiwan. Just like the Dodgers, they show up, please the crowd and then collect their huge fee.

Anonymous said...

In related news to India, the Karmapa was denied a visa by EU countries for a religious event. Won't ANYONE stand up to China?

Stefan said...

I can't say that this is completely thought out, or that it is well researched. However it seems to me that efforts to empower women are still focused on giving them equal rights to a male life plan, not allowing them to live their own.

Men usually want to marry later, they want to explore before they settle down and their chances in the marriage market typically improve with age. For women it's often the reverse - their chances decline with age and they'd often prefer to have children younger in the first place. (That latter statement is just anecdotal I admit - just something many women have mentioned to me.)

Higher education works well for men, but for women it's somewhat at the wrong time. Maybe that's one area where government policy could make a difference - helping women to combine higher education and motherhood.

Some ideas for that:

* Free day care at universities

* Pediatricians' and Gynecologists' offices right on the campus (or at least close by)

* Family dorms for young families where the mother is attending university

* a "slow track" for mothers with young children - e.g. half the course work and twice the duration of the studies

* easier access to funding for mothers who want to study once their children are a bit older - maybe combined with "older women"-only classes. (Many women are feel awkward to attend university with everybody around them being younger.)

* special study rooms for parents with kids - computers and desks available for the parents, toys and safe play area available for the kids

* parental leave for fathers so they can better support their wives with child-rearing duties

* improved quality of university education in Taiwan so that parents don't find it necessary to send them to expensive universities in the US

Just some thoughts.

Carlos said...

Isn't a shrinking population a good thing?

Robert R. said...

Men usually want to marry later, they want to explore before they settle down and their chances in the marriage market typically improve with age. For women it's often the reverse - their chances decline with age and they'd often prefer to have children younger in the first place. (That latter statement is just anecdotal I admit - just something many women have mentioned to me.)

Only true if marriage is your first priority. Second, it's the birth rate that's a problem, not the marriage rate.

Many women want to have careers, and having a kid in Taiwan makes that very difficult. If you're handicapping your career in your mid-20s, you'll have trouble from there on out.
If you have children later, you'll be able to try to go back to the foundation you've already built.

Finally, paternity leave would be nice, but my (2nd hand) impression is that Taiwanese men have little desire to do the work of actually raising a child, figuring that it's the wife's job. (standard caveats about stereotypes apply).

Taiwanonymous said...

Here's the first numbers on foreign grooms that I could find.

Last year there were 3,673 foreign grooms compared to 18,241 brides.

From a report two years before on divorces, the divorce rate was 45% for foreign grooms and 27% for brides.


Michael Turton said...

Great stats! But many of those marriages take place overseas....