Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taipei Times Letter

The Taipei Times ran my letter to the editor in response to David Brown's piece last week:
The other day I remarked that I ought to start a pool on how long it would take before establishment analysts started labeling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a “troublemaker” if she became president. However, I see David Brown has trumped my cynicism by deploying that trope before Tsai has even been elected (“DPP must clarify its China policy,” Aug. 19, page 8).
You can read the rest here. The original was much longer, I had to cut out everything that makes for good writing and just put in a lot of bare sentences, as well as several other ideas I wanted to convey. Brown's original commentary is here.
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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael, why not post your original submission to the Taipei Times and show us what constitutes "good writing?"

Michael Turton said...

I didn't say it was good writing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks always Michael for being a voice of reason and intelligence.

vin said...

Excellent letter, Michael. Is Brown acute enough to perceive, though, that he's been skewered?

The oddity of American intellectuals cottoning to today's China is without historical precedent, at least that I can recall. The romantic bent toward the Soviet Union in the 1930s was a different matter: millenarian-flavored ideology was what attracted intellectuals then. Where's the intellectual catnip, though, in a post-communist, state-capitalist, one-party-state authoritarian regime? Do even career opportunism or unproceesed residual views of Chinese as The Other explain why so many American intellectuals somehow manage to view Beijing as anything other than a big-lie Big Brother? Someone should conduct formal research on this question; high-brow magazines should brim with articles discussing the topic; seminars should be held; academic conferences should be convened.

One of the great mysteries of our time should not be so neglected.

david on formosa said...

Great letter!

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, everyone.

Anonymous said...

Michael, why not post your original submission to the Taipei Times, NOT SO MUCH to see your great writing, which i am sure it is, your comment not withstanding, but to show us what the Taipei Times refused to publish or did not have space for. To see your full letter would be good. Any way to post it here?

overseas friend

super dave said...

Terrific letter!

Anonymous said...

''score'' so far in viewer eyeball hits:

david brown's oped: 3000 hits

michael turton's letter: 1300 hits

o'erseas friend

visiondisillusion said...

I find Brown's piece strange because in academic environments at Johns Hopkins SAIS he has shown that he is actually quite well informed on public opinion in Taiwan and pushes back against much of the spin from the pro-China side. It is quite "puzzling" how these Taiwan specialists always say one thing in private and then write another thing in their public pieces. It's as if they are writing their pieces to get Ma reelected...

John Scott said...

"...It is quite "puzzling" how these Taiwan specialists always say one thing in private and then write another thing in their public pieces..."

Who knows? But most academics will try hard to not get labelled as a radical, or someone with views too far outside of the mainstream, because it is bad for their career. They will also be very careful which views actually make it into print and published journals. And because the "Taiwan provoking China" nonsense is what passes for conventional wisdom, they will not push back too adamantly (at least in print), even if they know it is nonsense.

The world relies on China Specialists to interpret the China-Taiwan relationship (how much experience they have in Taiwan is not particularly relevant), and their credibility, prestige and prospects for tenure (as China specialists) often depends a great deal on how many fellowships and visiting professorships at Chinese universities they can put on their resumes. They will get turned down for such fellowships and positions if Chinese academics find too many of the "wrong" opinions in their published writings.

Readin said...

"'Being provoked' is a policy stance, not a visceral reaction, that China deploys to gain leverage over the minds of observers like Brown in the 'international community.'"

Well said!

"Hence, the question is not whether Beijing will attempt to marginalize Tsai by labeling her 'provocative,' but whether the “international community” will support Beijing in that effort."

Also well said!

"The 'Taiwan problem' is a problem of the postwar Chinese territorial expansion that embraces territories from Central Asia to Japan and no amount of 'pragmatism' on Tsai’s part can solve it."

Wow! I wish a few Western newspapers would print letters like this.



@John Scott "It is quite 'puzzling' how these Taiwan specialists always say one thing in private and then write another"thing in their public pieces."

I've read that many China experts do this to preserve the access to China that is so necessary to their career. Tell the truth in public and China stops allowing you to visit and to access government officials. How can you then continue to be a China expert? Years of training and study disappear. So you do what is necessary in public and tell the truth in private or in classified hearings.