Friday, January 06, 2012

Donnelly and Armstrong: Awesome

CSMonitor hosted a wonderful opinion piece from two longtime Taiwan analysts and observers, Fulton Armstrong and Neal Donnelly. Please read the whole thing, but here's a highlight....
In politics, the Taiwanese feel that, in addition to building a democratic culture, they have worked hard to coexist with the Chinese among them and across the Taiwan Strait. Except in isolated incidents in the aftermath of the “2-28 Massacre” in 1947, in which thousands of Taiwanese died, the mainlanders have never been attacked or even harassed. The Taiwanese have voted for mainlanders, including President Ma, when they campaigned on pro-Taiwan platforms.

This is the pattern for Taiwanese – humiliation to which they respond with patience. In a remote hamlet of eastern Taiwan in 1968 with no inns, a Taiwanese family offered an American cyclist a bed for the night, but the police said the foreigner had to leave – until a mainlander next door volunteered to take him in. The Taiwanese family was deeply embarrassed, but they gracefully gave way to the mainlanders.

Taiwanese children punished for speaking their native tongues in school have over time accepted Chinese as the official national language. When the deadly SARS virus spread to Taiwan from China in 2003, and China blocked Taiwan’s participation in international meetings about it, the humiliation was profound. But Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian channeled all energy into overcoming the crisis.

The cultural symbols of the Taiwanese remain the yam and the water buffalo – not the Chinese dragon or Japanese rising sun. The people of Taiwan are not out to make the world in their image, but simply ask the world to let them be themselves in peace and freedom.
The incident referred to is a story of Neal Donnelly's. In 1968 he biked the east coast (imagine that). One night he stopped at a hamlet and asked for a place to stay. Of course a local Taiwanese family offered to take him in. Unrestricted access to the local Taiwanese couldn't be permitted by the mainlander security state running Taiwan, so the police came over and made him leave -- though he was permitted to stay at the house of a mainlander who volunteered to take him in, since that was politically acceptable. Hopefully Neal will be able to run down his pics of that trip so I can post them here on the blog...
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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

''In 1968 Neal biked the east coast.... One night he stopped at a small village and asked for a place to stay. Of course a local Taiwanese family offered to take him in. HOWEVER, Unrestricted access to the local Taiwanese couldn't be permitted by the KMT mainlander security state running Taiwan at that time, 1968, so the police came over and made him leave the first house -- though he was permitted to stay at the house of a mainlander who volunteered to take him in, since that was politically acceptable. ''

WTF?

Michael Turton said...

In the martial law era the KMT tried to limit uncontrolled contacts between foreigners and Taiwanese to prevent the former from discovering the latter's take on Taiwan.

Steven Crook... said...

Neal Donnelly is also the author of a superb book called "Gods of Taiwan: A Collector's Account" in which he talks about the various icons and effigies of folk gods (inc Jesus + Mohammed) he's seen and purchased over the years.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Neal Donnelly, thanks for sharing!

Hans said...

This is a beautiful story and article! Thanks for posting!

Lorenzo said...

Many thanks for this post. Neal, an accidental cyclist witnessed a page of totalian control and the human humiliation in Taiwan. That is a valuable record of history. Thanks again for the post.

I would like to add that traveling to foreign countries was not allowed for common citizens during martial law epoch. However, the sons and daughters of KMT members could get Sun Yat-sen scholarship, which used tax payer's money, to study abroad. Ma was one of them. Hu was one of them. And this and that ....the list goes on and on.

They came back to Taiwan after getting degrees. They came back and continued KMT's oppressive policy and action. The devil wore gestapo visor cap before. A Harvard cap with a tassel this time.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a grave mistake to still draw the line between the victimized Taiwanese and their oppressors which somehow includes the Mainlanders as well as the Chinese. First it unnecessarily alienates the Mainlanders, second it ignores the fact that Taiwanese have been the masters of their own fate since at least 1996!

Ottavia (Huang) said...

wow, I've never known this side of Taiwan from the 1960s, so much different from today

Brian Schack said...

Awesome is right. The vast majority of articles on Taiwan are cynically calculating, whatever their slant. It was refreshing to read an article that plainly states what I feel is the most salient aspect of the situation in Taiwan - that it has bent over backwards to satisfy the West's demands for democracy, the rule of law, free trade and markets, not provoking China, ..., and in return has received a giant slap in the face.

I should add that, although the article mentions only the hypocrisy of the US in this regard, the rest of the western world is just as guilty, if not more so. I'm Canadian, and our government's behaviour to Taiwan is deeply embarrassing and shameful.

Anonymous said...

This needs to be written about more: ''traveling to foreign countries was not allowed for common ROC citizens during the marital law era. However, the sons and daughters of KMT members could get scholarships, which used tax payer's money, to study abroad. Ma was one of them. Jason Hu was one of them. And this and that ....the list goes on and on."

LIST?

I had not known this and want to know more. Needs to be exposed

J2trees said...

I'm currently reading "Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea", a graphic novel documenting a Canadian comic book author's journey to North Korea. Reading about how (under KMT martial law) foreigners were limited from interactions with the Taiwanese reminds me of how the North Korean government limits the movement of foreigners who visit. I think it's similar in China too, no? Certain areas are off-limits?

Every time an MSM article appears about the Taiwan-China problem (if we want to call it that), there are always comments from my fellow Americans that the US can't afford another war. Which is understandable, but what they don't understand (or don't care to bother learning) is that there doesn't need to be a war. Certainly not the type of war that we have in Iraq or Afghanistan. The democratic state already exists. There's no nation building, no training local police, no guerilla warfare.

My biggest problem with the KMT and Ma is that they seem ready to sell out Taiwan at any moment. That's probably not true, but I wouldn't put it past them. As much pro-Taiwan/Taiwanese (as opposed to ROC) as I am, I really think Taiwan needs to move forward with a new Taiwan identity. Let's not worry about Taiwanese vs waishengren. Let's embrace multiculturalism (Hoklo, Hakka, Chinese, aboriginal, European, and American), demand to be treated as a full and equal member of the international community, and normalize relations with China. Taiwan:China is not Hong Kong/Macau:China. Taiwan:China should be US:Great Britain (or Great Britain:US, since despite the US being the "breakaway" territory is now the more powerful nation between the two).