Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Thinking Taiwan is open for business

With journalist J Michael Cole as its editor in chief, a new platform for Taiwan centered journalism and commentary, Thinking Taiwan, opened officially this week (Facebook, Twitter = @ThinkingTaiwan). The online news and analysis site is funded by DPP Chair and former Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's foundation. The awesome Sean Su, whom I've been trying to get to marry my daughter, techie and Taiwan activist in States, is running the platform.

If the opening round of pieces is any indication, this will be a great place to learn about Taiwan. At the moment it hosts remarks on its opening by longtime China hand Jerome Cohen (who managed to slip in a slap at the DPP in his usual style), a piece on the ADIZ over the Senkakus by longtime defense specialist Mark Stokes, whose work I admire very much, a piece by Aphrodite Hung of the Black Island Youth Alliance, a piece from Tsai Yin-wen, a piece on legal norms by longtime scholar Stephane Corcuff, a piece on the global youth movement by longtime scholar Don Rodgers, and other goodies. A veritable treasure trove. Won't be getting much work done today!

Really looking forward to the next couple of years of reading on this site. UPDATE: This piece on Taiwan's presidency by Lin Cho-shui is great. I am sooo not getting any work done today.

With the exception of Cohen this is a very pro-Taiwan crowd of writers, but I have heard that Cole hopes to source work from the pro-KMT side. It sure would be great to see some high quality stuff from the Dark Side. Though Thinking Taiwan wants to be "non-partisan" it will be a huge challenge to fulfill that goal, in part because the pro-Blue side is so difficult to defend rationally and truthfully, as I have noted many times over the years, which means it will be hard to find good pro-Blue writers.

Whatever happens, a website full of intelligent commentary on Taiwan is a huge step forward for the island. Way to go, J Michael!
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16 comments:

Anonymous said...

As long as Tsai Ing-wen is involved, it will be difficult for this group of excellent scholars to have their opinions and observations entertained as anything other than pro-DPP tripe. Whether it is or not, it is now tainted by the appearance of partisanship.

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Nonsense. The work speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

I was quite excited when I first heard about this new website, as I have felt for a long time that some kind of neutral and independent English-language forum for intelligent articles and rational discussion of Taiwan related issues has been sorely needed.

But then, as the site turns out to be (apparently) sponsored by the DPP/蔡英文, it can hardly be considered nonpartisan or independent (and the logo colours give a pretty strong indication too!). So it will likely be disregarded, or treated with suspicion by anyone not on the 'pan-green' side. What a shame and what a missed opportunity.

It was also a bit surprising to see J. Michael Cole has 'pinned his flag to the mast' of the DPP so publicly, as it will tend to affect how his work is received (i.e he will be considered by many as yet another DPP stooge). It's one thing to be an independent 'green-leaning' journalist, but it will change perceptions of his work significantly if it appears that he's on the payroll of the DPP or one of its partner organisations.

The site and quality of articles posted so far is impressive, so it is a shame that is could not have been produced under a truly independent and nonpartisan banner.

Anonymous said...

"What a surprise that the people willing to fund a political website are people who have opinions about politics!" C'mon now, as readers we need to judge stories based on the truth of their claims, not the name in the corner.

When you are saying "certain people" may discredit the website just because of who's backing it you should add "but I won't, and I'll tell them not to either, because I'm open-minded, not a partisan hack."

Mr. Wang said...

I utterly disagree with your claim that the Blue side cannot be defended rationally or truthfully. Perhaps you need to actually meet and befriend some pro-Blue people instead of just hearing/reading caricatures of them. I consider myself pro-Blue, but I don't think that the Green side is irrational. I fully understand the Green point-of-view, I just don't agree with it.

What does pro-Blue mean to me? I would like to see a cooperative relationship with China (not and antagonistic one). I have no desire for Taiwan to be integrated with the PRC, and I also do not support the creation of a Republic of Taiwan. I acknowledge Taiwan's historic and ethnic ties to mainland China, unlike some Greens who try to deny such connections.

However, I think that the political systems and societies of the mainland and Taiwan are too different to be integrated. I think Taiwan should strengthen economic relations with China. However, Taiwan should also maintain its de facto independence yet not provoke China by declaring de jure independence.

Perhaps in several decades (or longer) China will democratize. Only when that happens should reunification be negotiated. If reunification is mutually beneficial then great. If it’s not, then I think a democratic China would be more willing to allow Taiwan to go its own way, which would also be an acceptable outcome from my point-of-view.

Now, you may disagree with my conclusions, but I would hardly say that my opinions are irrational or untruthful.

Michael Turton said...

Perhaps you need to actually meet and befriend some pro-Blue people instead of just hearing/reading caricatures of them.

I know many people and have many friends who are Deep Blue and other shades of Blue. It is because I know so many that I hold such a strong position on the rationality of Blueness.

that my opinions are irrational

The Blue identity is a quasi-religious identity and is not based on any rationality. What are the grounds for calling for annexation of Taiwan to China at some distant point in the future? None. Just some totally irrational faith claim that Taiwan should be "reunited" with China.

There are no Greens who deny that Taiwan has historic/cultural ties to China. The claim that such people exist is a fantasy position held only by Blues.

I would like to see a cooperative relationship with China (not and antagonistic one)

Who wouldn't? In the Taiwan-China relationship, Taiwan is not the problem. It's China's desire to annex Taiwan to China.

If it’s not, then I think a democratic China would be more willing to allow Taiwan to go its own way,

I don't. Democracies are not less lustful for territory than other forms of government, and all those across the strait will have been raised with the lunacy that Taiwan is part of China awaiting "reunification". These irrational, evil, expansionist ideas are going to get a lot of people killed in the end.

Mr. Wang said...

“What are the grounds for calling for annexation of Taiwan to China at some distant point in the future?”

I would like to turn that question around. What are the grounds for calling for an independent Taiwan? Taiwan has never been an independent nation. Before the Republic of China established control in 1945 it was a Japanese colony, and before that it was part of the Qing Empire. Article 4 of the 1952 Treaty of Taipei states: “It is recognised that all treaties, conventions, and agreements concluded before 9 December 1941 between Japan and China have become null and void as a consequence of the war.”

So, that would include the Treaty of Shimonoseki which transferred Taiwan from China to Japan in 1895. If the Treaty of Shimonoseki is null and void, then what happens to Taiwan? It gets returned to China. Thank goodness it was returned to the ROC and not the PRC.

Now, before you tell me that the Qing was not Chinese. Let me tell you that I disagree with that view. China is a complicated place with many ethnic groups. Yes, the rulers of the Qing were ethnically Manchu and not Han. However, throughout Chinese history there were times when the Han were not in charge, that doesn’t mean China ceased to exist. Even in dynasties (like Ming) where the ruling family was Han, most emperors had mixed heritage since many of the emperor’s concubines were from minority groups or foreign ethnicities (often Korean). The monarchs of England are ethnically German, and have been since 1714. However, no one claims that England is now Germany as a result.

From my point-of-view, the notion that China has no claim to Taiwan is irrational and ahistorical. As much as the Greens hate the Republic of China, it is because of the ROC that Taiwan is not part of the PRC today. In 1949 ROC forces defeated Communist forces at the Battle of Kuningtou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kuningtou). Had the ROC lost that battle, it is very likely that the PRC would have invaded Taiwan. And you and I wouldn’t have the luxury of debating Blue vs. Green today.

What is Taiwan’s greatest claim for independence? Well, it hasn’t been ruled from the mainland since 1949. And after democratic reforms in the 1980s and 90s it has proven that it can govern itself quite well on its own. Mainland China has to demonstrate that Taiwan would be better off as part of China rather than independent. I think that’s a difficult challenge for China. One that I’m not sure can be overcome. Especially considering the corruption of China’s current government, it would be very hard to convince Taiwanese they would be better off under that system.

However, Taiwan cannot ignore the threat that China poses both militarily and economically. In a perfect world China would allow Taiwan self-determination. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. And we must deal with the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. You ask who wants to see an antagonistic relationship with China. Well, the Greens have had one president, Chen Shui-bian, and he managed to antagonize not only the Chinese, but the US as well. Any president who offends both of those big powers, is not doing what’s best for Taiwan.

My views are based on my understanding of history and international relations. Is it possible that Blues are not irrational and untruthful (as a whole, I’m sure you can find individual examples), and maybe they just disagree on what is best for Taiwan? I think that rational people can have different perspectives on the complicated issues of Taiwanese politics and the cross-strait relationship.

Michael Turton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Turton said...

I would like to turn that question around. What are the grounds for calling for an independent Taiwan?

International law. Territorial transfers cannot take place without consent of local population, today and in 1945. Not to mention UN agreements on decolonized territories, etc. And of course, preferences of the population.

Taiwan has never been an independent nation.

1895 Taiwan republic.

If the Treaty of Shimonoseki is null and void, then what happens to Taiwan? It gets returned to China.

Nope. It gets returned to its people. As you well know, under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, no recipient of Taiwan's sovereignty is named. Hence it was never "returned" to China. Its sovereignty resides with its people.

Had the ROC lost that battle, it is very likely that the PRC would have invaded Taiwan.

It was kind of the ROC to fight that battle on an island which China could take any time it wanted. In fact it was the US navy that preserved Taiwan's freedom, not the ROC. In any case, the ROC is owed nothing by the Taiwanese for some battle or other; if you are arguing on the grounds that they are owed, then Taiwan should be part of the US, to which the island owes much more.

As for the Manchus being Chinese, they were considered outsiders until the Chinese nationalists decided to grab their territories. Then suddenly they became "Chinese".

Being Chinese is basically a declaration that your territory is going to be invaded, your people assimilated to the dominant Han Chauvinist belief system, and your culture destroyed. See Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Manchuria, etc.

Now it is our turn in Taiwan. You support this irrational expansionist evil simply because it is part of your identity, so you cast about for reasons to rationalize killing Taiwanese and taking their land. But really, you can either support democracy and law, or you can claim that Taiwan is part of China. But you can't do both. I hope you will come to some more ethically supportable positions, and stop fronting for Chinese power and expansion, which in the end will only get people killed for no good reason except to make already powerful Han leaders feel more powerful. Sad, eh?

Michael

Unknown said...

"Taiwan has never been an independent nation."

Tens of thousands of years of governance by aboriginal tribes and nations don't count? Why do you think the history of Taiwan started in the 1600s?

Mr. Wang said...

You are putting words in my mouth. I certainly do not support killing Taiwanese (or anyone else for that matter). I agree that nationalism can be a dangerous and sometimes deadly force. The modern concept of nationalism is fairly new in China (when looking at the long view of Chinese history). However, what is not new is the cyclical view that China falls apart, puts itself together again, falls apart again, put itself together again, and on and on.

When the Tang dynasty fell in 907 there was a period of disunity in China until the Song was established in 960. However, the Song did not control all the territory that the previous Tang did. For centuries Song rulers struggled to find a way to recover those 16 lost prefectures. They never did achieve that goal. However, what this reveals is a very old idea that once a territory becomes part of China, then China is not whole again until that territory is recovered. You may disagree with this notion. But just because you disagree with it doesn't mean it will go away.

Nothing would make me happier than to have and independent Taiwan that lives at peace with China and all its neighbors. However, I am not willing to pay any cost to achieve that goal. If the only way to have an independent Taiwan is war with China, then forget it. As I said in my previous post, we must deal with the world as it is and not as we wish it to be. The reality today is that China poses a serious military threat that Taiwan cannot thwart on its own. With US support Taiwan could possibly survive (with massive casualties). However, as time goes on I believe the US will become less inclined to defend Taiwan, and they certainly won’t defend us if Taiwan declared independence. If the US doesn’t help us no one will. Maybe we could make war costly for China with guerrilla tactics in the mountains. Perhaps so costly that eventually China would give up. But at what cost? The destruction of Taiwan. That is too high a cost for me.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that you’re right about the history and China has no rightful claim to Taiwan. Unfortunately for us no one who matters agrees with this view (UN, US, PRC, ROC, etc.). Even the few insignificant countries who recognize the ROC would probably switch to recognize the PRC if Taiwan declared independence. So, given this international reality what does Taiwan do? We have to play a smart game by maintaining our de facto independence while at the same time not doing anything that would give China a pretext for military action.

You mentioned the Republic of Taiwan of 1895. No country recognized that government, and it was quickly destroyed by Japan. Which is exactly what would happen to a Republic of Taiwan today; no country would recognize it and it would most likely be destroyed by China.

You’ve declared me irrational and a supporter of evil. I am none of those things. My views are based on a rational understanding of international realities. They are not based on naive and wishful thinking.

Tell me, what is your idea to solve Taiwan’s tricky international situation? Why don't you appeal to the UN and tell them all about the San Francisco Peace Treaty. I’m sure that will get you nowhere.

Michael Turton said...

You’ve declared me irrational and a supporter of evil. I am none of those things. My views are based on a rational understanding of international realities. They are not based on naive and wishful thinking.

You keep changing your views based on what I say. First you tell me that Taiwan is part of China. Then I point out to you that it is not, suddenly you support and independent and democratic Taiwan but oh too bad, China will destroy that so it won't happen. Then your views suddenly become "I don't want Taiwan destroyed by China". But that outcome is not inevitable. Inevitability is adolescent political philosophy. Reality is messy and complex.


You mentioned the Republic of Taiwan of 1895. No country recognized that government, and it was quickly destroyed by Japan. Which is exactly what would happen to a Republic of Taiwan today; no country would recognize it and it would most likely be destroyed by China.

Irrelevant. You said that there was never an independent Taiwan. There was, say your claim was false. Say instead. "Oh yeah, I forgot."

For the sake of argument, let’s say that you’re right about the history and China has no rightful claim to Taiwan.

See? Now you are returning to your expansionist, anti-democracy position. The basis of getting other nations to move is establishing a foreign policy based on an independent Taiwan, not on an ROC which copies Chinese territorial expansion and pisses off all its potential allies.

I too deal with the world as it is, not in some Blue la-la land where China owns half of Asia. And in the world as it is, small nations have a habit getting freedom from big powers that want to eat them, if they pursue the right policies, often without war, while expanionist powers frequently wind up fighting the wrong war and destroying themselves. But one aspect of adopting the right policies is giving up your outmodeded, authoritarian, expansionist views of Chinese history and territory, and to stop searching for a justificatory discourse under which you get to advocate killing people and taking their land while pretending that you dont, as you're doing right now.

Bottom line is right now you are fronting for Chinese expansion. As I noted, you can do that, or advocate peaceful democratic outcomes, but you can't do both. And you can't change China unless you switch to the pro-Taiwan, pro-democracy side.

So the real issue is why you continue to cling to these 19th century beliefs while most people around you have abandoned them.

Michael



Anonymous said...

...it will be a huge challenge to fulfill that goal, in part because the pro-Blue side is so difficult to defend rationally and truthfully

Proof: Mr. Wang

The naivety in his comments just reconfirms the dreamland that blue supporter live in. Here is a clue: There is no status quo.

Mr. Wang said...

In response to Unknown’s comment:

“Tens of thousands of years of governance by aboriginal tribes and nations don't count? Why do you think the history of Taiwan started in the 1600s?”

You are correct that Taiwan’s history did not begin in the 1600s. Unfortunately no nation recognizes the sovereignty of aboriginal tribes anywhere on earth (not just Taiwan). Is that unjust? Yes, but that’s the way of the world.

Does the United States recognize the thousands of years that America was ruled by Native American tribes? How come the US doesn’t allow them self-determination? Does Australia recognize the sovereignty of their aboriginal peoples who ruled that land for thousands of years before Europeans arrived?

By the way, the majority of Taiwan’s aboriginals today vote for KMT. Why is that? Because of DPP’s narrow-minded view that Taiwanese=Hoklo and no one else. With DPP in charge aboriginal culture would be even more at risk. Or do you think the aboriginals vote against their own interests?

Mr. Wang said...

In response to Michael’s comments:

I have not changed my views at all. My arguments have been entirely consistent. The problem is that you are burdened by the Western dualistic view of the world that has to categorize everything as good or evil. This prevents you from seeing the nuance of my stance.

Fortunately Chinese people don’t have to categorize everything as good or evil. Chinese people are far more interested in what works vs what doesn’t work.

What doesn’t work? An independent Taiwan. Why? Because China and the international community wouldn’t allow it. The US has made it clear that they will not defend Taiwan if it declares independence.

What also doesn’t work? Integrating Taiwan into the PRC. Why? Because that government is undemocratic and corrupt, and I hope Taiwan is never ruled by it.

So, if those two extremes don’t work then what is left? Status quo. Taiwan should continue to give lip service to one-China because that takes away China’s pretext for military conflict. At the same time Taiwan should do everything in its power to maintain its de facto independence, and hope for a better international climate in the future. This is a long-term game plan that will take decades (maybe longer) to achieve.

What would we be waiting for? I think there are two possibilities. China either gradually democratizes or it falls apart completely. There is a chance that either of those options could be better for Taiwan.

You are right that democracy doesn’t guarantee that China will be less interesting in acquiring Taiwan. However, I think a democratic China would be a much better negotiating partner than the current Chinese government. A China that respects the will of the people, might be willing to accept the will of Taiwan’s people.

What if China falls apart? Well, China might be so busy fighting with itself that it will lose interest in Taiwan. However, I’m not 100% sure that a collapsed China would be better for international peace. Just imagine China governed by warlords who happen to have nuclear weapons. That could be a disaster for everyone in Asia and the world.

You see, I do think that China has a legitimate claim to Taiwan. However, I also think that the optimal option for Taiwan is to remain independent of the PRC. One can hold both of those views at the same time without being inconsistent. I do not support the killing of anyone. In fact, I believe that my ideas are most likely to guarantee that a conflict between China and Taiwan will not happen. The DPP’s need to agitate mainland China with cries for independence may feel very rewarding, but that tactic is much more likely to result in the death of Taiwanese people that the strategy that I have outlined.

Throughout this debate you have thrown many personal attacks at me (calling me a supporter of evil, etc). I have never resorted to a personal attack on you. In fact I’m sure you are a very nice person and I have no doubt that you love Taiwan (something we have in common). Perhaps you and I are neither good or evil, perhaps we just happen to disagree on what’s best for Taiwan.

Mr. Wang said...

Also,

I did not forget the Republic of Taiwan of 1895. It is very relevant that no country recognized it. A country is not a country if the international community doesn’t recognize its existence. That is the reality. I can declare that my house is an independent country does that make it so?

Also, the Republic of Taiwan of 1895 was established to resist the Japanese (not the Qing). In fact, after the Republic of Taiwan was defeated many of its former leaders (those not executed by Japan) escaped to Qing China. For example: Tang Ching-sung http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_Ching-sung and Chiu Feng-jia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qiu_Fengjia.