I'm blogging on this because I fear that if you read this article in which the Economist explains why China and Taiwan are divided, your IQ may plummet. Just consider this my small public service in defending the world from the ongoing tsunami of stoopid in the media. Why O why can't we have a better media?
The stoopid starts at the very beginning. With the title: "China and Taiwan are divided." But of course, China and Taiwan aren't "divided." The KMT and CCP governments wish to annex Taiwan to China, whose sovereignty over Taiwan is not supported by any international treaty. It is they who are divided. There is no division between Taiwan and China, because there was never any unity (Added: I discuss this in a post above).
The Economist simply leaves out all the issues -- the fact that for all of Chinese history Taiwan was considered to lie outside China, until the mid-1930s when Chinese expansionist thinkers began to imagine they could grab it. Or the 1895 declaration of independence. Or the island's current undetermined status under international agreements and US and UK policy. Bye-bye.
Consider also how writers on the Taiwan-China problem have incorporated the trope "province of China in the 19th century" into the way they think about Taiwan's relationship with China -- as if it actually meant something. It means precisely nada. That's one of the double standards we use in thinking about Chinese claims, which we apply to no other claims. For example, Algeria was a department of France for over a century, Taiwan a province of the Qing for less than a decade. I look forward to the Economist's next brilliant article on how Algeria and France are divided.
It always saddens me that allegedly democracy and law-supporting media organs can't clearly lay this out for the public. Instead, we just get parroting of Chinese claims when what we should get is subversion and deconstruction of them.
The Economist goes on to present "history":
... Taiwan has since become a democracy, but resentment of the KMT runs deep among many of those who were living on the island before the KMT took refuge, and the descendants of such people. Their identity with greater China is weak. Some want Taiwan to abandon any pretence of a link with China and declare independence.This is another common trope in the media -- downplaying support for independence. It's not "some" who want, but a comfortable majority. But for the Economist to maintain the fiction that China and Taiwan "divided" -- it's actually the KMT and the CCP which are divided -- it must downplay support for independence in Taiwan. But it gets worse -- the Economist actually treats democracy as if it were a bad thing. It urks up:
But perhaps an even bigger reason why the Chinese and Taiwanese presidents have yet to meet is that the Chinese civil war is not officially over. The government in Beijing does not recognise the government in Taipei, and thus does not accept that it has a president. Although the two sides stopped lobbing shells at each other in the 1970s and began talks in the early 1990s, progress has been slow. Discussions were held only through intermediary bodies, while Taiwan’s democratisation soon intervened. Taiwan’s then president and KMT leader, Lee Teng-hui, organised the island’s first direct presidential elections in 1996. In an appeal to native Taiwanese, he shifted his government’s rhetoric to talk not of "one China" but of two states. This effectively granted recognition to the government in Beijing, but it also infuriated it. The Communist Party feared a slide towards Taiwan’s formal declaration of independence and tensions flared. China lobbed unarmed missiles into the Taiwan Strait; America sent aircraft carriers to warn it off. The victory of Mr Lee in the presidential elections, and of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in two subsequent ones, stymied further progress in cross-strait talks.The brilliance of this paragraph lie in its author's utter blindness to what he is writing -- he opens by saying that the issue between the KMT and CCP is the Chinese Civil War, which is rank nonsense. The Chinese Civil War is a dead letter. The real issue is that -- as he bass-ackwardly identifies further on -- the people of Taiwan don't want to become part of China. If Taiwanese supported annexation to China at the same levels they now support independence, then we would have become part of China decades ago.
The only reason the CCP even talks to the KMT is because the KMT represents its best shot at annexing Taiwan without a war. "Resolving" the Chinese Civil War is actually a rhetorical cover that the CCP and KMT use to justify their talks on how best to annex the island to China and what the take-home for the KMT will be. Thanks, Economist, for repeating that bit of propaganda as if it actually meant something.
Indeed, the only reason we're having a China-Taiwan discussion is because China threatens to maim and murder Taiwanese if it doesn't get to annex Taiwan. Otherwise the Taiwanese would be ignoring Beijing, Chinese Civil War or no.
But look at how the Economist treats democracy -- first it "intervenes" in the glorious progress of annexing Taiwan to China and then it "stymies further progress." That rotten democracy! How dare it!
Read it again -- the author of the piece is lamenting the fact that a democratic island of 23 million people with close relations with the western democracies whose economy is of global importance was not making progress in being annexed to China.
Does it get any more stoopid than that?
The reason we can't make "progress" in cross-strait talks isn't anything that happens in Taiwan -- it is because China is completely belligerent and inflexible. Instead of clearly pointing this out, the Economist puts forth a series of common tropes here
-- false equivalence: Taiwan resistance and Chinese aggression are treated as if they were two equal sides of the same issue.
-- that China is provoked and infuriated and has no agency of its own in the Taiwan-China relationship. Poor China, stop it before it shrills again!
-- that "tensions flare" on their own, like Immaculate Conceptions, without the intervention of human agency. As my readers know, tensions flare because China chooses to ramp them up. Tensions are a policy tool for China. D'oh.
-- that President Ma is a "less confrontational" president (because he and Beijing are allied in annexing Taiwan to China! D'oh!): a common media trope is to assign the adjective "confrontational" or "provocative" to Taiwan while ignoring China's belligerence...
...because when you demand that a territory annex itself to your nation, point your military at it, and say that you will plunge the region into war if you don't get your way, you're not being confrontational, you're being statesmanlike. And when you resist that, you're confrontational.
Divided? The real division is between the people of Taiwan and the democracy they cherish, and the Chinese nationalists on both sides of the Strait who desire to suppress that democracy and annex Taiwan to China. But it appears that we will never see any discussion of that in the Economist...
- Minimum wage might go up...4%
- Military budget down slightly, investing in local arms makers
- Hong Kong university survey on how HKKers view Taiwan issues. Support for independence is rising.
- PERSONAL: my sister needs your help for a survey on scientific visualization. Needs mouse, I couldn't do this on a mobile device.
EVENT: Second World Congress of Taiwan Studies: Call for Papers
The Second World Congress of Taiwan Studies will be held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) June 16-18, 2015. The Congress is being co-organized by Academia Sinica and the SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies.
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The main themes for the Congress are the State of the Field in Taiwan Studies and Taiwan Studies Revisited. We are particularly seeking papers that critically assess the existing field of research in a variety of disciplines. In addition, we will have a series of papers in which authors revisit their most important work in the light of recent developments and research findings. We will have a total 19 panels that address prominent topics in the field of Taiwan Studies and also a number of practical panels that look at themes such as institution building, publishing and teaching.
We have completed the initial round of invitations and now would like to invite abstracts on the following topics:
1. State of the field on Taiwan’s political communication research
2. State of the field of research on Taiwan film (not documentaries).
3. State of the field of research on Internet Politics in Taiwan
4. State of the field on gender politics in Taiwan
5. State of the field on migration research in Taiwan
6. State of the field on research on 21st century Taiwan literature
7. Assessment of Taiwan’s economic challenges after ECFA
Abstract deadline: October 1, 2014
Abstracts should be submitted to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstracts should be no more than 600 words long.
We will announce the accepted abstracts on November 15 2014.
The organizers will cover the costs of participants’ accommodation for three nights in London but not travel costs.
[Taiwan] 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!