Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Koo Kwang-ming's Ad

Former presidential advisor Koo Kwang-ming placed ads in major US papers this week on the whole UN thing. Here's the text, courtesy of Mike at TaiwanFocus:


Don’t Put Taiwan’s Democracy and Freedom back into a Box
Koo Kwang-ming 辜寬敏

"A long, long time ago…" are the words that many of the old stories begin with. Today, I would like to share with you a true story about Taiwan that the US and the world have deliberately ignored for a long, long time. I believe that maybe 70 percent to 80 percent of the US public knows that Taiwan is a country. At the same time, however, maybe only 1 percent of Americans know that Taiwan is not a member of the UN, and maybe only 0.001 percent know why this is so.

The truth I want to tell you about is this: our country, Taiwan, has been isolated by the UN in an act of political discrimination that has lasted for more than 36 years. It is the only country in the world to be denied UN membership. The human rights of 23 million Taiwanese have been ignored by the UN for a long, long time, and the US government has helped making it the case.

Just as Ralph Ellison said that African Americans once were the invisible man of American society, Taiwan is now the " invisible" member of the international community. What is worse is that omit to the democratic Taiwan has been living in the shadow of China’s constant threat. China has now deployed almost 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan and is threatening annexation of Taiwan at any time.

Although China is a totalitarian and dictatorial communist state, the US unfortunately has sided with the Chinese dictatorship to suppress Taiwan’s democracy. This is both incomprehensible and deplorable. The US government called Iraq a terrorist state and stood up against Iraq when it invaded Kuwait, but chooses to look at China's military expansion and intimidation with one eye closed. I must admonish the US government: "Washington’s appeasement of China resembles nothing but the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler prior to the Second World War!"

If "Taiwan is not a state", the U.S. has the responsibility Dennis Wilder, the senior director of East Asian Affairs on the US' National Security Council, recently said that "Taiwan is not a state." This has outraged and humiliated the Taiwanese people. But we also felt a sense of relief when he added that Taiwan issue has been left undecided for a long long time. The U.S. government has finally decided to face a fact that it has turned a blind eye to for half a century. The truth is: Taiwan is a country with 23 million people, who can freely elect their own leaders. We have the capacities to exercise our sovereign powers both domestically and on the international front. The US government’s refusal to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state cannot challenge the reality that Taiwan has been a sovereign state
for decades.

Moreover, if Taiwan is not a sovereign state in the eyes of US government officials, I must ask if the US has no responsibility for this situation? The 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty that concluded World War II did not clarify Taiwan's status, and for a long time after, the US approved Chiang Kai-shek's brutal military occupation of Taiwan which imposed 38 years of martial law that left Taiwanese in darkness and isolation.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, tens of thousands of Taiwanese sacrificed their lives and freedom in their struggle to overthrow the dictatorship and to gain democracy and liberty. That heavy price was paid not only for the cause of democracy and freedom, but also because we longed to establish a new and sovereign state as the unavoidable conclusion to centuries of colonial rule and struggle for independence. I think this is something the American people can understand and identify with.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." What the Taiwanese people have been striving for the past decades is the realization of nothing but this famous and courageous statement in the United States Declaration of Independence. With the consolidation of democracy in Taiwan, we feel proud to say that we have gradually advanced our causes. We are still working hard toward our goal.

But when the Taiwanese people want to rely on a democratic referendum and self determination to confirm Taiwan's status as a sovereign state, the US government says, "You can't do that." When we want to hold a referendum to manifest the wish of all Taiwanese to join the United Nations, the US government says, "You can't do that." The US government encourages Taiwan to develop its democracy, but also warns us that we can't hold referendums or declare independence, all because of the fear of provoking Beijing. The US government is even opposed to Taiwan having its own constitution, own flag or own national anthem that are necessary for building a nation that can withstand Chinese pressure. Is this sensible? Is this the right message the US should be sending to Communist dictators?

Why democratic Taiwan can’t join the UN? At present, 77 percent of Taiwanese want Taiwan to join the UN and become a member of this family of nations. We therefore hope that the presidential election next year will include a referendum to allow every Taiwanese to use his or her vote to manifest their wish that Taiwan be allowed to join the UN and use the collective will of the Taiwanese people to tell the world that we are not happy with the current situation. This simple and humble democratic expression, however, is forcefully opposed and suppressed by the US government, and this causes disappointment and anger among the people of Taiwan who have placed high hopes on the US and its great people.

Taiwan and North Korea are both countries with about 23 million people. Taiwan’s economic and democratic achievements are something that North Korea cannot match. However, Washington, even without recognizing North Korea as a sovereign state, did not oppose Pyongyang’s UN bid in the 1990s. In comparison, the U.S. government’s treatment of democratic Taiwan is both disappointing and disturbing. Shouldn't the human rights of 23 million Taiwanese be respected? We know that the US opposition to Taiwan’s UN membership is a result of China’s bullying for military tension in the Taiwan Strait. However, if cooperating with China to suppress democratic Taiwan is the best solution that Washington authorities can come up with after 60 years, we must ask if US intellectual leadership on this matter is already a thing of the past.

As long as Taiwan is not a member of the UN, that organization will always suffer from a flaw in its conscience. As long as the US doesn't help Taiwan become a normal country and gain UN membership, it will always carry a stamp of shame.

It’s time for the US to reevaluate its policy on the Taiwan Strait. In 2003, I published a statement in this newspaper telling the US government it was time for a serious reevaluation of its China policy because it is absurd to see a country adhere to a flawed policy for three decades. The status quo in the Taiwan Strait today has changed completely from the status quo of 30 years ago. According to the latest Taiwanese opinion polls, 70 percent of Taiwanese see themselves as Taiwanese and 75 percent think that Taiwan is an independent and sovereign state. The Shanghai communiqué of 1972 which states that, "all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China" was never true.

The US government must take a square look at this political reality lest it keep making mistakes in its Taiwan policy and make serious political misjudgments in the Asia Pacific region The US was completely powerless to stop the massive Chinese military buildup across the Taiwan Strait. But the US is not powerless if it chooses to strengthen Taiwan’s democracy and nation-building that are necessary for the Taiwanese to withstand Chinese pressure. The US can also tell the Chinese that their bullying of Taiwan is counterproductive, that the resultant resentment the Taiwanese feel toward the Chinese will only make the eventual reconciliation more difficult.

Taiwan shall overcome! For the past ten years, China has tried to strangle Taiwan with its military threats and diplomatic blockade. But in spite of their efforts, Taiwan has managed to survive. I want to tell the world that Taiwan still exists! This small and beautiful country still exists in the West Pacific. The mighty Taiwanese people will fight for our beloved country till the end! As God and the American people are our witnesses:We will not be defeated; Taiwan
shall overcome! The constant bullying by the Chinese to deny our identity only hardened our resolve to fight for independence and international recognition!

"You can’t put democracy and freedom back into a box," said President George W. Bush. For all these years, on our way to democratization, Taiwanese people have received enormous support and encouragement from our American friends. As democratic Taiwan requires the moral support of the international community when its people make a free decision on their future, I call on all great Americans and their representatives to tell the US government and the UN:

"Don’t put Taiwan’s democracy and freedom back into a box!"
"Help Taiwan join the UN!"

(The writer was a former senior adviser to the President of Taiwan )
(The article was published in Washington Post and NY Times on September
17, 2007)

AsiaMedia carries the Taipei Times article on the ad, where the explanation is given:

Frustrated by communication problems with the US government over Taiwan's UN membership bid, former senior presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming decided to appeal directly to the American public by placing ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post today.

I wish I could say I thought this was a great piece, but I can't. It's yet another in the ongoing list of examples of Taipei spending cash on second-rate communications. Here is a text addressed to the people of US, yet its mode of presentation is totally Chinese in organization and mentality. As a result, from the American point of view, it is meandering, subjective, weak, clumsy, and incompetent. It's amateur. It makes us look unprofessional, disorganized, inept, even a bit eccentric. This is not the image we want to project. And the name attached to it is that of an advisor to the President in Taipei! It's long past time somebody sat those dunderheads down in the Presidential Office and in MOFA and bluntly informed them that it is not amateur hour any more. If you want to communicate with people in another culture, pay a professional from the local culture to do the work. If you're going to fork over the big bucks for space in several major newspapers, at least pay for an English editor to tighten up the text.

Want to see how it is done? Review the piece by Dole on the identical topic aimed at an identical audience -- that Taiwan probably paid for one way or another. That's how you communicate with Americans.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Michael, you're right about the flimsiness of this political ad. One statement that raised my eyebrows: "I believe that maybe 70 percent to 80 percent of the US public knows that Taiwan is a country."

I doubt the severely geography- challenged American public could even find Taiwan on a map, much less know its status, or even care! Didn't I read somewhere that Condy Rice had this problem, too?

Sad to say, on my return trip to the states last month (eastern Washington), only one well-read couple knew anything about Taiwan or it's situation. Or, if they did know about Taiwan, it was understood that it was part of China.

The US media doesn't publish much of anything about Taiwan, or if it does, it's buried in the back pages. Not even progressive news websites take up this issue. I search in vain on for some mention of Taiwan, but the progressive myopia is aimed at panning Bush, Iraq and Darfur--important issues all, but blind to the other half of the world.

Perhaps the situation in the states is best illustrated by my former college-educated employer who, when I said I was resigning and leaving for Taiwan, replied: "Oh you're so lucky! I love Thai food!"

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael for your comments. I would say the same applies to the masss rallies/demonstrations carried out by oversea Taiwanese. Often one sees signs and slogans that reflect organization and mentality that are foreign to their audience.

It is quite frustrating...

Michael Turton said...

Marc --

I often looked at CommonDreams too. I've been meaning to do something at DailyKos too. We've ceded Taiwan to the Right...


Anonymous said...

I would have though that having known the average concentration of an average american is very limited, why compose a lengthy prose. After 3 or 4 paragraphs you can bet most readers would flip the page over and read something else. Any suggestions why such basic cultural knowledge is lacking?

Jason said...

If I remember correctly, the Koo ad that appeared in the Post last year (?) was his idea and paid for with his own money. People in the TW gov't reportedly weren't too happy that he made it look like he was speaking for the president when in reality he's just another rich, well-meaning eccentric with zero idea of how these stunts play with the American public. Looks like this is becoming a yearly thing for him.

MJ said...

hi michael,

did u read this one published on New York Sun by SHIEH JHY-WEY, the head of GIO (新聞局).

could u also comment on this piece? Shieh has published several similar ones lately in several US newspapers.

Anonymous said...

They should pay you ;-)

Or, even better, me :D

Mark said...

Bob Dole is a well respected, non-nutcase. I'm sure he'll be more persuasive than Tancredo.

Anonymous said...

Actually Michael, I think you're still being overly too critical here. The point is the effort. It doesn't have to be "perfect" or the "way you want it". The thing is this writer is trying and that's what counts. I particularly admired how he stated "As long as the Americans and God is our witness, Taiwan will succeed" or something to that effect...

I also liked his comparision to "African Americans" although I don't neccessarily agree with the "African American" title being racially black myself.

This to me, is a good piece. You can't be too critical Michael. Loosen up man..

Runsun said...

marc anthony:I said I was resigning and leaving for Taiwan, replied: "Oh you're so lucky! I love Thai food!"

You are not alone, man. Whenever I told those in USA that I was from Taiwan, 3 out of 4 people took it as "Thailand".

I've been watching the History Channel and other history/geography related channels on TV almost everyday for the past >10 years also. I never saw a program introduce Taiwan History or anything related to Taiwan. It was like Taiwan doesn't exist in American's eyes.

This situation in USA is completely opposite to that in southeast Asia. People from Malaysia told me that they always knew China is China and Taiwan is Taiwan even since they were kids. Some watch Taiwan TV news and programs everyday. In a Malaysian family that I know, even an 8-year old boy knew that a pro-green Ah-Bian was campaigning against pro-china Lian-Song for Taiwan's President (in 2004). They are Chinese immigrants and they never think that Taiwan is part of China.

Anonymous said...

I love your comment about "amateur" hour, especially when it comes to using English. My own favorite example is the display at the top of Taipei 101 about the anti-sway mechanism there. Billions spent on the world's tallest building, zero spent on proof-reading. The sponsorship of the fountain outside 101 by ABN Amro, has similar crap signage too.