Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Both sides are tied by blood..."

"Signs of warming ties" is how the international media defines KMT Chairman Wu Po-hsiung's current visit to China. Reuters reports:

China and Taiwan edged closer to a resumption of fence-mending talks on Tuesday when the chairman of the island's ruling party echoed the Chinese line that both sides are part of a single nation.

China, which has claimed Taiwan as its own since their split in 1949 amid civil war, has softened its policy towards the self-ruled island from pushing for unification with the threat of force to one of preventing a declaration of independence.

"Both sides are tied by blood to the Chinese nation and this cannot be obliterated by anyone," Taiwan's Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung said in Nanjing, the capital when the KMT ruled all of China.

Taiwan's new president, Ma Ying-jeou, also made the pledge -- a move Beijing considers a political necessity for talks frozen since 1999 to resume -- in his May 20 inauguration speech.

On the thread on Ma's inaugural speech we've been discussing exactly what Ma meant when he said that the "two sides of the Strait are both Chunghwa minzu." Reuters apparently thinks it is a reference to an ethnic construction of Chinese identity, coded assimilationist rhetoric. Wu himself neatly straddles many of the ethnic identity issues in Taiwan. Wu is a Hakka, who were some of the earliest migrants to Taiwan. The Hakka constitute only a minuscule fraction of the people in China, but were something like 25% of the pre-1949 Taiwan population. "Being Hakka" is further confused because many Hakkas are Sinicized aboriginal groups who "became Hakka" when they assimilated to the dominant colonial majority. There is a long history of conflict between Hakka and non-Hakka (Hoklo) immigrants to Taiwan, with the result that the Hakka are predominantly pro-KMT, wooed by that party as part of its strategy of divide-n-rule based on ethnic politics. Hence the many layers of meaning in Wu telling an official of China that he is "of the same blood." .

Reuters reports:
China spurned the DPP, which was routed in the March presidential elections by the KMT. The Nationalists oppose independence but are in no hurry to get into bed with China politically.

"In no hurry to get into bed with China politically." It is May of 2008, the KMT and the CCP have been talking to each other privately for many years, and still no international media publication has mentioned the back channel talks. I guess since it's been going on for years, it's not news....

Another key cross-strait meeting is happening this week in Kaohsiung where university presidents from China and Taiwan are meeting to discuss exchanges.

Presidents of both Taiwanese and Chinese universities met in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung County Monday to share views on potential academic exchanges among the universities.

The conference was held at the I-Shou University in the southern county, and was followed by a symposium on science and technology covering topics in material science, environmental science, life science, and telecommunications.

Sixteen universities participated, including China's Qingdao University and Ocean University of China as well as National Cheng Kung University and National University of Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

Conference participants exchanged views on the universities' educational systems, enrollment, internationalization, management, and administrative systems.

Credit system and a joint degree program that requires certain years of learning in a domestic school and a couple of years in a foreign school were two focuses of discussions.

Student exchanges are already underway; I have two Chinese exchange students in my classes here at NCKU. The talks are being held against the backdrop of increasing financial pressure on Taiwan's universities. The subsidy system set up in the 1990s encouraged a massive expansion in the university system (many construction firms opened universities to farm the government subsidy regime) resulting in a shortage of warm bodies to fill classrooms -- forcing universities to raise tuition to stay alive -- a perverse effect of subsidies intended to make it easier for kids to go to college. Further, with many universities having opened graduate and PHD programs in recent years, there is a steady and increasing supply of new PHDs entering the local academic market looking for work. Taiwan universities have been arguing that the island should open to students from China to fill the empty seats.

On the lighter side of cross-strait relations, Taiwan's wedding photo business is hopping on the cargo cult bandwagon with the claim that 5,000 couples from China will be visiting to have wedding photos done here....

About 5,000 couples from China will get wedding photos taken at Taiwan's world-renowned studios, which seldom receive them now due to political tensions, as part of a travel agreement, an industry source said on Monday.

A cultural promotion company close to the Chinese government has agreed with Taiwan's Saromant International Wedding Photo Group chain to send the couples over on direct weekend flights expected to begin in July pending a long-awaited agreement between the two sides, said chain CEO Celine Liu.

About 20 couples from Beijing have signed for the first weekend flight, Liu told Reuters.

Taiwan, with 1,300 wedding studios seeking new business as local clients save their money in tight economic times, has long been known among ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and the United States for packages that include attire for the bride and groom plus access to coastal or mountain photo scenery.

The wedding photo business is one of Taiwan's most fascinating cultural products.

MEDIA NOTES: Reuters still has China and Taiwan "splitting in 1949" although Taiwan was not owned by China at that time, but by Japan.


Anonymous said...

and all sides are tied to blood to parts of Africa... therefore...

1) I can't think of a nation state that is genetically homogenous. States are pluralities in every way.

2) Blood lies- My blood doesn't tell me anything about my historical connections by looking at it. It is full of lies, deceptions and fictive constructions from my own imagination. Besides, in traditional Confucian societies, if we want to talk about cultural ties, which is the trope that follows blood, genetic ties were not viewed as important. It was the succession of the surname and filial piety that determined the continuing of a family line. This is a concept of which Taiwan is a stellar example. Adoptions of male heirs to pass on the family name and perform mortuary customs was particularly high, as was the incidence of uxorilocal marriage. Often boys were brought into a family from Plains Aboriginal areas to act as a male heir, or to take the woman's family name in marriage. The children of these unions were considered no less than had an adoption never happened.

3- If blood makes Chinese, then China should consider giving up it's "minorities" and giving their traditional lands to nations with higher percentages of those groups... something Sun Yat Sen considered...or letting them be independent...something many of those groups considered following the end of the Qing. Wait! Those areas are, and have always been, traditional parts of China....

Anonymous said...

Just refering to your media notes.

By 1949, Japan had already lost the war and was under occupation.

under the terms of surrender, Japan gave up all her colonies, reverting them to whoever was the previous soverign or colonial power.

Michael Fahey said...

Just to complicate things a bit...
Wu's uncle Wu Hong-qi (吳鴻麒) was murdered during 228 by the KMT. The rumors on the blogs say that Wu's father cut off his older brother's widow and children though and didn't bury the body. These kinds of stories are pretty common.

Even in the Wu family there are significant political differences--Wu Yun-dong, a prominent doctor in Taoyuan and Wu Po-hsiung's cousin endorsed Chen in 2004 and Hsieh and 2008.

Similar splits are obvious in many prominent Taiwanese families though--the Koos being a great example Koo Kwan-ming and Koo Chen-fu.

BTW, did you catch Koo Chen-fu wife , wearing a chi pao, giving Chiang Pin-kin a book of Soong Mei-ling writings to inspire him for the up coming talks in China? Lord have mercy on Taiwan.

Back to Hakkas, Hakkas voted for Lien Chan by a margin of 15 to 20% in 2000 but that margin dipped to 8% in 2004 (not sure who has these figures--Ye Chu-lan mentions them). If that's correct, I'm not sure that Hoklos are voting green in much larger numbers than the Hakka do.

Anonymous said...

I swear "split" is used because it creates excitement and tension in the reader. It also makes Taiwanese splittists... or maybe ex-splittists...if the split has already happened.

TicoExpat said...

Talking about bandwagon, Michael, did you see the news about a guy in Kaohsiung who opened a fried chicken stand, who handed out red envelopes filled with renminbis?

The public was delighted, saying they could now spend that money when traveling to China.

The guy said that he was looking forward to his business improving when the three links were opened.

Win-win all around! ROFL (better than crying or bumping your head against the wall).

Anonymous said...

The impossibility, in the minds of many foreign media outlets, of Taiwanese to not be Chinese seems to have a hint of ignorant racism. When I was a child all East Asians were "Chinese"...whether they came from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Viet Nam etc... It was more natural to see and comprehend the differences between caucasians than anyone else and in my own ignorance of the differences between others, I just lumped them all together into the one group I was most familiar with associating those features. But if you go to those places you find there are deep divisions that can't be seen by ignorant outsiders, and mean the world to the people concerned.

To take this idea to China and Taiwan, if we want to think in terms of "traditional", the differences between peoples in what is now China who 3200 years ago, lived less than 100 miles apart, felt so different from one another they often punctuated their differences with blood. This shows a lack of ethnic cohesion that we are told by officials existed, and the differences often manifested themselves in Taiwan with regular bloody conflicts based on class and ethnicity.

These traditional differences are often veiled and hidden by Chinese nationalists who have a stake in crafting histories that show 5000 years of a single ethnic group. Chineseness was nationalized by the republicans, defined by their successive regimes and thus, one Chineseness relies of political mobilization to maintain itself.

There are some interesting arguments that written Chinese is the uniting factor... and that may be partially true, the way English speakers can read one another's information... it would only be a very recent phenomenon as most people who are governed by either the PRC or ROC and their ancestors were largely illiterate until very very recently.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that the pro-China camp in Taiwan and the Chinese are politicizing this quake tragedy. Why can't we simply be helping out of compassion? Why must both sides be "tied by blood?" In the past couple of decades, the Taiwanese have developed charities organizations that provided domestic and international disaster relief.

It's also a shame that the Chinese, with their new wealthy class, has donated much less than the Taiwanese to their own people in need.

Anonymous said...

We've also been talking about warming relations between Taiwan and the mainland on our blog, except in a celebratory tone.

Michael Turton said...

Zyzyx, you can post your comments here, but trolling is not permitted. To turn your comments into a non-troll, please post relevant, binding international documents such as treaties to support your claims.


Anonymous said...

The number 3200 years should be 200 years. But to expand on that a little... The KMT's effort to fight warlordism for much of the post revolution period demonstrates how different many peoples now ruled by the PRC felt about each other following the collapse of the Qing. The KMT's fight against warlordism helped determine their policies regarding a strong, centralized concept of national language, economy and culture, which were later elaborated by the KMT and the CCP for their respective Chinas. Steven Phillips gets into this aspect in his book, The Taiwanese Encounter with Nationalist China 1945-1953. David Wu demonstrates in an essay...I can't recall the name at the moment, how the presence of a political entity in Hua Qiao communities... or to create those communities, like a Chinese Cultural Center or Organization, to promote ROC propaganda on society and culture, served to create Chinese communities and prevent them from matriculating into larger society. In areas where they did not establish those organizations people of former Han ethnic groups became localized. They lacked the socializing symbols promoted by the Chninese polities. Chineseness is quite fluid and it can be lost as easily as it is gained.

Anonymous said...

China wins.......

So the small island bends over for the big fuck.

Sorry, but it was inevitable.

Now what?

Massive payback. Of course.

Then what?

Not much. The economy is already dependent upon the mainland for labor.

So what else is new? Only pretty boy Ma.