Monday, September 22, 2014

Brian Benedictus and Me: The Coming Taiwan Independence Surge at Ketagalan Media =UPDATE=

Alishan Tea Farms

UPDATE: Chinese version

Ketagalan Media was kind enough to host our piece on The Coming Taiwan Independence Surge. A taste:
The fact that the occupation of the Taiwan legislature by student activists earlier this spring was woefully under-reported, is disappointing for a number of reasons. Primarily, the world missed an opportunity to see the changes in social and political identities sweeping across the island nation. These generational changes that are taking place in Taiwan, along with external factors such as China’s treatment of Hong Kong and its increasing bellicosity in its littoral areas, are going to reshape local politics in a way that suggests in the not-too-distant future, there is going to be a powerful new impetus for independence in 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!


Anonymous said...

I hope you have better luck than Gordon Chang in foreseeing coming events.

This generation of Taiwan youth will not bring about independence or anything that requires hard work or perseverance. I employ hundreds of people in Taiwan and I have found that most Taiwanese youth are characterized by an amazing sense of entitlement and an unrealistically high opinion of their own abilities. Yes, there are many Taiwanese youth who want independence, but they want it served it up on a silver platter. So unless you foreigners are willing to go to war with China, defeat China, and present the youth of Taiwan with the gift of independence, the Taiwan independence surge won't be coming anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

..but they want it served it up on a silver platter

Yep, its like many kids here want their life to go on as they know it, but they "don't care about politics".

Of course, they are too cool to care about such things. It's more important to post a food pic on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

Most of the Taiwanese you know have an unrealistically high opinion of their own abilities? I talk to Taiwanese youth every day and I have received the opposite impression. Could you please give concrete examples to support your opinion? Thanks.

That you think they also have a remarkable sense of entitlement, compared to other nations' youth and other generations, makes me wonder if you're perhaps spending your time with the upper classes.

I've seen disillusionment, but it's because the nice life society promised they'd have by being good boys and girls and keeping their heads down in the books, the life Lien promises in his ad, hasn't come to be because the system is stacked against them in ways they were never taught about.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, they are too cool to care about such things. It's more important to post a food pic on Facebook."

I thought they were like this too, but then the Sunflower movement happened and my wall was wall-to-wall politics, like people realized this was OK to talk about, and it's been significantly more political ever since. If there's someone to blame for Taiwanese being less vocally political than Americans, it's not the youth: it's the KMT-dominated older generations that prevent debate and critical thinking from entering the school curriculum and fill our televisions and other media (and thus our minds) with nonsense.

Human nature is the same everywhere; people become culturally different because they adapt to the conditions around them.

SY said...

Believe it or not, all above arguments about "the Taiwanese youth" self-righteously expecting to be "served" and "them" being realistic and read-to-get-things-done are correct; in the sense that there are two generations of "Taiwanese youth".

It is amazing to observe how huge a generational gap there is between those "Taiwanese youth" between 15 and 25 and those "Taiwanese youth" abouve 27.

I cannot explain why but those aged roughly 27 and above tend to be "system-compliant" while those below 25 tend to show disillutionment as to what the current system can give them.

This shows clearly in the change of their choice for higher education. Those below 25 are now choosing practical skills over a "degree". This summer, the once famous NTU grad school of English Department did not manage to receuit enough students. As well, middle school students are choosing vocational high schools over general (preparatory) high schools.

One explanation that I've heard is that those below 25 were born and raised in the democratization and liberalization eras of Lee Teng-Hui (1988-2000) and Chen Shui-Bian (2000-2008) when all taboos around "Taiwaneseness" and the stiff "Chinese Confucious Commandments" were loosened to a meaningful degree, particularly in schools.

When those below 25 become old enough to start pondering on their potential future, it's been during the current period of Ma's tenure (since 2008); income shrunk noticeably, factories and businesses moved to China and job outlook totally bleak for them.

I tend to think that this explanation makes sense although it may not be the complete story.

It seems, those currently below 25 have nothing to lose other than a bleak future. Thus, it is possible that they may just act for their own sake, as the Sunflower slogan proclaims: "Our own country is ours to rescue/protect/take action for (自己國家自己救)", which is now often being further expanded to various versions of "Our own XYZ is ours to take action for".

One should note that there's been a huge amount of high school students (i.e. aged below 18) particilating in the broader nation-wide Sunflower movement.

Anonymous said...

It will have to be seen if the sunflower movement takes root. From my long time observation of Taiwan youth, I stand by what I (anon) posted above.

In addition, there is a vast unknown... that is the unstable dark pools of money floating around China. What will happen to Taiwan when that blows up? When push comes to shove and events start to get dangerous, how will they respond?

There's a good David Stockman article about Alibaba and China here.

Mike Fagan said...

"At the heart of this identity, as the Sunflower Movement shows, is an immense reverence for Taiwan’s democracy, with which they grew up."

I disagree. The Sunflower protests may have showed a reverence for democracy in idealistic terms, but not for Taiwan's democracy as it actually is of which they were and remain critical.

A surge in independence sentiment may occur, but even if the PRC does not annex Taiwan, the continuing bleak economic prospects are more than enough to worry about. Economic inequality is a red herring and of no importance whatsoever, but falling living standards for the majority of the population are no laughing matter.

richard said...

i have the impression, that young Taiwanese have to deal with tons of pressure. some of those, that Western children don’t even know

the education system + their parents’ expectations + the situation on the job market + …

at the same time they know - the wealth gap is widening, the economy is falling = they are screwed big time

most of them won’t make it financially even working hard

also, they don’t really enjoy life - often being single, without real hobbies, physically weak

just getting along in their digital world

maybe that’s why they rather lack confidence and are insecure, than have “an unrealistically high opinion of their own abilities”

every summer when i go back to Europe for vacation i see that we do really enjoy life in nature, doing things in the real / offline world

Taiwanese don’t even know what bonfires and camping sites are, which was part of my childhood

most of my friends in Europe either build their homes or can do some manual work, repair something at home

which doesn’t count here

like the “mano-a-mano thing” - fight, which Michael mentioned in another post

Anonymous said...

SY I find your argument really compelling and can't wait to discuss it with my friends! It reminds me of the significant ideological divide in the United States between those who grew up under Reagan and HW Bush and those who grew up under Clinton and W.

Anonymous said...

If you want to put your finger on the pulse of Taiwanese youth, look no further than facebook. There, you will see what young Taiwanese are really up to. Eating expensive food, going on expensive trips, buying expensive goods, staying up all night doing Lord knows what, etc. These people may want independence, but what time in their busy schedule of laziness, debauchery, and draining their parents bank accounts will they have to fight for independence?
If working responsibly at an entry level job to gain experience and make a good impression on your supervisors is beneath the oh so cool Taiwanese youth, how can you expect them to make the huge sacrifices necessary for independence?

SY said...

Anon of [Sept 24, at 3:21 AM] wrote:
"Eating expensive food, going on expensive trips, buying expensive goods, staying up all night doing Lord knows what, etc."

Actually, these are the behavior of those between 30 and 40. They (still) can afford such kind of idle life.

The (younger) youth are now turning to practical, indeed manual, skills:

(1) In Changhua, a county I've viewed as being most representative of the general mood in Taiwan, only two high schools met their recruit target this summer; both of them (彰工 and 秀工) are (technical) vocational high schools. The Changhua Senior High (彰中, a preparatory school), which has been holding the No. One spot in the county since the Japanese era, did not fill all available seats for the first time in history.

(2) Same story in Chiayi: The Chiayi (Technical) Vocational High (嘉義高工) met their recruit target this summer, but not the once Number-One Chiayi Senior High (嘉義高中).

(3) Again, same story in Pintung: Pintung Tech Vocational High (屏東高工) was fully filled, but not the once leading Pintung Senior High (屏東高中). Liberty Times (Aug 14, 2014) reported that the ratio between those choosing prep and those choosing vocational in Pintung used to be 60% vs 40%, this year, it was 42% vs 58%.

(4) In Taichung: The Taichung Tech Vocational High (台中高工) fully filled, but not the once Number-Two Taichung 2nd Senior High (台中二中).

(5) Similar trend has been reported this summer in Tainan, Yunlin, Nantou and Taoyuan.

The trend is reported to be new. The first report appeared in The Journalist (新新聞) in Sept 2009. The trend continues to expand and turned to this summer's "disaster" (their own word) for the principals of national (public) preparatory high schools.

What I am saying is that junior middle school students aged around 15 are choosing practical skills to get themselves "handy" with real life. They know that they need to "get real".

Note: News links to all above stats can be easily retrieved by a simple search. Set your search date range to Aug 12-20, 2014 to narrow down your search.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 3:21

What you may be seeing is a manifestation of rebellion.

Young Taiwanese are not following in the footsteps of their parents in seeking a shrinking iron rice bowl or becoming The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. More young people are rejecting tradition and carving out their individual identities.

Anonymous said...

Facebook and Instagram are among the worst places to go to see what people's lives are really like, whatever the country. People have a natural incentive to keep up appearances for their acquaintances so they won't be considered failures. The Like Economy incentivizes you to post pleasing things. Talking about work or personal problems could get you or someone else in trouble if the wrong person sees it.

The best way to know what's going on with people is still to talk about them directly. I just had a long convo with a performer friend about the serious problems her family has long dealt with. She only posts happy stuff on Facebook because a positive image helps her get more job opportunities.

When it comes to politics, there are people who don't give a f--- and post their thoughts all the time, but many would rather avoid stirring up trouble from KMT superiors at work or in the home. This pattern of behavior, of self-interested silence, surely is descended from the martial law period.

Anonymous said...

What's more, the Facebook Wall isn't neutral; it's filtered heavily by a for-profit company dependent on sponsorship. If it can identify your face it'll obviously identify brands and business establishments and push them up the rankings, and the probability the state and big business lean on it to bury discussions that don't suit them is very high. The lion's share of the political talk is on PTT because it is unfiltered and anonymous, just as Twitter >> Facebook wrt politics in the States.

Mike Fagan said...

SY's comment of 9/24 at 8.05am is interesting as it suggests that price signals, in terms of comparative graduate incomes, are finally now getting through to those who most need the information they contain, the younger generation.

That's good to know.

Anonymous said...

"China is dangerously careering towards war, and very likely against a coalition of states. It is almost axiomatic that as relations between Beijing and the US and its ally Tokyo deteriorate, both those nations will move closer to Taiwan."

Where are you lads getting your bud? Or is it crack cocaine?

Michael Turton said...

It's history. Easier to obtain than cocaine or crack. But then you need a brain to read it, something anonymous trolls generally lack.

Readin said...

I thought the article in Ketagalan Media was very good. It is correct that the generational change in Taiwan's public is often overlooked. I know I'm as guilty as anyone.

While it is good that the new generation has a stronger identification with Taiwan, I wonder if it will be enough to really matter in the face of Chinese bullying.

It's hard to believe it has been more than 10 years since President Chen's infamous promise after 9-11 that while Taiwanese hoped Americans would be willing to risk their lives defending Taiwan, no Taiwanese would ever have to risk their lives defending America. But time has passed. Is the new generation different?

Brian Castle said...

How long do you think it will be before the younger KMT generation start to make a real difference in the way the KMT views its relationship with China?

Anonymous said...

Readin wrote:

"... President Chen's infamous promise after 9-11 that while Taiwanese hoped Americans would be willing to risk their lives defending Taiwan, no Taiwanese would ever have to risk their lives defending America...."

Source??? I've never heard of it, please provide reliable source to prove that Chen did say what you alleged he has said and within what context; otherwise, I consider your allegation as a slander toward a person who cannot come out to defend himself.

I cannot imagine anybody, let alone a sitting president, making such a heartless public statement right after 9-11, a time when the US just lost thousands of innocent civil lives in a historic tragedy.

Besides, what does your alleged statement have to do with the discussion around the change seen in the youth?!