Aid should flow freely
J. Michael Cole argues against providing monetary support to Sichuan Province (“Why are we sending aid to China?” May 23, page 8). At a time when international bodies and ordinary people are acting with grace, generosity and compassion to help those in dire situations, Cole’s position is oddly callous. In addition, the two reasons he invoked in support of his arguments are rather feeble.
First, Cole argues that outside aid to Sichuan would serve to exacerbate the uneven wealth distribution in the region. As he remarks, with outside assistance, “Beijing will have little incentive to make financial investments in the region on a scale that would ensure a catastrophe of this avoidable magnitude does not happen again.”
This is a deliberately pessimistic view. Why would it not be the case that the central government will make use of outside aid, in addition to its own financial resources, to reconstruct Sichuan in a way that would rapidly rebuild and strengthen its infrastructure?
In fact, as witnessed by the international community, the Chinese government has acted swiftly and decisively, spending millions on its rescue efforts. There is no logical reason to think that the government will lapse into a state of inaction as outside aid comes in. On the other hand, for the outside world to withhold aid would only serve to delay what could otherwise be a speedy and efficient rescue and reconstruction process. This would only aggravate the plight of the earthquake victims. Any compassionate human being would not want to see that happen.
Cole’s second argument is that Taiwan should refrain from offering help due to the political tension with the mainland. Luckily, many residents in Taiwan do not share this demagogic view. Therefore, Taiwanese celebrities and ordinary people alike are seen in mainland media and cyberspace making generous donations to help alleviate the plight of the victims in Sichuan.
The importance of this gesture apparently eludes people like Cole. Already, the rescue efforts of the Japanese team, as well as their generous donations, seem to have greatly mitigated and shifted the usually less-than-friendly views of that country among the Chinese.
Likewise, the goodwill from Taiwan has surely not gone unnoticed by the Chinese. Given that the political views of the Chinese are increasingly swaying their government’s actions, the perception of Taiwanese generosity and kindness would have benign consequences in political terms. Cole would need to factor this into his equation before making any prognostications on cross-strait relations.
In this natural disaster that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands and has inflicted pain on millions of others, it is somewhat disturbing that some people out there are discouraging help from being given to those unfortunate souls. Demagogues should not be encouraged. Compassion and aid must be allowed to flow freely to those in need.
Los Angeles, California
Ideology for education
In his inaugural address, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) pledged “to eliminate inappropriate interference of various ideologies in education.” He did not say what these “inappropriate interference” or “various ideologies” were. If Ma is sincere about implementing a “new life for Taiwan,” he should promote Taiwanese ideology in education even more zealously than former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Under the old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule, students were not allowed to speak their own mother tongue — Taiwanese, Hakka or Aboriginal languages. If they accidentally used them, even just a single word or phrase, they would be fined or punished. They were forced to study Chinese history and geography without learning much about Taiwan. Hopefully, these are considered “inappropriate interferences” by Ma and Minister of Education Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城).
Schoolchildren in Taiwan should become familiar with Taiwan first so that they will not get lost in their own homeland or misidentify themselves when they meet foreigners or go abroad. It will be odd if a Taiwanese cannot speak Taiwanese. Nobody can deny that Taiwanese ideology or identity should be the soul of the people educated in Taiwan.
It’s nice to know that Ma will try to clean up the government. I hope all government officials and employees will take his statement that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” as a warning against, rather than an encouragement for, corruption. Also, if Ma carries out his idea to “nullify the KMT’s assets,” he will set an excellent example in fighting corruption.
It is sad that Ma’s administration has deleted “Taiwan” from the Chinese-language version of the new government Web site.
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