O WE OF little faith.
It seems the government is squirming a little at the thought of sending its most prized plunder to our brethren across the Strait: the treasures of the National Palace Museum.
This week, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said China could only borrow from the collection for its Palace Museum if it promised to return the loot afterward.
If the government doesn’t have a problem with sending honorary Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lubricant Lien Chan (連戰) over, then why the fuss over other relics?
Says China to Taiwan: “Hey guys, thanks for keeping all that stuff safe for us, but the Cultural Revolution has been over for decades. Come on, at least lend it to us for a few months. How ’bout a bit more of that famous Taiwanese goodwill over here, Mr Ma?”
Says Taiwan to China (holding up a copy of the Law of Guaranteed Return): “Sign the dotted line, please — then cross your heart and hope to die.”
China: “Er … ha, ha … er … excuse me?”
Holy Matsu! The government wants Beijing to promise something: Return everything the National Palace Museum puts on loan. And for their next magical trick, every member of the Cabinet will grow a pair — even the token gals.
Wouldn’t that break the pattern of gracious give-and-take (we give, China takes) that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) keeps calling the detente miracle?
Hah. It’s an insult. Like asking your fiancee to sign a pre-nup. We don’t want to hurt the feelings of our 1.3 billion Chinese compatriots, whose single unselfish wish is to shower us with love … to death if necessary, starting with 1,000 or more frequent-flyer munitions.
Always remember China’s two rules for love:
1. Love hurts.
2. When your partner says “no,” it doesn’t really mean “no.”
But there’s something I can’t figure out about this museum thing. The government has already established that acquiring Taipei Zoo’s latest autistic fluff balls didn’t violate the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species because they were moved within borders rather than across them. So surely there can’t be a problem with sending a few dusty antiques between two museums, one of which just happens to have serious scroll envy?
And even if Beijing keeps the trinkets, it’s all in the family, right?
Here’s the problem: This is ill-gotten heritage we’re talking about. A symbol of everything we’ve always been told we’re supposed to be. Drop a peach into one of those soy sauce-filled Ming vases and Bo Yang (柏楊) would know exactly what it turns into.
Lend our amniotic knick-knacks to China? I’d sooner stop referring to Mongolia as “Outer Mongolia” and stop addressing its inhabitants as “little brother.”
Okay, so sharing is not an option. We can’t really trust Beijing’s word on this most crucial of issues.
But what about selling the stuff? That’s another story altogether. I’d sell anything for the right price, even my colonial-cum-postcolonial-cum-chaotic identity. I’d sell Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) remains on eBay if I had the chance.
Taiwanese exports are hurting big time, after all. Last month they fell by a four-decade high.
So this is a sincere call to the government. Desperate times, desperate measures: Sell the National Palace Museum and its contents and spread the wealth. And I want a cut for making the suggestion, because I could be put on forced unpaid leave any day now.
Speaking of which, there was a time when working for the state was cushy. Iron rice bowl and all that.
But now the Examination Yuan wants to crack down on indolent employees with a new review-and-punish system, as reported in this very paper this week (“Subpar employees to be ‘Singapored,’” Feb. 10, page 3).
The system will be “based on the Singapore model, under which civil servants with poor performance are granted very little in bonuses or denied them altogether.”
Or caned to death, I assume. The Examination Yuan is simply sparing us the gruesome details. I heard they’ll be using that iron bowl instead of rattan.
Now I’m sure this will be a good incentive to get our civil servants into shape, because everything Singapore does is good ... if slightly reminiscent of an S&M porn loop. That’s why politicians, the government and business executives so often suggest we mimic Singapore on everything from governance to the economy.
A few examples:
In July, born-again KMT Legislator Alex Fai (費鴻泰) told us to chop various taxes to match Singapore. In August, mystery TV ads said the same. In October, the proposal was a sovereign wealth fund like Singapore’s. In November, KMT lawmakers wanted Ma to trim his paycheck like top Singaporean officials did amid the economic slump.
Changhua County Commissioner Cho Po-yuan (卓伯源) said we should emulate Singapore’s casino industry and Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) said Taiwan should host Formula One races — just 1ike Singapore — to rake in the bucks.
The Environmental Protection Administration even pledged to bring public toilet cleanliness up to the standards of that tiny urban paradise, where splashing on the seat is punishable by being drowned in your own xiaobian.
And back in May, right before his inauguration, Ma scared the bejeezus out of some people by saying that Taiwan should learn from Singapore’s national strategies.
If you’re one of those skeptical about Singapore’s merits, take a glance at Amnesty International’s rave review in its 2008 country report:
“Criminal charges, civil defamation suits and other restrictive measures were variously brought against government critics and human right defenders, foreign news media, peaceful demonstrators and conscientious objectors.”
Sounds great. Tell me more!
“Trials continued to fall short of international human rights standards due to mandatory death sentences and presumptions of guilt for a number of capital offences.”
If we were more like Singapore, think of all the smug young Americans we could cane, just like reliving 1994 with Michael Fay. Or start with all the English teachers illegally teaching kindergarten, then go for the runaway Filipinas.
Singapore, Singapore, Singapore. I’m verily inspired to versify:
Your toilets are clean
Your judges are mean,
Officials make more cash
than I’ve ever seen.
Please teach our officials:
They’re really quite keen.
Once we’ve completed our transformation into Singapore, the world will love us so much we’ll get our own cocktail too. Who would want a Singapore Sling when you could have a Mai-Taiwan?
Or how about a name in honor of the government: The Ma-tini perhaps? A Blue Goon? Taiwan Not So Libre? A Bloody Scary?
Or would you fancy some Sex on the Security Breach?
One final question, dear reader. Do you find it strange that this Utopian Singaporean future our politicians and officials envision for Taiwan just happens to resemble our dodgy past?
Got something to tell Johnny? Go on, get it off your chest. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, but be sure to put “Dear Johnny” in the subject line or he’ll mark your bouquets and brickbats as spam.
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