Sat, Feb 14, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: If only Singapore had knick-knacks

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

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?

Apparently not.

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.

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