Thu, Feb 19, 2009 - Page 8 News List


Tongyong’s fantasy world

Yu Bor-chuan (余伯泉) is living in a land of make-believe.

In his interview (“Tongyong better suited to Taiwan: Yu Bor-chuan,” Feb. 16, page 3), he conflates the reasoning behind the adoption of Hanyu Pinyin as a national standard with abolishing traditional characters. He suggests that it is illogical for the KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party] to support the continued use of Zhuyin Fuhao (a system primarily used to teach Taiwanese children how to read).

What he appears unable to grasp is that the primary users of Hanyu Pinyin in Taiwan are the members of the foreign community. Adopting Hanyu Pinyin is the kind of internationalization that promotes increased understanding among the foreign community and has nothing to do with replacing the traditional script with that used by “more than 95 percent of the [Chinese-speaking] population.”

The idea that Tongyong Pinyin is more foreigner-friendly has no basis in reality. The examples he cites represent sounds that are just as alien to a native English speaker as the Hanyu Pinyin letters they were intended to replace. Even worse, two of the letters he mentions (“s” and “c”) represent more than one sound value in Tongyong Pinyin.

The system is a laughably poor attempt to create something “different” to the one used in mainland China and to politicize the teaching of the Chinese language to foreigners. Its biggest achievement has been to perpetuate the years of confusion in Romanization in Taiwan that have made this country’s street signs an international laughing-stock.


Neihu, Taipei City

Leadership in freefall

Washington viewed the unresolved issue of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) US naturalization as an opportunity to keep him on a short leash rather than as a character defect weighty enough to forewarn the Taiwanese. Washington thus scored at least an assist in securing Ma’s presidency. [Editor’s note: There is no evidence that President Ma ever became a naturalized US citizen.]

Blame can also be placed at the doorstep of each Taiwanese who voted for Ma. But these Taiwanese have a legitimate excuse: Ma took an about-face once elected.

The US government, on the other hand, appears fully satisfied with the ostensibly rapid defusing of tensions in the Taiwan Strait and has no qualm with Ma’s means in securing it.

Washington wants an amicable relationship with Beijing while hoping that Taiwanese holding a strong belief in Taiwan’s sovereignty — and thus more than likely opposing Ma’s handiwork — could form the backbone of support for purchase of US arms.

By considering that Ma is no aficionado of dealing from strength, the merit in boosting the nation’s defenses would only become apparent when there is a Taiwanese government that regards sovereignty as its first and foremost obligation.

Before that, Taiwanese must understand the reality that no amount of preparation by the US for confrontation in the Taiwan Strait can prevent Ma’s surrender of Taiwan by stealth.

An offer of increased arms sales to Taiwan as a monkey wrench to slow down Ma’s collusion with Beijing would only have a fleeting effect. Ma could minimize that impact by pleading poverty, as KMT legislators did for years. The only difference now is that Taiwan will have real problems paying for military hardware.

Older Taiwanese can still recall the time when US bombs rained down on Taiwan’s soil, killing innocent Taiwanese who were captives of an imperial Japan. Today, the chance of that history repeating itself — with China substituting for Japan — might seem farfetched, but is not entirely inconceivable given the way Ma has rapidly aligned with Beijing.

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