President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) attitude toward the most powerless segment of society, the Aborigines, gives an interesting insight into his view of the world.
In an attitude similar to the way white supremacists treat black Americans, during a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting last week, Ma said that Aborigines were not ready for autonomy, but added that they should be praised for their skills in the fields of sports and music.
Aboriginal activists rightfully protested Ma’s statement, as it not only broke a campaign promise to them, but also demonstrated that he thinks of Aborigines as children who must be guided and applauded for minor achievements, but never set free to reach their full potential. His attitude toward Taiwan’s original inhabitants smacks of the “white man’s burden” used during the colonial era to justify Western dominance of non-Western peoples. Indeed, it could be called the “Han Chinese burden.”
This prejudicial attitude Ma holds toward Aborigines is extended to foreigners, who he accuses of ignorance when it comes to Taiwan, even those who have a proven expertise on Taiwanese society. When former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Nat Bellocchi and others put their names to an open letter criticizing the Ma administration for referring the alleged mishandling of state papers by former Democratic Progressive Party officials to the Control Yuan, Ma’s spokesman implied that they were ignorant foreigners who didn’t know enough about Taiwan to comment. That misrepresentation of the open letter came despite the fact that most of the signatories are well-known experts on Taiwanese affairs. His comments seem to indicate that Ma thinks one has to be Han Chinese to be considered qualified to comment on Taiwanese society.
Another prejudice the president holds is his deference toward China, assuming that anything Chinese is good and that Beijing does not deserve rebuke as it cracks down on its own citizens because it is a necessity when governing the world’s most populous country.
This everything-Chinese-is-good attitude goes so far that Ma’s government has pushed Taiwan to the brink of absorption by a tyrannical neighbor. Under Ma, Taiwan’s schools have acquired a pro-China slant, the economy has all but been “unified” with that of China and most of the rest of the world has dropped any pretense of support for Taiwan’s autonomy.
Ma is guided by a narrow view of the world that prevents him from seeing reality. Instead of recognizing the achievements Aborigines have made — in many fields — Ma sees misguided inferiors who need the beneficial hand of a “Han” leader to guide their way. Instead of heeding the advice of foreign academics who base their constructive criticism of the government on solid research and experience, Ma sees ignorant outsiders that should keep their mouths shut. Instead of panning a repressive one-party government in Beijing that should be condemned for jailing and torturing its citizens and blocking the free flow of information, Ma cozies up to what he sees as a big brother who should be looked up to and emulated.
Like any prejudice, Ma’s view of the world prevents him from thinking about it critically and causes him to make serious mistakes when formulating policies. Those erroneous policies have also allowed, if not encouraged, the rest of the world to slowly abandon Taiwan, while China opens its arms to receive them in a bear hug of death.