Sat, Oct 08, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Ma’s thinking stuck in feudal times

It is worrying to realize that Ma applies millennia-old feudal thinking when dealing with the global realities of the 21st century.

His anachronistic mindset is particularly perilous for Taiwan’s sovereignty. On Teacher’s Day on Wednesday last week, Ma, as is his habit, quoted from the writings of ancient sages. Choosing this time a quote from Mencius, he said: “He who with a great State serves a small one, delights in Heaven. He who with a small State serves a large one, stands in awe of Heaven. He who delights in Heaven will affect with his love and protection the whole kingdom. He who stands in awe of Heaven will affect with his love and protection his own kingdom.”

Ma presented this as an explanation of relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Someone should remind Ma that we are now in the 21st century and international relations should be conducted in accordance with international law. If Ma’s brain is so tied up with notions of “delighting in heaven” and “standing in awe of heaven,” then it’s no wonder that Taiwan’s sovereignty is going down the drain.

Ma, who seems unconcerned about not having made good on his “6-3-3” campaign pledge to achieve annual economic growth of 6 percent, an unemployment rate of 3 percent and a per capita GDP of US$30,000, is not the only one who has read the classics without any positive effect. Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) is another example. Judging by how frequently Wu quotes from the classics, he must have spent quite a lot of time reading them. Yet, back when he was mayor of Kaohsiung, people in southern Taiwan nicknamed him “Liar Yih” (白賊義). Evidently, not everyone who reads the classics becomes virtuous as a result.

A more recent example is Wu’s meeting in July with farmers’ groups. Most of the people attending had probably read less of the classics than Wu has, but in the course of a little more than an hour, Wu muttered a common curse word at least five times — another good example of how reading the classics does not necessarily have any beneficial effect.

During the early years of the Republic of China, philosopher Hu Shi (胡適) said that, in our day, to talk deludingly about reading the classics and to call for students to read the classics is ignorant talk that knowledgeable people would not even consider worth laughing at. Ma is far inferior to Hu in his understanding of Chinese culture. Why does the president feel compelled to prove his inferiority by going on about reading the classics and how school students should read them?

If Ma really has faith in democracy, he should clean out the pernicious influence of one-party-state education. He should promote democratic and pluralistic civic education instead of stubbornly pushing Chinese feudal culture.

If we are going to talk about “soft power” for Taiwan, we should take advantage of Taiwan’s geographical and historical advantages, such as its combination of maritime and continental cultures, its blend of Austronesian, Asian and Western cultures and its transformation from authoritarianism to democracy, emphasizing their positive aspects as they apply to Taiwan. Ma’s advocacy of reading the classics leads in just the opposite direction by locking Taiwan into a backward world of one-party rule and feudalistic social relations.

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