It’s easy to lose track of the number of occasions in the media where one encounters language that seeks to create a moral equivalence in the Taiwan Strait. The conflict, as anyone who bothers to learn the facts will quickly realize, is not symmetrical and does not involve two belligerents. Only one side, China, threatens the other, Taiwan, through economic or political absorption — or, in the extreme, war.
Still, even in the supposedly apolitical realms of, say, education and culture, one often comes upon language that not only politicizes the matter, but also portrays Taiwan as the aggressor or unjust, irresponsible party.
Our exhibit today is an article by the government-owned Central News Agency (CNA) published on Saturday — and later carried in this newspaper (“Policy on China students needs change: experts,” March 26, page 3) that discusses the prevailing divisions among Taiwanese on how to treat Chinese students, who were last year for the first time allowed to enroll full-time in local schools.
Following a series of uncontroversial and self-evident remarks about the need to make the Taiwanese education system more global and competitive, the article turns to Yu Zelin (余澤霖), a Chinese student at the Chinese Culture University, who voices a number of complaints about the system.
After bemoaning the fact that students like him were afraid to see a doctor when they got sick or did not dare get sick, as they could end up paying expensive medical bills because of their exclusion from the national health insurance plan, Yu then complains that Chinese students’ hard work at school is not rewarded, as they are not allowed to receive scholarships from the Taiwanese government.
The article then says that the environment of free speech in Taiwan can create pressure on young people in their 20s thanks to “ignorant” and “xenophobic” comments on the Internet, such as “swim back if you’re upset,” directed at Chinese students by some Taiwanese (remarks that pale in comparison with a recent one I received in which the anonymous writer recommended I should “gtfo of Taiwan”).
We should note that the complaint about free speech had no attribution. We do not know whether this is still Yu talking, or the reporter or the CNA editor as a “father figure,” perhaps speaking on behalf of the government (and which one, I could fairly ask). Free speech, furthermore, is portrayed negatively in the article, as it allows for “ignorance” and “xenophobia” (as if societies where free speech isn’t exercised, such as in China, for example, did not have media or youth that spew their own xenophobia).
Taiwanese who do not agree with state assets sponsoring students from a country that threatens them and denies their existence are “ignorant” and “xenophobes,” or ostensibly “pressured” to adopt language that reflects such views. And yet, the article remains silent about the racist, xenophobic and authoritarian policies of the Chinese government and about the Chinese students in Taiwan who, on some occasions, have verbally assailed, or completely overtook, their Taiwanese counterparts or lecturers such as Chinese activist Wang Dan (王丹).
The article is not done with us yet. An academic, who we are told studies cross-strait affairs, but who remains unnamed, tells us that Taipei’s current policy on Chinese students is “uncivilized.”
So now Taiwanese are not only ignorant and xenophobic, they’re also “uncivilized.” Whereas, of course, negating the separate existence of 23 million people, threatening them with hundreds upon hundreds of ballistic missiles and an increasingly formidable military, or engaging in a hostile takeover by force of trade and investment, is perfectly civilized. This, of course, is not to mention the Chinese Communist Party’s civilized treatment of Tibetans, Uighurs, Falun Gong practitioners, prisoners of conscience, rights activists, dissidents, lawyers, environmentalists, investigative journalists — all of whom, we can assume, are as “uncivilized” as those pesky Taiwanese.
Voicing opposition to policies that were imposed without proper consultation with the legislature and the public is not, as the CNA article implies, xenophobic, ignorant or uncivilized. It is a right exercised by citizens of a democratic society in which free speech is not only permissible, but sine qua non.
J. Michael Cole is deputy news editor at the Taipei Times.
An outrageous dismissal of the exemplary Taiwanese fight against COVID-19 has been perpetrated by the EU. There is no excuse. I presume that everyone who reads the Taipei Times knows that the EU has excluded Taiwan from its so-called “safe list,” which permits citizens unhindered travel to and from the countries of the EU. As the EU does not feel that it needs to explain the character of this exclusive list, perhaps we should examine it ourselves in some detail. There are 14 nations on the list that have been chosen as safe countries of origin and safe countries of destination for
Filmmakers in Taiwan used to struggle when it came to telling a story that could resonate internationally. Things started to change when the 2017 drama series The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女), a collaboration between HBO Asia and Taiwanese Public Television Service (PTS), became a huge hit not just locally, but also internationally. The coming-of-age story was adapted from the 2013 PTS-produced short film The Busy Young Psychic (神算). Entirely filmed in Taiwan, the Mandarin-language series even made it on HBO’s streaming platforms in the US. It is proof that a well-told Taiwanese story can absolutely win the hearts and minds of hard-to-please
Drugged with sedatives, handcuffed and wearing a bright orange prison tunic, British fraud investigator and former journalist Peter Humphrey was escorted by warders into an interrogation room filled with reporters, locked inside a steel cage and fastened to a metal “tiger chair.” Humphrey recalls: “I was completely surrounded by officers, dazed, manacled and with cameras pointing at me through the bars. I was fighting for my life like a caged animal. It was horrifying.” Footage from the interrogation was later artfully edited to give the appearance of a confession and broadcast on Chinese state media. While this might sound like an
The US House of Representatives on July 1 passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill that would penalize Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security legislation in Hong Kong, as well as banks that do business with them. The following day, the US Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was later sent to the White House, where it awaits US President Donald Trump’s signature. The bill does not spell out what the sanctions would look like and Trump has yet to sign it into law, but Reuters on Thursday last week reported that five major Chinese state lenders are considering