Aiming at the wrong target
On May 9, a homicide happened in the overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones of Taiwan and the Philippines. Taiwanese fishing vessel Guang Da Xing No. 28 was attacked and a fisherman killed by Philippine government personnel.
Almost all Taiwanese raged against this act of violence. After Taiwan’s government failed to make the Philippine government admit its mistakes, dislike rapidly evolved into hatred and permeated through every corner of Taiwan. Some Filipinos were attacked.
Regardless of whether the balance of justice favors Taiwan or the Philippines in this conflict, we ought to think carefully about our resentful behavior toward Filipinos in Taiwan.
The problem points to deeper issues of sovereignty, the key to which lie in our history.
After being defeated in the war with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan. Since 1949, the division has persisted between Taiwan and China. Despite no longer having diplomatic relations with the US, we are still protected by the US and utilized as a part of its defense mechanisms against China. Under these circumstances, we peacefully live here and have grown into a liberal and wealthy country.
However, the disunited situation acts as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Taiwanese are proud of our achievement of democratization and prosperity; on the other, China keeps bashing Taiwan economically and politically for its survival in the international community, causing us to be globally marginalized.
In other words, this situation makes it difficult for us to solve problems concerning sovereignty and other related issues.
Assaults by foreigners on our fishing boats are not rare incidents. For example, there have been four other assaults related to the Philippines in the last 10 years. Most of these assaults originated from arguments between us and countries other than the Philippines over the boundaries of Exclusive Economic Zones, so we chose not to try to assert our sovereignty and ignore the long-running dispute about the border of Exclusive Economic Zones between Taiwan and the Philippines. Nonetheless, public indignation grew during those incidents.
Now our fury has overflowed onto innocent Filipino workers. By abusing them, we vent our anger on those who are not to blame. After satisfying ourselves with our “vengeance”, it seems no one cares any longer about the sovereignty dispute between us and the Philippines.
With prejudice against Filipinos spreading through Taiwanese society, there will be more problems. However, this emotional overreaction hides the real reason for such problems -- our fishermen have to travel to areas closer to the Philippines because our offshore fishing resources have been depleted.
We can continue to pour our anger onto Filipinos, but you cannot solve a problem without finding its true cause. You will never shoot a bull’s-eye if you are not aiming at the right target.