Dispatch to London
In contrast to David Pendery’s complaint (“Taiwan, I love you,” Aug. 26, page 8) about the thinness of Chris Wood’s farewell trade-show brochure (“On leaving Taiwan: Britain’s role,” Aug. 23, page 8), I prefer to imagine what the outgoing representative’s valedictory dispatch back to London would look like.
Would Wood review the history of Britain’s interaction with Taiwan, recalling imperial subjects such as James Laidlaw Maxwell and George Leslie Mackay? They established one of the most influential civil society institutions, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.
How about their successor Thomas Barclay, who introduced printing and journalism to Formosa? Remarkably, they achieved these not by being a colonizing power, but through compassion and service.
Would the representative call to mind the Commonwealth prisoners of war in the camps of Kim-koe-chioh — then Kinkaseki — and contemplate how wars over natural resources, egged on by nationalism, can sweep ordinary people — fishing folk, young soldiers — into much suffering, and how similar conflicts are again threatening the nearby seas?
Would he celebrate the contribution of Taiwanese-British citizens? The most prominent among them was the late theologian Ng Chiong-hui (Shoki Coe, 黃彰輝), erstwhile director of the World Council of Churches’ Theological Education Fund. He negotiated the cultural distances as well as the tumultuous circumstances during his life, all the while working for the ecumenical movement and maintaining a personal connection between the two nations.
As for current political realities, would Wood reflect on constitutional reforms, drawing comparisons between the two democracies? Can a moat be kept between free trade and deeper integration? Can first-past-the-post disproportionality be ameliorated with top-up seats? Are referendums competing with parliamentary decisionmaking for legitimacy?
Wood said that his office would continue to promote exchanges about “green” issues and sustainability.
So looking to the future, do the security and ecological implications of nuclear power get a mention in the dispatch, with both Hinkley and Gongliao projects stalled?
Sadly, such dispatches can only be released to the public after many decades, if ever.
For the moment, I can only amuse myself with the 1980s correspondence on the disposal of Fort Santo Domingo, in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水), after it was decommissioned as a British consulate. This has been released and is available on the Web.
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
In 1955, US general Benjamin Davis Jr, then-commander of the US’ 13th Air Force, drew a maritime demarcation line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Under pressure from the US, Taiwan and China entered into a tacit agreement not to cross the line. On July 9, 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) described cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship. In response, Beijing dispatched People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft into the Taiwan Strait, crossing the median line for the first time since 1955. The PLA has begun to regularly traverse the line. On Sept. 18 and 19, it
Midday in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 16, was sunny and mild. Even with the pandemic’s “social distancing” it was a perfect day for “al fresco” dining with linen tablecloths and sidewalk potted palms outside one of New York City’s elegant restaurants. Two members of the press, outfitted with digital SLR cameras and voice recorders, were dispatched by The Associated Press to cover a rare outdoor diplomatic meeting on one of these New York streets. American diplomat Kelly Craft, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations, lunched in the open air with Taiwan’s ambassador-ranked representative in New York, James