Sun, Dec 18, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Taiwanese must show self-respect

By Jerome Keating

As a mid-sized nation, Taiwan has its normal share of issues, challenges and troubles. However, recent affairs have once again demonstrated that is not all; Taiwan has the additional challenge of gaining and maintaining status among other nations; and herein lies the rub for its citizens.

China, of course, continually tries to block Taiwan from direct interaction with other nations. And albeit primarily for economic gain, those nations play along with China’s efforts. As a result, they find themselves forced to jump through a different set of hoops in order to include Taiwan in their trade and travel. It is a strange game and one that has gone on for decades.

However, change appears to be in the winds, as evidenced by the following: First, the weeks-long brouhaha over the congratulatory telephone call made by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to US president-elect Donald Trump. Then the even more surprising follow-up of Trump saying that he might reconsider the US’ “one China” policy, nebulous as it is. With such suggestive vagaries, the question of “what next?” becomes evident.

Trump, for sure, is unpredictable; nonetheless, what the telephone call did in fact do was give the people of Taiwan some respect, as it again brought attention to Taiwan’s problem. It also forced all other nations to ask the basic question: “Why should we put up with such idiocy, especially when China’s economic leverage is starting to wane.”

That question is an issue that those nations must face up to. However, Taiwan faces different questions. What degree of self-respect do Taiwanese have and what should they require from the world? And finally, how does their sense of national identity tie in with this respect?

In a half-joking way, Taiwanese might sometimes relate to the catchphrase of comedian Rodney Dangerfield: “I just don’t get no respect.” In this, there is a certain truth, as Taiwan must often enter international organizations through the back door.

However, from a different and more internal perspective, it is time for Taiwanese to be proactive in standing up for themselves. They need to take to heart the statement made by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his novel Humiliated and Insulted: “If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.” That is what Taiwanese must understand.

Taiwanese might not control what others think about them, but they can control what they think about themselves. For this reason, the question that all Taiwanese must ask is: “Do we respect ourselves as a nation, even if we are miscast as an orphan child who must sometimes use the back entrance in international affairs?”

In answering this question, Taiwanese clearly need to distinguish how they feel about themselves from what others feel about them, especially when other nations are coerced by gambits of trade to pretend to ignore Taiwan. Thus, Taiwanese must first develop and promote a clearer, personal understanding of their history. They must see how they rose through numerous past colonial situations to achieve Taiwan’s present-day democracy and economic power. This sense of history and identity of theirs presents an awesome awareness that Taiwanese must personally take charge of. No other nation will do that for them.

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