New York City was imbued with Taiwanese flavors earlier this month: The New York Mets’ annual “Taiwan Day” celebration at Citi Field was held on Sept. 7 to much fanfare, with tens of thousands of baseball fans shouting: “Let’s go Mets — let’s go Taiwan,” while at noon that day, nearly 1,000 supporters of Taiwan took to the streets of Manhattan on a 4.8km march, chanting: “Keep Taiwan free,” as they campaigned for the UN’s inclusion of Taiwan and championed other appeals.
The Mets’ “Taiwan Day” celebrates Taiwanese cultural heritage and is the longest-running, largest-scale celebration of Taiwan held by any of the 30 major league teams. Featuring art performances, promotional commercials and family activities, the event generates real curiosity about Taiwan.
Since the first celebration in 2005, renowned Taiwanese — including Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (李安), director Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), golfer Yani Tseng (曾雅妮), tennis player Lu Yen-hsun (盧彥勳) and Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) — have been invited to toss the ceremonial first pitch.
This year, the first pitch was thrown by Internet celebrity and YouTube host Tsai A-ga (蔡阿嘎).
Taiwanese immigrants first began to settle in the Flushing area of the borough of Queens — where the Mets’ ballpark is located — in the 1970s. As they traded, opened shops and started banks, the neighborhood became known as “Little Taipei” or “Little Taiwan.” Since then, media outlets have been established and a Taiwan Center founded.
Later, as Chinese immigrants settled there, Flushing became more prosperous and greater in scope than the city’s historic Chinatown in Manhattan.
The Mets’ celebration grew out of this immigrant context — the event is not only about sports, but also about business and culture. It aims to pay homage to the home country of Taiwanese-Americans, who have contributed so much to the community.
The Manhattan march has been an annual show of support for Taiwan for nearly 30 years, but this year’s rally bore greater significance. Originally held to show support for Taiwan’s participation in the UN, the march has evolved into a reaction against the oppressive Chinese government, as Beijing has been violently suppressing dissidents and persecuting its own people.
In Hong Kong, a proposed anti-extradition bill sparked mass protests by pro-democracy advocates striving for freedom and human rights. The demonstrations, going into their fourth month, have drawn worldwide attention and the Manhattan march grew into an event to show support not only for Taiwan, but also for the oppressed in China, such as Hong Kongers, Uighurs and Tibetans.
Frances Hui (許穎婷), a former member of pro-democracy campaign group Scholarism, traveled from Boston to participate in the rally. The 19-year-old student, who is now studying journalism at Emerson College, wrote an opinion piece titled “I am from Hong Kong, not China” for her school’s newspaper, the Berkeley Beacon, in April.
The article immediately sparked an outcry among Chinese students, but Hui remained undeterred. With the changing of Hong Kong’s situation, she took the initiative in launching rallies to show support for Hong Kong in the Boston area.
At this year’s Manhattan march, Hui urged the public to understand the deceptive nature of the “one country, two systems” framework and called on Hong Kongers and Taiwanese to collaborate in safeguarding democracy and freedom.
Also present was Marshall Islands Permanent Representative to the UN Amatlain Elizabeth Kabua, who told the marchers that Taiwan should not be marginalized and that the Taiwanese public should work together for the nation’s participation in the UN.
Stephen Yates, former US deputy national security adviser to former US vice president Dick Cheney, also took part in the rally. A one-time chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, Yates has consistently been an ardent supporter of Taiwan. His love for the nation started about 30 years ago when he was doing missionary work in Sinying Township (新營), in what was then Tainan county.
US Senator Ben Cardin and US Representative Steve Chabot also voiced their support for Taiwan and the annual march.
In an open letter to support the event, Chabot wrote: “Taiwan’s development of democracy, human rights and the rule of law has been a success story celebrated around the world. Nevertheless, under relentless pressure from the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan is increasingly excluded from formal participation in the international community and blocked from participating in international organizations... The international community, led by the United States and like-minded democracies, must stand up to these bullying tactics.”
This praise for Taiwan, reassuring us from the streets of New York City, deserves our gratitude. Indeed, Taiwan does stand on the same side as the US in terms of the universal values of democracy, freedom and human rights.
In retrospect, the US was also a major external force in helping Taiwan rid itself of an authoritarian regime, and many Taiwanese staying in the US have also made sacrifices to contribute to democracy and prosperity back home.
Over the past few years, the US has shown itself as Taiwan’s strongest ally in resisting annexation by China.
In the ever-changing landscape of a US-China trade dispute, Taiwan will hold presidential and legislative elections. Taiwanese cannot be too careful — they should not get caught up in the mania, slogans and strife of the campaigning, or mistakenly cast their vote for candidates who would lead Taiwan to stand on the wrong side — and bring about the misfortune of annexation.
We must be prepared for the fact that the trade dispute will not end easily. Whether US President Donald Trump is re-elected or not, the US will not sit idly by as China gets a free ride in economics and trade, as well as technology and cybersecurity.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) renounced former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) principle of “hiding their strength and biding their time,” Xi was essentially overestimating his own power and revealing his ambition.
After a few rounds of blows, the trade dispute only exposed China’s hidden cracks, such as the rapid slowing of its economy and the ongoing withdrawals of foreign investment and Taiwanese businesses.
The economic growth so carefully maintained and the balance achieved by deleveraging efforts have been shattered one after another, while China’s debt bubble is on the verge of bursting. China is encountering ordeals and dilemmas that pose great challenges to Xi’s despotic regime. Internal power struggles are brewing.
As Taiwan elects its next president, who the public should vote for is a simple and clear choice — a candidate with a pro-US stance is essential, and someone who will resist annexation by China is an absolute must.
Frankly, the reason that Taiwan has not been invaded or taken over by China since the middle of the 20th century is an attestation of the US’ long-term support as an external force. Throughout modern history, Taiwan’s presidents have all been friendly toward the US.
As China goes to great lengths to try to annex Taiwan, pro-China expressions such as saying “two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” are self-deceptive. Only by freeing itself from China and getting closer to the US will Taiwan survive and attain prosperity on the way to achieving further progress and advancements.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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