LETTERS: Liao shows disregard

Thu, Dec 27, 2007 - Page 8

Milton Liao's letter "'Taiwanese' is propaganda" (Letters, Dec. 23, page 8), in attempting to define Ben Goren's bias towards the DPP, unintentionally paints himself into the same corner.

He shows complete and utter disregard for anyone on the island who might be anything other than a "Mainlander." Liao's thoughts could come straight out of Beijing's People's Daily.

Liao obviously has little or no understanding of Taiwanese cultural history or of China's place in that history. He states that since Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has been president, Mainlanders have suffered ethnic discrimination and have been ostracized by a government he feels has no legitimacy even though it was popularly elected by Taiwanese.

He fails to mention the previous 50 years of KMT rule during which tens of thousands of innocent Taiwanese were slaughtered while being forbidden to speak their own language. Anyone objecting to KMT rule was put in prison and many were never heard from again.

This omission from his description of "poor" Mainlanders suffering ethnic discrimination is interesting. It seems he has absolutely no knowledge of what has transpired during the 50 years of dictatorial rule in Taiwan.

Taiwanese understand Chinese culture and its influence on their lives.

For the most part they embrace their own centuries-old culture, which has survived despite occasional Chinese oppression.

Next year, Taiwanese will choose their fate, and that fate will not be chosen for them by China or the US.

They as a people have earned that right.

Not one individual living in China today can make that claim.

Sam Small

Seattle, Washington

Liao gets it wrong

Milton Liao's polemic against my recent letter (Letters, Dec. 17, page 8) is indicative of the poor quality of debate concerning Taiwanese nationalism, especially regarding contributions from self-styled "Chinese loyalists" writing from outside the country they claim to care for.

Liao's "one-size-fits-all" prescription for the "shared identity" that he insists residents of Taiwan should have ignores substantial academic research to the contrary.

Indeed, if it were so simple a matter as saying that there is no such thing as "Taiwanese nationalism," why would authors like Melissa Brown, Paul Katz and Murray Rubenstein spend so much time and effort researching a "pie-in-the-sky postulation"?

Furthermore, why would China, the KMT, the PFP and the US State Department be so worried about the upcoming UN referendum?

For his edification, I refer Liao to an article by Chang Mau-kuei in the book Religion and the Formation of Taiwanese Identities published by Palgrave Macmillan, in which he argues Taiwanese nationalism has its roots in the 1920s and began to develop substantially shortly after the 228 massacre in 1947.

Furthermore, if Liao were aware of Benedict Anderson's writings on nationalism, he would perhaps be forced to take a more measured and less belligerent tone, as he would have to evaluate his own national identity as one among competing nationalisms.

That well over 60 percent of Taiwanese are now reported to profess identification specifically with this island does not trouble Liao who, without critical reflection, regurgitates pan-blue discourse and misinformation that "Mainlanders" are being victimized and that the economy is in deep trouble, despite evidence to the contrary.

Blaming the executive branch for all the troubles of a country whilst ignoring the role of the Legislature in carrying out its responsibility to maintain the integrity of the democratic process is nothing more than selective finger pointing that can be dismissed as unconstructive and hyperbolic. It is the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution and its imbalance and overlap of powers that prevents Taiwan from moving forward.

It is sentimental attachment to the imported artifice of the ROC that allows a minority to demand that the majority accept its concept of national identity under duress.

I'm sure that if Quebecois politicians demanded the same of the western Canadian provinces, they would be soundly rebuffed.

Taiwanese nationalism is no more "cooked up" than any other nationalism in the world. Without a livable environment no economic activity is viable.

Long-standing historical, cultural and ethnic ties with shared history and points of origin have not prevented the UK and the US from developing as separate nation states, each with their own seat in the UN.

It is time that commentators like Liao acknowledged that the only reason Taiwan is still an unwelcomed international player is because the geo-strategic concerns of larger countries are being prioritized over the needs of its 23 million people, whose demands for recognition are sadly regarded as little more than annoying footnotes in the US and China's struggle for industrial supremacy and military and energy security.

Ben Goren