Distinct Taiwanese identity
Alexis Sanders lists history as one of eight criteria of national identity, but fails to point out the historical facts that distinctly differentiate between Taiwan and China in identity (Letter, Jan. 17, page 8).
Taiwan was ceded to Japan permanently in 1895, and Taiwanese were the subjects of US air raids during World War II, renounced by Japan in 1945, massacred in the 228 Incident by Chinese Nationalists in 1947 and victimized in the White Terror era under martial law for 38 years — the longest in human history.
Legally, the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the 1952 Taipei Treaty have put Taiwan in an indeterminate status that has to be decided according to the UN principle of self-determination.
Politically, Taiwanese carry passports that are different from Chinese passports. Taiwanese use New Taiwan Dollars, provide military service in Taiwan, pay taxes to Taiwan and directly elect their president, who is different from the Chinese president.
Sanders mistakenly refers to Chinese as “compatriots” of Taiwanese “on the other side of the [Taiwan] Strait.” This is as wrong as referring to Britons as compatriots of Americans or Canadians on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Taiwanese populace mainly consists of Hoklo, Hakka, Mainlanders and Aborigines. None of them should be excluded. Sanders’ exception of the Aborigines is worse than President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) comment about “trying to treat the Aborigines as people.”
Ma likes to use the term zhonghua minzu (中華民族) or “Emperor Huang’s descendants” to implement his father’s will of “ultimate unification.”
He welcomes the name “Chinese Taipei” imposed on Taiwan for the same reason. His popularity has dropped partly because of his motives.
Sanders also said that Taiwanese and Chinese were “the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait.” If he were right, Chinese would not have deployed more than 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan.
Focusing on the environment
I was shocked and saddened to hear that a friend of mine, one of Taiwan’s most distinguished foreign professors, is considering leaving Taiwan because of the headaches which the air pollution in Taipei causes him. Given that air pollution is a proven killer (“Air pollution a top 10 killer: study,” Dec. 19, 2012, page 6), and that Hong Kong also recently lost one of its most prominent antipollution voices, Anthony Hedley, a professor at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, Asian countries must urgently realize that cutting pollution and improving the environmental situation are part and parcel of improving the “quality of life,” and that mindless economic growth alone does not bring about health, happiness and security.
The same basic argument is also delivered by the amazing movie, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above (“Protecting nature is not political,” Nov. 28, 2013, page 8) and the stunning landscape photography of Wu Cheng-chang (吳政璋) (“Exposing Taiwan’s true landscape,” Oct. 13, 2013, page 12), which created more than a few ripples across the environmental landscape of Taiwan.
While the expansion of Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit system has brought some relief, more public transport must be developed in Taipei as well as in other cities.
More importantly, electric vehicles must be phased in, so that within a decade, 50 percent of all vehicles are electric, and all within two decades.
The electricity should not come from polluting fossil fuels or dangerous nuclear power (“Nuclear is no answer,” Mar. 28, 2011, page 8), but from renewable sources of which the nation has more than plenty (“Taiwan has many renewable energy resources: activist,” Jun. 27, 2013, page 3).
In a similar vein, Asian countries must curb their catastrophic and mindless consumption of emblematic species.
The main reason for the steep decline of tigers, elephants, rhinos and sharks around the world is their extravagant or superstitious consumption in East Asian countries.
Writers have repeatedly called for the end of shark consumption (“Saving biodiversity,” Feb. 14, 2011, page 8; “The plight of sharks,” Jun. 26, 2011, page 8), and again call on the Ma administration to follow the lead of the Chinese government (“Tide turns against shark fin soup in China,” Jan. 17, page 9) and once and for all outlaw the consumption of shark fins and any other shark products in Taiwan.