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.