We often joke: “Unification? Whatever! It does not matter which side unifies who!” However, we still have a hard time accepting Taiwanese independence. Having said that, even if the students that come here are unable to support Taiwanese independence, they are capable of understanding and will spend time trying to understand why Taiwanese want independence. They are capable of understanding differences.
Taiwanese and Chinese students debate the issue of independence and unification on public occasions and in my personal dealings with Taiwanese students, I really like the rationality and pragmatic spirit of young Taiwanese people.
TT: The title of your book is Taiwan Could Be Better and that makes it sound like you hope for a better Taiwan. In your opinion, what problems does Taiwan face if it wants to become better? What role does China play in a better Taiwan?
FTF: The arbitrary nature of the Chinese government has made Taiwan more eager to highlight its democracy. China’s Cultural Revolution made Taiwan protect Chinese culture. The competitiveness between both sides has made Taiwan better. China is constantly learning from Taiwan and when Taiwan is better, there will be more confidence in China to make some changes to its systems and policies.
Also, Taiwan and China are extremely close economically. Chinese government officials have said that it is very easy to take back Taiwan. All China needs to do is dissociate from Taiwan in terms of economics and trade. When China’s overall economic environment improves, Taiwan will also benefit.
TT: Have you come into contact with any of the people involved in the Taiwanese democracy movement during your stay in Taiwan?
FTF: My friends have, but I haven’t. And even though they have, they are worried about meeting with [democracy advocates] too much. This is mainly because of this issue’s sensitive nature and this is something we must weigh up the pros and cons of.
Wang Dan (王丹) conducts a forum at National Taiwan University every Wednesday and I have heard some Chinese students were going each week and they were later interviewed by China’s Ministry of State Security. [Wang currently holds a “China Salon” on Tuesday evenings at Taipei-based Soochow University]. The head of the Chinese students association here has reminded us that we can go and listen to Wang Dan, but once or twice is enough and that we don’t have to go every time he gives a talk because it is too sensitive an issue.
‧ Taiwan in the Eyes of a Chinese and a Westerner will be held on Saturday from 7pm to 9pm at the Yung Le Zuo Secondhand Bookstore (永樂座二手書店), 2F, 14, Ln 244, Roosevelt Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路三段244巷14號二樓). The forum will be conducted in Mandarin and English with simultaneous interpretation. Admission is free, but those attending must preregister online at the Facebook event page: www.facebook.com/events/120720338085212/.