Just as President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is about to celebrate the signing of an historic trade agreement with China, Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) once again managed to draw attention to himself.
Yaung’s latest faux pas — made while he was in the US — involved publicly expressing his intense dislike of Koreans, who he said had copied Taiwan’s health system but would never admit doing so.
Not only were such comments inappropriate for a public official, they also reflected a view propagated by an increasingly nationalist China. In other words, not only was our health minister making a fool of himself while abroad, he was also spewing Chinese propaganda.
This incident is unlikely to be well received by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which is facing a crisis in popularity ahead of important municipal elections in November. At a time when it is striving to rebuild its credibility and mend fences with countries supposedly alienated by the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, Yaung’s remarks can only make that task more onerous.
For the DPP, Yaung’s lack of discretion is a godsend, providing additional ammunition as it prepares to hold a mass rally in Taipei to oppose the controversial economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA).
The Ma administration has a week to distance itself from Yaung’s insulting rhetoric. Should it remain silent on the matter, we could only conclude that it condones such ugly Chinese nationalism and Yaung could well be added to the list of things to be targeted during the protests on Saturday.
Supporters of Taiwan not only have the responsibility to ensure the nation’s survival, but to protect its image abroad by displaying maturity, openness and respect for differences. The importance of distancing ourselves from the racism espoused by Yaung cannot be overstated, not only because it represents an effort to combat “Han” chauvinism, but also because it highlights the type of maturity that the world expects from a democracy.
Regardless of who is in power, Taiwan is in no position to insult other nations through its officials — especially through a crass form of nationalism for which Chinese officials have often been ridiculed. If we fail to condemn this type of behavior, we are no better than the Chinese officials we laugh at for their lack of tact.
Ultimately, a politician’s ability to conduct himself or herself properly serves as an indicator of their ability to oversee national policies. As Yaung is closely involved in managing the debilitated National Health Insurance (NHI) program — one that should be the envy of many countries but that is becoming increasingly unsustainable — his inability to behave like a professional politician raises questions about his qualifications. Are those of us who contribute to the NHI plan and rely on it in times of need really willing to trust someone who engages in such open bigotry to steer the nation’s health program in the right direction?
During the protest on Saturday, let’s hope that among all the placards criticizing the Ma administration and opposing an ECFA that is being forced on us, there will also be a few that give voice to the respect and openness of mind and spirit that far better represent the feelings of Taiwanese people than the racist comments of our health minister.
We love Taiwan and we love South Korea.
Taiwan is not an orphan nation in need of someone to adopt it. Taiwan is not a foundling nation wandering the streets of the world looking for a home. It is not even a poor waif of a nation unable to take care of itself in that same big, bad world. Finally, Taiwan is certainly not terra nullius, a nationless land that is open and waiting to be explored and possessed by those who dare. Taiwan is a mid-sized, democratic nation that by GDP, profitability, location and even microchip production punches far above its weight in its region and in international commerce.
When analyzing Taiwan-China tensions, most people assume that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) consists of rational actors. Embedded within this belief are three further suppositions: First, Beijing would only launch an attack on Taiwan if it were in China’s national interest; second, it would only attack if the odds were overwhelmingly in its favor; and third, Chinese decisionmakers interpret information objectively and through the same lens as other actors. These assumptions have underpinned recent analyses — including by Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) — concluding that there is no
Do you remember where you were last year at this time? Do you remember what it was like? Here in the leafy suburbs of Washington, D.C., we were in lock-down mode. The streets were bleak and empty. Schools, offices, malls, theaters, churches … all were closed. The essentials were in short supply. Grocery stores rationed the good stuff. Signs read: “One jumbo pack of toilet paper, two cartoons of eggs per family please!” Some days those signs mocked us from barren shelves. It was a lonely and anti-social time. Families and friends had to weigh the rewards of gathering together to celebrate Christmas
US-based diplomatic observers say that interaction between Taiwan and the US has grown in intensity over the past few months, falling short of establishing official relations. Although the interaction is still below the cabinet level because of Washington’s “one China” policy, these observers see a growing propensity in US political circles, across both sides of the aisle, to support Taiwan’s distinct political culture, the outstanding features of which are its vibrant democracy and respect for human rights, along with a thriving economy. The question often debated in academic and foreign policy research circles is whether the US would put boots on