The Parti Quebecois’ (PQ) victory in Tuesday’s snap election in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province will likely embolden some supporters of Taiwanese independence, as it usually does when the separatist movement takes power, to draw parallels in their struggle for nationhood.
While it may be tempting to regard events in Canada as a source of inspiration, the Quebec experience is a bad template for Taiwan’s struggle against Chinese encroachment and therefore should not be used as an analogy.
Above all, unlike Taiwan, Quebec is part of a federal system whose “colonial” power that the separatists have been struggling against is democratic, officially bilingual and does not threaten to use force or unleash paramilitary columns if they do not behave. Contrary to China, Ottawa does not brandish 1,600 ballistic missiles at the province’s 6.1 million people, nor does it have a so-called law that would legitimize the use of force against it should its people decide to secede, which they have tried to do twice through referendums. Canada does not curtail the human rights of Quebecers or undermine their freedom of expression, though authoritarian China does so to Taiwan. Finally, unlike Taiwan, Quebec shares land geography with Canada and has not had the privilege of 117 years of separate existence that the island-nation has had since the Japanese took over in 1895 (not to mention the time before that).
The object here is not to pass judgement on the validity of the claims made by Quebec separatists or whether Taiwan is more deserving of independence than Quebec. The point is that the two conflicts are idiosyncratic and as such serve as poor templates for one another.
Still, politicians and pundits in Taiwan will sometimes argue the case for independence along “ethnic” and “linguistic” lines, and in that aspect, Taiwan can learn from the PQ’s experience, primarily to find out how not to behave.
The PQ leader and Quebec’s first female premier, Pauline Marois, has among other things proposed to expand the province’s language Law 101 that prevents francophones and immigrants from attending English-language junior colleges, and seeks to introduce a law that would make it impossible for non-French speakers to run for office.
In comments that echo Jacques Parizeau, an openly xenophobic former PQ leader who blamed the failure of the province’s second referendum in 1995 on the “ethnic vote,” Marois has also said (in French, of course) that it is the responsibility of everyone who wishes to call Quebec their home to learn and assimilate to the local culture, not to replace it with their own. For a party that equates language with cultural identity, this raises serious questions about whether the 20 percent or so of people who live in Quebec and who are not francophones continue to be welcome there under the pequistes.
Adopting such an ideology is not only a step backward for a multiethnic and immigrant society like Quebec’s, but risks exacerbating tensions between Anglophones and francophones, while encouraging extremists, like the 62-year-old man who shot and killed a person during Marois’ victory speech in Montreal, who fear the PQ will make them second-class citizens and no longer part of Quebec society. The term assimilation immediately brings to mind extreme rightists like Jean-Marie Le Pen in France or the late Joerg Haider of Austria, and goes against the reality of the modern world, where cultures do not replace one another in a zero-sum game, but rather evolve and become richer as a result of interaction.
If there is one thing that Taiwan should learn from the Quebec experience as it attempts to define itself and devise a strategy for its future it is that inclusiveness and tolerance, not destructive exclusiveness a la PQ, is the way to form a vibrant and stable society. For that alone, thank you Mademoiselle Marois for showing Taiwan the road that should not be taken.
Beijing’s imposition of the Hong Kong National Security Law and a number of other democratic and human rights issues continue to strain relations between the UK and China. The tense situation has significantly decreased the likelihood of British Royal Navy ships being able to continue their practice of docking in Hong Kong’s harbor for resupply — a not altogether unpredictable development. In a Nov. 19 online speech to parliament, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier would next year lead a British and allied task group to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and East Asia. Johnson
President-elect Biden and his team soon will confront a raging pandemic, a severe economic crisis, demands for progress in addressing racial injustices, intensifying climate-induced crises, and strained relations with allies and partners in many parts of the world. They will be oriented to view China as America’s greatest geostrategic challenge, but not the most immediate threat to the health and prosperity of the American people. Amidst this daunting inheritance, US-Taiwan relations will stand out as a bright spot, an example of progress that should be sustained. There are strong reasons for optimism about the continued development of US-Taiwan relations in the
Universities and colleges are bearing the brunt of Taiwan’s falling birthrate. Many schools have already closed down, while lower-ranking institutions find themselves in a precarious position. The Ministry of Education has said that more than 40 private senior-high schools, universities and colleges are already in a critical situation. When schools are forced to close, the impact is felt not just by students, who can easily transfer to other schools, but even more so by teachers and other staff, for whom it is hard to change track in the middle of their careers. A Cabinet meeting on Nov. 19 approved a draft
I was probably the first professor in Taiwan to teach a university-level food safety class and a postgraduate food toxicology course. During the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), I participated in discussions to allow imports of US beef containing traces of ractopamine, and was part of the decision to permit imports of US pork containing the leanness-enhancing additive. I am not an expert on ractopamine, as I have never done any research on the drug, but I have taught classes about the health dangers of foods containing traces of harmful substances. When US beef imports were about to be allowed,