French media have taken a special interest in Taiwan, and I have been asked to translate for a French TV channel and participate in making a series of programs about Taiwan. These programs all share a common trait in that they compare the situations in Taiwan and Ukraine.
For example, a number of pro-Russian Ukrainians said they wished to be “liberated” before Moscow invaded Ukraine. These people accounted for about 10 percent of the population prior to the war and they believed that Russia would not invade. Moscow, of course, launched a full-scale invasion, and in so doing inadvertently unified Ukrainians in a common goal of stopping Russia’s aggression.
No one can predict when war will break out. Like everyone living in Europe, I have experienced the intimidation, menace and looming nuclear threat that Europe’s bellicose neighbor poses. I have braced myself for the upcoming winter. Like all Europeans, I have seen Moscow’s true colors and I think it is safe to assume that no Ukrainian now harbors any illusions about Russia.
Ukraine’s plight has made me think of Taiwan’s situation. Do Taiwanese wish to join China? Do parents want their children to be brought up in a society under Chinese ideology? In video footage filmed by the channel I am working with, Taiwanese interviewees, who come across as pure and well-meaning, shun the question when asked about China’s intimidation of Taiwan, but are firm in their stance on their identity: They are Taiwanese through and through.
The global media have been highly interested in Taiwan’s vibrant election culture and its carnival-like campaigns. Taiwan’s election campaigns remind them of ancient Greek democracy. The West has lost its interest in and passion for direct democracy, so Westerners are especially moved when they see Taiwan’s election culture, as if they are witnessing the workings of direct democracy firsthand.
However, Taiwanese refrain from talking about politics in public to avoid conflict. The main reason is the polarization of supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). With DPP and KMT supporters watching media that cater to their respective ideologies, there is no chance or space for reconciliation.
Perhaps the escalation in division between the parties is due to some media deliberately creating illusions of treachery and chaos to boost their ratings or for other reasons.
This has given pro-China media and Chinese propaganda Web sites plenty of material to work with. By keeping Taiwanese focused on the conflicts between the KMT and the DPP, pro-China media are given the space to manipulate and sow dissent.
There is a risk that internal divisions in Taiwan are playing into Beijing’s hands.
I always feel a change in atmosphere when friends in my Line group touch upon politics. Nonetheless, decades of friendships are not easily ended just because of differences in opinions on politics.
Everyone should remain independent-thinking voters, not fanatical supporters of a party. Politics can be discussed in any group. As long as rationality is maintained, there is no reason politics should not be part of everyday conversations.
Li-lin Ricordeau is a Taiwanese living in France.
Translated by Rita Wang
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