Saturday, July 01, 2006

Chinese and Taiwanese views of America (it's about dignity)

When I was traveling on the mainland with Eyvi back in October and November of last year, one thing I noticed was a generally negative attitude towards America, Americans, and most importantly, Bush, who is known there as "Little Bush," and whose name in Chinese, "Xiao Bushi," sounds to me like "Xiao Bullshit." This was in stark contrast to the first time I was there, when it seemed like everyone wanted to go to America.

On this past trip, some people came right out and said, "I don't like Americans," though when we pushed them further, and asked, "What about us?" they would respond more positively. Also, Clinton had very high ratings, which was also a shift from the first time I traveled to China in 1992, when Clinton first became president. Over that time, he had morphed from the leader of the world police into the American President who traveled to and around China with his family, and who advocated engagement and an interconnected world.

Little Bush is different. He is known as the leader of the nation that bullies other world powers and unilaterally attacks other countries. Eyvi can perhaps remember taxi drivers in Luoyang lecturing us about the Iraq War and how the laobaixing (people) just want to live their lives in peace:
in luoyang the taxi drivers lectured us about american politics, i.e. the war in iraq and our president. in fact, as soon as we reached henan province, every random stranger we had contact with said something about iraq and the president--all said "war is meaningless;" all said "little bush loves war; little bush is a bad person;"
While I agree with this notion of the wrongheadedness of Bush Iraq policy and his bullying tactics, I also find it ironic, considering that many Taiwanese interpret China's bullying of Taiwan on the world stage in the same way.

Well, when I came to Taiwan from the mainland in November for a conference in Hualian, I couldn't help but notice the difference in how people thought about Bush's America. One, Bush was not Little Bush but President Buxi (Boo Shee), which to me, sounded much more respectful. Two, people with whom I spoke stuck up for Bush and were generally more positive. I even heard that Republicans were more friendly to Taiwan. And the same view seemed to hold for people of the pro-green and pro-blue camps.

"Was this true?" I thought to myself. Michael bemoans progressive America's overlooking Taiwan as well.

So, there is a vocal minority within the Republican Party that supports Taiwan. My hunch is that this goes back to earlier ties between the Republican Party and the KMT.

One aspect that probably turns progressives off, besides sheer ignorance, is that some of the loudest pro-Taiwan voices in America are also some of the most conservative in America.

It probably doesn't help that the Reuters article that reported House votes to overturn some Taiwan restrictions, only quotes Republicans, which makes it seem like it is only Republicans--people like Thomas Tancredo of Colorado--who are pushing the issue of Taiwan.

And yet, a quick look at the list of members on the U.S. Congress Taiwan Caucus reveals plenty of liberal and progressive names, even if the Daily Kos community is ignorant about Taiwan. Sherrod Brown, a self-avowed progressive, and the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, is on this list of names.

Brown and N.J. Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews co-sponsored the amendment, along with two Republicans, to lift restrictions on Taiwanese officials to meet with high-level U.S. officials in places like the White House and State Department building, and would allow high-level U.S. State and Defense Department officials to travel to Taiwan.

I think it was wrong to exclude "Red China" from the world community for so long; it is equally wrong to exclude Taiwan.

If the bill miraculously makes it through the Senate, then it would be on Bush's desk for him to sign. What is his view on the matter?

As Charles Snyder of the Taipei Times reports:
The administration of US President George W. Bush on Thursday came out in opposition to a measure passed by the US House of Representatives that would lift a series of curbs on contacts between US and Taiwan officials, arguing that the measure would hurt the president's ability to conduct its foreign policy.

The statement came as the House gave final approval to the measure, by overwhelmingly passing the government agency funding bill -- to which the Taiwan measure was attached as an amendment -- by a 393-23 vote.

The bill now goes to the Senate for more deliberation. Both chambers have to agree to the Taiwan provision, and the president has to sign the bill with the measure intact, for it to become law.
People of Taiwan, you can't trust George Bush. He is not thinking in your best interests, nor for that matter, in the interests of the Chinese people. As an editorial in the Taipei Times says:
But Taiwan is, nonetheless, entitled to something: some reminder of why the US can be trusted, some reward for cooperating with the US in maintaining regional stability, some encouragement that at the end of the day the powers that be will stand up for those in need. Of late, the State Department and other pro-China agencies have offered none of these comforts and this is beginning to panic supporters at home and abroad. Add a long-term campaign against weapons purchases by the pan-blue camp and you have a recipe for thorough demoralization -- just what the Chinese doctor ordered.

It's high time that pro-China forces in Washington were reminded in practical terms that Taiwan is not Cuba -- and that the fundamental freedoms of Taiwanese should be reflected in the ability of their unofficial representatives in the US to speak to who they want, when they want.
Bush talks a lot about freedom and democracy, but when push comes to shove, he has other interests in mind. Remember, Taiwan's democratically-elected president was prevented from landing in Alaska, while the leader of the opposition party was allowed to freely travel about influential American circles.

I always supported Clinton's policy of engagment with China. In fact, I began my study of Chinese when he came into office, and have studied Chinese language and culture ever since. I have lived in China and Taiwan, and have friends on both sides of the straits (friends who are also friends with each other).

Engagement, cultural understanding, and a global consciousness are important (equally so for Iran), but U.S. foreign policy should never be crafted merely to appease the leaders of any one country in the world. As progressives, we should be fighting for human dignity--and the underdog. Pointing missiles at Taiwan, and constantly threatening war so as to scare the Taiwanese people into submission, are an affront to human dignity. Therefore, while engaging China (I'm not sure the Bush administration is really doing that), the international community should also be protecting and promoting the vibrant democracy that exist in Taiwan, imperfect as it is.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comment regarding human dignity really struck a chord with how I feel. Taiwanese deserves respect, democracy, and the right to live free from fear as much as everyone else in this world does. I'm thoroughly intrigued by your blogs about different people's viewpoints. If possible, could you talk about Americans' viewpoints of Taiwan, and of the relationship between China, Taiwan, and the USA? Thank you.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Wulingren said...

Thank you. If the notion of human dignity struck a chord, then you might be interested in Robert Fuller's writing on the subject. I think the idea lingered on some unconscious level when commenter Rob pointed me to Fuller's writing, but the power of its applicability to different situations, including Taiwan, didn't hit me until I wrote this post. I'll try to provide more viewpoints, including Americans' viewpoints of Taiwan, and the relationship between Taiwan, China, and the US, as well as, on occasion, other parts of the world.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll take a look at Robert Fuller, and I look forward to more of your postings.

12:17 PM  
Blogger D.A. said...

I'll have to look more into what Robert Fuller said. I enjoyed your thoughts.Keep your posts coming.


3:28 AM  

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