Monday, July 10, 2006

Ma's trip to Japan (Update)

I just noticed this informative article at Asia Times Online by Hisane Masaki on Chairman--I mean--Mayor Ma's trip to Japan, as well as Japan's position in the middle of the cross-strait conflict:
In stark contrast with its withering ties with communist-ruled China, Japan's relations with Taiwan, a capitalist democracy, have been in full bloom in recent years. In the absence of diplomatic ties, Japan still imposes strict restrictions on high-level official contacts with Taiwan.

At the same time, economic and cultural exchanges between Japan and Taiwan have expanded. After Japan dropped visa requirements for Taiwanese visitors last year, the two countries exchanged a record 2.5 million visitors. Taiwan is currently Japan's fourth largest trading partner. The 345-kilometer Taiwan High Speed Line using the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train technology system is under construction between Taipei and Kaohsiung and is due for completion later this year. The project is widely seen as a symbol of Japan-Taiwan friendship.

As such, many Taiwanese are said to harbor pro-Japanese sentiments. Some Taiwanese even think that Japan's 1895-1945 colonial rule in the region has contributed to the island's current economic prosperity through the universities, roads and other infrastructure the Japanese left behind. According to a recent survey by the Taiwanese business magazine Global Review, Japan topped the list of countries that Taiwanese would prefer to emigrate, travel or think is the "greatest". Former President Lee was staunchly pro-Japan and even defended Koizumi's Yasukuni visits.

However, not everyone in Taiwan shares those favorable sentiments, including elements inside the KMT which favor closer ties with Beijing. Earlier this year, the KMT fumed when Japanese and Taiwanese groups jointly erected a monument in a Taipei suburb honoring thousands of indigenous Taiwanese who died while fighting for the Japanese Imperial Army in Southeast Asia. Most of the monument was ordered dismantled by local KMT officials a few weeks later. Ma reportedly described the incident as a good example of the emotions that could be unleashed if embracing Japan goes too far. Taiwanese who revel in the Japanese colonial period are still "brainwashed," he said.

(Update) I also missed Michael's post on the same article. Be sure to also read the fascinating comments to his post.


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