Wednesday, April 25, 2007

CNN at it again

First look at the headline CNN used in its story about what Cheney "said" about Democrats. Then look at how they changed the headline of the AP article about Vice President Annette Lu running for president in Taiwan. It seems to be a pattern with CNN. At least they used quotation marks in the Annette Lu story.

The Tea Conoisseur revisited

This is one of my favorite posts ever and I will continue to link to it from time to time.

The history of a nation and a man

You don't want to miss this great post by Jerome Keating about Peng Ming-min, especially if you don't get what the Taiwan independence movement is all about. Peng was the Democratic Progressive Party's first presidential candidate back in 1996, also about the time I first arrived in Taipei. Peng's running mate was Frank Hsieh, who I now one of the DPP's presidential candidates this time around. They lost to Lee Teng-hui, but I still remember my first landlords referring to them as president and vice president. Do yourself a favor and read Jerome's piece about this fascinating life.

Why the name changes? Here's why.

Via The View From Taiwan, this excellent rundown on the rationale for renaming currently going on in Taiwan.

As part of this program, the Taiwanese government is pursuing a campaign to rename numerous state-controlled institutions. In 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists lost the Chinese civil war against the Communists and relocated the national government of the Republic of China to Taipei, they brought with them a host of the Republic’s state cultural, industrial and administrative organizations. These were maintained as a part of their forty year claim to be China’s legitimate government. The current government is removing these references to the Nationalists’ party-state and their legacy of nation-building on Taiwan in the name of China.

So China Post has been renamed Taiwan Post; the state China Petrochemical Company is now CPC, Taiwan; even the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, the grand square and monument to Taiwan’s former military strongman in central Taipei, has been renamed the Taiwan Democracy Memorial.

The naming issue is a cause of unease and a degree of confusion for the international community. The sharp response by the US State Department to the recent Taiwanese moves was modulated more by the Chinese reaction than a coherent position on the importance or otherwise of naming. Western governments generally have seemed to regard names as a rather eccentric preoccupation of the Chinese and Taiwanese, lying merely on the surface of their real regional geo-politics. The Chinese and Taiwanese, however,steeped in the intellectual heritage of Confucianism and its understanding of socio-political knowledge, have long understood the way names, and language generally, are the basis of politics and social structure. Naming defines the boundaries of power. In this, Confucius was something of a post-modernist, and two and a half thousand years later Western social theory has caught up in the work of writers such as Jacques Derrida.

The renaming program is just the most recent aspect in a campaign of post-authoritarian reckoning which has been going on in different forms for twenty years in Taiwan. The government is deploying the instruments of the state to redraw the boundaries of the island’s identity and history so that it is known as specifically Taiwanese. In so doing it consolidates the very basis of Taiwan’s political sovereignty.

The Taiwan that is being renamed by the government as “Taiwan” incorporates a distinctive island history. The received international shorthand for Taiwan’s history is to say that it “split from the mainland in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war”, but this is a very contingent and politicized reading. In Taiwan, a counter-narrative has been established over many decades which understands its history as a continuous narrative of its fraught location on the overlapping boundaries of the European, Manchu, Japanese and Chinese states which have ruled over it for four hundred years. Taiwan has an indigenous people who are Pacific islanders; its first modern government was a Dutch colonial administration in the 17th century, before being governed by the Manchu Qing dynasty until it became a colony of Japan in 1895. Taiwan was passed to the Chinese Republic in 1945 as part of an Allied agreement, and in 1947, the Taiwanese launched an uprising against Chinese Nationalist rule, which was brutally crushed. It was only then in 1949 that the national government of the Republic relocated to Taipei.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I find this a little scary

Atrios, commenting on a reader poll at Daily Kos:

A significant (not a majority or most, but significant) number of respondents basically read the Daily Kos and not much else. Their view of blogging is Kos-centric. That is, it isn't really about liberal blogs generally it's all about the Home of the Great Orange Satan.

I'll avoid the temptation to go deeply into this, but I think a lot of the social dynamic that plays out there and elsewhere can be explained in part by this. Us outsiders see Kos as one blog among many, if a very highly trafficked blog, and his voice one among many many many voices on the blog (the other front pagers, the prominence of the recommended diaries, etc...). Some insiders and former insiders see it as the center of the universe.

I've been a regular reader of Kos, and occasional sidebar diarist, since about May or June 2003 when I got swept up in the Dean craze. I think it was Joe Trippi who pointed me there. I usually start my day at the orange site, but not just to read what Markos says. I usually glance over what the front pagers (Markos included) write, then see what's up with the recommended diaries. From there, I pick some of my favorites from the blogroll, my first pick usually being Unfortunately Markos got rid of some of my regular sites (like, most of which have links on this site.

The idea that there are people that only read Kos, though, just gives me a weird feeling. I have always considered myself an outsider there, part of the community, but not attached to it. I think it provides a great service, a wonderful cacophony of voices. Some I agree with; some I do not. No, I don't always agree with Markos either. Sometimes, the verbal attacks in the comment section are bothersome, but to be honest, I don't really go there for the comments. I mean, sometimes I will scan them, but there are just too many. In fact, I am more likely to read the comments on less trafficked sites; it's easier to digest them.

Well, not much more to say about this. I just find it amazing that in the vast multiversal un-structure of the blogosphere, there are those who every day, several times a day, maybe even all day long, only visit one orange mansion.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I can live with this

Brian Williams' explanation of why NBC aired video sent to them by a mass murderer. Makes sense. At the same time, I don't think there was anything wrong with people questioning NBC's motives. It is a nice gesture that Williams bothered to respond and explain their decision-making process. It shows that they are not beyond judgment or accountability, and that they are not somehow separate from the audience who views their broadcast. Williams demonstrated a level of transparency and humanity that I find commendable. That said, I'm still not sure how I would have handled the situation myself. Does it help to transform a killer into a martyr, one that future killers will look back to as a symbol? I don't know

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Is Taiwan Chinese?

Michael has a great post that asks what it means to be Chinese?

Anyone who has been around Taiwan for any length of time knows that the claim that "Taiwan preserves Chinese culture better than the mainland" is an old KMT propaganda chestnut. Such claims of "preserved" cultures that view traditional culture as both identifiable and unchanging are romantic fantasies of the western colonial era, but more fundamentally, they beg the question of what is meant by "Chinese culture."

Looking at Taiwan, what does one see? Taiwan has a democratic government -- there is nothing else like it in Chinese history, and a growing awareness and appreciation for democracy -- also a rarity in Chinese history. The educational system and police structure are European filtered through Japanese colonialism and postwar authoritarianism. Japanese influence is enormous, from food and fashion to technology. The business culture is an ecletic blend of imported ideas like double entry bookkeeping and local ideas like guanxi networks. For breakfast I can get a "western" breakfast of a layer sandwich that is entirely a local cuisine, or I can eat a Chinese breakfast consisted of foods updated by modern technology and altered thereby, whose ancestral dishes stem from the continent next door. I drive on western-style roads, in western-style cars....well, I could go on forever. Just what's "Chinese" about Taiwan? (Purely as an aside -- why does technology always disappear when we talk about culture? None of the tech now used on Taiwan is of recent Chinese vintage. The major shaping influences are all western).

Well, on the other hand, just about everything, one could answer. The local languages are all Chinese languages, except for the aboriginal tongues. Cultural ideals about women, the family, child-raising, male and female relations, politics, sex, religion, power -- many deriving from "Chinese culture," (again, except for aborigines) but as for actual culture practices? Your mileage may vary. What people say about themselves, and how they actually behave, are very different things.

The only reason anyone even raises the "Is Taiwan Chinese" issue is because Taiwan's alleged "Chineseness" is a claim that is part of the package of assertions that Beijing makes about Taiwan to support its drive to annex the island. Definitions like "Is Taiwan Chinese?" are a matter of values, not facts, only worth arguing about over beer -- unless some predatory power decides to base a foreign policy on them. It's a shame that an academic who says he knows better has nevertheless chosen to use a highly debateable title that is so useful to Beijing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Virtual Town Hall Meeting

Join's Virtual Town Hall: Iraq

On Tuesday, April 10, 7:15 PM, MoveOn will be holding a virtual town hall meeting, at which MoveOn members will have the opportunity to ask Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Biden about their views on Iraq.

Sign up here to attend a local virtual town hall house party.