Taiwan is Taiwan

It started in the beginning of the year as various countries were called out by China for listing Taiwan as a country. The first few companies were in the travel industry, such as airlines and hotels, which made sense as targets. How else would they list Taiwan? For people traveling to Taiwan, they are not going to the People’s Republic of China. Listing Taiwan as part of China would be confusing and incorrect. A visa to the People’s Republic of China will not determine if a visitor allowed into Taiwan.

The crackdown by China also expanded to retailers, such as Zara. NARS, the cosmetics company, even listed Taiwan as 中國台灣 (China Taiwan) on its Taiwanese website.

Later, China’s Civil Aviation Administration sent 44 letters to airlines insisting that they refer to Taiwan as part of China. There are now at least 20 airlines that do so.

The insistence by China that companies refer to Taiwan as a part of China is an attempt to normalize that thought, even though it is completely untrue. The more it shows up on the internet, the more consumers become used to seeing ‘Taiwan (China)’, people will start to think that it is true. China is able to spread its propaganda by threatening businesses and using its economy as leverage.

Earlier this month, Taiwan was denied attendance to the World Health Assembly (WHA). The World Health Organization (WHO) even denied Taiwanese journalists reporting accreditation. Taiwan has universal healthcare and has much to contribute to the worldwide discussion of human health. This brings to mind the disastrous SARS epidemic of 2003, when WHO officials were only able to enter Taiwan when China gave its permission. Taiwan and China have different health systems, run by separate governments!

Although it was quite disappointing to be denied attendance to the WHA, there were a lot of allies that came out in support of Taiwan. Before the WHA, 172 members of the U.S. Congress wrote a letter to the Director General of the WHO, advocating for Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. During the WHA, 23 countries voices support for Taiwan to be included in the WHO.

Within the past month, two diplomatic allies have broken ties with Taiwan. The Dominican Republic cut diplomatic ties in the beginning of the month. Just this week, Burkina Faso cut ties. Given all that had happened leading up to this, it seemed like quite a depressing piece of news. How many more blows can we take?

President Tsai made a major speech (English translation) regarding the diplomatic break.

Notice that President Tsai only used the terms 臺灣 (Taiwan) and 中國 (China) in her speech.

Usually an official speech would include the terms 中國大陸 (China mainland) or 大陸 (mainland) to refer to China. These terms infer some type of geographic relationship between Taiwan and China. They even infer that China is the main part of something.

Another name typically heard would be 中華民國 (Republic of China) to refer to Taiwan. 中華民國 is the link to China. 中華民國 was the government that lost the civil war in China, which the People’s Republic of China insists is part of its own. However, the current Taiwanese government is nothing like the Republic of China when it was founded in 1912. That government was one of a military dictatorship. Taiwan is now a thriving democracy.

The lack of old terms and the actual use of Taiwan and China is the normalization Taiwan is pursuing. We want the ability to use our own name in the international community. That the true reflection of ourselves, and encompasses our whole history.

I’ve been quite disturbed by these attacks against Taiwan. We are battling the attempt of an external force to influence public opinion. President Tsai’s speech shows that we have a leader who is standing up to these external factors, and that makes me proud. Now is the time for all Taiwanese to take action no matter how large or small. We need to make our voices heard on a global scale. Let Taiwan be Taiwan.

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Learning hiragana and katakana

The basic syllabaries of Japanese are hiragana and katakana. It also seems to be one of the big stumbling blocks to learning Japanese. There are electronic and physical flashcards, workbooks, and apps for learning the characters from each.

The last time I started learning hiragana, I had flashcards and was doing rote memorization. It was hard, and I did not really retain much.

This time around, I’m focusing on remembering the characters through words. If I can learn and use them in vocabulary at the same time, I think I can remember them better.

dollhouse secrets has a great blog post on worksheets and posters from Japan. What I like about these is that there are examples of a word for each character. Nifty also has similar sheets for writing practice. I like these because the font is what the character would look like when written rather than printed. I’m relying on both these worksheets to learn hiragana and katakana. I think it’s sticking better this time around.

I’ll probably take few weeks to learn hiragana and katakana. Then I’m planning on working through NHK Easy Japanese before moving on to textbook work.

Re-start learning Japanese

I’ve decided to start learning Japanese, again. The last time I learned Japanese, I didn’t get really far. I don’t think I even memorized all the hiragana. And maybe I only got through one chapter of a textbook?

I suppose it’s a bit like starting from scratch, but not really. I have some ideas of what did not work last time, so I’ll be finding new ways to learn so it sticks. Let’s see how far it get this time!

Processing the US PEOTUS-Taiwan phone call

There are so many reports, think pieces, and social media postings after the report of a phone call between US PEOTUS and Taiwan President 蔡英文 Tsai In-Wen. It’s difficult to process everything.

What we know is that there was a phone call that was not within normal protocol. Unfortunately the protocol is the basis of peace on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The threat of China is always there, and now it is expanding to other areas in the South China Sea.

Historically, the US Republican Party in has always been supportive of stronger ties to Taiwan. Earlier this year, the RNC adopted a Resolution Affirming Strong Support for the Republic of China (Taiwan) [pdf]. The cornerstone of this is Regan’s Six Assurances from 1982. The parts to Taiwan’s benefit are the sale of arms for defense, and the support for participation in international organizations. So it is not outside the possibility that there are pro-Taiwan opinions in the PEOTUS administration.

But no matter what the US supports, Taiwan will always be hindered by China in international organizations. Especially now that China is not happy with the Taiwanese government. Ever since 蔡英文 has taken office, Taiwan has been given a hard time. Taiwan was not allowed to be a observing member in UN committees where it was trying to gain observer status. Other countries have been sending criminals with Taiwanese nationality to China because China tells those countries to do so.

For Taiwan, a change to the status quo would be welcomed. Taiwan in 1982 is not the Taiwan of now. The people of Taiwan identify as Taiwanese, want their say in the world, and be recognized. If the incoming US PEOTUS administration has plans to change the status quo, I am sure the Taiwanese government would be willing to listen. It would need to make sure that the Chinese government is willing to listen as well.

Day to day life will go on for the citizens of Taiwan, but who knows what is around the corner? The concern is beyond one phone call, or the reaction to one phone call. The concern is protecting a democratic island nation and its people.

2016 總統就職典禮 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony

The inauguration of President of Taiwan, 蔡英文 (Tsai Ing-Wen), took place on May 20, 2016. She is the first female president of Taiwan. She is in office during a time when her party, the DPP, has the majority in the legislature, making the Taiwanese government a majority DPP government.

The inauguration celebration started with the formal proceedings inside the presidential building.

Then the story of Taiwan’s history was covered through a performance. It started with the indigenous peoples on the island, and the arrival of Europeans. The description of indigenous peoples was not very sophisticated, as the narrator described the European missionaries as people that changed the indigenous people’s backward cultures and that the indigenous people loved to sing and dance. As part of moving Taiwan forward, we should also move away from bigotry and prejudice against indigenous cultures and people. I also have never understood why the indigenous groups are lumped together and dance the same dance, when they have separate languages, cultural practices, songs, and dances. It would have been nice to see them represented fully, instead of just by different costumes.

The 1600s brought 清朝 (Qing dynasty) rule to Taiwan. The narrator even mentioned that this was when Taiwan became 殖民地 (colony) of 清朝.

As the production moved through different eras of Taiwanese history, I, like many others, wondered how the era of the Republic of China rule would be represented. The 228 Incident and the White Terror era was fully represented. The terror of the time was performed for all to see. A part of history that was previously hidden, whose secrets have not all been revealed, was on display during the inauguration.

The modern Taiwan included the new immigrants to Taiwan. There were dances from Vietnam, with Vietnamese songs. It was a true look into the future of Taiwan: the modern era, mixing history and the present.

There were three music groups that performed, and sang in different languages: Amis, Hakka, and Taiwanese. The highlight was obviously 滅火器, who sang the old new classic 向前行, and the new new classic, 島嶼天光, the anthem of the Sunflower Movement.

There was a 排灣族 (Paiwan) chant before the national anthem to bless the land. The national anthem was then mixed with the melody of chant in a way that made it sound celebratory. The national anthem has the melody of a dirge, so it was nice to hear a different take. Even though the melody was upbeat, the lyrics were unchanged, and still had the same language as the party song of the KMT.

Tsai opened her speech by saying hello in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and 排灣語 (Paiwan). Not only does this represent the population of Taiwan, but it also represents Tsai’s own ancestry as she is of Hakka, Min-Nan, and Paiwan descent. The complete text of speech is available, as is the English translation.

In her speech, Tsai touched on the major issues impacting Taiwan: stagnant economy; social safety (including the care of the growing elderly population); social justice; cross-strait issues; and diplomacy.

In regards to Taiwan’s own history, Tsai is looking to the past to make amends. The establishment of 真相與和解委員會 (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) will work to find the truths of the aftermath of the 228 Incident and the White Terror era. Also, she stated:

新政府會用道歉的態度,來面對原住民族相關議題,重建原民史觀,逐步推動自治,復育語言文化,提升生活照顧,這就是我要領導新政府推動的改變。

The new government will address issues concerning indigenous peoples with an apologetic attitude. My administration will work to rebuild an indigenous historical perspective, progressively promote indigenous autonomous governance, restore indigenous languages and cultures, and improve the livelihood of indigenous communities.

Apologizing to the indigenous peoples is something that has needed to happen for a long time now. Often we speak of the atrocities of the KMT, but we do not speak nearly enough about the way the indigenous peoples have been treated historically by Han migrants from China since the 1600s. It’s about time that we right that wrong, and give back what we have taken from the indigenous communities. After all, they are the original Taiwanese peoples.

When it comes to cross-strait relations, however, Tsai is definitely not looking towards the past.

兩岸的兩個執政黨應該要放下歷史包袱,展開良性對話,造福兩岸人民。

The two governing parties across the Strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides.

Notice in the entire speech, she never mentions 中國 (China) or 大陸 (continent; often referred to as mainland in English). She calls it 兩岸 (literally “both sides”; “both sides of the Strait” is implied). She does not mention the 92 Consensus by name, only referring to it as

1992年兩岸兩會會談的歷史事實與求同存異的共同認知

the 1992 talks between the two institutions representing each side across the Strait (SEF & ARATS), when there was joint acknowledgement of setting aside differences to seek common ground.

She states past events as historical truths, but not necessarily current truths. I like the change in nomenclature, and am looking forward to her policies in dealing with the governing party across the Strait.

At the end of the inauguration was a very historical and tear-jerking moment. The song 美麗島 (Taiwan the Formosa) was previously banned because of its connection with the independence movement. So for it to be sung at the inauguration really showed how far we have come.

It’s amazing to think, that Taiwan has now moved from being under Japanese rule, to being under KMT martial law, to being a democracy, to a majority DPP government, all within my grandparents’ lifetime. And after 20 years of direct presidential elections, a female president is elected. I also love how the color on the 總統府 (Office of the President) website is now an aqua color: a mix of blue and green. We are moving into a new era of Taiwanese politics. It is no longer just about the two major parties, but Taiwan as a whole moving forward.

This is a great time for Taiwan. I sincerely hope that Tsai can lead the way she wants to, and is able to do all she can under the circumstances. And I hope all Taiwanese will keep Tsai’s slogan in their hearts as they enter this new presidency and government:

國家偉大嗎?國家因你而偉大。

My translation:
Is the country extraordinary?
The country is extraordinary because of you.

臺灣加油!

Election 2016

I spent the end of the 2016 election coverage in tears. That wasn’t much different from the end of the 2012 election coverage. But the difference was that this time, the tears were for joy and relief. Taiwanese people have spoken through their votes and what they want is change.

民進黨 (Democratic Progressive Party; DPP) not only won the presidency through 蔡英文 (Tsai Ing-Wen), but also, for the first time, the majority of the legislature. 時代力量 (New Power Party), a brand new party, has become a major third-party in just one election cycle.

The press conference was a breath of fresh air.

The text is available at Tsai’s election website. Notice how carefully the terms 臺灣 Taiwan and 中華民國 Republic of China are used.

Although the election ended with happiness, the hours before the election started was filled with anger when a disturbing apology video from 周子瑜 (Tzuyu) was released. I do not want to describe the whole situation (it is also currently unfolding), but it is pretty well explained in the link. I only saw the beginning of the video because I could not keep watching. Her first sentences and her demeanor was really chilling. She looked absolutely terrified, and those words were just horrendous. I think for anyone, being forced to denounce one’s nationality is one of the scariest things. I think the only time I was equally disturbed on this level was seeing the violence unfold on March 24, 2014. I sincerely hope that no matter how this settles, Tzuyu is able to continue pursuing her dreams.

For now, we celebrate a little for the DPP, keep Tzuyu in our thoughts, and keep our wishes and hopes alive. The hard work has already started for 蔡英文 and the newly elected members of the legislature. 臺灣加油!