BBC series on Taiwan and China relations

The BBC has a series in “The Documentary” series called “Embracing The Dragon” that explores Taiwan and China relations. The series is divided into two episodes. The article “Taiwan fish farmers make most of China trade deal” appeared around the same time the first episode aired and includes some of the topics covered in that episode. The interview conducted in “Taiwan’s president ‘China is a risk and an opportunity'” was also released around the time of the first episode, but I think the interview was done independent of the series. I think the issues explored in the series are very important and thought provoking.

Episode one includes a historical introduction about the relationship between China and Taiwan. The current situation is described through the economic standpoint: tourism and trade. There are interviews with people who work in tourism and politicians involved in China-Taiwan relations. A significant difference between the two countries is that due to difference in history, Taiwan was influenced by the West and has adapted Western democracy. This is the direct opposite of China’s experience, where the West brings a sense of shame. It is interesting that the Chinese tourists in Taiwan feel that Taiwan is part of China because of common ancestors and roots. However, ancient history and modern history are different. The only way to explain why Taiwan wants independence from China is to look at recent history. However, the difference between China and Taiwan begins to break down when economics is brought into play. Even though there is a political difference, Taiwan, like most other countries, is now dependent on China economically.

Episode two explores the question of whether Taiwan can survive on its own. Again, there are interviews with politicians and sociologists. The cultural difference between Taiwan and China is the existence of freedom of speech in Taiwan. Due to history, Taiwan also has a better relationship with the United States and Japan compared to China’s relationship with the two countries. There are different thoughts about the final outcome of the situation: some think that unification is inevitable, with China as the government; some would prefer unification with the Taiwanese government as the head. In opinion polls, if Taiwan and China were under similar conditions, 60% of respondents would not want to reunify with China. There are those who believe that Taiwan is significantly different from China and that Taiwan will be able to stand up on its own.

From a language point of view, I’m very happy with the number of interviews in which the Taiwanese interviewee responded in English. The people who responded in English tended to be the politicians and academics, and the students and young people. Since the politicians and academics are of an older generation, they are most likely people who studied abroad at some point in their life. As for the younger generation, English is a required topic in schools from the elementary years, so these are students and professionals who have learned English for most of their lives. I just wish other countries could treat learning a second language (not necessarily English) with that much importance.


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