Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the road

This entry is being composed from back home, in Canada, on my first visit there since I relocated to Taiwan two years ago. Having traveled from Vancouver, and thence to Toronto, Montreal and now Quebec City, what strikes me most is, of course, the vastness, the space. And to be honest, the air quality in Quebec City is worlds apart from that in Taipei.

Another thing that hit me was how security at Canadian airports has tightened, especially in Vancouver. To give but one example, as passengers from my China Airlines flight awaited our luggage, customs officers would walk round us like vultures and question anyone who looked different (which means anyone with tattoos, long hair or a beard). If this is the treatment reseved Taiwanese and East Indians when they come to Canada, I cannot imagine what it must be like when the plane is from the Middle East.

Another shocker, which found its way into the editoral that I published today, was the ignorance of the customs officer who processed my entry into Canada. According to this misinformed individual, Canada is, hum, liberal enough to have solved the Taiwan issue by making it coterminous with China. And no amount of explanation would persuade him to change his views. So, upon being asked how long I had been in China, I replied: three days, in Hong Kong, in May last year. Obviously, this sense of humor did not go down too well with the official, but to my surprise I was nevertheless spared the expected search through my luggage. (Metal detectors and checks on electronic devices, even on domestic flights, were also much more thorough than what one is subjected to in Asia.)

All that being said, this response by the first-line officer - and therefore first person of contact for visitors to Canada - got me thinking about how Taiwan needs to change its approach to how it advertises itself to the rest of the world. In my editorial, I suggest that the prevailing top-down approach, with Taipei seeking recognition at the UN and other world bodies, is turning logic on its head, and that it stands a better chance of gaining the emotional response it needs by connecting from the bottom up, with individuals, who can then pressure their governments to give Taiwan the space it deserves on the international stage. I also call on expatriates living in Taiwan to lend a hand - or their voices, that is - in that endeavor, by becoming emissaries for Taiwan whenever they visit home.


Ben Findlay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It's funny that someone who wants expats in Taiwan to "lend their voices" censors those same voices.

MikeinTaipei said...


The reason I removed the comment had nothing to do with censorship but rather with the fact that said comment constituted an inividious attack on my person rather than a constructive disagreement (especially the second one that the writer sent me, which never appeared on this site).

Trust me, the last thing I would do is censor and I am all for debate.

Ben Findlay said...

A bit like the invidious attacks you throw at customs officers trying to do their jobs.