Wednesday, March 28, 2012

As loaded as a Chinese AK-47

An article by the state-owned CNA blames Taiwan’s open society for ‘xenophobia’ and ‘ignorance’ toward Chinese students

It’s easy to lose track of the number of occasions in the media where one encounters language that seeks to create a moral equivalence in the Taiwan Strait. The conflict, as anyone who bothers to learn the facts will quickly realize, is not symmetrical and does not involve two belligerents. Only one side, China, threatens the other, Taiwan, through economic or political absorption — or, in the extreme, war.

Still, even in the supposedly apolitical realms of, say, education and culture, one often comes upon language that not only politicizes the matter, but also portrays Taiwan as the aggressor or unjust, irresponsible party.

Our exhibit today is an article by the government-owned Central News Agency (CNA) published on Saturday — and later carried in this newspaper (“Policy on China students needs change: experts,” March 26, page 3) that discusses the prevailing divisions among Taiwanese on how to treat Chinese students, who were last year for the first time allowed to enroll full-time in local schools.

Following a series of uncontroversial and self-evident remarks about the need to make the Taiwanese education system more global and competitive, the article turns to Yu Zelin (余澤霖), a Chinese student at the Chinese Culture University, who voices a number of complaints about the system.

After bemoaning the fact that students like him were afraid to see a doctor when they got sick or did not dare get sick, as they could end up paying expensive medical bills because of their exclusion from the national health insurance plan, Yu then complains that Chinese students’ hard work at school is not rewarded, as they are not allowed to receive scholarships from the Taiwanese government.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

1 comment:

Michael Fagan said...

From the article's opening line (emphasis mine):

"More than six months have passed since Taiwan first opened full-time admissions to students from China, but local society has been divided on whether restrictions on them should be eased..."

Since the geographical context here is all of Taiwan and not merely Taipei, the choice of "local", if it is not an error, can only be meant to carry the implicit charge that Taiwanese people are merely a regional variant of a broader Chinese nationality in order to impel the obvious political implications.

However...

"Following a series of uncontroversial and self-evident remarks about the need to make the Taiwanese education system more global and competitive..."

Since no one else will, I'll take the honours for disputing even these "uncontroversial and self-evident remarks"...

First: there should not be an education "system", anymore than there should be "systems" for bananas or expensive necklaces and that is because - just like bananas and expensive necklaces - "education" should be the result of a process of voluntarily exchanged goods and services and what it should not be is the spent rounds from other people's - the Left's - epistemic pogroms (e.g. that there is no scientific uncertainty about climate change).

More generally, since the "threat" is not one of mere identity games ("Tag - you're Chinese now!"), but of real political violence brought on by hyper-Statism, I would suggest that a way forward lies not with retreating behind the theatrical sand-bags of identity politics (however fortified with "democracy"), but in blowing up the enemy's ammo store: in this instance that would mean defunding and rationally de-wiring the entire education "system" and allowing a free market to begin to take its place.

I seem to have borrowed your AK-47 metaphor. I've a good mind to use it on whomever it was that "disappeared" my little boy today.