Saturday, October 20, 2012

Taiwan’s great cognitive divide

Taiwanese cross a street in Taipei
Two contesting extremes in Taiwan politics are making it impossible for a universal view to emerge, and Taiwan suffers as a result 

The elderly man approached the podium immediately after I finished delivering my talk. “Not bad, but you’re not one of us, so you can’t truly understand our problem, or how evil the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] really is,” he said. 

For the previous half hour, I had been addressing a crowd of 200 Taiwanese-Americans in Dallas, Texas, encouraging them to seek out allies in the pan-blue camp rather than regard it as an unchangeable, monolithic and invariably inimical entity. Well, so much for that. 

I’d been warned, before delivering my talk, to expect this from some people, and frankly, I didn’t need the reminder, as this has happened on a number of occasions since I began writing about Taiwanese politics six years ago. Somehow, for reasons that are presumably cultural or genetic, Westerners are unable, we are told, to understand not only the “Asian mind,” but Asian history as well. No matter how deeply one plunges into Asia’s past, culture, language or contemporary events, and no matter how long one has lived there, it is impossible to get to the core; as if only Asiatic minds are capable of deciphering the mysteries of their race. How very, pardon the term, Chinese

Not to be bested, there are some expatriates in Taiwan, or people based elsewhere who follow Taiwanese political developments, who also engage in similar bigotry. 

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

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