Schizoid Taiwan & Dollar DiplomacyGrenada is the latest in a steady stream of tiny nations to abandon formal ties with Taiwan over the past few years. Here they call it "Dollar Diplomacy". If Taiwan shells out more $$$ in aid, these generally 3rd World countries will agree to recognize Taiwan's bid to enter the UN as independent; however, if China outbids this aid and offers more $$$, then like Grenada, they switch formal recognition away from Taiwan and toward China. It is a zero-sum game since the UN decided that only one place can stand up and be counted as the Real China.
China's post WWII civil war split the Chinese into two zones under two opposed governments, and the world had to decide which of these two to officially recognize since both insisted that they represented "China" legally. At 1st, it was the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan that was officially recognized by the UN. But a funny thing happened since then, as now the People's Republic of China (PRC) on mainland China is instead recognized. This leaves Taiwan itself out in some non-place of limbo, some oddly indefinite undefined pre-national, proto-national, post-national, hole in official space. This leads to very interesting revelations about the ideological illusions of nationalism in general, and about the kind of mental problems that result.
Since the mid-70s after Kissinger & Nixon went pro-China in order to contain the Soviet Union, that official place of the Real China suddenly switched from Taiwan's "Republic of China" over to Mao's China, "People's Republic of China." This makes mainland China the real nation, de jure in legalese. Taiwan thus lost its seat in the UN. It also lost a little window of opportunity then to reapply for recognition as independent "Taiwan" rather than as the "R.O.C.". However the ruling party then under Chiang Kai-shek, the KMT, absolutely forbid anyone to move in that direction. The ruling idea was to "take back the Mainland" and leave Taiwan as a province -- a ridiculous fantasy in the '70s. So. . . all of those many people in Taiwan who wanted an independent democracy, nowadays polled as the majority of Taiwanese people (don't buy the propaganda otherwise), were silenced -- and silenced in the old Machiavellian ways: assassination, prison, exile, intimidation, propaganda, bribery. Some of the current politicos in Taiwan, viz., James Soong and Lien Chan, were active bureaucrats of that Machiavellian period in the '70s, a kind of gentler version of the earlier "White Terror" period conducted by the KMT.
Fast forward 30 years to today. The current Vice President of Taiwan, Annette Lu, was back then in the '70s imprisoned under harsh conditions for years because of her activism against the KMT and for independence. She was last year slightly wounded by a bullet fragment in an assassination attempt that is still unsolved, although the would-be assassin is obviously someone who hates the idea of Taiwanese independence.
Now, in general the macro-conflict of international recognition leads to a schizoid public discourse, where Taiwan is a nation de facto but isn't a nation de jure. It has its own elected government, foreign affairs, military, constitution, media, economic structure, currency, recognized borders, passports, military aid from the US, etc. Yet it isn't recognized as a legal entity officially. Unofficially, most countries do have "economic" embassies here, as long as they don't officially call themselves embassies. For instance, the US "embassy" is called the AIT: American Institute in Taiwan. It too is a de facto embassy, but not de jure so as not to piss off the Mainland too much. (It still chaps their hide.)
The schizoid effect is revealed in a new documentary film of college students talking to the camera about this very issue: not only is there no agreement among this generation about their national identity or the various positions one could take, the key moments are when they shrug and laugh, realizing that they're utterly confused. This small film was made on a very low budget and is titled, 《薛西佛斯之福爾摩莎》Sisyphus: Formosa.
It shows the identity issues raised by such a macro-situation of post-pre-proto nationalism off the official map.
So, if you too are a bit confused by the news reports about Taiwan, don't feel bad. You're not alone. Most Taiwanese college students will shrug and laugh about the endless paradoxes of this schizoid discourse.