Thursday, June 16, 2005

Taiwanese Intelligentsia

This week I had random encounters with two Taiwanese members of the intelligentsia. Sociologically speaking, these two individuals could be from the same social layer, although as individuals they are strikingly different. They remain anonymous here for obvious reasons:

1. An author of 5 books on the current technologies and strategies of China's military, the P.L.A. He's concerned about the safety of Taiwan under threat of attack from China's army, which he has studied in overwhelming detail for 20 years as an independent scholar, publishing books that are massively documented. This week he will lobby a legislator as a specialist on weapons purchases. He's against purchasing a controversial weapons package from the U.S. since it is far too expensive and ultimately ineffective. He advises alternative weapons packages.
I asked him if he believes that China would ever actually attack or invade Taiwan. "Yes!" he replied immediately. The Taiwanese are mistakenly complacent in their faith that China will bark but not bite. As soon as China obtains the technical and tactical capacity to successfully invade Taiwan while doing the minimum damage to civilians and the infrastructure, they most certainly will do so, according to this man. Moreover, neither America nor Japan are technically able to protect Taiwan in time during such an invasion, which will have been over before their ships set sail. Meanwhile, the best protection is a specific kind of arms race that will effectively keep China at bay. My impression is that this man is humble, rational, and driven by his genuine discoveries of factors that have international significance. He works as a primary school teacher.

2. Second, an academic professor of literature, with a PhD from an American university, now teaching at the best university in Taiwan. He's ready to quit and do something else because the students are "too rebellious". He opines that the Chinese (as a "race"?) are unable to manage a democracy, because they lack individual responsibility. This latter characteristic is what made American democracy stronger, stemming from the Puritans' sense of individual responsibility, he says.
In contrast, Taiwan is in political chaos and under the domination of an unfairly elected president. He believes that the assassination attempt was a conspiracy wherein President Chen Shui-bian arranged to have himself shot at and wounded in a moving vehicle in order to gain sympathy votes on the eve of the election. The "people" are unable to resist this tyranny. The conspiracy was never investigated. Such a thing could never happen in America. [all of these statements are factually incorrect]
I opine that American democracy has always been messy, and that Bush was elected under very dubious and suspicious circumstances which have never been adequately investigated by the legal system. [In the 2000 election which Gore won by the popular vote, the recount in Florida was cancelled by Bush's camp. In Taiwan, there was a real recount of the paper ballots, independently verified.] I tell him that in America now, Puritan theocracy is back in a big struggle against democracy. "Well, that would be a long discussion" he smugly replies right before ending the discussion. [The Puritans were never democratic in their entire history, much less today.] It is no surprise that this individual's students are rebellious, since they are under his ridiculous authority.


At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like all other aspects of Taiwan life, intellectual thought is broken along lines of ethnicity. At its essence, this is an issue of trust; Can Chen and the DPP be trusted not to deliberately harm Taiwanese of mainland descent? So when Professor #2 makes ridiculous claims about the assassination attempt, it is wrong to interpret this as one of those stupid things that intelligent people say. He simply does not assume that anything associated with the DPP can be trusted - including the mountain of evidence compiled from the police and KMT officials present at the assassination.


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