Taiwan is Not the Opposite of China

Okay, this week is when the omnivorous part of this blog kicks in. I decided to write about some reflections as a Taiwanese in the time of COVID-19.

Seeing how public opinions shift as Trump began attacking WHO and China’s responses on COVID-19 hints at our non-existent identity. I might be paranoid, but that has always been the case. Some people reach out their friendly arms, and suddenly, because of some political disputes, things are back where they were. Where they had always been. All of us floating in an endless ocean, whose tides change according to the piles of cash or weapons dropped on purposeful timings.

Taiwanese people have been working really hard. Not just since COVID-19 started, but for a very long time. We face the threat of false information campaign and attacks from our own people. Whenever some contagious disease spread from China, our government has to put regulation in place effectively, to protect our people and businesses, and cautiously, to avoid damaging our (already fragile) diplomatic situation.

If you are not Taiwanese or know very little about us, it can be really difficult to grasp the idea at first. One of the quickest and most common way to introduce us is saying that we are the island next to China with whom we have a rather complicated relationship with.

That is what most of us settle on. One step further or back can trigger arguments. Saying just enough to stay on the delicate line between different identities is the most common practice when it comes to our national identity.

The older generations are still sensitive about political statements and have complicated sentiments towards China, as an ancient source of our identity/culture/language/history. In English, Chinese meaning both nationality and identity further complicates things a bit.

The more I think about it, the more confusing it becomes. And, in times like now, it makes me ponders further.

Often times, Taiwan is brought up in discussions to serve as a counter-argument against China. We are the alternative: how ethnically Chinese people might become if not under an authoritarian regime. We are the friendlier one. We are the democratic one. We are the smaller one.

When people oppose China, they turn to us. It is kind of comforting, and kind of depressing as well. It is nice to be seen, but it is unlikely that our decades-long struggles can be easily comprehended. It would be wishful thinking to believe that. Although wishful thinking might not be healthy in the long term, it’s the best we’ve got. Taiwanese people have been trying to play by the rules of more powerful nations for a very long time. We turn a blind eye to certain unfair treatments if they mean we get some space to thrive in return.

Eventually, we have to turn a blind eye to our own people as well. We applause for those who achieve fame worldwide and have our hearts broken when they are censored to speak up for the land that nurtured them. Working in China for better pay or more opportunities compromises their freedom of speech. Not only do they have to refrain from supporting Taiwan, but, sometimes, they also have to voice support for the positions favoured by the PRC regime. Being raised in a free nation made seeing such behaviours hurt more.

How nice would it be if we have some solid identity to hold on to?

I realise this is probably a privilege to worry about questions like this. But, learning the discussion about identity create curiosity, and that leads to confusion, and that a mixture of depressing, sadness and loneliness.

Our identity should not be dependent upon China. We contribute to causes which global society usually holds noble and urgent. We reach out to people in need when we are in the position to. We accept compromises if they bring us closer to other countries. The struggles our people have gone through are not yet ending. Not in the near future.

While it has been heartwarming to see the acknowledgement people are willing to express, seeing how people reacting to Trump’s attack on China and WHO is ringing alarms. As our struggles go on longer, it seems to be less likely that we would be accepted for our efforts to be a responsible actor in the world, instead of an alternative for an irresponsible actor.

I might write more on the subject in the future. This has been an emotional minefield of mine for quite some time now. I have been stumbling on the delicate line of what can be said, and my balance is starting to fail me.

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An Omnivorous Writer

An Omnivorous Writer

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An Omnivorous Writer is a blog about making sense of nonsense. I observe others and myself and write about that.