Oct 8, 2008

Alive and kicking

... I am. Currently investing more creative energy into my jobs at the university (preparing a tutorial on scientific research methods), being elected member of my faculty's student union, and this.
Things are going really great for our Sinology student's paper "Dianmo" 點墨, better than we could have hoped for. A lot of people offered their willingness to contribute articles, among them very interesting insights into the life of a German doctor working with the minority peoples in Yunnan, articles on Aids-orphaned kids in China and jokes in a cultural context, interviews with German expert and romancier Tilman Spengler, recipes and Chinese underground music bands.
There is much to expect yet, for we almost cannot squeeze all the articles offered to us in one issue. But that allows for duration into the foreseeable future, making our completely self-organized paper not the matter of one day only - hopefully.
Dianmo was founded 19 March, 2008, and has soon to see its 3rd issues (end of October). The name is derived from the saying 胸無點墨, literally to not have a drop of ink in one's chest, that is, to be totally uneducated (and thus uncultivated).
In my opinion, our best asset is pursuing things in a very inclusionist way. Everyone who wants to is welcome to contribute. The paper is thus more and more becoming a German-wide matter, with people from Köln, Berlin, Weimar... participating. To guarantee stability within this "open source"-approach, all threads connect at the center which is the permanent editorial staff, all students of Sinology at the University of Leipzig. While the idea is to be traced back to the original initiative of my good friend Frank Andreß, credits for the incredibly professional layout go to Thomas Baier (info here).
Comments and ideas are dearly welcomed any time!
We encourage everyone to help us make this a better paper!

Oct 7, 2008

Why "neutrality" is no option

Foreign English teachers seemingly do have special rights attached to their position just by nature of their position, but please don't let just everyone who looks foreign have a say in public newspapers...
I am referring to David Pendery's piece in October 5th's Taipei Times, and editorial entitled "Neutrality is Taiwan's best option", the main argument being that a "neutral, non-violent stance" make it more probable for Taiwan to not be threatened by the PRC, the interior logic being that the PRC must feel offended by today's aggressive Taiwan and would thus welcome the generosity of a peace treaty offered by mighty evil ROC. A second part of the argument points out that international pressure on the PRC would be much too high to make military aggression against Taiwan a veritable option.
This just turns the actual situation upside down.
Looming behind this discussion is the possibility of war. With the discussion now largely at loggerheads, I believe that alternative solutions should be considered. Enter the neutrality and non-violence sanctioned here.

Admittedly these suggestions are problematic. Along with a constitutional amendment based on Japan’s — which states that the people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes” — Taiwanese disarmament would have to take place. Though a dramatic move, this is by no means out of the question, having already been adopted by a select group of other peaceful, progressive nations. Of course, harsh international realities and threats cannot be ignored, and the maintenance of a viable national police or self-defense force would be necessary. This may acceptably be combined with a peaceful national posture.

In the short term, threats from China would probably not disappear, but in time we might well find that the nation would find its more aggressive tendencies limited. Were China to threaten a nation that had renounced war, for example, it would probably be subject to a storm of criticism and pressure from other nations. As well, other nations could likely support Taiwan politically and militarily, and pressure China to soften its stance if a neutral, non-violent stance were adopted. These developments could require China to pragmatically re-think it’s current positions vis-a-vis Taiwan.

Some will label this stance a capitulation, appeasement. In answer we say that the same was said of great non-violent peacemakers like Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. And as for those who want to dismiss these leaders with notions of hard-nosed realism and pragmatism ... good luck.

Now guess what will actually happen in case this policy were adopted... Since cross-Strait relations in the eyes of the PRC are not state-to-state relations, a disarming Taiwan could only prove in their mind that the island people have finally come to their mind and left all this secession-poison and terrorism against the integrity of the sole Chinese state behind them. Taiwan would be swallowed up by its "rightful" owner, since no arms would be there to defend the arriving army any longer. Of course no one would ask any Taiwanese for their say on it, since all Taiwanese clearly are ethnic Chinese and there can only be one empire under heaven to represent them. The "just-as-distant possibility of unification with China" would just not be that distant any more...
So what about the International Community? In my eyes, it is pretty clear to see what stance it had on the matter for over 30 years. Since most nations (well, it might as well be all of them) have officially adopted the "One China"-principle, there would be no legal obligation to object on a transfer of the island to the mainland - since even the Taiwanese have made clear that that was what they wanted (by allowing to disarm). Economy rules out morals. Right now, and for the future to come, every nations-with-a-say interest in the Chinese market will outrule its moral support for a fellow democracy like Taiwans by far. Do you want this to be the end of the line?
Just to be sure: I despise militarism, and I would welcome worldwide disarmament right away, but not at the cost of rationally giving up on my rights and my freedom.
Comparing Taiwanese disarmament to Gandhi and Martin Luther King just doesn't work at all. They employed an utterly non-violent and peaceful approach as the only reasonably tool at hand, for they acted from a position out of nothing. There was nothing to lose by Non-violence, so to speak. This is clearly not the case for Taiwan, which already has an established democratic political system and grants its citizens a lot of freedom. Since Taiwans arms clearly are not aggressive military weapons, there is also no point in evolving politics in an even less "violent" way. From as far as I know, Taiwan already has a "peaceful nation posture" and contains only "self-defence forces" (honestly, what use would there be in attacking anyone from Taiwan?). Taiwan simply has too much to lose to take an "idealist" position just to gamble and see what the outcome may be.