Taiwan is something we don’t talk about too much. In fact, that’s pretty much US policy, and one of the rare ones I agree with. It’s possible to see the question from the Chinese position, and from the Taiwanese position as well. In this video I do both. Please watch the video all the way through. It starts out forcefully arguing the Chinese position, then it forcefully argues the Taiwanese position. I happen to believe both things. Which is very confusing. It makes my head hurt a bit. I look forward to the comments section on this one. Maybe it’ll change my mind?
As confusing as Taiwan can be, it’s vital that we all learn more about it. It’s central to one of the more pressing issues of the Trump Presidency and the coming decades…
Also I love that my research for this video involved unearthing my once treasured collection of He-man figures. It provides an interesting window on manufacturing in the early to mid 1980s. I thought that they had all been “Made In Taiwan” but that wasn’t the case. The figures I had were manufactured in Mexico, Taiwan and Malaysia. Interestingly the most recent, and most complex figures, ca. 1985, were manufactured in Malaysia. Perhaps Taiwan was already moving on by that point. The later complexity may be down to the fact that Mattel had more money to dedicate to the line, after it had proved insanely popular. I also found a Thundercat figure, but Mumm-Ra will have to wait for another video.
Wow I need to get out of my mom and dad’s house. Want to help?
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hello all. Taiwan really bothers me. It’s one of those topics where I have very strong opinions that are almost completely irreconcilable. Argh! But Taiwan is very important so I should talk about it anyway: So here goes.
1. Taiwan Belongs with China.
I believe this very strongly. China owned the island of Taiwan solidly and indisputably for 200 years. And unlike a lot of similar situations, like the Germans in Poland, or the Russians in the Baltics, there wasn’t some subject nation yearning to breathe free on Taiwan. Today’s Taiwanese are 97% descended from Chinese folks from the mainland.
POLISH SILESIA GERMAN 1742-1945
ESTONIA RUSSIAN 1721-1917
LATVIA RUSSIAN 1710-1917
I also think the Chinese are right to see Taiwan’s status as a national insult. They lost control of the place to the Japanese in 1895. Japanese Imperialism was pretty horrific, and Taiwan’s status is a continued reminder.
The Chinese briefly had control of the island after the Japanese got their asses kicked in World War II. Unfortunately the government that held the island lost a civil war just four years later, and ran away to Taiwan. In doing this, Chiang Kai Shek, that government’s leader, was pulling a move that had been tried before in the 1680’s. TAIWAN: HOME FOR CIVIL WAR LOSERS The Manchu dynasty’s crushing of the remnants of the Ming dynasty was the reason they took over Taiwan in the first place. Chiang’s Kai Shek’s time in Taiwan would probably have been considerably shorter than the Ming dynasty’s, but he had something the Ming didn’t, the US Navy. Chiang Kai Shek lost, but he wasn’t a Communist, so he got to keep Taiwan. Hilariously Taiwan also got to hold China’s seat in the UN from 1949 to 1971. Even after normalizing relations with China in the 1970s, the US military industrial complex kept arming Taiwan. The country is basically a permanent “Go To War Free” card.
So honestly, when the Chinese flip out about Taiwan I get it. The Japanese stole it for 50 years, and the Americans used some bad dudes to keep it from them for another 70 years. I’d be angry too.
2. The Taiwanese People Deserve to Be Free
If Chiang and his kids were still running the place I’d have just about zero sympathy for Taiwan, but that’s just not the case. Through the second half of the 20th century, Taiwan climbed the “sweat shop” ladder to prosperity. This is one of my child-hood He-man figures from the 1980’s Made in Taiwan. They’re far beyond this now, with GDP per capita in the top 20 worldwide. Taiwan is now home to a number of world-beating companies. Since the 1990s Taiwan has also had a vibrant representative democracy going. The complexity of Taiwanese identity isn’t something I want to get into, but they’ve got their own government, and they’ve built something pretty amazing. The Taiwanese deserve to be free, just like anybody else. Taiwan’s 23 million people aren’t responsible for the history that got them to where they are.
Allowing China to take them over at this moment wouldn’t be good for anyone. Taiwan’s weird status is the main reason that Hong Kong, a rich and well governed Chinese province still has the freedoms that it does. Also, Taiwan and Hong Kong provide valuable models for what I believe to be China’s inevitable transition to a better form of government. Snuffing out Taiwan’s government at this point would be a terrible tragedy.
So what the hell do we do with that? China has a right to Taiwan, but so do the Taiwanese people. As reluctant as I am to agree with Washington, DC on anything, I think the current settlement is about as good as it can be. We protect and help Taiwan, but at the same time we’re very careful not to offend China.
It may be appealing to use Taiwan as a political football as Donald Trump did recently, but that’s tremendously unfair to both China and Taiwan. It’s also dangerous. In a world full of difficult issues Taiwan is one of the most complex. Poking at that hornet’s nest is something to avoid.
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