Is Wanting to Become Chinese after Spending A Lifetime in Taiwan A Rational Thought?

Is Wanting to Become Chinese after Spending A Lifetime in Taiwan A Rational Thought?
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像
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Recently, the Chinese Communist Party, established 65 years ago, abundantly celebrated the victory against Japan 70 years ago. Phoenix channel launched the “Pro-unification Youth in Taiwan” program, and this series of articles allegedly attracted much attention among Chinese netizens. The newest article, “Interview with Pro-unification Youth member Zhang Wei-shan: How I moved from emotional “Taiwanese Independence” to rational unification,” mainly points out that unification is logical and morally right, and that disapproving unification is immoral and ignorant. The comments of Chinese netizens are obviously one-sided appraisals of this youth’s talents. One of these talents is China captain Bing Zhong who just shook hands with Xi Jinping.

Regardless of this Pro-unification Youth member, Zhang Wei-shan’s, sense of logic (How is unification connected to morals? After reading three Chinese history books you can suddenly become pro-unification?), this article mainly covers two matters: 1. What is the deeper meaning of rationality? 2. Is it rational that a Taiwanese person wants to become Chinese (or member of the party that quickly wants to be united with the Chinese Communist Party)?

What is rationality?

What most people know as “rational or irrational” has to do with behavior being reasonable, sensible or polite; like how we believe it is not okay and not rational to hit people. Just like presidential candidates ending their speeches by saying that the only rational thing to do is to vote for them, or when we argue with people and say, ”Hey, don’t be so irrational!”

In Chinese media, programs on the “Pro-unification Youth in Taiwan” also use this definition of rationality. However, they also add layers of morals and knowledge.

In science, the concept rationality conveys is the assumption of “rational choice”: when people are confronted with a choice, they will look at “all possible options” and, according to their own “preference,” choose the option that is in their eyes most “effective” and beneficial.

The opposite concept is certainly not “irrational,” but it is “non-rational,” because there is no logical connection between a person’s behavior and his or her goal. An example is the so-called die-hard voting teams that will vote for one political party no matter what, such as the extremely devoted group of people that voted for Ma Ying-jeou in 2012. Their behavior is in fact very rational, because they believe that behaving like this is the most effective way to reach their goal. Only if we can explain this closed-eye voting behavior by an exceptional spirit or a momentary surge of enthusiasm, or if there has been no deeper thought or reason behind it can it be referred as “non-rational” or “non-rationality that can be explained.”

As mentioned before, as long as you can reflect on and organize your options, you are being rational. Just because you want to be a true and proud Chinese person, does not mean you can say that people who see themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese are irrational. Vice versa, just because we believe it was a long time ago that we were politically Chinese, does not mean we can say that people who want to return to the People’s Republic of China are irrational.

After spending a lifetime in Taiwan, is it rational to want to become Chinese?

In short, is being Chinese in line with the best interests of Taiwanese people or not?

Recently, a big group of Taiwanese people who feel they are Chinese went to see the parade in China. It seemed like all of them were treated as guests. They even had the honor of shaking hands with Xi Jin-ping. They looked at the People’s Liberation Army and its arms that China mainly uses to deal with Taiwan, and admired a regime that on various levels suppresses Taiwanese existence. Relatively speaking, there were quite a lot of artists that hadn’t posted on Weibo that they were watching the parade. These people were immediately accused of not being patriotic by Chinese netizens. Even artists, whose nationalities were not Chinese, but Taiwanese, Malaysian or Singaporean, were not spared. For example, Christine Fan (Fan Wei-chi) posted a picture of her son online and got comments asking why she wasn’t at the parade. In the end, she had to come out and apologize for this. (Apologize for what? Simply unbelievable.)

But this is nothing new. Liberty Times reports, Shu Qi, the leading actress of the movie, “The Assassin,” directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, went to the Cannes film festival, and when she was labelled as a Chinese actress, she went to the organization to make clear she was Taiwanese. Whether this is true or not (Shu’s managing company denies this, for the passing of events click here), Chinese netizens immediately scolded her offensively and a lot of obscene language was put online. The latest example is that of Lin Yi-chen, who was a prize-winner at the “Seoul International Film Festival” where she stayed for 11 days. She said she was a Taiwanese artist and Chinese netizens and media again went all out on this.

The strange thing is, a while ago (after the Li Qing-rong Apache incident) artists kept on saying that netizens were bullying artists and complained, “Taiwan is just too free.” How come there are no artists standing up for those that are repeatedly being bullied by Chinese netizens now?

The New Party Youth Army at the Zhongshan Memorial Hall commemorate July 7, singing loudly to commemorate the liberation of Taiwan from Japan. Photo Credit: Wang Bing-zhong

Somebody else who went to the parade, a member of the Pro-unification Youth, responded by saying that Taiwanese netizens also scold supporters of unification (e.g. Leader Bing Zhong mentioned this to Chinese media and said that talking about unification in Taiwan is always demonized), and then pointed out the example of Jody Chiang (Jiang Hui) being criticized. (She said, “Taiwan is too free.” Another recent example is the script of basketball wizard Yan). I agree with the view that, “Netizens have a very similar nature. They will all use offensive language to scold people.” However, when it comes to the freedom of speech in both countries, their nature is not so similar.

From the example of Shu Qi and Lin Yi-chen being scolded, we can see that a Taiwanese person saying he or she is Taiwanese will be scolded by Chinese netizens. A counter example would be Taiwanese people reprimanding a Chinese artist who says he or she is Chinese. However, such an example does not exist. The principle is simple; Chinese people don’t want to give Taiwanese people the freedom to be Taiwanese. So, if you claim you are Taiwanese in an international setting, you will inevitably be scolded by Chinese netizens. From the reactions after the parade, it became clear that netizens don’t even allow celebrities the freedom to “not say you love China, or not say you went to see the parade.”

These examples show that there is a huge difference between the courage it takes and the price you pay to say you are Taiwanese or Chinese. Chinese people saying they are Chinese will not offend Taiwanese people; Taiwanese people saying they are Taiwanese, however, will offend millions of Chinese people (I do believe there are also very rational people, but the total number of Chinese people is just too high). According to the example of Christine Fan (Fan Wei-qi) posting a picture of her son, it now seems that “Not saying you love China” might already be offensive to millions of Chinese people.

So, Taiwanese artists (and many others with high reputation) are often swarming out at Taiwanese netizens and telling them not to bully artists. Many others also tell citizens not to criticize the government or famous people for making mistakes or saying the wrong things. The group of people their comments are directed at are always Taiwanese people. But when Chinese netizens are actually “bullying” Taiwanese artists, do these artists who lecture netizens on how to behave dare to stand up against this and talk on behalf of Taiwanese people? Or do well-known businessmen like Terry Gou (Guo Tai-ming) who often criticize Taiwan dare to publicly criticize the Chinese government? Do they dare to take a shot and publicly say that if the government doesn’t do things a certain way they will walk out?

Most people aren’t brave enough. Why let money make things difficult? That is completely irrational.
Do you need courage to advocate for unification?
Apart from the media describing unification as morally right, people of the New Party advocating for unification have always been praised as “very courageous,” because they have the courage to advocate for unification in Taiwan.

People of the New Party have already visited Xi Jin-ping in the past and vigorously praise the idea of one country and two systems. In this parade, many people who have never advocated for counterattacking China or unification gloriously stepped forward. They are now calling upon “the children of China” to create prosperity of the Chinese people as true and proud Chinese citizens.

I wonder what courage do you actually need to advocate unification (or being unified)? The idea of being unified is supported by 1.3 billion people. With a few interviews with the Chinese media they can receive the appraisal and support of hundreds of millions of people. Advocate for independence or maintain the status quo? Even Taiwanese people will not necessarily be able to stick it out.

To think further, suppose we are really unified in the future, who would take the first hit? Who would be well off? Is it the mob that is fighting against and criticizing the government all day? Or those who advocate they want to be true and proud Chinese people? If you look at it that way, the most “rational” option for the Taiwanese people is to advocate for unification and being Chinese.

Many of my friends and I are pessimistic about the content of this assumption. Especially when you look at Xi Jinping’s unyielding attitude in combination with the countless times he announces to solve political problems before 2020. On the long term, time could be on the side of Taiwan. For at a time when more and more Chinese do all they can to move overseas, and after all the children of wealthy businessmen are sent abroad, when more and more Chinese people travel to Taiwan and access slightly different information, and start to think about solutions other than demanding unification, the situation will become different. However, the Communist government might not wait that long.

Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

Photo Credit: Reuters

Taiwan is just too free?

Let’s go back to the example of Taiwanese and Chinese people. In Taiwan, you can state that you are Taiwanese (There is a group of people who want to be Chinese that will start scolding), or that you are Chinese (according to academic research, about 3% of all the people in Taiwan have this view), or that you are American (people doing this are almost all part of the illegal Taiwan Civil Government). You can be whatever you want to be, but there will also always be people scolding you. But this is all part of freedom of speech.

In China, however, you can only advocate being Chinese. If you don’t, it won’t end well for you. There are often people who say that Taiwan is just “too free,” but will supporting a regime that doesn’t allow people to be free make people happier?

That is the biggest difference between the current political systems in China and Taiwan. It is because Taiwan is “too free” that it is possible to advocate all sorts of nationalities or scold famous people or the government (interpretation nr. 509 of the Judicial Yuan; high judge Wu Geng claims that statements and actions against the management of the government affairs and public figures, even using the most harsh words in criticizing, all ought to receive protection from the constitution).

If there are people that envy the authoritarian political system in China, they should actually consider moving there. Join the communist party and be true and proud Chinese citizens, cheering for the Peoples Liberation Army together. If not, going to Singapore is not such a bad idea either. Taiwan is really too democratic, too free, no place to be obedient, no place for people who don’t like basic human rights being protected, and certainly no place for people who think that “authoritarian rule is necessary in order to develop” (Bing Zhong knows how to convey this idea in his latest interview:”KMT rule contributes to Taiwanese democracy”)

Afterword

Lastly, we still have to discuss the interview of the Pro-unification Taiwanese Youth. The title of this interview by the Chinese media can actually be called polite, since it says Taiwanese independence is “emotional” rather than “irrational.” In the text, however, it is regarded that way. (Moreover, a professor at National Taiwanese University once said, “Taiwanese independence is nothing more than one of those sex tapes with a provocative title but with no content.”) But Taiwanese independence can’t simply be labelled as emotional or rational (and it’s definitely not as if reading three history books can make you change your standpoint). There are hundreds ways of independence as well as unification. Whichever system we support, they are all rational, as long as we can think about and analyze our options.

Most Taiwanese people don’t support unification, or rather the current Chinese government. The most important aspect is that they want to maintain their democratic and free lives. Under the long-term suppression of the Communist Party, Taiwanese people at almost all international settings are not able to use their own names. (Whether it’s Republic of China or Taiwan. Even at all international sports events held in Taiwan, people will be forbidden by their own country to bring their flags.) Moreover, China is still an authoritarian country. Taiwan, on the other hand, is the country that, after enduring the longest martial rule in the world, finally achieved today’s democracy.

To advocate being unified by China is “rational” and “beneficial,” because the “Great Party” of the future might bring great wealth. (Yet it might also break up your family without warning.) But is rejecting being unified really irrational then?

To give an example, when on March 24, 2014 people near the Executive Yuan were bloodily suppressed, I was in the US. I closed my laptop and walked home from the school cafeteria, crying. The next day I listened to “Good Evening Taiwan” while driving and suddenly started to cry and couldn’t stop. I could only park my car at the side of the road and wait for myself to calm down. My mind flashed back to the girl still in her mother’s womb, “What to do if she grows up and can’t live in country that is democratic, free and protects human rights?”

Opposing communistic rule and safeguarding a free democracy, is that rational or emotional?

Translated by Lenneke Stegeman
Edited by Olivia Yang