Taiwan reflections

With the recent passing of the 20th year commemoration of the Tiananmen tragedy, there’s been a lot of articles, especially those that lament the relative (enforced) apathy by much of China’s youth and young people. Thanks to an official ban on that incident being taught in schools or covered in the media or in books, many youngsters don’t really know or are even aware of Tiananmen. Of course this is disappointing, that a movement in which many believed in and even gave their lives for, in calling for the government to reform and become more open, could be just forgotten and have all mention and traces swept up and banned within their country.

What’s also disappointing to me, is the sense of apathy and frivolity I sense among some Taiwanese, especially the young. Whether it was visiting the 2-28 memorial museum a few years ago with 2 Taiwanese guys who kept laughing and joking the whole time, seeing so many locals carrying little dogs in their purses and hands, not to mention reading of the dog owners who, unable or unwilling to shoulder the responsibility of ownership, abandon their dogs on the streets, I often wonder. Is this the true modern, vibrant and advanced Chinese society that I originally thought Taiwan was? It is modern and it is vibrant, no question, but is it truly advanced? Maybe it’s unfair to blame the young when their leaders and representatives, supposedly older, more mature and wiser, can’t even behave like adults. Whether it’s the former President Chen Shui-bian carrying on with his absurd antics in jail and in court, or legislators jumping up on tables or fighting over microphones, it seems troubling that these people cannot act like reasonable, thinking adults.

It may seem unfair to be so critical of Taiwan, especially in trying to portray the people with such broad characterizations. After all, there is some level of innovative and entrepreneurial spirit here, many people are courteous and efficient, and the national health system, the transportation and the very open media climate are excellent.

Yet there are troubling factors that are present. The weak English proficiency, the over-proliferation of universities, many of which offer relatively useless degrees, troubling surges in social problems, the matter of Chen Shui-bian’s alleged corruption and so on. China’s defeat of Taiwan in baseball on the international stage, not once but twice, showed something I believe is an apt metaphor of their relationship. Sure Taiwan for now is wealthier, more cultured and modern. China will exceed and dominate Taiwan, not because of its huge size and military advantages, but because of the drive, determination and efforts of its people, many of whom work with a passion and frenzy unknown to many in Taiwan.