China · Taiwan

Two things happened this week that exemplify my increasingly mixed attitude toward this complex little island called Taiwan.

I finally had the nerve to submit a piece to Chinasmack’s Diaspora section earlier this month and it was published yesterday.  The main part was about my background which I’ve never even felt comfortable enough to describe it here, but I also highlighted a criticism towards the attitude of some people here. It might be controversial but it’s what I truly feel. After years of living in Taiwan, I feel more strongly than ever about China and its people, and about what I find is the hollowness of the superiority complex that many locals hold against China which contrasts with their valuing of their Chinese heritage (not to mention their economic dependence).

Then, earlier this week, I had another taste of how maturity and common sense sometimes seems to be in short supply among some people. It was just a casual incident, but it seems little things can make some people get so out of sorts. What happened is I was walking out of my office building for lunch when I paused and partially bent down to adjust one of my pant’s legs so that it would cover my shoe more fully. Two female colleagues (I didn’t know them but they were wearing my company’s IDs) were passing by and immediately one of them said, “he’s so weird (他很奇怪).” I got up, shook my head, and walked off, pondering how adults could be so fantastically childish. This wasn’t the first such experience I’ve had and it sometimes feels like this is a society full of gossipy, spineless and weak-minded adults. There are many Westerners and overseas Chinese-Taiwanese who gush over how great Taiwan is and how lovely its people are, but I am not one of them and I feel that this is something that should be talked about more.

There was a time when I was sympathetic to Taiwan and their anti-China feelings, and even to the DPP. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a supporter of the DPP or the pro-independence leanings of some of their supporters, but I sympathized with the notion that Taiwan should be wary about China and try to maintain some distance. I actually defended Taiwan in exchanges with family and acquaintances, in person and over Facebook. I’ll probably describe them in detail more in a later post but for now, let’s just say those sentiments aren’t and won’t ever be uttered by me again. There are still things to like about Taiwan and the people, quite a few things actually, but it’s hard not to view here in a much less favorable light than before.

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4 thoughts on “

  1. I thought your piece on ChinaSmack was good, but criticizing Taiwanese people for looking down on Chinese and then calling them “gossipy, spineless and weak-minded” comes off as hypocritical. You seem to be condemning a whole culture, which you may not fully understand. You find it annoying to be called weird by your coworkers, but perhaps you did something that offended them. But it’s one thing to dislike a culture- it’s unfortunately common, in fact- and wholly another to criticize others for it while doing the same thing yourself.

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    1. JB, thanks for your comment.
      My opinions are based on direct personal experience through living in Taiwan for over 3 years, from things I’ve seen, heard and experienced,
      as well as from the news and from what people say. My criticisms may be a bit strong and I’ve edited it slightly, but yes, it sometimes feels like a
      lot of people here are indeed that. I also have good things to say about Taiwan and its people but I’ve held back on a lot of negative things I’ve noticed over the years
      and I don’t do that anymore. The majority of Taiwan people have never been to China, much less met or interacted with mainlanders, and yet, a lot of them like
      to hold arrogant or unrealistic views towards mainlanders.
      Also, while looking down on other people is not uncommon, it’s another thing to claim the history and culture of the very people you look down on. If you read my article again,
      you’ll see that’s where my main beef is.
      Yet my intention is not to be spiteful, ultimately people need to really think about their attitudes and views towards the mainland. My ultimate feeling is that more understanding and
      more openmindedness can help people here have a more balanced attitude towards their own identity and the mainland rather than be full of fear or arrogance.
      With regards to my colleagues, I never knew kneeling down to fix the hem of my pants (whilst not being in their way at all) was offensive in any way. Perhaps that aspect of Taiwan culture I don’t fully understand.

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  2. I spent 11 months in GuangZhou and returned to America with the impression that the Taiwanese males are very arrogant and the Taiwanese women are very spoiled. I also sensed some native Hong Kong people had an attitude of superiority toward Americans and Mainlanders, as do the Taiwanese. Of course, many Hong Kong residents are from Guang Dong Province. The most arrogant of all are the rich educated Malaysian Chinese.
    The easiest in the PRC to get along with are teachers, schoolboys and the children of professors.
    What I am saying is, I liked the mainland Chinese the most, as most Americans do, although being jostled at first and not queing up in the markets and at the post office took some getting used to. I found ways around all that before I left.
    There is a reason Mainlanders lost the knowledge of the traditions of old China – Mao wanted to destroy tradition. People on the mainland, for a time were taught nothing about religion or about their history. Chinese culture of course still remains.
    I was taught Judo and Ju-jitsu from two US national champions when I was 11 and when I was 21; and hate arrogance of any kind. I am sensitive toward how people are treated by others. Considering the fact that the population of Taiwan is less than 1% native Taiwanese the Chinese on Taiwan are just short of invaders, and the generals who fled to Taiwan were gangsters. Only the Chinese living on Taiwan before World War II really knew a great deal about the full form tetragraphs of written Chinese, which is a study in itself, the modern forms being simplified.
    The Taiwanese can read Japanese as well which is nothing to be too proud of.

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    1. I’m not surprised about your observations, Cyrus, except for the Malaysian Chinese since I don’t know many of them. I think that in some ways, mainland Chinese can be really down to earth and good to know. It’s too bad that a lot of people fixate on things like pushing in lines and other kinds of unsavory behavior, which admittedly is not uncommon, when judging Chinese instead of really getting to know them as people. Thanks for the comment.

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