China · Taiwan

What’s good about those HK-Taiwan cartoons

A while ago, I posted about a Taiwan cartoonist working in Hong Kong who’s gotten famous for his cartoons comparing Hong Kong to Taiwan. I thought the cartoons were interesting and humorous then, but it was only recently that I realized what was great about them. It’s basically because by comparing and making fun of both Taiwan and Hong Kong customs and behaviors, it’s something that you’d rarely see in East Asia.

I’ve had a thought for some time now that Chinese, and Asians don’t have a habit of banter when it comes to talking about different nations, peoples, and cultures. At least not like how Westerners do, like how English, French, Americans, Canadians, etc can joke about each other’s countries in a playful and friendly manner (minus the odd hooligan or other sport-infused fights). It just seems that Japanese and Koreans and Chinese and Malaysians won’t do the same thing. It’s the same way with pop culture like movies, TV shows or standup comedy – Asians don’t make openly make fun of others the way Westerners do.

Another thing that’s even more notable about these HK-Taiwan cartoons are that the guy makes fun of his own homeland- Taiwan. He pokes fun at HK of course but in several of his cartoons, Taiwan comes out the worse, such as with the ones comparing thugs or police in both places. It’s very rare in Asian culture IMO to make fun of one’s own country or people, especially at the expense of others. It’s not that I haven’t heard Taiwan friends making fun of certain aspects of society such as stingy Taiwan companies or online jokes from the mainland comparing their country to developed nations, but in terms of pop culture again, and personal behavior, it doesn’t seem common.

Don’t get me wrong though – it’s not that Asians, especially Chinese, are super-polite and don’t make fun of other countries and people. They definitely do. It’s that it’s not often done in a playful or comradely manner, but in an arrogant or malicious way. In that sense, it’s not even making fun as it is insulting and being haughty. Whether it be Asia’s biggest rivalry- China-Japan, or close contender Japan-South Korea or Thailand-Vietnam, wannabe spats like Taiwan-S. Korea or even intra-Chinese Taiwan/HK -mainland China, Asians aren’t shy about being resentful or demeaning other countries and peoples. I think a major factori is that Asians have a lot of insecurity, fueled by past wars and tensions, as well as a reserved mindset and attitude that makes it impossible to be lighthearted about neighboring nations.
There’s another thought I’ve had recently which is that despite its long histories, Asian nations don’t have the same sort of connections and relations with each other that European countries and the US do.

I’ve often criticized Taiwan and its society and people, but in this case, I have to say I’m filled with admiration by what this Taiwanese guy did. It’d be great if more Asians, especially Chinese, could share his open attitude.

At the least, could you imagine how juicy possible cartoons comparing Beijing and Shanghai, or Taiwan and mainland China, or China and Japan could be?


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