In previous parts of this journal, I’ve mentioned Shelley Rigger’s book, Why Taiwan Matters. (Incidentally, here are the previous parts: I, II, III, and IV.) In the photo section, she shows a little doll, or figurine, that Chen Shui-bian’s campaign used during presidential runs. The caption says that Chen was catering to “Taiwanese consumers’ taste for the ‘cute and tiny.’”
All over Taipei, I see cute, tiny things: symbols and logos and such. I say to one Taiwanese woman, “Have you noticed these things?” No, she hasn’t: They are possibly too common, like water or air. But some other Taiwanese say, “Oh, yes: The cute and tiny are part and parcel of our visual culture.”
Would you like to see an image of Chen, posing with his doll (a big version of it)? They are on the cover of Time magazine, no less: here. (Ex-president Chen is now in jail, for corruption.)
One young Taiwanese woman says, “I think these cute-and-tiny things come from Japan — from Japanese culture. We were once colonized by them, as you know. The Japanese are even crazier about the cute and tiny than we are!”
In Liberty Square, I see a young man with a T-shirt: “Respect All, Fear None.” Hmmm: Works as a generality, I suppose.
In Part IV of this journal, I was talking about, and quoting, Chen-Shen Yen, the political scientist. Let’s have some more of that conversation.
He says that Chinese students — students from the PRC — very much enjoy being in Taiwan. For one thing, they can go to any website they want. And once you’ve done that — it’s hard to go back to restrictions.
Chinese tourists see something extraordinary in front of Taipei 101, the great skyscraper in this capital, says Yen: Falun Gong practitioners, protesting their persecution by the Beijing regime.
I have a feeling — and it’s just a feeling — that the PRC’s persecution of Falun Gong is hurting the Communists, internationally. Or maybe I just hope so.
Obviously, a small percentage of people care about Falun Gong practitioners and the hell they face: kidnapping, torture, murder (in the Chinese gulag, laogai). Most people want to get along with China and make money. (“Don’t provoke the dragon.”) But some people care — just as some cared about Sakharov, Sharansky, and a million unknown zeks.
Of course, having Solzhenitsyn’s pen helped quite a bit. We could use some more of that, out of China.
I say to Yen, “Is it true that the PRC has 1,400 rockets aimed at Taiwan?” He says it could be 1,200, some other number. But it doesn’t matter. “You can overwhelm me with 500, you can overwhelm me with fewer. It doesn’t add to my fear to increase the number.”
In a column earlier this month, I spoke of a Falun Gong practitioner named Wang Xiaodong. Forty state-security officers stormed his apartment, to arrest him, steal his money, cart him off, etc. I wrote, “Don’t you think 39 would have been enough? Even 38?”
I ask Yen the big, horrible, not-quite-answerable question: “If China moves on Taiwan, will the United States lift a finger to defend Taiwan?” Yen says it depends: Was the attack provoked or unprovoked?
Well, what does “provoked” mean? Mainly, that Taiwan has gone ahead and declared independence.
Most people in Taiwan favor the status quo. This is an understandable preference: You get everything you want, as Yen says — a free and peaceful life. And if you don’t have a seat at the U.N., there are certainly worse fates.
Okay: What if the Chinese attack is “unprovoked”? Yen speculates — and it is merely speculation — that the U.S. would try to check the Chinese militarily, in some way. And while this checking was going on, the U.S. would try to work out a diplomatic solution. The checking would be an attempt to buy time.
Who knows? (And let’s not find out.)
Yen gives us an interesting piece of intel: The more sophisticated Chinese say, “You need to remain outside China for a while, to push China for democratic reform. If you are part of China, like Hong Kong, there is no incentive for the Chinese leadership to democratize.”