Yes, I am Taiwanese-American, but I regret to inform you that I will not take sides as to whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was correct in visiting Taiwan last week.
All of my extended family lives there, and I have many better informed relatives to answer to. Relatives who, when I proudly show off the Mandarin I polished up as a reporter in the San Gabriel Valley, pat me on the head like I’m a particularly intelligent talking dog. Relatives who take me to all the delicious restaurants who may stop if they don’t like my thoughts on cross-strait politics.
So the strongest opinion I can have on this week of debates on Taiwan is: Please don’t screw this up for me.
Taiwan is a beautiful island that I have visited almost every year since I was a child.
Politics has always been a touchy subject, and the gap is generational. All of my cousins believe in Taiwanese identity and independence, and my aunts and uncles usually vote for the Kuomintang party, which favors closer ties with China.
My last visit to Taiwan was shortly after Tsai Ing-wen was elected President. And displeasure with the results dominated the conversation during our Lunar New Year Dinner.
A debate erupted among adults as to why Tsai, acting quietly to secure Taiwan’s sovereignty, had won. A younger relative was called down to explain his voice. After a few half-hearted protests, he read the room and hastily retreated up the stairs.
My strategy in these debates is similar. I pretend not to hear anything, sit and eat my food.
So I found it strange that so many of us would interfere in the debate about Pelosi’s visit and the question of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Should I thank Pelosi’s critics who seem to have developed a deep concern for Taiwan’s sovereignty overnight?
Or should I be grateful to Pelosi (D-San Francisco) who took the trip without coordination with the Biden administration?
And I’m sure that all those participating in this debate have first become familiar with the long history of political conflicts in the Taiwan Strait.
Some commentators are already talking about the fourth cross-strait crisis. The first cross-strait crisis in the 1950s brought my family to America.
Although that’s not the story I was told growing up. Like most immigrant parents, my father told me he came to America so his children could have a better life.
But the real story is that my grandfather instructed my father to go to America and start a new life for the family to insure against the possibility of war.
Conflict seemed inevitable and my family worried that they would have to flee the war.
These are the messy bits we leave out of the simplistic narratives we use to explain immigration. The truth is, immigrants aren’t just drawn here by their admiration for America—they’re fleeing danger and instability in which the US has mostly played a role.
Covert illegal American intelligence operations have destabilized governments in Central and South America, and these actions are the ultimate cause of the immigration crisis at the border. Imperialist wars in Vietnam and Korea destroyed homes and created hundreds of thousands of refugees. Immigrants to America, whether we call them refugees or not, are fleeing existential threats.
So I’m too cynical to believe that this latest clash between superpowers is about democracy or culture.
Pelosi could win politically if she publicly supports Taiwan in this way, but the photo opportunities with the Taiwanese president could come at a high price. Signaling support is not the same as promising to come to the aid of Taiwan in the event of Chinese military action.
Xi Jinping, China’s leader, needs support to seek an unprecedented third term as Chinese Communist Party leader, and he must take a strong stance on Taiwan to achieve that.
Taiwan is the world’s top microchip producer, and its location just off the coast of China is an invaluable strategic advantage for both the US and China. That Island of 23 million people is the rope in a giant tug of war stretching across the South China Sea.
If we only look at Taiwan in terms of its political and strategic value, Taiwan’s people lose out.
In a nutshell, cross-strait crises are essentially a series of overheated discourses leading to overheated political action, with the dangerous consequences of real conflict.
Behind this gripping global drama of clashing countries and ideologies are families like mine trying to survive. Eldest sons who cannot be at their father’s deathbed. Daughters who can never take care of their aging mothers. Immigrants who are forever outsiders in their new home and can no longer recognize their home country.
So here’s what I’m asking. In a world where instant, absolute certainty has become such a marketable commodity, dare you to be uncertain.
Because with uncertainty comes willingness to learn. And this is the only way these issues can advance.
So, please, just a little excuses. Waver, ambiguous, whatever you need to do. Maybe ramble on a bit.
‘Cause I don’t know who this court rush is helping. It’s certainly not the Taiwanese people.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-16/taiwan-is-a-place Taiwan is a place in the world, and I feel very strongly about that