Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taiwan's flag in Regent Street, and another rare sighting

Almost as newsworthy as the appearance and sudden disappearance of the Taiwanese (actually ROC) flag in Regent Street, is an article about it, supportive of democracy in Taiwan, by a British parliamentarian. I literally don't recall the last time a British parliamentarian wrote something supportive of modern Taiwan. So kudos to Richard Faulkner ('Baron Faulkner of Worcester' in our ludicrous system) for this:

The treatment of Taiwan and its 23 million people by the international community is a disgrace. It is a democratic country where governments change through the ballot box and where human rights are respected. It is also an immensely important trading partner for the UK: they send 83,000 tourists and 16,000 students here.

Hardly anyone comes out of the Regent Street flag debacle with credit. Certainly not the Chinese embassy, whose hostility to Taiwan’s identity is implacable, nor the Foreign Office, which should not have intervened, nor the Regent Street Association which should not have given in.

(I thought I might have found a bit of a political hero, until I saw his New Labourish voting record (pro-ID cards, against independent inquests etc) on They Work for You. Oh well. Taiwan has to take what friends it can get, and he's a lot better than, say, Ishihara Shintaro, or some of Taiwan's supporters in the US.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's Time

Chinese dissident on trial after using Skype to send poem.
It's time, Chinese people!
The square belongs to everyone
The feet are yours
It's time to use your feet and take to the square to make a choice.

Zhu Yufu
Those in power everywhere hate democracy and popular protest.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chomsky on US/China relations

It's just an aside, really, in his article, 'Who owns the world?' at TomDispatch, but it is so very right, and beautifully sarcastic.
There is also much concern about the growing Chinese military threat. A recent Pentagon study warned that China's military budget is approaching "one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," a fraction of the U.S. military budget, of course. China's expansion of military forces might "deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off its coast," the New York Times added.

Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that the U.S. should eliminate military forces that deny the Caribbean to Chinese warships. China's lack of understanding of rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China's coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing.

In contrast, the West understands that such U.S. operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security. The liberal New Republic expresses its concern that "China sent ten warships through international waters just off the Japanese island of Okinawa." That is indeed a provocation -- unlike the fact, unmentioned, that Washington has converted the island into a major military base in defiance of vehement protests by the people of Okinawa. That is not a provocation, on the standard principle that we own the world.

Addendum: Also on today's reading list, Lewis Shiner's Black and White, in which I find this:
“Who owns the world?” Robert’s father asked suddenly.

Robert looked at him in confusion.“I don’t know what you’re asking. The rich and powerful, I suppose?”

Robert’s father nodded.“I suppose. I would like to think that we all own it, in common.
– from p. 140 of the pdf version.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New tense discovered by The China Post!

Drum roll... the singular tense!

In an editorial (criticising an open letter by eminent academics commenting on dirty tricks ahead of next year's presidential elections in Taiwan) they write:
that primary was described [in the letter] as “the primaries for next year's presidential elections,” which they should have written as presidential election, in the singular tense.

I'm a linguist and used to confusions between tense and aspect, but this is new to me.

What's even better (delicious schadenfreude...) they made the mistake in a failed attempt to score petty grammar points over political opponents*. As far as I can see, 'presidential elections' is absolutely fine: certainly there are plenty of examples of its use online by native speakers, e.g. here.

For the (shabby) political background to the editorial, see here and here and here (reverse chronological order).

There's incompetence, and then there's the kind of incompetence required to:

a) think ad hominem comments on grammar bolster a political argument
b) pick on a perfectly correct use of English and call it a mistake
c) not think twice about b) given the letter is signed by a who's who of Taiwanologists -- professors, emeritus professors etc -- at least one of whom surely would have noticed an error, you might think
d) invent the singular tense
and, I suppose,
e) rush it all into print

* Actually not opponents, but concerned academic friends of Taiwan, at least some of whom are supporters, like the China Post, of the current 'Nationalist' government in Taiwan. But the China Post takes a narrow --one might say Leninist -- view: criticise anything done by the Nationalist party and you're an enemy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sorrow and fury

There’s always one public figure, in every disaster, who makes an idiot of himself (and mocks the memory of the dead and the efforts of rescuers and survivors) by claiming it’s divine intervention. And in Japan, somehow it's always this one.

Obvious question for this moron: If the tsunami was a blow aimed by God at egoism and populism in Japanese politics how come you’re still here?

Follow-up: How’s your prediction about looting by foreigners going?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What if it is a girl?

I’m on strike today, and I’m making the most of it by reading Japan Focus. I don’t think I’ve ever done a royal story here, but it’s always good to try something new, so here’s a link to Sean Curtin’s article on the issue of female succession to the Japanese throne, “Japan's Imperial Succession Debate and Women's Rights”.

Just when Japan’s Imperial House was on the verge of an historic reform that would have marked an enormous step towards making it a more gender equal institution, the legislation permitting an Empress to reign was suddenly shelved. The immediate cause of the abrupt turnaround was the surprise announcement that 39-year-old Princess Kiko, the Emperor’s daughter-in-law, was pregnant. The announcement led Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro to promptly abandon his reform plans, handing victory to ultra-conservatives who bitterly opposed the proposals.


Read the complete article

Kiko Princess Kiko.

Princess Kiko is the wife of the current emperor’s second son, Prince Fumihito. If her baby is a boy he would be the first male in his generation, and would be third in line to the throne after the Crown Prince (his uncle) and his dad. (Are you following this? Royal watchers must love genealogy...)

But if the new baby is a girl, then the current government, who are right-wing pragmatists, will have to rejoin battle with the right-wing ideologues in their own party. I am praying for the patter of tiny pink-booted feet...

Naruhito, Masako and Aiko

Naruhito, Masako and Aiko

A disclaimer: obviously the abolition of the Japanese monarchy is really the best outcome -- for ordinary Japanese people, and I imagine, the members of the royal family themselves. (Just as Johann Hari argued that the British royals would be much better off abolished.) In particular, Princess Masako, the wife of the Crown Prince, has apparently been suffering serious depression, partly due to the idiotic pressure on her to produce a male heir. Good luck to her and her family.

Aiko, the future empress of Japan, perhaps.

The future empress of Japan?

I don’t expect to be returning to the subject of royalty here soon, but I have just emembered that there are some heirs to the Korean throne kicking around somewhere...

And I discover that the son of the last Korean crown prince, Yi Ku, died last year (Korea Times article, Royal Archive article) in Japan, where he had been educated and spent much of his life in exile.

Yi Ku and Julia Mullock, his wife

Yi Ku and Julia Mullock, his wife

All very political. And of course the Japanese and Korean royal families may be very distant relatives, as the Japanese emperor pointed out a while ago.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

News; mothballs

Regular readers - if there are any - will have been disappointed at the lack of updates and annoyed by the proliferation of spam comments. I have tightened things up so that spurious comments are harder to post and I'll gradually remove the ones that are already here.

As for new posts, I can't promise. I'm trying to get my PhD thesis written, so updates will be infrequent at best. If you use rss, please subscribe to my rss or atom feed so you will see when I do manage a new post without having to check back at the website.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Taiwan, China and maps

Time magazine recently printed a map with Taiwan and China in the same colour, prompting protest from the Taiwanese government, according to an article from The Age, collected on Asia Media. National Geographical has done the same in the past and printed a correction.

It's not so long since maps in Taiwan showed Taiwan, China and Mongolia as one country, with a capital city at Nanjing and Beijing still labelled Peping, I think.

Eric Hobsbawm on US hegemony

There's only one part which mentions East Asia, in the first paragraph:

Three continuities link the global US of the cold war era with the attempt to assert world supremacy since 2001. The first is its position of international domination, outside the sphere of influence of communist regimes during the cold war, globally since the collapse of the USSR. This hegemony no longer rests on the sheer size of the US economy. Large though this is, it has declined since 1945 and its relative decline continues. It is no longer the giant of global manufacturing. The centre of the industrialised world is rapidly shifting to the eastern half of Asia. Unlike older imperialist countries, and unlike most other developed industrial countries, the US has ceased to be a net exporter of capital, or indeed the largest player in the international game of buying up or establishing firms in other countries, and the financial strength of the state rests on the continued willingness of others, mostly Asians, to maintain an otherwise intolerable fiscal deficit.


Read the complete article on ZNet (originally in The Guardian)

I agree with this, and with pretty much everything in the rest of the article, although I would go for a less certain tone on the current and future workings of the global economy (but then, I'm not a Marxist).

There's a biographical article on Hobsbawm, also at the Guardian, from 2002.

he still believes that asking Marxist questions is the way to understand the world - to tackle the big questions, to fit things together into a pattern , "even if it may not be the right pattern". He adds: "I used to believe you could predict the direction in which history goes. But contingency is clearly more important than we used to allow."