Monday, May 05, 2014

Blast from the past: A new book in the former native speaker's library

Joseph W. Ballantine, Formosa: A Problem for United States Foreign Policy. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1952.

From the inside dust jacket:
The purpose of this book is to acquaint the general reader with the position of the United States with respect to Formosa and with the facts and considerations pertinent to forming judgments on ways and means for dealing with the problem presented.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part I. Background, presenting the physical setting and a sketch of Formosa's prewar history.

Part II. Developments since World War II, dealing with (a) events in Formosa itself and on the Chinese mainland, giving rise to the problem of Formosa in relation to China, (b) the course of United States policy with regard to Formosa specifically and to the Far East generally, and (c) international developments as they affect the island.

Part III. The Present and Future, containing an analysis of the present situation and of the unresolved questions that can now be foreseen.

The author, formerly Director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs in the Department of State, has firsthand knowledge of Formosa going back to 1912 when he was in charge of the American Consulate there. In the course of a long career in the Foreign Service he kept closely in touch with Formosan matters, especially during his period of service in the Department of State. His approach to his subject is therefore that of a practical diplomatist.
Looks interesting. (But I think it's making me sneeze...)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

FB on FB?

One of the projects that I've been working on for the past couple of years has been related to George H. Kerr's writings about Taiwan in the aftermath of the February 28, 1947 Incident (aka 228). If you don't know Kerr, he wrote a book entitled Formosa Betrayed that was published, for a variety of reasons, almost 20 years after the events of 228. I've dug up some information about why that was the case, but I've also been curious about the effects of his earlier activities related to 228--activities like the articles he wrote that were published in Far Eastern Survey in the late 1940s (including an article entitled "Formosa: The March Massacres"), the letters to the editor he wrote to local and national newspapers, the speeches about Taiwan that he gave to various organizations, etc. Besides the Far Eastern Survey articles, in the pre-Internet era those kinds of rhetorical activities (particularly the speeches) seem to have been quite ephemeral, if not in substance at least in effect. (In fact, the publisher of the Far Eastern Survey, the Institute of Pacific Relations, had its reputation smeared during the McCarthy era for an alleged pro-Communist slant.) The only ways I have found out anything about these activities have been through archival searches and reading through his letters. 

So in the past couple of weeks, ever since the student-led occupation of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan began--and especially after the events of March 24--I've had in the back of my mind this question about what the 228 Incident would have been like if George Kerr had had access to social media. In a sense the question is problematic because if Kerr had had access to social media, it's quite probable that the Taiwanese (or the "Formosans," as he liked to call them) would also have had access, and they wouldn't necessarily have needed him to speak for them to the American people. One of things we've seen (those of us who have been watching from abroad, that is) from this Sunflower Movement is that the students and their allies have made extensive use of the Internet and social media to try to make their ideas known to a wider audience. Just yesterday students were answering questions on Reddit in English, for instance. In the early days of the occupation of the Legislative Yuan (LY), a young woman was broadcasting nonstop in English for hours on end on an online video feed. CNN's iReport has also seen its share of video news about the occupation of the LY. Facebook and Twitter have also been used to spread information about the protests. Much of this online material has been produced by the Taiwanese themselves.

But, as Eric Mader Lin wrote recently in the Daily Kos, this story hasn't had much traction with the mainstream US media, and this fact has made me wonder if livestreaming 228 or Formosa Betrayed-esque updates on Facebook would've had much different results than what originally happened without the Internet. Perhaps it would have prevented many of the deaths, which itself would have been no small feat. But in my less optimistic moments, like right now, I feel that perhaps Taiwan is just fated to live--or exist--in the shadow of China (whether that China is the PRC or the once-and-future kingdom of the Chiang dynasty).

I see that The Diplomat also has an editorial on this; while it notes that the Sunflower Movement and its allies managed to organize protests in 21 countries, it concludes on a less optimistic note:
Despite their efforts, foreign media outlets have been slow to pick up the story. Headlines from the New York Times and BBC’s Asia coverage focused instead on the recent anti-PX plant protests in Guangdong. Continuing coverage of the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the situation in Crimea has seemingly prevented media attention from focusing on the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan.
I'd add, even less optimistically, that even topics like Kate Winslet's wrinkles and the final episode of How I Met Your Mother have had better success with US audiences than the Sunflower Movement.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Governor-General Chen Yi's statement in response to the 228 Incident

This was a public statement that Governor-General Chen Yi (陳儀) made as the killings were going on after March 8, 1947:
Brethren of Taiwan --

Yesterday I declared temporary martial law again. Now with the utmost sincerity, I want to tell our good and virtuous brethren who constitute the vast majority of the population of the island, that my declaration of martial law is entirely for your protection. You must not listen to the rumors of wicked people. You must not be suspicious or afraid. There shall not be the slightest harm to our law-abiding brethren. You must feel at ease.

I have declared martial law again solely for the purpose of coping with the very small number of the desperate and rebellious. As long as they are not annihilated there will be no peace for our virtuous brethren.

Since the occurrence of the February 28 Incident, I have broadcast three times. Regarding the Incident, I have had the Monopoly Officer who caused the manslaughter tried by the court, the families of the dead have been indemnified, and the wounded compensated and taken care of, and those who have taken part in the beatings [of mainland Chinese monopoly employees] are exempted from prosecution.

As to political reforms, I have promised that the Government General may be reformed to absorb as many as possible of the people of the Province, that mayors and magistrates may be elected by the people, and that other political reforms may be discussed and decided upon later, according to law. Thus, what is expected and requested by the majority of the people, as far as it is within the boundary of law, has nearly been accepted. Anyway, I believe that from now on order will be completely restored without further trouble.

However, since martial law was lifted on March 1, plundering of property, seizure of arms, and storming of government organizations and godowns has continued to occur in Taipei, and statements against the State were publicly announced. In other places looting, seizing of arms and arresting of government employees, and besieging of government institutions has also occurred. Please reflect whether such deeds are proper and legal. I believe that every one of you, my good brethren, will realize that such actions are far from legal, and are in fact rebellious.

Brethren, since the occurrence of the February 28 Incident, what you have wanted to settle is the question of manslaughter by the Monopoly personnel, and the question of political reform.

But a small minority of ruffians and rebellious gangsters have taken advantage of the situation to invent rumors, sow the seeds of dissension, tell lies, and make threats in order to attain the aims of their plot. All good citizens have suffered a terrible life during the past ten days.

Brethren, such suffering has entirely been created by these ruffians and gangsters. In order to relieve you from this suffering, the Government cannot but declare martial law so as to obliterate these gangsters who are harmful to you. This point I hope you will thoroughly understand.


The transference of national troops to Taiwan is entirely for the protection of the people of the province and for the eradication of rioters and rebels and no other purpose. There is an exceedingly small number of rebellious people in this province; most of the people are exceptionally good and virtuous, and they have provided various means of looking after those from other provinces who have been beaten. Such manifestations of brotherhood I have deeply appreciated.

To these good people of Taiwan I express my sincere gratitude. I further hope they will rally their courage and display their sense of righteousness, and love one another in order to build a new Taiwan.

From "The March Massacre," Formosa Betrayed, George Kerr. Kerr adds, 
The Governor's soothing words were printed up in pamphlet form and scattered by plane over the cities and towns of the island. This statement set the general framework in which both the local and national governments developed later public explanations of the February 28 Incident and its aftermath. "A few wicked gangsters had terrorized the island in the first week of March and had rebelled against the Chinese Government; Chinese Nationalist troops had come in to protect the righteous people, and were now soothing and protecting all honest and upright Formosans."

The roadways, the river banks and the harbor shores were strewn with bodies at that moment, and the Nationalist troops were spreading out through the countryside, to bring "peace and protection" a la Kuomintang.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Speak power to truth"

As I'm writing this, students in Taiwan are occupying the Legislative Yuan, the parliament in Taiwan, to protest the ruling party's attempt to run through a service trade agreement with China that many fear would harm Taiwan's economy. I have been keeping up with the events through Facebook, reading posts by various people I know and don't know who write or show pictures of the events of the protests, and I feel connected to these events and proud of the students who have stood up for their futures in a way that makes me proud to say that I used to live there. 


I started this blog 10 years ago today (well, actually yesterday) with posts about the 2004 Taiwan presidential election and the protests that took place after that. Now Taiwan is at another turning point in its history, and I hope that this is a time when more people in the world listen to the voices of the people rather than those of the people in power who don't have the interests of the people at heart. A former classmate of mine from Syracuse, Seth Kahn, mentioned to me tonight that rhetoric scholar Lee Artz wrote in a book about activist rhetorics that Seth co-edited that our job is not to "speak truth to power" because the powerful know the truth; the problem is that they don't care. The task facing us, he wrote, is to "speak power to truth." As Artz writes, "Rather than communicating with those in power who benefit from the already known truth of inequality, humanity could be better served by conversations for change among those who would benefit from creating new truths, new powers." This is what I hope is happening in Taiwan, and if it is happening and continues happening, I have hope for Taiwan.