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Monday, August 25, 2003

The China Fringe

Two China-related blogs (China-related since neither of them is in fact located inside mainland China) are the Hong Kong based Gweilodiaries and Taiwan Blogger A Better Tommorrow (this latter name comes from the title of a John Woo film). Both are preoccupied right now about the lifestyle consequences of China's re-unification ambitions. Conrad the Gweilo ( apart from sharing my new found interest in posting photos) is non too happy with what he sees as attempts by Zou Zhekai, deputy director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, to gag him and other representatives of the Hong Kong 'media community' in terms of their right to opinion over the future of Taiwan. Zou, it seems, bases himself on a very special interpretation of the notion of 'loyalty' under the currently reigning 'Basic Law'

Zou's statement is stunning in that, to Beijing, 'one country, two systems' appears to mean: (1) reunification with Taiwan, under CCP rule, and (2) that Hong Kongers are required to support Beijing's interpretation. Perhaps Mr. Zou would care to point out where either of those principles appear in the Basic Law. To the extent this humble little blog constitutes part of the Hong Kong media, may I just say Mr Zou, if that's your definition of 'one country, two systems', I most assuredly do not support it. Indeed, I oppose it, support a free and independent Taiwan and independence for Tibet and Uighar as well. I suppose this makes me "not good." Fortunately, absent Beijing's cherished Article 23 legislation, you lack the means to punish me for my insubordination. Is anyone still haboring doubts about the intended use of the proposed subversion and succession laws?

Evidently Conrad is in danger of being accused by the Chinese authorities of being 'fair and balanced'. Better Tommorrow is also preoccupied about the future of Taiwan, and more than a little fascinated by the ROC vice president Anette Lu:

As much as I like someone who speaks their mind, especially when it's unpopular, Lu is either ridiculously naive, frustratingly disingenous, or just outright insane with some of her statements about Taiwanese independence. I would much prefer it if, instead of fire and brimstone, she used sarcasm and irony. Oh man, I'd have a field day if I were vice-president of Taiwan. I'd call press conferences and use finger quotation marks while talking about all the wonderful benefits of reuniting with the motherland.

So BT shares my feeling for irony and sarcasm! But apart from their mutual concern about 'big mother' ambitions, there are also 'little daughter' ones to worry about, and I can't help feeling that both Conrad and Better Tomorrow seem to be unduly interested in the strange phenomenon of Betel Nut Girls. Maybe my problem is age, or maybe it's cultural perspective. This notwithstanding BT makes some interesting comparisons about life in Taiwan and life on the mainland, although my end of the day feeling may be that this tells you as much about being young and having grown up in the 'good-ol' US of A as it does about close cultural detail Taiwan-style.

The main difference between Taipei and the other large cities in the mainland that I've been to is that Taipei just feels so much more organic. For instance, I walked around Ximen for a bit, which is a fancy shopping area with crazy hot girls all over the place and J-pop blaring out of every store. Then I headed south and hit this hardcore Taiwanese nieghborhood with all of these Buddhist temples and Christian churches and night market stalls getting set up and old people walking around, shooting the shit in Taiwanese. You can find lots of bright, shiny areas like Ximen in the mainland (Xinjiekou in Nanjing, Xin Tiandi in Shanghai, Wangfujing in Beijing). But they feel so empty and sterile, like the city government ordered their construction not because there was any demand for luxury shopping (that mall in Beijing at the intersection of Wangfujing and Chang'an jie is probably the worst offender: one empty luxury qipao store after another) as if just by building the stores that they'd become a Tokyo or Milan. The fuwuyuan to customer ratio at these places can be depressingly high. The layout of Taipei, while not the most orderly, feels like it sprung up organically to serve the needs of the residents, as opposed to many mainland cities, which feel like the planners are doing everything in their power to force modernity in and destroy anything of historical value..............

I finally had my first pearl milk tea in Taiwan. It really was off the hizzle, my nizzle. It was smooth and sweet and actually tasted like milk tea. The tapioca balls also were sweet and had a really nice consistency. How could I spend a year in Nanjing, drink dirty dishwater filled with flavorless rubber balls, and claim that I knew anything about zhenzhu naicha? For shame. While I'm in Taiwan, not a day will go by where I go without a cup of sweet, sweet pearl milk tea.

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