“Everyone here is Taiwanese”

Shanghai Skyline

“Everyone here is Taiwanese,” remarked an English fellow whose been living in Taiwan for seven years.  We were at a dinner party and I was, as usual, surrounded by Taiwanese folks.  He was saying that no matter if you’re family is from an indigenous tribe, part of one of the earlier waves of Fujian people 200 or 300 years ago, or came with KMT in 1949, everyone thinks of themselves as Taiwanese.

With a raised eyebrow, I assured him he was wrong.

Politics in Taiwan rests close to the surface Taiwanese society.  You can hear it in the snarky comments that Taiwanese reserve for Chinese tourists; how Taiwan and Taiwanese are the lone group that outwardly admires and imitates the Japanese; the fact that any conversation with a taxi driver always returns to a critique of the previous administration.

A good litmus test for how divided people remain on China is a simple question, “Have you ever been to China?”  Taiwanese will go to Japan, Korea, England, the US, France and Germany multiple times before the thought even crosses their mind to go to China.  Close to 80 percent of Taiwanese (that I’ve spoken to) have never been and most respond with, “Why would I want to go there? What’s there to see?”

Blows me away.

What’s there to see?  I usually respond with another session of “biting my tongue.”  In 2002, I traveled to London and I became an adherent of separating the politics of the government from the people.  At the time, the US was bombing Iraq and I found myself in the strange position of defending George W. Bush’s policies.  After all, only Americans should be criticizing other Americans =).

Seriously, if the Taiwanese can ignore the politics, then there’s a bunch of amazing stuff to see.

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