Decennial inspection tour of renegade province

Like an SMS from the dentist saying it is six months since your last check-up, my once-a-decade, few-days visit to Taiwan is suddenly due. I tried to say “can’t we just skip it this one time – after all, the place will still be there in 2021?” but no go.

Taiwan is a strange place under a banal veneer. Originally inhabited by the same sort of jungle-dwellers that peopled the Philippines, Chinese from Fujian began settling centuries (or millennia, according to taste) ago. The Japanese ran it from the late 19th Century to 1945. China’s Republican KMT government fled to the island with US aid and other purloined loot and Mandarin-speaking retinues after they lost the civil war in 1949. The corporatist police state that followed was, to many ‘native’ (Fujianese-speaking) Taiwanese, worse than the Japanese.

As the rightful rulers of the Republic of China, the KMT focused largely on re-taking the mainland, even after the PRC displaced them from the UN and won recognition as the sole government of China from the US. The country turned into a bustling centre of small and medium enterprises churning out components for Japanese electronics firms, but had no official sovereign status in most of the world’s eyes. In the late 1980s, dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s son Ching-kuo, realizing that dislodging the Communist bandits might have to wait, allowed democratic elections and started replacing crumbling Japanese-era buildings with some up-to-date architecture and infrastructure.

Today, the place is a different planet, with a vibrant (as in fetching female legislators beating each other up in parliament) political culture and free press, a less-corrupt-than-before legal system, a resurgent ‘native’ pro-independence movement, and a largely happy, prosperous Japanese-tinged society of pre-Communist, non-anglicized Chinese who are into offbeat Buddhist sects, urine-drinking, Hello Kitty hospitals, a gloriously crass and vulgar local edition of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, charming toilet restaurants and much more. According to Beijing, they are an inseparable part of the Chinese nation yearning to be united with the glorious motherland. This idea prompted barely stifled, slightly enigmatic titters of amusement last time I was there. Let’s see how it is going down now.

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19 Responses to Decennial inspection tour of renegade province

  1. Honey Chile says:

    Guess you has to get your totty somewhere honey.

  2. gunlaw says:

    Taiwanese native DNA is the same as some Filipino native DNA and all Maori DNA.

  3. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Honey Chile – your posts are creepy to me, reading like they are typed by a grotesquely fat 50 or 60 year old overweight guy in nothing but his underwear* thinking that he’s being humourous by aping racial cliches that were dated even in the 1960s.

    * I think NotSCMP used to have a photo of this sort of geriatric porn.

  4. Flipper Flaps says:

    HoneyChile = Phyllis Stein = some unfunny English asshole

  5. stanley gibbons says:

    HoneyChile = Phyllis Stein = some unfunny English asshole = George Adams

  6. Maugrim says:

    Taiwan is filthily humid in summer, has worse air pollution than HK, and can at times, descend into some sort of eerie darkness at 5 pm. It has eathquakes and landslides and is constantly buffeted by typhoons. All it needs next is attacks by Godzilla to make it even less habitable.

  7. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Yes, but it does have scantily clad ladies selling betel nutes in glass booths by the side of the road. Surely that counts for something?

  8. Judith Chalmers says:

    For those who have never ventured to Taiwan, don’t take too seriously some of the negative comments that have been posted. Granted the western side is pretty built up, but the eastern coast is truly stunning – up there with the California’s Coastal Highway. This means no Americans (hurrah!) and not being treated like shite as you enter the country. Furthermore, you can fly there in little over an hour, and the trip wont cost too much. My advice is to fly to Kaohsiung and immediately head south to Kenting. Do Kaohsiung on the way out.

    Have a happy holiday!

    ps link below might prove useful.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Flights-g297908-Kaohsiung-Cheap_Discount_Airfares.html

  9. Stephen says:

    Two reasons to love it

    It often gets the black hair dye brigade into an awful tizzy (is that now why its increasingly refered to it as Chinese Taipei?);

    The lovely late Teresa Teng;

  10. Sir Crispin says:

    Worse humidity than HK in summer? The observatory website consistently shows around 95-98% here, so I can’t see how it could be worse unless they get higher temperatures there.

  11. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Unlike the Mainland, in Taiwan you also get the pleasure of hearing women speaking Mandarin without sounding like shrill harpies.

  12. Honey Chile says:

    Honey, I ain’t fat if you ain’t borin. And stop writin comments in yous own blog. Folks what don’t agree with ya gets ya down. That’s the blues, baby. Live with it.

  13. Peter in Hong Kong says:

    God, why do we have a redneck posting comments here?

  14. anonymous 1 says:

    I’m lost here: can’t understand this “conversation”. WHO is the redneck here??

  15. Taa Daah says:

    As someone with more than the touch of the tar brush, I find Honey Chile a bit creepy too.

    Generally unless its executed well, best to stay away from weak parodies.

    Here’s a good example of it done reet.

    http://twitter.com/cherylkerl

  16. Earl Hickey says:

    I’m a redneck

  17. Vile Traveller says:

    Pretty quiet on the Western Front.

  18. Maugrim says:

    Hemmers must have been eaten by Godzilla, Gamera or the KMT.

  19. anonymous 1 says:

    I rather LIKE the sound of honey-chile…

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