Bill Stimson: Dreams of Taiwan

The following is a guest post from my friend Bill Stimson, one of this blog’s most frequent contributors back in the old days. Bill runs a dream workshop in Taiwan that is absolutely wonderful, which you can read about at As stated in the comments folowing the post, Richard does not necessarily agree with the content, but definitely respects Bill’s opinion on this very tricky issue.


“A Voice For Taiwan?”

by William R. Stimson

Invited to Helsinki, Finland to present my work with the dreams of university students in Taiwan, I took the ferry yesterday over to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to spend a day wandering around one of the best-preserved Medieval cities in Europe. Luckily, it turned out to be a rainy day – otherwise I wouldn’t have sought shelter in an uninteresting-looking little museum on a narrow cobblestone street where I stumbled upon an exhibit that brought tears to my eyes. Replace the People’s Republic of China for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Taiwan for Estonia – the story is the same: a giant country tries to gobble up a tiny one on its border. Estonia has yet one more element in common with Taiwan – its people love to sing. The exhibit documented in pictures how the Estonians got the world to recognize them as a nation by singing, in what has been called “the singing revolution.” The Russians sent in tanks. The Estonians placed huge boulders on the roads to block the way. The tanks had to withdraw because the little nation captured the heart of the world with its solidarity in song. Russia relinquished its claims. The Estonians toppled Lenin’s statue. One man climbed the pedestal and raised his arms in a gesture that expressed the feeling of a nation. A photographer captured the moment for all time.

There is a big lesson in this for Taiwan. But the question is – can the 23 million Taiwanese do what the 1.5 million Estonians did? And can they do it now while there is yet time? Do the Taiwanese have what it takes? Do they feel as deeply that Taiwan really is a separate nation? Or do the people of Taiwan prefer to be swallowed up by China and digested into something that can have neither the significance nor the destiny history has thrust upon this island people? Do Taiwanese parents care more about how much money they can grab today than they do for the future of their children tomorrow? Are they that much like the late president and his family?

I raised these points because I feel now is the time in which the answers must emerge; and because, standing there in that small museum on this other side of the world, it struck me that the way the Estonians sang their nation to freedom is an option for Taiwan and could win it the sympathy of world organizations that it hasn’t been able to get by any other method. I work with the dreams of young Taiwanese college students. I have seen inside their hearts and minds. I know them to be world-class as a group, the equal of young people anywhere. Though perhaps not ethnically, linguistically, or culturally separate from the mainland Chinese – they are a larger people, even though a smaller population; and they aspire to a higher destiny, even though on a more limited scale. The world needs a Taiwan and Taiwan needs a world that can see this.

As I stood before the museum exhibit with tears in my eyes, an old Estonian man approached me. “Where are you from?” he asked.


“Oh,” he immediately understood. “You are like us. We have Russia. You have China. The same story.”

The old man was right.

Perhaps political leaders in Taiwan have forgotten that they have a higher mission than lining their own pockets and those of their family members. This little nation is right now being entrapped in wording and behaviors that bit by bit will cause it to be engulfed by its huge neighbor next door. Our young people stand to lose their nationhood and their opportunity for freedom and self-expression unless we act now. What better way than following the Estonian example and organizing mass singing events (in English as well as Chinese, so the world, as well as China, can hear) that can enable Taiwan’s young and old alike to come together and show the world they are a people unique among peoples, with a voice all their own. If that voice can show it deserves to be heard, it will be heard. The world organizations will listen.

This doesn’t need to be restricted to Taiwan. Sizeable student and resident populations of Taiwanese all over the United States, Europe and elsewhere can join in – and carry the song of our people, and their dream of freedom and democracy, around the world. If little Estonia, with only 1.5 million people could do it, why can’t we, with over fourteen times as big a population? The only possible reason would be that we don’t care enough, and so don’t deserve any destiny other than the one China’s Communist Party deigns to allot us. The hands in our pockets then will be much bigger, much more numerous, and much more greedy.

* * *

Back to Richard. Let me just say this: I do believe Taiwan’s situation is unique and monumentally delicate. No matter what we would like to see there, the hard cold reality that isn’t going away is that the joining of China and Taiwan is going to happen, perhaps slowly, perhaps with a lot of bumps along the way, perhaps not at all fairly – but it will happen. Does that mean I want it to happen? No. I do know, however, that there has been a shift over the past four or so years. More and more Taiwanese are eager for a reconciliation and a coming together – not with Taiwan becoming another province of China, but rather a Hong Kong-like “one party, two systems” arrangement. The reasons for this are simple: No matter what we think is right or fair, China’s shadow looms across Asia the way America’s has loomed over much of Europe and the Americas. Countries that cooperate with and embrace China are thriving. Think Singapore and Malaysia and, increasingly, Japan.

I was speaking last week with a Taiwanese friend studying Traditional Chinese Medicine here at the Sino-Japanese Hospital. Like so many others I know from Taiwan, he can’t wait for Taiwan to come to a Hong Kong-like agreement. The reasons might be termed “greed” by some, but to me thay are less malevolent than that. My friend is tired of the unemployment and the shrinking opportunities Taiwan has suffered for years. In its inimitably ruthless way, China has one by one shut many of the doors leading from Taiwan to the outside world. Just as the US has done to countries it wanted to intimidate and force to comply to its will. (Cuba, anyone?) I am not talking about right or wrong here, simply about what is. And what is is that the US and China have the power to do this.

Would I love Taiwan to be independent and free to determine its own course? Absolutely. Do I think it will happen? Absolutely not – at least not the way the Blue party envisions it. China “knows” as a matter of fact that Taiwan belongs to it. And more and more Taiwanese appear willing to accept this. I think reconciliation and “reunification” are now well on the way (even if the Chinese flag never flew over Taiwanese soil, making the word “reunification” something of a misnomer).

I love Taiwan and think about it everyday with fond memories. It is the most civilized, most delightful place in Asia to live and work. It is a paradise in many ways. Let’s hope that, whatever agreement it ultimately comes to with the Mainland, Taiwan can retain its integrity and a high degree of independence, even after it is “reunited with the Motherland.”


Chinese documentary on short list for Academy Award

And it’s not your everyday Chinese documentary.

I wrote a long time ago about the difficulties gays face in China (I know, a lot has changed since I wrote that in 2002) as well as the unacknowledged crisis of AIDS in China – another topic this filmmaker has focused on in her documentary The Blood of Yingzhou District. It’s good to see these topics come into the mainstream.

Update: Here is the link to the web site of Tongzhi in Love. The movie is on the short list – the nominations haven’t been announced yet. Sorry for the initial mistake.


Public Relations Help Needed

By this poor fellow. This will be studied by communications students for semesters to come. Sometimes staying “on message” and dancing around simple questions just doesn’t work. I kind of feel sorry for the poor sucker, but then again, he gets paid by the taxpayers, and he owes the taxpayers answers.

Don’t miss the clip; it is classic. Via Yglesias.


No release for Guantanamo’s Uighurs

“Appeals court blocks release of Guantanamo detainees”:

A federal appeals court temporarily blocked the release of 17 Chinese-born Muslims detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba , a day after a landmark decision required them to be freed to the U.S….

…”Seventeen men were told yesterday that they were going to be released after nearly seven years of wrongful detention,” said Emi MacLean , an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights , which coordinates the representation of detainees including the Uighurs. “Now, they have to be told that their detention will continue to be indefinite.”

The Uighurs are among a group of more than 60 men inside the prison who’ve been cleared for release by the military but who are stuck in limbo because the U.S. government can’t find a country to ship them to. The Uighurs say they can’t return to China because they’ll be tortured as political dissidents.

Urbina’s decision marked the first time a court had ordered the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. and could have prompted the release of others who’ve been cleared by the military.

Urbina declared the continued detention of the Uighurs to be “unlawful” and said the government could no longer detain them after conceding they weren’t enemy combatants.

However, Justice Department lawyers continued to argue that the release of the group into the U.S. could pose a security risk and warned that the decision could harm international relations with China.

In court papers, Justice Department lawyers attacked Urbina’s ruling, warning in court papers of “serious harms to the government and the public at large” if the appeals court did not intervene.

The lawyers said that Urbina’s decision “directly conflicts with the basic principle” that the executive branch, specifically the Department of Homeland Security , has sole discretion as to whether to admit foreigners into the U.S. The Justice Department also raised security concerns about releasing men they say were captured at a weapons training camp run by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Uighurs attorneys disputed that characterization, saying the men merely were living in a small village in Afghanistan where they’d kept one weapon, but lacked ammunition.

Show of hands — who do you believe?

Maybe I’m cynical.


China’s Rich and Super-Rich feel the pinch

I won’t be shedding many tears.

Many of China’s richest people grew a bit poorer this year as stock and property markets tumbled, but the country’s wealthy are riding out the downturn better than many of their foreign counterparts, a survey showed on Tuesday.

Real estate heiress Yang Huiyan, 27, saw her estimated fortune shrink to $4.9 billion from $17.5 billion as the market value of her stake in property developer Country Garden Holdings Co plunged, according to the latest annual Hurun Report, which ranked the country’s 1,000 richest people.

That pushed Yang, who ranked as China’s richest person last year, down to number three, said the report, compiled by researcher Rupert Hoogewerf.

Xu Rongmao, owner of Shimao Property Holdings Ltd, sank to number nine from third place last year, with his estimated wealth dwindling to $3.1 billion from $7.5 billion.

China’s benchmark stock index has fallen about 65 percent from its peak last October and property prices in major Chinese cities have eased with a slowing economy.

But Hoogewerf said China’s super-rich were holding up much better than those in the West.

“Chinese are cash-rich relative to certainly Europe and America,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of an event to unveil China’s rich list for 2008. “We still have 101 billionaires, only five fewer than last year.”

This is basically why China won’t be as badly pulverized as many other countries: they save more than they spend and they don’t live eyeball-deep in debt. They’ll feel the pain but in relative terms it won’t be a calamity. The grief of the super-rich will trickle down, just as their wealth did, but it won’t stop the juggernaut, just slow it down for a while.

Via this site, which you should visit regularly.


Some good news (we hope)…

I posted about the plight of Chinese Uighurs detained in Guantanamo over three years ago. As the Washington Post reported at that time:

In late 2003, the Pentagon quietly decided that 15 Chinese Muslims detained at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be released. Five were people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some of them picked up by Pakistani bounty hunters for U.S. payoffs. The other 10 were deemed low-risk detainees whose enemy was China’s communist government — not the United States, according to senior U.S. officials.

More than 20 months later, the 15 still languish at Guantanamo Bay, imprisoned and sometimes shackled, with most of their families unaware whether they are even alive.

Now, after nearly seven years in detention, a US judge has ruled that the Uighurs must be released into the US, agreeing with their attorneys that holding the men without cause is unconstitutional:

At a hearing packed with Uighurs who live in the Washington area, Urbina rejected government arguments that he had no authority to order the men’s release. He said he had such authority because the men were being held indefinitely and it was the only remedy available. He cited a June decision by an appellate court that found evidence against the Uighurs to be unreliable.

Urbina said in court that he ordered the release “because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detention without cause.” He added, “The separation of powers do not trump” the prohibition against holding people indefinitely without trial…

…Justice Department lawyer John O’Quinn asked Urbina to stay the order for a week, giving the government time to evaluate its options and file an appeal. Urbina rejected that request and ordered the Uighurs to appear in his courtroom for a hearing on Friday. He said he would then release them into the custody of 17 Uighur families living in the Washington area.

Apparently the government plans to appeal, but Urbina seems firm in his determination that these men have gotten a raw deal and that they will be released from custody, period (he didn’t take kindly to the proposal that US Immigration authorities might re-detain the Uighurs either). Good for him.

I’ll go further: the United States of America should pay these men an annual stipend equivalent to a decent income for a period of time allowing them to adjust to their new lives here. I’d say for about seven years, at the very least.



This is not prime time for writing a post today. Just spent the last 4.5 hours at the Polytheater watching The Berlin Opera’s magnicificently sung and conducted Tannhauser, one of Wagner’s most difficult operas to pull off. In some scenes, nothing “happens” on stage aside from back and forth declamation. No matter. The music was so overpoweringly gorgeous, the crowd, mainly Chinese, sat enraptured to the very end, at which point they were clapping their hands and stamping their feet in rhythm to express their approval. The kind of perfect operatic night I haven’t experienced in America for,oh….10 years now. And seeing the Chinese get into Tannhauser tonight was a treat.

As you can probably tell by the erratic typing, I’m ready to tip over. Wagner operas always end late, and it’s time to call it a night. Let me just say in closing, that it was so heartwarming to see a performance of the Berlin Opera performed with such beauty and perfection at Beijing’s Polytheater. What a beautiful night, what a beautiful way to share culture, and what a beautiful crowd of mainly young Chinese people eager to learn and seeming to adore ever note. Another I-love-China kind of night, though one I enjoyed with bittersweet feelings as I realize fate my be leading me in other directions. More about that later.

Sorry for no posts today but this. Suddeny I have a daunting lists of deadline tasks, from memorizing vocabulary sheets to writing a new business plan to preparing some case studies for a potential client. I’ll be back in a day or two, but let me just throw out the teaser notion that I’m working on a plan to start a new business in Beijing. If it gets off the ground maybe I’ll be staying here longer than I expected. It all depends on whether I can convince a friend of mine in Arizona that Beijing truly is a beautiful, inspiring, if often challenging and frustrating place to live. At a time when opportunities seem to be shuttered everywhere, China seems to offer just about the most promising potential for entrepreneurs. I’ll know in the days ahead whether I have the stomach, the brains and the wherewithal to actually be one. I’ll keep you posted.

Use this as an open thread if you’d like, with emphasis on the swearing in of Obama in just a few weeks, and anything to do with China you’d like.

Was anyone alse at Tannhauser tonight? all 4.5 hours of it?


Jim Cramer

Jim is a loud-mouthed hysteric on CNBC who usually shrieks at his viewers to buy his recommended stocks. He is a perennial bull, nearly always insisting stock prices will soar.

Please watch this very brief but instructive clip. It’s a shocker.


Fair and balanced

The right wing’s answer to Wikipedia describes itself as:

…a clean and concise resource for those seeking the truth. We do not allow liberal bias to deceive and distort here. Founded initially in November 2006 as a way to educate advanced, college-bound homeschoolers, this resource has grown into a marvelous source of information for students, adults and teachers alike…. The starting point for increasing your knowledge, your faith and the well-being of you and those around you is to understand concepts better. Conservapedia enables you to do that, and to impart what you have learned to others by editing here. The truth shall set you free.
No other encyclopedic resource on the internet is free of corruption by liberal untruths.

Please go now and have a look at their entry on Barack Obama. Here’s just a small snip:

Obama is likely to be Muslim because:
Obama’s background and education are Muslim
Obama’s middle name remains Muslim, meaning “descendant of Muhammad,” which most Christians would not retain
Obama recently referred to his “Muslim faith”
Obama uses the Muslim Pakistani pronunciation for “Pakistan” rather than the common American one

Scroll through the rest for more goodies. How did we get to this point, where people could actually read crap like this without laughing out loud or recoiling in disgust? It’s like that famous guy with the mustache warning us about the characteristics that make someone likely to be Jewish.


Worst NY Times column ever

I felt sick as I read this maudlin, sugar-coated column that’s really all about encouraging slander, racism and swift-boating. Literally sick. I was thrilled, on the other hand, as I read the comments. Seems like everyone with a mind thought the exact same thing. This guy should be fired. He’s not good enough to write for Reader’s Digest. He is a pimp for McCain and an embarrassingly bad writer as well.

One of the best articles on why the swiftboating of Obama that Kristol is itching for won’t work can be found here. Sorry everyone, the writer tells us; Obama is our next president. When the economy is melting down and people are losing their jobs and their hopes and their houses, the last thing on their minds is a candidate’s entirely uncontroversial relationship with an aging 1960s radical who committed some violent acts when the candidate was 8 years old. A snip:

Absent a domestic terror attack the economy will remain the number one issue in the race, and there is little Senator McCain can do to make up his gap with Senator Obama on it. Oh, Senator McCain will try to make issues of Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright, and that might hurt Senator Obama around the margins — but it will not prevent him from winning. The economy is simply bigger than the rogues gallery that John McCain is conjuring up.

Why is this? Why won’t the swiftboat tactics work this year?

Its easy to lose sight of it in the day to day coverage, but the collapse of Wall Street in the last weeks was a seminal event in the history of our nation and our politics. To put the crisis in perspective, Americans have lost a combined 1 trillion dollars in net worth in just the last four weeks alone. Just as President Bush’s failures in Iraq undermined his party’s historic advantage on national security issues, the financial calamity has shown the ruinous implications of the Republican mania for deregulation and slavish devotion to totally unfettered markets.

Meanwhile, the meltdown continues. When was there ever a better time to live in China and be paid in RMB?