Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Misconceptions on ‘One China’

From ‘one China’ to the ‘1992 consensus’ and the ‘status quo’, the politics of the Taiwan Strait are a complex play involving vagueness and word games by all the parties involved. And given the high stakes, the international community must get those terms right. 

“One China” has figured prominently in the news in recent weeks, first following President-elect Donald Trump’s remarks to the effect that the U.S. might choose not to be bound by the “principle” and then, as president, when he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to abide by it during a telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week. And every time “one China” makes it in the news, expect that some people will get it wrong. 

It would be unfair, however, to only blame the media for failing to understand the wording, nature, and ramifications of “one China,” the policy — the usually vague wording which guides a country’s relationship with both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan — and the principle, which is what Beijing insists on. Academics, and even government officials on the “Greater China” desks all over the world, often get it wrong as well. 

Continues here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Trump Vows to ‘Honor’ ‘One China’ Policy

By returning to the status quo, President Trump may temporarily have assuaged apprehensions in Beijing and reduced tensions in the Taiwan Strait

U.S. President Donald Trump had a “lengthy” telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday night and agreed to honor the “one China” policy, according to a press statement by the White House. 

“President Donald J. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China had a lengthy telephone conversation on Thursday evening,” the press release stated. “The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘one China’ policy.” 

Continues here.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

China to ‘Commemorate’ Taiwan’s 228 Massacre

The CCP’s latest exercise in propaganda is unlikely to win hearts and minds in Taiwan, but nevertheless indicates greater willingness on Beijing’s part to criticize the KMT 

Taiwan Affairs Office Spokesman An Fengshan told a regular press conference on Wednesday that China will hold a series of events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 228 Massacre in Taiwan. 

An did not specify what the commemorative events will be, or where they will take place. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Will it Happen?

Disagreement between the Executive and Legislative branches of government on the legalization of same-sex unions in Taiwan is slowing down progress on the issue and advantages opponents 

Taiwan has received a fair amount of media attention in recent months, in large part due to the famous telephone conversation between President Tsai and U.S. president-elect Trump in early December. But another development has generated quite a lot of interest as well, even among media organizations that normally would pay little heed to this island-nation. With a bill slowly climbing its way up inside the legislature, Taiwan has come to be regarded as the likeliest candidate to becoming, perhaps as early as this year, the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. 

After several months — years, in fact — of battles in the trenches, members of Taiwan’s LGBTQI community and their supporters who had gathered outside the legislature had every reason to be euphoric on December 26 when the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee reviewed and passed a proposed amendment, initiated by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu, that would rephrase the contents of Article 972 of the Civil Code which stipulates that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman. In a concessionary move, committee members agreed to retain the language “between a man and a woman” while adding a clause recognizing “both parties to a same-sex marriage.” 

Continues here.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Cambodian PM Bans ROC Flag, Reaffirms ‘One China’ Stance

As Chinese influence in Cambodia continues to grow, Prime Minister Hun Sen attempts to ingratiate himself with Beijing

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told a gathering of Chinese and Cambodians at the weekend that the “Taiwanese flag” — the Nationalist flag that represents the Republic of China — should not be raised in Cambodia and reaffirmed his strong commitment to the “one China” principle. During his speech to the Cambodian-Chinese Association on Saturday, the prime minister said the flag was to be banned across Cambodia. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why Jiang Yi-huah Will be Able to Talk About Taiwan’s Democracy in Hong Kong

The former Taiwanese premier under president Ma Ying-jeou appears to have slipped through the firewall that has been erected around Hong Kong. But read the fine print 

With relations between Taiwan and China deteriorating in recent years, Hong Kong immigration authorities, ostensibly acting on orders from the central government in Beijing, have denied entry to a growing number of Taiwanese activists, officials, and democracy activists into the troubled former British colony. More rigid still have been immigration controls on individuals wishing to give lectures about democracy in Hong Kong. 

But not so for Jiang Yi-huah, the former premier of Taiwan, who is scheduled to give a talk on Feb. 16 at City University of Hong Kong, College of Business, titled — rather extraordinarily, given the current mood in the territory — “The Successes and Failures of Taiwanese Democracy and Its Meaning.” 

Continues here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When They Get it Wrong

A bizarre analysis of Taiwan’s delegation to President Trump’s swearing-in ceremony exemplifies everything that is wrong with much of what is written about Taiwan overseas 

Last week I wrote about signs that China may be ramping up its disinformation campaign against Taiwan as part of its psychological warfare efforts to confuse and discredit the democratic island-nation. To do so, pro-Beijing media have been planting “alternative truths” and count on traditional outlets to replicate the information so that over time they become new “memes.” But there’s another element at play that is also detrimental to Taiwan’s ability to be known and understood: downright ignorance passing off as “expert analysis.” 

For various reasons that I have discussed elsewhere, Taiwan hasn’t received the attention it deserves in international media and academic blogs. This changed somewhat following the brief telephone conversation between President Tsai Ing-wen and then president elect Donald J. Trump on Dec. 2 and Mr. Trump’s subsequent remarks concerning “one China.” All of a sudden, and on the assumption that trouble was brewing, Taiwan was “newsworthy” again for international media and think tanks. 

Continues here.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

China Intensifies Disinformation Campaign Against Taiwan

Banking on structural weaknesses in today’s media, Beijing has succeeded in broadcasting a false narrative about Taiwan, often on a global scale 

Chinese media and the state apparatus appear to have joined hands to intensify a campaign of propaganda and disinformation targeting Taiwan, with fabrication, half-truths and comments taken out of context aimed at sowing confusion across the democratic nation and undermining its image abroad. 

Although there is nothing particularly new about disinformation campaigns — in fact the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long used this as a tool in and outside China — their utility tends to increase in times of conflict or when a party is not getting what it wants from an ideological opponent, as is currently the case in the Taiwan Strait. 

Disinformation is a key component of political or psychological warfare activity that seeks to weaken the enemy by undermining trust and cohesion across society. Although disinformation can be broadcast using various channels (think tanks, academic conferences, social forums and so on), mass media are the principal means of diffusion and the practice thrives in societies where journalism is either hampered by authoritarian censorship or, even in more open societies, a poor track record of fact-checking. 

Continues here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

China Goes After Taiwan’s Allies, Official and Not

Given Taiwan’s unusual situation, the erosion of unofficial relationships with key countries could in the long run be more damaging to its survival than the theft of official diplomatic allies. 

Following a visit by China’s Foreign Minister earlier this week, Nigerian authorities ordered Taiwan to move its representative office in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, to Lagos, the country’s commercial center, and to curtail “diplomatic privileges” and staff, a move that, besides the insult, presages escalating efforts by Beijing to narrow Taiwan’s international space. 

Beyond the symbolism of seeing its de-facto embassy removed from the capital, Nigerian officials and organizations have also reportedly been ordered to avoid all official exchanges with Taiwan. Consequently, Taiwan’s presence in the oil-rich African country has been relegated to that of a mere trade office, trade being the only exercise that Beijing officially countenances between Taiwan and the international community. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

China Tightens Pincers on Taiwan

While the external threat to Taiwan appears to be growing, Beijing could also increase its cooperation with local proxies to undermine the island-nation’s social stability and discredit its democracy 

Unable to win enough hearts and minds in Taiwan after eight years of closer engagement and unwilling to explore a more accommodating modus vivendi with its democratic neighbor, Beijing in recent months has adopted an increasingly maximalist stance on cross-Strait relations that could mean trouble for the region in the coming years. 

Deep frustrations, coupled with nationalistic fervor, an upcoming party congress in which Chinese politicians vying for key positions within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will feel compelled to demonstrate their intransigence on the Taiwan “question,” and uncertainty regarding the future direction of U.S.-Taiwan ties under incoming president Donald Trump, have led the leadership in Beijing down a dangerous road, one in which the desire to “punish” Taiwan for the choices its people have arrived at by democratic means supersedes the incentives for dialogue and stability. 

Continues here.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Sorry Beijing: States Have Sovereign Rights

Whatever we might say about the Trump camp, they are stiffening American spines when it comes to doing the right thing by democratic Taiwan 

A handful of U.S. officials in the past 24 hours did what many heads of state and ministries worldwide have failed to do in recent years — they reclaimed their country’s sovereign right to decide who to allow into their territory and who to engage with, thus ignoring the warnings of retaliation by Beijing that, far too often, have succeeded in isolating individuals whom China regards as its enemies. 

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, on her way to Central America, where she will visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador this week, made a stopover in Houston at the weekend, despite a request by Beijing that she not be allowed in the U.S. During her two-day stay in Texas, Tsai met members of the Taiwanese-American community as well as top Republican officials, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz. She also had a telephone conversation with U.S. senator John McCain, head of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. 

Continues here.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Pro-unification Groups, Triad Members Threaten Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong, Legislators in Taiwan

Brief altercations at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport this morning when pro-Beijing gangsters broke through police lines and tried to assault Hong Kong activists 

About 200 people mobilized by the pro-unification Patriot Association (愛國同心會) and pro-Beijing gangsters gathered at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to protest the arrival of Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and pro-self determination legislators early today and clashed with police as they tried to assault them. 

Wong, who played a leadership role in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, Eddie Chu (朱凱廸), Edward Yiu (姚松炎) and Nathan Law (羅冠聰), legislators who advocate for the territory’s self-determination, were invited to Taiwan to participate in a forum on self-determination held in Taipei this afternoon (Jan. 7) and tomorrow. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

China’s ‘Soft Powerlessness’

Ultra-nationalistic Chinese citizens and organizations are out of control on the Internet and harassing Beijing’s opponents in ways that often undermine the state’s interests. 

As China’s comprehensive national power continues to grow, so has the nationalist sentiment among Chinese citizens, which in recent years has become an extremely vocal component of China’s external policy. But in the areas where state power has failed to translate into policy successes, such as in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, those expressions of nationalistic fervor have often turned to frustrated rage rather than a tool of persuasion or “soft power.” 

When it comes to Taiwan, the Chinese consternation has been most apparent online, largely due to the election of Tsai Ing-wen of the Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in January 2016 and the abject failure of eight years of rapprochement under M. Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, during which Beijing hoped to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese and thereby facilitate unification. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A New Voice for Taiwan in Times of High Uncertainty

The years ahead promise to be challenging ones for Taiwan. More than ever, its people need to engage the international community so that their nation’s complex situation and value to the world as a free democratic society are properly understood. 

After a transformative 2016, which saw another peaceful transition of power in Taiwan, 2017 is now upon us and promises to be as, if not even more, eventful. A new administration will enter the White House in the U.S. later this month, and in China the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will hold its party congress later this year, during which the next generation of party leaders will be selected. In Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen will continue to face several challenges, from reviving the nation’s stagnant economy to navigating the uncertain waters of the U.S.-Taiwan-China trilateral relationship to facing off with a Chinese leadership that seems intent on punishing Taiwan for the democratic choices its people have made. 

Continues here.

U.S. Hate Group MassResistance Behind Anti-LGBT Activities in Taiwan

The Christian-led movement against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan is now being directly aided by a group from the Extreme Right in the United States. 

A Massachusetts-based anti-gay organization has been playing a behind-the-scenes role in efforts by conservative Christians in Taiwan to block legal amendments that would turn Taiwan into the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. 

According to a Dec. 27 blog entry, MassResistance’s point man in Taiwan is Arthur Christopher Schaper, head of the California branch of the organization, “who has been working tirelessly with Taiwanese activists, expatriates in the US, and others to get the word out.” On Dec. 24, the Chinese-language service of Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency ran a piece exposing how MassResistance has been trying to “educate” the Taiwanese public on the supposedly nefarious impact of homosexual unions using Chinese-language translations of a video titled “What ‘gay marriage’ did to Massachusetts” as well as a booklet. 

Continues here.

Book Review: Memoirs of a Foreign Big Beard

In his latest book, professor Bruce Jacobs walks us through the key trials surrounding the Kaohsiung Incident and gets down and personal with his own troubles with the Taiwanese authorities at the time.  

Following his sweeping history of Taiwan’s democratization (Democratizing Taiwan, Brill: 2012), Taiwan hand Bruce Jacobs in his latest book narrows the scope of his research by focusing on the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979-1980 and the trials of pro-democracy activists that followed. In this slim two-part volume titled The Kaohsiung Incident in Taiwan and Memoirs of a Foreign Big Beard, Jacobs provides the context in which the events leading to the transformative incident occurred — what he calls the “Dangwai setting” when civil society pressured the authoritarian Kuomintang (KMT) to open the space for political participation — and through a blow-by-blow exploration of the military trial of eight key defendants shows how those developments ultimately contributed to Taiwan’s democratization. Most of the defendants, along with their defense lawyers, would eventually assume key positions in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and later on in government. 

Continues here.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

São Tomé and Príncipe Drops Taiwan, Embraces China

What was behind the move? What are the implications for Taiwan? 

The African nation of São Tomé and Príncipe on December 20 announced that it was severing diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and establishing ties with the People’s Republic of China. 

Following the news, Taipei announced that it was immediately severing diplomatic ties with the African country and withdrawing all diplomatic and technical personnel. Taiwan now has 21 official diplomatic allies worldwide, and just two in Africa—Burkina Faso and Swaziland. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

One China, Many Trumps?

Panic, hope, fear and anger are all premature when it comes to Trump’s policy on Taiwan and China 

If we needed one word to describe President-elect Donald J. Trump’s policies on Taiwan and China over the past week, that word would be uncertainty. From a tradition-breaking telephone conversation with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen earlier this month, to his claim that the United States should not necessarily be bound by its longstanding “one China” policy, to his suggestion that Taiwan could be used as a bargaining chip for trade negotiations with China, Trump has both angered and reassured at once. 

This apparent inconsistency has encouraged the wildest speculation and renewed interest in the dynamics of the Taiwan Strait, leading some to conclude that a new era of opportunity for Taiwan, the isolated democracy claimed by China as part of its territory, is at hand, and others warning that Trump’s adventurism or inexperience could severely harm Taiwan’s interests by compelling Beijing to retaliate against it. 

Continues here.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Tsai-Trump Call: The Dynamics in Taiwan

Most analysis of the call overlooks a crucial component: Tsai’s own calculations and the domestic reaction on Taiwan 

The 10-minute telephone conversation between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. president-elect Donald J. Trump on December 2 — the first such conversation between a sitting president in Taiwan and a U.S. president or president-elect since Washington broke official diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 — has sparked reactions worldwide, ranging from consternation at Trump’s breaking with longstanding policy to hopes for deeper relations between the United States and the democratic island nation. 

With much of Western media taking the lead in presuming to interpret Beijing’s ire at news of the unprecedented congratulatory call from Tsai, the incident and its significance were quickly blown out of proportion, so much so, in fact, that Beijing, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting unification — by force if necessary — may have felt compelled to turn up the rhetoric a notch after a rather mild initial response. Taking a cue from the hyperbole in many Western media, ultra-nationalistic Chinese media soon followed suit, with the Global Times going as far as to call Trump’s team “pigs,” and suggest the need for a rapid buildup of China’s strategic nuclear stockpile to counter any “provocation” by President Trump on issues such as Taiwan. 

Continues here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Taiwan, Not the US, Will Likely Pay the Price for the Trump-Tsai Call

Weighing the pros and cons of THE CALL 

The recent 10-minute telephone conversation between US President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has sparked much speculation about a possible shift in US policy vis-à-vis the self-ruled democratic island nation, and the consequences of such a move on the all-important Sino-American relationship. 

At this juncture it is difficult to determine to what extent the phone conversation (and subsequent tweets by Trump) portend a change in the direction of Washington’s relationship with Taiwan, with which it has had close (albeit unofficial) diplomatic relations since 1979. It's clear the call was a boost for President Tsai’s image domestically and provided some reassurance (premature, perhaps) that President Trump will not include Taiwan in a 'grand bargain' with China. We can also be certain Trump did not take the call on a whim or due to ignorance of international relations: the potential repercussions are simply too serious. 

Continues here.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Should Washington Recalibrate Relations with Taipei?

President Trump could do a few things to normalize ties with Taiwan, but the options remain limited 

The recent storm over Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s 10-minute congratulatory call to U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump has engendered much speculation about the possibility that an anti-China iteration of President Trump could seek to establish closer ties with Taiwan. 

Whether this is what Mr. Trump has in mind is anyone’s guess and will be largely contingent on whom he appoints to key positions in his administration. In an ideal world, where morals rather than national power determines the course of history, it would be perfectly sensible for the U.S. president to more closely align his or her government with a successful, peaceful, and democratic nation-state living in the shadow of a giant authoritarian—and expansionist—neighbor. 

Continues here.

Trump's Taiwan Call: Cross-Strait Politics by Other Means

What was behind the Tsai-Trump call? What does it mean about US-Taiwan-China relations?

President-elect Donald J. Trump last week seemed to give credence to the claim that the U.S. presidency under him will not be “business as unusual” when he took a call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, breaking nearly four decades of protocol and risking Beijing’s ire. 

No sooner had the ten-minute telephone conversation been made public than analysis worldwide began speculating about whether it presaged a shift in U.S. policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, the democratic, self-ruled island nation of twenty-three million people, and willingness on the future president’s part to stick it to China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan. Not only the call itself, but a subsequent tweet by Trump stating that he had received a congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan rather than using the nation’s official designation, the Republic of China, led many pundits, along with a frenzied international media, to conclude that Trump was signaling a policy shift or, worse, that he did not know what he had gotten himself into and had perhaps been used by President Tsai, who needed to score points domestically. 

Continues here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

My Marriage Equality Testimony (of Sorts)

As I write these words, the aircraft that is taking me to London, where I am scheduled to give three lectures this week, is flying over Kabul, and a few hours from now it will cross into the airspace of another region beset by misery and violence — the Middle East. I think of the millions of people below me and wonder how and why religious organizations back in Taiwan, my point of departure, and elsewhere can spend so much energy hating others for who they are when there is so much suffering around the world.

In recent weeks I have again written about certain religious organizations in Taiwan that have viciously targeted a group that asks nothing more than to be treated as an equal and to be allowed to love equally. What prompts me to write at 34,000 feet is the appearance at a hearing at the Legislative Yuan on Monday of Katy Faust, an American citizen who became known recently for her short video spelling the supposed nefarious effects of allowing same-sex marriage on young children. Faust, who could not have a more unfortunate surname given her conservative religious beliefs, reinforced her message at the hearing while tens of thousands of LGBTQ supporters were rallying outside.

To sum up her claims: the rights of children should trump (no pun intended) the desires of adults. Children, she says, have the “natural right” to know who their biological parents are, which presumably would be denied them by parents of the same sex. Furthermore, children reared by homosexual parents would allegedly be denied something — an undefined something whose delivery is, again according to her, gender contingent. In other words, a child raised by two women would lack half of an upbringing that is essentially and fundamentally male (and vice versa in the case of a child raised by two men). This lack, she tells us, will result in stunted individuals cognitively and emotionally.

My intention here isn’t to psychoanalyze Ms. Faust or to question the legality of a foreign citizen and non-resident of Taiwan injecting herself into domestic politics using nothing but fear and pseudoscience (this is no Jane Goodall encouraging people to be kinder to little animals; her claims are part of a campaign that aims to deny the right to form a family to a category of people based on their sexual preferences and/or identity).

The reason I write is that days before Ms. Faust made her unexpected appearance at the legislature, the LGBTQ camp approached me and also asked me if I would be willing to testify. While every fiber in my body wanted to do it, and although it would have been perfectly legal for me, a permanent resident in Taiwan, to do so, I turned down the offer because I thought it would be improper for a foreign national to play such a role. (This is also why, while I document activism and unashamedly take sides, I will never hold a placard or chant slogans.) It truly was an honor to be asked, though.

But with Ms. Faust’s scent still lingering around the lectern, I now choose to put in writing what I probably would have said had I agreed to testify for those eight minutes given me. I do it in the name of love and for all our friends out there who only ask one thing — to be treated as equals.

I was born on April 29, 1975, to wonderful, loving, heterosexual parents. I had a catholic upbringing, received first communion, confirmation, and was even an altar boy for several years. Growing up in Quebec City, a city whose mores and values are deeply affected by its long, and sometimes troubled, relationship with the Catholic Church, I chose “catechism” over the other choice given us, “morals,” in primary school. As children, we all thought there was something a little untoward with our peers who didn’t choose bible study. That’s how steeped we were in Catholicism as a culture and system of peer pressure. In my early teenage years I turned agnostic, and after reading lots of books about evolutionary science, I became an atheist. My mother’s initial reaction to my refusal to go to church spoke volumes about the conditioning that religion does on families and children, something that has crossed my mind as I monitor gatherings by groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

We had sex-ed in school. For a while, our sex-ed teacher was replaced (I forget the reason for her leave) by her brother, a man who was unmistakably effeminate and probably gay. Children being children, we made fun of him, though I don’t remember it being in any way mean. We just knew he was different. But he taught us, and nobody became or chose to become gay as a result of our exposure to this man teaching us about condoms, reproduction, and the various erogenous zones we are blessed with.

My mother was into sports: almost every day, at lunchtime, we’d throw ball (I played baseball for 11 years, all the way up to Junior AA). We skated, and we biked — you know, all that man stuff. Tennis and skiing I did on my own, however. Both my parents attended every one of my baseball games. Both were hands on and built their house together which my mother was pregnant with me. My father, an avid jogger later in life, was more the philosopher type, and from him I received a passion for history, politics, and television. We also did lots of electronics together, putting together circuits, fixing TVs and so on. Love for books — that I got from both of them. The same with long walks.

Around that same time my parents separated and eventually divorced. I stayed with my mother, and my father, who moved 250km west to Montreal, drove back to Quebec City almost every week to have dinner with me. I lacked for nothing, and I understood the circumstances. Never did I think that I was not receiving the love that I needed. As a matter of fact, I’d seen it coming. Don’t ask me why. All I can say is that children aren’t stupid, and they feel things.

A few years later, my mother came out of the closet at lunchtime, trembling like a leaf and terrified that I would stop loving her. Growing up in a small town south of Quebec City, she’d known since she was a child — didn’t choose, certainly didn’t “catch” it — that she preferred women. But her religion and environment told her that she should marry a man and “heal” herself, at a minimum forget who she was. By then (1992), her partner, recently divorced from her husband, was living with us. Did I stop loving my mother? Of course not. I told her I wanted her to be happy. Was I shocked? Disturbed? No. Granted I was 16 by then, but I’d been taught to respect others and to embrace difference, and have no doubt that my reaction wouldn’t have been any different if I’d been younger when my mother told me she was homosexual. Again, I suspected it. Children and young adults are not stupid; they feel things. My father’s reaction — acceptance — also helped a lot in how I dealt with the matter, something that cannot be said of several other coming outs.

Now, being a teenager, I did give them “the attitude” for a while, which in hindsight I do regret. But this was a normal teenager reacting to a new person in his parent’s life. That person’s gender had nothing to do with it.

All three of us lived together for a while, and eventually both of them moved to a different house while I completed college and prepared to move to Montreal for university. Overall, I would live six years in the city’s gay village, which was quite conveniently located close to my workplace and a subway station. It was a nice, affluent neighborhood; I was never harassed, threatened, let alone “brainwashed” into becoming homosexual (my typical response when asked was that both my biological parents like women, so of course I like women, too!) My girlfriend at the time, a tall blonde, would occasionally complain that nobody (at least the men in the village) was checking her out.

The first time I took the subway there (Beaudry Station) I ran into two men kissing. Ok, so what? I’d also had Pakistanis as neighbors and went to university surrounded by people of all colors, religions, and beliefs. That was why I found Montreal so fascinating, and why that city continues to have a special place in my heart.

My mother’s partner never was my second mother: she had a name, and that’s how I referred to her. And when they got married after Canada became the fourth country to legalize same-sex marriage, she became my mother’s partner, or spouse. That same year, my father also remarried. Both now live fulfilled lives with wonderful, loving women.

Using a survey, the two of them wrote a book about their experiences and society’s attitudes toward lesbians. They wrote it under pseudonyms. When my mother’s partner’s employer, a Catholic-run hospital, found out, she was expelled, sparking a legal case that dragged for years. She also left her church and went to a different branch that accepts homosexuals.

So yes, I was raised by a homosexual mother — as a child. One doesn’t become a homosexual only after he or she comes out: my mother was a homosexual mother from the day that I was born, even though it would be years before she would reveal this to me. And yes, I did live under the same roof with two lesbians for a few years. I wasn’t tainted. I am not unable, as the anti-same-sex marriage groups aver, to love or to form a family of my own because of some trauma caused by the presence of a homosexual parent.

And yet, this brings me back to Ms. Faust’s point about men and women providing different things to children. I have no doubt that they do, but not for the reasons that she mentioned. Any two individuals, unless they are clones, will offer something different to their children: thus, when a child is reared by two women or two men, that child receives stability and input from two different individuals with different paths and pasts. If I’d been raised by my mother and her female partner, I’d still have learned to throw a mean fast ball, and to skate, from her (the man stuff), while from her partner I’d probably have picked up painting or something artistic. I don’t think there is anything essentially male or female in what a parent brings to a child (of course that is different in conservative societies where women stay at home, don’t have access to high education or can’t drive a car, while the man is out providing financially for the family, but that’s certainly not the case in modern Taiwan, and furthermore those are social constructs rather than natural attributes). What matters is that tons of love, support and stability are provided, and that solid values are passed down by the parent figures. The children — they’re not stupid! — will take care of the rest. Yes, a mother and a father bring different things to a child, but that’s because they are two different individuals, and not because one has XX and the other XY chromosomes.

I have absolutely no doubt that my many gay friends who hope to create families of their own have everything they need to raise successful, open-minded, and loving children who can contribute to society. What I fear most are those parents who choose to hide the facts from their children and teach them to hate, fear, and denigrate others — that, in my opinion, is the real threat to society and, to use their own rhetoric, a threat to children.

Ms. Faust goes back to the United States. I remain in Taiwan, hoping to do my part, to the best of my abilities, in helping build this extraordinary — and extraordinarily diverse — nation. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

More than Marriage Equality, it’s a Battle Between Reason and Obscurantism

The current mess isn’t a gentlemen’s debate on policy, where one side’s facts are weighed against those of their opponents; it is, instead, a battle between the forces of reason and obscurantism

What a dispiriting state of affairs. As the two camps involved in the battle on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in Taiwan confront each other in yet another round of public hearings today, the opposing camp has continued to escalate its assault, not only against the LGBT community, but against reason itself.

The sad part about all this is that the anti camp, despite calling itself the “silent majority,” constitutes but a small fraction of the Taiwanese public and is primarily a Christian one in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. Despite this, its members have succeeded in hijacking a process that isn’t only beneficial to Taiwan, but that shouldn’t even have been a controversial one, given public attitudes. 

Continues here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thousands protest as Taiwan inches closer to legalising same-sex marriage

Opponents of same-sex marriage rallied outside the legislature as lawmakers discussed proposed amendments to the civil code

Several thousand people on Thursday gathered outside the legislature in Taipei as legislators met inside the chambers to debate the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. Amid changing attitudes, the country is poised to become the first in Asia to do so.

Brought by the busload from all over the nation, the white-clad protesters — the majority of them from Christian churches — assembled on a main road outside the barricaded parliament, chanting slogans and seeking to pressure legislators to delay, or cancel altogether, the passage of amendments to the civil code that would permit homosexual unions.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Christians fighting same-sex marriage in Taiwan are now utterly desperate

Gay marriage would help gangsters and other criminals, apparently

Conservative Christians have been taking to the streets to stop same-sex marriage in Taiwan – and they are getting desperate. Taiwan is inching ever closer to becoming the first country in Asia to legalize equal marriage despite Christian groups warning it will destroy society as we know it.

The groups, such as the Protect the Family Alliance and the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, have good reasons to be desperate.

Continues here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Taiwan Defense Blueprint for the Trump Era

Three things Taiwan can and should do now to mitigate the potentially negative repercussions of a Trump presidency 

The election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States on November 9 is expected to bring change — how drastic remains to be seen — to different aspects of U.S. policy, both domestically and internationally. Largely the result of mounting discontent with the U.S. political establishment, Trump’s successful campaign also tapped into a growing segment of American voters who want a U.S. global disengagement. 

For U.S. allies worldwide, a possible winding down of the U.S. security umbrella, which has ensured stability in Europe and the Asia Pacific over the past 70 years, will be a source of apprehension. Vulnerable frontier states like Taiwan, whose continued existence as a free, liberal-democratic country next to authoritarian, expansionist and revisionist China is largely predicated on continued U.S. political support and military assistance. 

Continues here.

'One Country, Two Systems' Is as Good as Dead

Interest in unification with Beijing has been dwindling. Developments in Hong Kong are the nail in the coffin 

The latest round of protests in Hong Kong following Beijing’s disqualification of two pro-independence lawmakers isn’t only a symptom of the territory’s growing volatility: it once and for all closes any possibility of the “one country, two systems” formula ever being applied to Taiwan. 

As police hit protesters with truncheons and attempt to disperse them with pepper spray, across the Taiwan Strait in democratic Taiwan, twenty-three million people are taking note, aware more than ever since retrocession in 1997 that “one country, two systems” is not a viable option for them, if indeed it ever was. 

Continues here.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Can Taiwan Hold Out Against China’s New Strategy?

China ius busy trying to dismantle the U.S. security alliance in Asia. Can Taiwan weather the storm? 

After years of assertiveness that only succeeded in tightening a United States-led regional alliance meant to contain its ambitions, China appears to have changed tack recently and is now intensifying its efforts to woo what it sees as the weak links in this chain. With two apparent successes in the past month—first, the Philippines, which hitherto had been a staunch US ally, followed by Malaysia—China has put the viability of the US “pivot” to Asia into doubt and likely caused other US allies to question Washington’s commitment to remaining in the region and its ability to ensure their security. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Riddle of Hung’s ‘Peace Platform’ with China

Can the KMT chairwoman create new facts on the ground with Beijing? 

Kuomintang Chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) arrived in China this week for a series of meetings and a cross-party forum, causing divisions within her party and apprehensions across Taiwan that the Beijing-friendly politician may seek to sign a “peace treaty” with China. 

Hung, whom the KMT leadership pushed aside as the party’s presidential candidate at the eleventh hour in late 2015 due in large part to the unpopularity of her cross-strait policies, has been accused of manipulating the KMT’s new policy platform, adopted on Sept. 4, which while reinforcing the so-called “1992 consensus” failed to incorporate longstanding references to each side interpreting differently what “one China” means. 

Continues here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

China No Longer Has a Taiwan Strategy

Money, persuasion and coercion have all failed 

For all the talk about the inevitability of the eventual “reunification” of Taiwan and China and bluster about China’s determination to accomplish the “China dream,” ongoing trends in the Taiwan Strait have made it clear that Beijing’s approach to Taiwan is failing. Short of military conquest, there is very little in the current set of options available to Beijing suggesting that “peaceful unification” is even remotely possible.  

For a while, Beijing seemed to have a strategy, and if one did not look too closely it even seemed to be succeeding. Occurring at a time of shifting balance of economic and military power in the Taiwan Strait, the election of Ma Ying-jeou of the “Beijing-friendly” Kuomintang (KMT) in the 2008 elections, followed by the signing of a series of agreements and indications of political rapprochement, led many analysts to conclude that the Taiwan “question” was, at long last, on its way to peaceful resolution. Moreover, the seeming passivity of the Taiwanese public in the early years of the Ma administration seemed to indicate general support for his efforts. 

Continues here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

President Tsai: Proceed With Marriage Equality. Now

The electoral costs to the government of proceeding with legalizing same-sex unions in Taiwan are so low it makes no sense to delay the matter any further. And from a moral standpoint, it's the right thing to do 

As Taipei prepares to host the largest LGBT Pride parade in Asia on Saturday, the question of legalizing same-sex marriage in Taiwan is once again making headlines, this time with a reinvigorated drive by legislators to pass the necessary amendments to make this possible. 

After months — years, in fact — of foot-dragging, the stars appear to be aligned for Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to embrace marriage equality. A larger-than-ever number of legislators now support legalization, with former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) of the Kuomintang (KMT) becoming the latest to do so. And in the judicial branch, likely appointees have also been sending all the right signals. 

Continues here.

Friday, October 14, 2016

China’s Negative Impact on Freedom of the Press Expands Outwards

We all know how China treats its own journalists. But what about the CCP's critics outside China? More and more, it's going after them, too 

A total of 38 civil society organizations signed a petition earlier this month urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — whose father established relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China in 1970 — to prioritize protections for freedom of expression as Ottawa moves to deepen its relationship with the authoritarian country. 

“We, the undersigned organizations and supporters, call on the Canadian government to put human rights, especially free expression and press freedom, at the heart of the ‘renewed’ Canada-China relationship,” the petition says, referring to the rapid pace of developments between the two governments following the somewhat cooler relationship under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. 

Continues here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

WEF Corrects 'Error' in Annual Report, Reinstates ‘Taiwan, China’

Beijing imposes a fiction about Taiwan and often gets its way in global institutions. But in the end, nomenclature will never change the facts on the ground 

“In an initial version of the Global Competitiveness Report 2016, Taiwan, China, was incorrectly listed as Chinese Taipei. The change in nomenclature happened as a technical matter — guided by designations used by other international organizations — and in no way signifies a lack of support by the World Economic Forum of the People’s Republic of China’s ‘One China policy.’” 

Thus a press release by the WEF on Sept. 29, one day after the release of the report. Due to a “technical matter,” the WEF used the reviled misnomer “Chinese Taipei” adopted by many international institutions to refer to Taiwan or the Republic of China. 

Continues here.