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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Behold China’s network in Taiwan

Behold China’s network in Taiwan

When asked to explain the nature of pro-China forces in Taiwan, I like to describe it as a network.

This network is different from a centralized command system in which everyone acts according to the same orders.

Instead, its members are spread out in their own domains, quietly operating according to their own logic.

At certain key moments, however, they suddenly come together to serve a common purpose.

The Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Taiwan to pray for victims of Typhoon Morakot was one such moment. It brought out of the shadows a network that is normally hard to detect and identify.

China’s leaders in Beijing always check that their network in Taiwan is working smoothly. In the case of the Dalai Lama’s visit, several groups of people will score a lot of points in China for their highly satisfactory performance.

First on the list is President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

After approving the Dalai Lama’s visit, Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) quickly sent a secret envoy to communicate with its counterpart in China.

It is not hard to imagine the envoy stressing that the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took advantage of the floods to make trouble. No doubt he insisted that Ma allowed the visit because he had no other choice — and promised that it would not happen again.

It was plain to see how Ma complied with China’s wishes by not meeting or having any contact with the Dalai Lama — or even mentioning his name — throughout the visit.

The Chinese government will also take note of other senior KMT officials who avoided the Dalai Lama like the plague, donning political facemasks as if he were a virus even more dangerous than the swine flu.

Acting in unison on an unspoken agreement, their behavior will have pleased the Chinese Communist Party.

The next category is China’s friends in the media.

While the role of senior KMT figures in this unspoken division of labor was to keep quiet, certain Taiwanese television stations that enjoy Chinese funding brought out their usual pundits and reporters to rain political spittle on the issue.

Their aim from the first moment was to demonize the Dalai Lama. One pundit went so far as to question if the Dalai Lama had been paid a “marching fee” for his visit to Taiwan. Not to be outdone, an anchorwoman on one of the channels brazenly placed blame on the Dalai Lama while conducting a telephone interview with official Chinese media.

Let us not forget that, apart from the attacks on the Dalai Lama, the main target for Chinese criticism on this occasion was the DPP.

It therefore came as no surprise that these media outlets lined up and took aim at the targets painted by China.

The pundits and reporters speculated on all kinds of tedious political topics for days on end, including who invited the Dalai Lama, what friction there might be between various DPP mayors and county commissioners, and so on.

In the absence of China’s national channel — CCTV — these China-friendly channels played a similar role. No doubt the Chinese authorities were very pleased with this show of initiative.

Third on the list are certain religious organizations in Taiwan, whose pronouncements will also score points with China.

It came as no surprise that the first shot in this inter-faith skirmish came from the Dajia Jennlann Matsu Temple, which has always maintained close relations with the KMT.

Several other religious groups followed suit by saying they did not welcome the Dalai Lama’s visit.

Among them, the Chinese leadership must be particularly grateful to Venerable Master Hsing Yun (星雲), founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order.

Despite his professed wish to spend more time writing books behind closed doors, Hsing Yun chose an interesting moment to agree to a joint interview with Chinese media in Taiwan, in which he listed a number of reasons why the Dalai Lama should not have come. Hsing Yun’s performance will likely attract plenty of Chinese tourist pilgrims to his Fo Guang Shan monastery.

Finally, we must mention the pro-unification groups who did their duty by following the Dalai Lama wherever he went and holding raucous protests.

Protests against the Dalai Lama are nothing new, but this time the demonstrators managed to get within a meter or so of the monk, which must be a world-record close encounter.

These political parties and media, civic and religious groups are just some of the nodes that make up a wide-reaching network of people in Taiwan for whom a thorn in China’s side is a thorn in their own, and who take China’s standard of human rights as their benchmark.

We ought to thank the Dalai Lama, who, with his wisdom, humor and compassion, lured these people out of the shadows. The majority of Taiwanese who identify with Taiwan and uphold its right to sovereignty and independence need to be aware of such people and communicate with them.



Yao Jen-to is an associate professor in the Institute of Sociology at National Tsing Hua University.

TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2009/09/10



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Photo: Chu Pei -hsiung, Taipei Times

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