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Monday, May 4, 2009

Reality bites, or bites of reality?

It should belong in the "What's all the fuss about?" department, but both the Taipei Times and the Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ have stories on the fuss created by the Japanese representative to Taiwan who had the temerity to point out something that should be clearly obvious: when Japan gave up its claims to Taiwan at the end of the Second World War, it did not designate who should assume sovereignty over its former colony:

"A former foreign minister-turned-Chinese Nationalist Party 中國國民黨 (KMT) lawmaker charged yesterday that Japan should recall its representative to Taipei 台北 over the latter’s comment that Taiwan’s status is unclear. Taiwan’s former representative to Japan, on the other hand, supported the Japanese representative, saying that he did not say anything wrong. The fuss stemmed from remarks made by Masaki Saito, head of the Taipei office of Japan’s Interchange Association — Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan — on Friday that Taiwan’s status is 'still unresolved.' Saito made the comments at an annual meeting of the Republic of China 中華民國 (ROC) ­International Relations Association at National Chung Cheng University 國立中正大學 in Chiayi County 嘉義縣. The Japanese representative later apologized for his remarks after Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Andrew Hsia lodged a protest and demanded an explanation."

"Japan's top representative to Taiwan, Masaki Saito, retracted remarks he made Friday saying Taiwan's international status is unclear after the island's government lodged a protest, according to local media reports. Taiwan's national Central News Agency reported online late Friday that Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Hsia lodged a protest and demanded an explanation of the remarks Saito made at a symposium held at National Chung Cheng University in southern Taiwan. Saito, head of the Taipei office of Japan's Interchange Association, told Hsia that it was purely his personal view that Taiwan's status was still unresolved and that his comment did not reflect the position of Japan, the CNA said."
("Taiwan remarks retracted", Kyōdō News 共同通信社)

The KMT has recently launched a campaign to convince the public that the ROC assumed sovereignty over Taiwan when it signed a treaty with Japan 日本国と中華民国との間の平和条約 in 1952, so it is understandably miffed when a high-level Japanese official contradicts the official (Chinese) line. But as Koh Se-kai 許世楷, a former Taiwan representative pointed out (in the Taipei Times article):

"...Saito had no reason to apologize because he did not say anything wrong and that Hsia’s chiding was 'merely a show'...Koh said the Treaty of San Francisco 日本国との平和条約 signed in 1951 did not clearly name a recipient when Japan gave up its claim over Taiwan. The fact that no recipient was specifically named means Taiwan’s status remains ambiguous even though it maintains an independent body of governance with its own territories and population, he said. He said the ROC ceased to exist after the UN in 1971 passed a resolution in which the People’s Republic of China 中华人民共和国 replaced the ROC in the international body. The view that the ROC and Taiwan are the same would only further confuse the international community, he said, adding that such rhetoric was used as a political tactic by people who want Taiwan to unify with China."

Saito's stating of the obvious just shows how reality and Chinese propaganda, of both the Nationalist and Communist varieties, are rarely (if ever) compatible.

Back in the real world, the Kaminoge family passed another milestone on the Taiwanese road of life. As anyone who either has children in preschool, kindergarten or a cram school, or teaches in such establishments, know all too well, performances for the parents are an important part of the curriculum. My daughter Amber has only been going to preschool for about a month, and this morning (at the ungodly hour of 8:30 on a Sunday), her class performed a song and dance for Mother's Day (which is next Sunday, of course). Actually, it was more dance than song, as it seemed most of the kids couldn't remember the words. In the video below, you can see how Amber did in her theatrical debut - a little unsure of what was going on, but at least she didn't cry or fall down, like some of the other kids did. As soon as the children appeared on stage, all the parents rushed to the front, armed with digital and video cameras. My wife was in charge of filming, while I attempted to take photos with an old-fashioned camera, which chose to conk out just when it was needed most. At least I was spared having to watch my daughter's show through a lens finder:

The show was staged at the uniquely named Chung-cheng 中正 (aka Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正) Hall, complete with an old statue of Peanut in the lobby of the 1970's-era building (and Japan designated the Republic of China as the new ruler of the island of Taiwan back in 1951-2). At the end of the show, all the mothers went onstage with their girls:

After the show, we drove through downtown Fengyuan 豐原 to my in-laws to pay a quick visit, then it was off to spend the afternoon in Taichung 台中. Along the way, the betel nut girls were out in force, purveying their fine cancer-causing products:

We visited the area around Feng Chia University 逢甲大學, walking through the campus first, where Amber stopped to watch a boy feed peanuts to a squirrel:


Fengjia is noted for its night market, but even in the daytime a lot of clothing stores and food stands were open:

Coming off her successful stage debut this morning, Amber did her best to avoid the paparazzi:

And while the real world keeps going round, has anyone noticed that neither the Treaty of San Francisco nor the Treaty of Taipei mentioned the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島? Seeing as they're obviously Chinese territory, it was probably felt there was no need to do so.

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