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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Meeting Chagall

For those of you who don't read Japanese, the writing on the packet says "Blueberry Sōmen" (thin Japanese noodles made of wheat flour, and served cold in the summertime). I found these today in a small store that stocked imported Japanese foods. I haven't tried them yet, but I expect they will taste, um...different?

The president is turning on the charm offensive again when it comes to Japan:

(Yomiuri Shimbun 読売新聞

"T'ái​wān 台灣 President Ma Ying-jeou (Mǎ​ Yīng​chiǔ) 馬英九 has called for a Japan-T'ái​wān partnership to help penetrate fast-growing Chinese markets.

Ma expressed high hopes of future economic deals between Japan and T'ái​wān such as an agreement on mutual protection of investment.

'Economic cooperation between Japan and T'ái​wān could be more systematized,' Ma said in an interview with Shoichi Oikawa, an executive adviser to The Yomiuri Shimbun, at the presidential office in T'ái​pěi 台北 on Thursday.

T'ái​wān companies are versed in Chinese markets while Japanese firms boast high levels of technology, Ma said of the two sides' respective strengths.

'If [Japan and T'ái​wān] jointly go into the markets, we're more likely to succeed,' he said.

In June last year, China and T'ái​wān signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement 海峽兩岸經濟合作架構協議, equivalent to a free trade deal. If cooperation with T'ái​wān firms is strengthened, Japanese companies likely will find it easier to enter Chinese markets.

There has already been evidence of this: A Japan-T'ái​wān partnership helped Japanese companies enter Chinese markets in information and telecommunications technology and machine tools fields...

Meanwhile, Ma appeared to highly regard the Japan-U.S. alliance. 'In the past 60 years, it has served as a foundation for stability in East Asia,' he said.

Since he assumed the presidency, Ma has called on Japan to exhibit art works from T'ái​pěi's National Palace Museum 故宮博物院 as part of the two sides' cultural exchange, saying: 'Although [such an exhibition] was held in the United States, Japan has yet to have one. We're hoping Japan will hold it in 2013.'"

The China Post 英文中國郵報 also reported on Ma's interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun (, although the paper chose to focus on what the president had to say regarding the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島 issue:

"President Ma Ying-jeou has ruled out the possibility of T'ái​wān aligning with China in dealing with issues related with the disputed Tiào​yú Islands 釣魚台群島.

While making this stance clear in an interview with two major Japanese newspapers Yomiuri Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun 日本経済新聞, Ma also expressed his hope that the sovereignty dispute over the uninhabited island group can be resolved through peaceful dialogue with Japan...

The (Yomiuri) recalled that shortly after Ma took office in May 2008, nine Taiwanese patrol ships and private protest vessels entered Tiào​yút'ái waters. At the time, the Yomiuri said, the Ma administration adopted an apparently strong attitude toward the issue.

But Ma later softened his stance and seriously considered steps to strengthen relations with Japan as he came to understand that frayed ties would do no good to Taiwan's security and economic well-being, the Japanese daily observed."

The perpetually factually-challenged China Post also provided this historical background information on the dispute:

"The United States took control of the island group after World War II and handed them over to Japan along with Okinawa 沖縄 in 1972."

What the Central News Agency 中央通訊社 fails to inform us is that the U.S. seized control of the islands from Japan, which has administered the Senkakus ever since annexing them in early 1895 as a case of Terra nullius ( Welcome to the wonderful world of revisionist Chinese nationalism.

I had always told myself I wasn't going to be one of those parents who tried to force "art" or "culture" on his kids, but reality has a way of rudely intruding upon ideals. With an exhibition of paintings by the Russian-French-Jewish artist Marc Chagall currently on display at the National T'ái​wān Museum of Fine Arts 台灣美術館, I gave in to the temptation to introduce my five year-old daughter to the world of high culture.

Not surprisingly, Amber wasn't all that impressed with the paintings, though she did like some of the ones depicting clowns, as well as the one depicted on the admission ticket ("The Birthday"). It was obvious that she wanted to be outside in the sunshine, riding her bike and hitting plastic balls with her plastic bat, but to her credit, she was patient and well-behaved during the time we were walking through the exhibit. I found myself feeling a little disappointed with the exhibition - it seemed a little small, and the majority of the paintings dated from the Seventies. I admit I don't know much about Chagall, but I do know that he came to prominence before World War II, and I would've liked to have seen more of his works from the prewar period (interestingly, the majority of the paintings on display at the art museum appear to have been loaned from collections in Japan). Still, kudos go out to the museum for providing the opportunity to see works from such a well-known master, and even minor Chagall is far superior to what was being displayed by local artists in honor of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China 中華民國 (cue the yawning).

And, yes, if the art museum has another exhibition featuring a noted Western (or Japanese) artist, I will probably drag Amber there again.

波ちゃん may have been only mildly interested in Chagall, but she really enjoyed the storybook area in the basement of the museum. For parents of expatriate or bi-cultural kids, this is one of the best places in T'ái​chūng 台中 to take your children to, and the selection of English-language titles is quite impressive. More kudos.

No kudos go out, however, to the overpriced restaurants that line the Art Museum Parkway. The editors of Compass Magazine, as well as wannabe hipsters and members of the nouveau riche, may like this neighborhood, but Amber and I found a nice little cafeteria a block over where we ate very well for less than half the price.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at a large park in the southern part of T'ái​chūng, where Amber enjoyed working up quite a sweat riding her bicycle, throwing a Frisbee and swinging her bat and hitting some balls. Art, literature, food and exercise - quite the well-balanced day だろう.

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