So maybe you’re an American leftist who’s enraged with our recent slide towards klepto-theocracy, and you’ve given serious thought to the idea of leaving the country. Canada’s probably high on your list, but if you want to put a few more kilometres behind you, you might also be considering France, since a Gallic expatriation has the added bonus of pissing off all those conservative Francophobes. But keep in mind that any country is bound to have at least a few sores on its body politic. Take, for example, last week’s news that French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, while visiting China, stated that France has no issue with China’s recent law warning Taiwan not to declare independence. So, Monsieur Raffarin, if China invades Taiwan and imposes a brutal imperial regime, which is that? Liberté, Egalité, or Fraternité?
The Prime Minister didn’t fly all the way to China just to greenlight a pre-emptive declaration of war; he’s also pushing the international community to lift the Chinese arms embargo. This is most likely part of a plan to get French companies more access to the booming Chinese consumer market, and France certainly isn’t the only one currying favor with the Chinese Communist Party for this reason. Still, I can’t help but think that France is crossing a dangerous line, not to mention making China policy the only area in which Rupert Murdoch acts with a higher moral accountability than the Prime Minister of France. Sure, Murdoch’s media empire downplays China’s human rights abuses so he can sell cable subscriptions to the sino-bourgeoisie, but as appalling as that is, it’s only words. Murdoch isn’t the one trying to sell weapons to the Chinese—the very weapons that they could plausibly use, in a few months or years, to massacre the Taiwanese.
Last December, I had the good fortune to travel to Taiwan to speak at their Regeneration of Digital Art symposium. I spent six days there, eating copious amounts of Chinese food, being shuttled around by attentive grad students, and getting into great (English) conversations with many different people. You can’t learn much about a culture in six days, of course. But one thing I did notice is that the threat of invasion by mainland China is a shadow that looms over any discussion of Taiwanese politics and society. One of the Taiwanese newspapers was avidly following the progress of the U.S. missile defense program: When you’re 90 miles away from a nuclear power that considers you a renegade province, missile defense is more than a pointless boondoggle. And more than once, a conversation veered from the topic of Taiwanese democratic culture to the possibility of invasion by the People’s Republic of China. The line of thinking is, roughly, that the young people of Taiwan should be more politically involved, but the danger is that with their idealism they’ll demand independence, at which point the PRC will invade and kill everybody. Try building a functioning democracy and not obsessing about that. It’s like not thinking of an elephant.
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