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Taiwan — complicated beauty


Published: Sun, November 12, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


If you are reading this first thing this morning, I am back again with you in this time zone.

A week ago, as I headed across the globe to Taiwan, it was confusing to describe time and place.

“Confusing” is a fitting way to describe the complicated life of Taiwan – which is what I and 20 other world journalists were invited to experience. (See last week’s column for more of an FYI on this trip.)

Taiwan is a vibrant country that we were invited to experience from the front row of life. We got a show – genuine and gracious; not gaudy and groping.

Yet Taiwan lives in a shadow that is China – its neighbor, its rival, its so-called enemy, its business partner and, essentially, part of its homeland.

China is China, and many Taiwanese people, too, are Chinese descendants.

The separation comes, in part, from the China civil war that ensued (or resumed) after World War II.

When the Communists won in 1949, the democracy-driven Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan and have lived as two governments competing for world attention.

Imagine Ohio seceding from the U.S. structure, yet still calling itself “Ohio of the United States.”

That’s about as close as I can explain it on deadline after eight days of constant action in the country.

There is much to share over time, as the country is beautiful, its cities are exciting and vibrant, and the people are warm and welcoming.

Example: On a morning walk in a park, I saw two elderly ladies trying to carry a two-wheel cart down 20 stairs. I could not speak to them. I was a foreigner. I outsized them by 12 inches and about 170 pounds. Yet I gestured and smiled that I would take the basket down the stairs for them. They understood, smiled and gave me their basket to carry down the stairs.

We nodded at the bottom and went about our different lives. Such occurrences happened over and over to our group.

But still, the cloud.

What we know as China is called simply “the mainland” by the Taiwanese. The official name of Taiwan is "Republic of China." In the Olympics, Taiwan competes under the name Chinese Taipei.

And per our hosts, the mainland will never support Taiwan independence nor does it like Taiwan going around the world calling itself “The Republic of China.”

The mainland, they say, goes out of its way around the world agitating and bullying other countries and organizations into not recognizing Taiwan. And China gets its way, given the size of its economy and its military influence over many countries that the rest of the world wants kept in line.

The cloud is that relationship.

Due to that, Taiwan tiptoes around the world – living but not provoking.

After the Taiwan president called President-elect Donald Trump last December to congratulate him on his win, China reacted by reducing how many Chinese could tour Taiwan – causing economic loss.

The tip-toeing was on display this week for us as Trump visited China as we toured Taiwan. I’m still not sure how coincidental was the timing of our trip.

One headline in USA Today expressed that Taiwan hopes Trump does not mention its name.

The cloud further exists in Taiwanese people.

Many Taiwanese elders are Chinese descendants.

The younger adults know less of their China heritage and view themselves simply as Taiwanese.

That’s the cloud that is Taiwan.

Amid all of this, the Taiwan businesses and government have built a leading world economy, top-class cities, culture, transit and opportunity for its 23 million citizens.

Yet it wants more.

I asked in one sitting, “What more could you want as you sit on a path more countries would envy than not?”

They want a seat at the table of the world’s leaders.

I am eager to share some more in time.

But a plane calls, and it’s my time to get back to my time.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. Call him at 330-747-1471, ext. 1253.


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