This week on Sinica, Kaiser Kuo is joined by David Moser and Paul Mozur for an in-depth discussion about everyone's favorite renegade province. This is a lively conversation that stretches from questions of personal identity in Taiwan to the island's media sensationalism, close ties with the United States, and obviously political relations with the mainland as well.

Enjoy Sinica? As always, before you listen let us remind you that suggestions, questions and comments are always welcome in our comments section below. We also welcome correspondence by email at So enjoy the show, and let us know what you think. (Note: standalone mp3 download)
 said on
January 25, 2014
Thank you guys. Truly one of the most fascinating podcasts you've done, and there aren't few to choose from. It really re-sparked my curiousity for Taiwan. Hopefully I can visit at some point. In fact, I'm currently learning traditional characters for when that day comes! Really looking forward to the podcast you'll be doing there too. 加油!
 said on
January 25, 2014
Speaking of podcasts about Chinese culture outside of the mainland, Lazlo Montgomery's China History Podcast's recent episode about the history of Chinese food in America was also fascinating. Highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't already checked it out!
 said on
January 25, 2014

1. Director Arven Chen page at Wikipedia

2. Taiwanese aborigines page at Wikipedia

3. List of political parties in the Republic of China page at Wikipedia

4. TVBS新聞 page at Wikipedia

5. Apple Daily (Taiwan) page at Wikipedia

6. Republic of China presidential election, 1996 page at Wikipedia,_1996

7. 92 Consensus page at Wikipedia

8. Stagflation page at Investopedia

9. "ECFA" Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement page at Wikipedia

10. Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien (侯孝賢) page at Wikipedia

11. Director Edward Yang (楊德昌) page at Wikipedia

12. Healthcare in Taiwan page at Wikipedia

13. Taipei 101 (skyscraper) page at Wikipedia



1. The film Yiyi, by Edward Yang

2. The short story collection Taibeiren, by Baixian Yong


LSE Lecture by Isabel Hilton - From Empire to Republic: China's struggle with modernity?




 said on
January 26, 2014
Erratum: Bai Xianyong (or in Wade-Giles, Pai Hsien-yung) instead of Baixian Yong.
 said on
January 26, 2014
@penq.long - Good catch - my understanding is that he prefers Wade-Giles for romanizing his Chinese name, and goes by Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai in English, though all of his books seem to be credited "Pai Hsien-yung" in translation.
 said on
January 27, 2014
I loved this podcast and have been thinking alot about Taiwan recently. I love the culture and the people, and the comment about romanization was spot on. When I went to Taibei, I went to this mountain. There were two signs leading to the mountain, one was in pinyin and one was in wade-giles. Luckily I could read the hanzi and had not trouble at all. But, just thinking about the countless others who don't have a luxury gives me a headache. As a poli sci major out of uni, I consider the politics of taiwan very intricate, complicated and fascinating. I always have mainland friends who are very eager to get my point of view on the political status of Taiwan, but the answer can change depending on how you ask it. For example, Is "Taiwan a separate country?" is completely different from "Is it China?"
 said on
January 29, 2014
Thanks again for all the great recommendations! One question. I'd love to get hold of a copy of 台北人 by 白先勇. Other than the internet, does anyone know of stores in the mainland where I can buy a copy? Is 新华 likely to sell them?
 said on
January 29, 2014

You might be able to get a copy from 新华. If not, you can buy it online from 亚马逊白先勇作品系列-台北人-白先勇/dp/B00486UUHU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390965151&sr=8-1&keywords=台北人

Hope you find it well.
 said on
January 29, 2014




 said on
January 29, 2014

I enjoyed this but felt the conversation could have had a little more air in it. Beijing resident travels to Taiwan to hang out with his pan-blue relatives for a couple of weeks. Is overcome by Taipei as petit-bourgeois haven he'd love to retire to. Politesse abounds, the health system is awesome and President Ma is hampered by circumstance rather than lack of competence. It all goes to show that there's nothing genetic that will prevent the Chinese from turning democratic. Allelujah. But not Japanese, needless to say, as Kaiser wouldn't allow David/Paul to make the point he wished to about the depth of the Japanese influence on Taiwan and perhaps Taiwan's democracy. This was a shame as digging into this might have offered a little more than Kaiser's emotional embrace of Taiwan and tendentious grip on the conversation. As would some actual examples of how 'Taiwan's influence can be seen everywhere in China today'. And Kaiser, you've got to get more nuanced in your view of temple worship. Your contempt for 'superstition' comes across as bigotry. The fantastical imagination is not opposed to modernity but fully integral to reason. You might like to read some of the literature on the place of magic and the imagination over the last 150 years as it developed alongside science. I'd be willing to bet that many many temple worshippers are far more reasoned, skeptical and sophisticated in their worship than you imagine, not to mention your own thinking far more 'superstitious' than you'd like to admit. Nothing to be afraid of, no less a thinker than Wittgenstein taught us that behind every well founded event is an unfounded one.

As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality

Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic

 said on
January 29, 2014

To dish out the term "bigotry" so promiscuously is surely tantamount to undermining the efforts of those who try to stamp out genuine bigotry where it still exists. Such a term ought to be reserved for those genuine bigots who call for the marginalization of others on the basis of immutable attributes such ethinicity, sex, etc.

I cannot not speak on behalf of Kaiser and I certainly cannot claim to know his opinions, but he did not call for anyone to be oppressed or marginalized on the basis of their beliefs. He simply expressed his disapproval of supersticious beliefs, but went no further than that.

In any event, beliefs are not immutable, so they do not consitute a part of one's 'make-up' in the same way that sexuality or race do. In other words, attacking someone's core beliefs is not equivalent to attacking someone on the basis of their sex, race, etc, and so to accuse someone of "bigotry" simply for expressing disapproval of a said set of ideas is a gross misuse of the term - even if such disapprobal were expressed coarsely.

Moreover, good ideas stand up to scrutiny. So rather than jumping to cheap adhominem attacks, if one truly believes their ideas to be misrepresented or misunderstood, then the best way to counter that is to defend them rationally and with discussion. That's the proper way to sort good ideas from bad ones, as opposed to crying out bigot or attempting to silence criticism. I'm not suggesting you did attempt to silence criticism of any kind, though it is a commonly deployed tactic generally speaking.

On another point, I didn't get the sense that Kaiser was trying to prevent anyone from pointing out or discussing the influence of Japanese culture on Taiwan. If anything, he actually took the initiative of making that point himself. It seems to me like you might have misinterpreted that particular issue.
 said on
January 30, 2014
I apologise unreservedly for any promiscuity and tantamountry.

You might like to look up the words bigotry and ad hominem by the way. Just to be sure you've got me right.

 said on
February 2, 2014

Ad hominem: (relating to argument) directed at a person as opposed to the position they hold, often with a view to discredit them. Example: "Beijing resident travels to Taiwan to hang out with his pan-blue relatives for a couple of weeks. Is overcome by Taipei as petit-bourgeois haven he'd love to retire to" etc.

Bigotry: intolerance of others who hold views different to oneself.

That's the standard dictionary definition, although obviously in the vernacular the term is more commonly accorded to those who show intolerance of others based on their sexuality, race, and so forth.

If you meant it in the standard definition way, then the person you accused of bigotry is only a bigot in as much as you are one for being "intolerant" of his views, which would render your accusation rather empty. If you meant it in the more common sense of the word, I again refer you to my first response.

By all means continue to evade the points made and keep up the diversionary tactics.

 said on
February 3, 2014
Ad hominem is to cast aspersion on the argument via the indvidual who makes that argument when no reasonable link can be established between the person's character and the argument they make. To say 'Kaiser Kuo eats babies and therefore his support for the latest TurkeyBurger outlet in Tiananmen Square is wrong', is an ad hominem argument. To say 'Kaiser Kuo makes an appearance in an awful lot of Turkeyburger ads and therefore his hearty support for their new outlet in Tiananmen Square is highly suspect, is not an ad hominem argument. Can you see the difference? The mere fact that you include the name of the person along with your criticism so as to better place the criticism does not make for an ad hominem argument.

My labeling Kaiser as a resident of Beijing who spent a couple of weeks in Taipei visiting his pan-blue relatives was to note his context and thus emphasise the perspective he brings to bear. Do I need to spell out what all of that means? Kaiser's home locale as the political center of the very nation that has such a fraught and covetous relationship to Taiwan. The length of time actually spent in Taiwan. And the political orientation and identifications viz a viz Taiwan and China of Kaiser and family. Did Kaiser even make it farther south than Taipei's Da'an park, I wonder? And for those unfamiliar with Taipei City or Taiwan, Da'an park is located in the well-off, and yes, decidedly petit-bourgeois Da'an district of Taipei. And there is a marked political divide between the North, where Taipei is located, and the major Southern cities of Kaoshiung and Tainan.

For the record, I'm a fan of Sinica and Kaiser comes across as a decent and intelligent human being. Often I feel stimulated and informed and enjoy the discussions that take place. Did you miss where I said I enjoyed this conversation but wanted a little more nuance? Indeed, I found the speculation on the future political relationship of Taiwan and China quite plausible.

Nonetheless, with all that was positive I found aspects of the perspective offered limited and unreflective. Or, at least a little hasty in it's efforts to reach a desired impression. Kaiser comes from a perspective and a set of vested interests, as do we all, and seemed overly-controlling of the conversation at times. Are you suggesting he is beyond critical comment? Were you not curious about the abundant (or any) examples of Taiwan's influence on so many Chinese cities? And would you not like a discussion about democracy in Taiwan that included the Japanese influence on the nation's political system? We might find we come out the other side more or less sanguine about China as a future democracy. It would certainly be a conversation with greater detail and – that word again – nuance than the happy clappy paean to a greater China it devolved into. (I'm being just a little harsh here, I know)

Evidently, you didn't find any uncomfortable resonance with greater political realities in the fact, that, after visiting Taiwan for a mere couple of weeks, then introducing the show by acknowledging his lack of experience and knowledge of the island, Kaiser's perspective had come to dominate the show by the end? This neither makes Kaiser a 'bad guy', nor does it constitute an ad hominem argument if I point it out. It does suggest an unreflective love for China got the better of him. I liked his enthusiasm. I share it to a degree, still there was much about it that felt paternalistic and rushed to me. ('Tendentious' as I say above, is probably the best description) Maybe I'm off base. Maybe I'm not. Maybe I've seen way too much egregious bullying of Taiwan by China.

As for 'superstition', yes, I understand where Kaiser is coming from on this one. Straight-up unleavened magical thinking does not belong in the 21st century. I've heard Kaiser spit this word out with contempt too many times, however, and I find his attitude lacks the very sophistication he decries in the 'superstitious'. And when it's accompanied by saying how 'ugly' the 'Buddhist' temples were, he deserves to be called out. Taipei city is a grey city full of heavy looking concrete boxes. A large proportion of these concrete boxes are stained by the humid climate and pollution, with long dirty streaks in various shades of shit brown. In this context, to single out the color the temples bring as garish and ugly is telling. Not to mention that those 'Buddhist' temples are far more likely Taoist temples,­ that, in good syncretic fashion, include the Buddha, Guan Yin and more, so as to cover as many 'bases' as possible – I'd say perspectives, but then - yawn - I'd be accused of being a 'relativist'.

So yes, all in all, I'd say he displays all the attributes of a bigot where temple worship is concerned. He strikes me as a good liberal humanist with all the distrust of religion and belief that involves. Up for discussion or not? 'Not' would appear to be the case for you. Let's hope that Kaiser is more open to expanding his views.

I know it's sort of cheesy to finish with a quote from a philosopher. I did it above with Wittgenstein and that was one more than enough. I can't resist, however, doing it again. This time quoting Spinoza with, 'The self is as large as the identifications it's able to make'. If you think all those temple goers are fools and completely other than you, who gets to be smaller – Them? You,? Everybody?

 said on
February 14, 2014
I had another listen and learnt that Kaiser is planning a follow-up visit to Taiwan in the company of Jeremy. Excellent! I'm looking forward to Taiwan reprised.

Allow me to suggest as guests and informants a couple of long-term residents of the island, both highly informed bloggers on Taiwan whose writing can be easily checked out. The first of these bloggers is Michael Turton, who blogs as 'The View From Taiwan'. He's green in his sympathies, yes, but that would only provide some interesting balance and dialogue to Kaiser's waishengren 'View From Beijing'.

The second is Michael J Cole, a recently departed Senior Editor of the 'The Taipei Times', one of the two major English language dailies in Taiwan. Cole remains a resident of Taipei and continues to publish widely. He would provide plenty of expertise for the hosts and other guests to chew over. He would also be able to offer further insight into Kaiser's dismissal of Taiwanese concerns over the state of play in the Hong Kong media. Not to mention what actually is the state of play in the Hong Kong media: a 'depends who you talk to' situation from Kaiser's account. Indeed.

Jiayou lads.

 said on
February 19, 2014
Thank you all for this fantastic podcast. I'm a young (post-'80s) waishengren Taiwanese-Canadian currently living and working in Beijing. Listening to this podcast made me cheer out loud and then tear up, multiple times. You did well capturing the complex identities and values that currently co-exist, essentially peacefully now, in our little great (non-)country. And romantic as it may be, many of us from Taiwan who care about China are indeed hopeful about the cultural influences we're having on the mainland. That's a point we don't often hear acknowledged in either Chinese or Western media, though it's plain to see on the ground.

Meanwhile, as dialnz has pointed out, future episodes about Taiwan can delve more deeply about the pan-green stance, the historical influence of Japanese occupation, and whether democracy has actually been serving Taiwan well over the last 5, 10, or 20 years in broad economic and human development terms. (This last point is contentious depending on who you ask in Taiwan and mainland China.) As well, the media sensationalism you touched upon here can be explored much further. Most Taiwanese people today are quite cynical about the quality of our press, which again contributes to a view of democratization as a somewhat double-edged sword. It would be very interesting for the next show to bring in both in-country expat and Taiwanese cultural commentators and contrast their views on this.
Mark Lesson Studied