Friday, 17 May 2013

"Asia In 2013 Is Like Europe In 1913"

Today was supposed to be my day off to take another reservoir trip. A combination of torrential rainfall this morning, delays in getting my big bike back from the mechanic (he was asleep when I first went to pick it up, and was out to lunch the second time), and various other little errands have resulted in that plan being cancelled. And that's three or four trips I've had to cancel now; this cancellation after cancellation is wearing me out.

And yet, the horrible slide continues.

In its' wake, various mini-horrors are surfacing: Filipino people being fired from their jobs in Taiwan - because they are Filipinos; refused service in restaurants - because they are Filipinos; Taiwanese office workers openly wondering whether the R.O.C government should request assistance from Beijing because "after all, we are Chinese". This is in Tainan - the de facto political capital of the south and base of operations for what once styled itself as the Taiwanese Independence movement.

How quickly the Taiwanese have turned amazes even me.

Yet it isn't just Taiwan; seemingly every country in East Asia is now reverberating to the loose drum-beat of nationalism, with a consequent military build-up across the region. The strategic aim of the Chinese is obvious; the ability to dictate who gets what access, when and on whose terms to shipping lanes, fisheries and oil and gas fields throughout the region. The smaller states are almost entirely dependent upon the prospect of U.S. protection; the military assets of the Philipines and Vietnam for instance, do not amount to much at all. Meanwhile the governments of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have all been attempting to further modernize and increase their military capabilities - and in Japan's case - to also reform the constitutional limits to their military. All of these Asian governments are also vigorously insistent about maintaining their sovereign control over waters and their "EEZs". My comparison of Asia in 2013 to Europe in 1913 is just stating the obvious really. I would implore the Taiwanese to hope that we don't have another Gavrilo Princip anytime soon, but - thanks to those conservatories of stupidity and obedience we euphemistically refer to as "schools" - they don't even know who he is.

As far as Taiwan is concerned, the diplomatic crisis with the Philipines appears to be pushing the island closer and closer into Beijing government's orbit; not only have the Taiwanese deployed their navy in waters close to the Philipines (a violation of their U.S. arms exports treaties), but the Beijing government is now in a position to pose as an ally to Taiwan and to profit from the boiling-over of frustrated Taiwanese nationalism. A friend of mine told me today that her colleagues at work had been openly discussing whether their government should formally request assistance from China! Another step toward de-facto annexation.

And there is the unremarked upon stink of hypocrisy: if the government's first duty is to "protect" its' citizens, then why did a certain old woman in Miaoli County, Chu Feng Min, drink a bottle of insecticide on August 3rd 2010? Apparently "protection" only applies to citizens attacked by the agencies of a foreign government, but not to those attacked by the agencies of the Taiwan government.

Of course this whole thing could have been avoided if, in contrast to the stupidity of nation-state territoriality, the seas between Taiwan and the Philipines had been governed by a common market in tradeable fishing permits with the incentives so aligned as to make overfishing unprofitable. In that case there would have been no possibility of a dispute over the legality of a Taiwanese or Filipino fishing vessel operating in any of these waters so long as they had paid for their permit, and there would be no need for coast guard vessels carrying machine guns to enforce their "EEZs". 

Is it too late for that sort of thing now? The nationalist hysteria has spread like wildfire already up and down the country - I will be amazed if I manage to get anything published in the press on the subject in the next few days. But the urgent question is: what are we going to do?

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