Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2013

Bloomberg News and the Tradition of Self-Censorship

Recently Bloomberg News has been widely criticised for allegedly censoring its own journalists in order not to upset the Chinese government. According to the New York Times, Bloomberg decided not to publish an investigative report that examined the financial ties between business tycoons and Chinese politicians. It appears that Bloomberg didn't want to risk alienating Beijing's leaders. Following previous reports by Western media that investigated the private finances of CCP cadres, the Chinese government had already signalled that a red line had been crossed. As a result, several journalists had been denied resident visas, and websites such as Bloomberg's had been blocked.
After Bloomberg's self-censorship was revealed, a veteran China reporter, Michael Forsythe, was suspended because he was suspected of having leaked information concerning Bloomberg's move not to publish the article on which he had been working for months.
Meanwhile Bloomberg has denied the allegat…

Judicial Yuan of the Republic of China, Taipei (Formerly God of War Temple)

When the Japanese established their rule in Taiwan, they set about the task of transforming the face of the city. Architecture had a political and social function. The Japanese constructed edifices that symbolised modernity, power, and efficiency. Their architecture reflected the Japanese desire to emulate the West, its technology, institutions, and way of life. As I mentioned in a previous post, Western-style buildings also had an important psychological function: They showed that Japan  was equal to the West. Western-style buildings were to the Japanese what skyscrapers are to us nowadays - symbols of power, technological and social progress, and of status in the global community.



Upon their capture of Taipei the Japanese found a city built according to traditional Chinese patterns. There were gates, city walls, yamens (offices of imperial administrators), temples, and so on. While in some areas this kind of buildings remained untouched, in other areas, especially in the government d…

Original National Taiwan University College of Medicine (臺大醫學院舊館)

During the early years of Japanese rule in Taiwan, casualties among Japanese troops and colonialists were numerous. On the one hand, Taiwanese partisans fought bitterly against the Japanese, causing fatalities among the soldiers. On the other hand, the Japanese experienced difficulties in adjusting to the Taiwanese climate, so that illnesses were widespread. As a consequence, the colonial government established facilities where soldiers and civilians could be treated. 



Already in 1895 the Japanese founded the Dainihon Taiwan Hospital, which is today's National Taiwan University Hospital. Because there weren't enough Japanese doctors available, in 1897 an Academy of Medicine was founded, where Taiwanese doctors could be trained. In 1919 the institute was upgraded to a College of Medicine, and in 1936 it became the Taihoku Imperial University Department of Medicine (Taihoku was the Japanese name for Taipei). 

Japanese Taipei, and What Remains of It

Taiwan was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945, and Taipei was its capital. Yet visitors  may wonder what is left of those years of Japanese rule. If one visits Taipei, one doesn't see many "Japanese-looking" buildings. Most tourists focus on night markets, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, shopping areas, temples, clubs etc. The Japanese heritage of the city is certainly one of the most underrated. However, the impact of the Japanese colonial era on the urban structure of Taipei is enormous and can be seen until today. 
One of the paradoxes of Japanese architecture in Taiwan is that most of it looks 'Western' rather than 'Oriental'. I'm sure that many people who have come to Taipei may have seen a lot of Japanese buildings, but they don't know they're Japanese. 




Taking Advantage of One's Seniority ("倚老賣老") - A Few Thoughts About Chinese Drinking Culture

One of the most difficult things for Westerners to understand is the importance of hierarchy, social roles and etiquette in Asian societies. There are many situations in a person's life in which these - from a foreigner's point of view often invisible - social stratifications reveal themselves.
The first time I became aware of such deep social hierarchical differences was when I lived in Berlin. One of my Korean friends told me with a somewhat exhausted expression on his face that recently he'd been going out with his Korean buddies and he often got drunk. Apparently, he disliked to drink so much, but his friends pushed him to do so. "Why don't you tell them you don't like to drink alcohol?" I asked him. "My friends asked me to drink," he answered. The whole issue seemed to me non-existent. From my viewpoint, he was turning a perfectly harmless situation into an extremely complicated one. If you don't want to drink, I thought, just say 'no&#…

Lee Teng-hui and the Issue of Taiwan's Independence

In 2007, former President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Lee Teng-hui (simplified Chinese李登辉, traditional Chinese李登輝, pinyin: Li Dēnghuī) astonished the Taiwanese public when he declared to Next Magazine that he did not support Taiwan's independence [1]. 
For many years, Lee had been considered one of the most influential supporters of Taiwan's independence. In the 1990s, he had repeatedly angered the People's Republic of China and was denounced by Beijing as a 'separatist' who was pushing for an independent Taiwan. His political stance made him enemies on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. In fact, both the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang) support eventual reunification and adhere to the "one China" principle.
In 2001, Lee was even expelled from the Guomindang, the party that he had led for 12 years. Although he had retired from active political life in 2000, during the election campaign he became the spiritual leader…