Saturday, November 4, 2023

Review of documentary on Taiwan: "Invisible Nation," invisible for a reason.

Edited version of <b>Invisible for a reason</b> was posted on <a href="">Asia Times</a>.

I was interviewed on national podcast, "Critical Hour."  Critical_Hour_1342_seg_3.mp3

On Youtube video by Veterans for Peace,

A dear friend we have not seen for sometime invited us to attend a viewing of
“Invisible Nation,” at Stanford on Thursday evening. It was a chance to visit
with an old friend and pick up a light dinner promised by the organizers. By the
time we got there, all the bento boxes were taken. It was the first of a list of

Invisible Nation is billed as a documentary on Taiwan and is
beginning to be shown around America. By traditional standards of journalism, a
documentary film is supposed to inform and educate by presenting unadulterated
facts and let the viewers come to their own conclusion. “Invisible” makes a
mockery of the term of documentary. 

It is an unabashedly adulation of Tsai Ing-wen and blanket endorsement of Taiwan as a model democracy. 
The flaws of Invisible are many, mostly by calculated omissions of history and personal

The film portrays Taiwan’s history beginning with the Dutch
colonization of the island and claims that the only time one government
controlled both the mainland and Taiwan was from 1945 to 1949. The government
was the short reign of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang that reclaimed Taiwan
after the end of World War II, and ended when he had to flee from the mainland
to Taiwan. This is most misleading at best and outright lie at its worst.

<b>Koxinga, liberator of Taiwan, not in the narrative</b>

The film fails to even mention Koxinga, aka Zheng Chenggong, the end of Ming
dynasty leader who resisted the takeover of the mainland by the Manchus and
retreated to Taiwan by evicting the Dutch from the island. Zheng’s grandson
eventually surrendered to the Qing imperial court in Beijing. For centuries
thereafter, Taiwan was part of China until the Beijing government lost a sea war
to Japan and Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895. 

Invisible also does not mention the Potsdam Declaration that stipulated the terms of Japan’s unconditional
surrender, drafted by the allies, in which Japan was to hand Taiwan back to
China. Throughout the war, United States was insistent in recognizing Taiwan as
part of China. This recognition persisted when President Richard Nixon went to
China and reaffirmed by President Jimmy Carter and by every American president
ever since. 

The mockumentary did correctly attribute the actions of Lee Teng-hui
for the political turn away from the heavy-handed rule of the Nationalist
government. Lee succeeded Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek who led
the retreat from the mainland to Taiwan in 1949. The son took over in 1978 and
began to liberalize and loosen the control of the island. He selected Lee to be
his vice president because Lee was a Taiwan native born. 

Chiang was probably
unaware that Lee also went by his Japanese name, Iwasato Masao. In fact,
Lee/Iwasato, a native speaker of Japanese, was known to confide to visiting
dignitaries from Japan that his allegiance leaned more to Japan than to China.
In fact, his older brother was killed in action during WWII as a member of the
Japanese imperial army and his name is enshrined in the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo
among other war dead and some convicted war criminals. 

After WWII, there were
many Japanese that remained in Taiwan. They took on Chinese surnames and merged
into the local society. The question of divided loyalty and the influence of an
estimated hundred thousand Japanese that stayed along with their descendants on
Taiwan’s politics has not been studied.

<b>A Bian not in the narrative either</b>

In the case of Lee, after he assume the leadership of the Taiwan government, he
gradually undermined and weakened the KMT organization that paved the way for
Taiwan to elect its first president from the KMT opposition, the Democratic
Progressive Party, thus ending KMT’s 55 years of continuous rule. Somehow, the
name of Chen Shui-bian that should have figured prominently in the documentary
was not mentioned even once in Invisible. 

Chen Shui-bian not only became the
first president from DPP, he cleverly manipulated and divided the opposition and
became the only president to win with less than 40% of the votes. He also became
the first Taiwan president to be immediately imprisoned for wanton corruption at
the end of his term of office. He was the kind of president that would give any
democracy a bad name and one can hardly blame the director of the documentary
for leaving Chen out of her story. 

Aside from being a blot on Taiwan’s modern
history, Chen ordered a consequential rewrite of school children’s history
textbooks. Obliterated in the revised textbooks was any reference of Taiwan’s
linkage to China’s history, culture and ethnic origin. 

A generation of young
Taiwanese people grew up not knowing that their ancestors did not spring out of
the ground but came across the Taiwan strait from southern Fujian for many
generations. That the Taiwan dialect sounds almost exactly the same as Minnan
dialect off southern Fujian. That if they had a chance to study Chinese history,
they would know that as early as the Han dynasty around 200 BCE, the mainland
already knew about the island offshore. 

Small wonder that the generation of
young hotheads, that spearheaded the sunflower protest, screamed for freedom but
did not appreciate Taiwan’s economic dependence on trade with the mainland.
Every year, Taiwan’s trade surplus with mainland more than offset the entire
trade deficit with the rest of the world. The is a consequence of Beijing’s
deliberate policy to give Taiwan special preference. 

The sunflower protesters
were not as violent as the Hong Kong protesters of 2019 but they nevertheless
destroyed public property, invaded the government parliament, and insulted
publicly elected officials. All of which was recorded in the mockumentary. But
since it was in the name of fighting for democracy, what’s the big deal of
breaking a few laws along the way? 

Of course, not all Taiwan’s youth are
lunkheads. The intelligent, high achievers understand that their future lies
with the fast-growing mainland economy. Many live on the mainland and are
working for Taiwan companies located in China. Some are even working for locally
owned companies in China. The sunflower children may not care about economy,
jobs and a career. But the serious-minded young people do.

<b>A progressive image of DPP</b>

The film naturally featured many remarks and speeches by Tsai Ing-wen, the
current president of Taiwan. Other talking heads include her admirers and
followers, even transgender cabinet ministers. The film brag that Taiwan was the
first in Asia to recognize same sex marriage and protect the rights of the
LGBTQ. Certainly, a show of progressive mindset that is even steps ahead of the

The film also included a clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drop in visit
to Taiwan, against all advice but to the thrill of Tsai and the DPP. The most
powerful woman in Washington meeting with Taiwan’s first woman president. Could
not have gotten any better than this. Thank goodness, Invisible did not include
the video of Tsai bestowing a beauty pageant sash on Pelosi. Also not included
was any discussion on how Pelosi having stepped on the red line, greatly raised
the cross-strait tension and prompted threatening hostile reaction from the PLA.

But there were a lot of folks the film could have interviewed but did not. They
could have interviewed the Taiwanese living and working on the mainland on their
perspective of the cross-strait relations. They could have interviewed the vast
majority of the people on Taiwan that prefer the status quo, neither for
unification or independence. 

They could have asked the persons on the street on
what they thought of the relations with Uncle Sam: Will the US really come to
fight alongside the troops of Taiwan? How do they feel about Washington forcing
the Tsai government to buy old outdated weapons? How do they feel about being
forced to buy tainted pork from American farmers? What do they think of Biden’s
strong arming Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing into moving their advanced chip
fabs to Arizona, and then run into unforeseen labor problem, cost overrun, and
construction delays? Has Biden shown any respect for Taiwan’s “sovereignty?”

Taiwan is an invisible nation for a simple reason. Taiwan is not a nation but a
province of China. Simple as that.