Monday, January 28, 2008

Another job I am unlikely to be re-hired for....

Part of the Xinhua English-testing gig I just mentioned involved giving the interviewees a three-line news item (from a Xinhua story of the preceding week or so) and asking them to "Make comment on it" (obviously the testing materials had not been prepared by a native English speaker - surprise, suprise).

One of the more interesting - surprisingly provocative - of these snippets concerned a recent German government pronouncement opposing any moves to obtain UN status for Taiwan or independence for Tibet. I contrived to make sure that most of my guinea-pigs (well, the more articulate ones anyway) got that topic. They were supposed to have a free choice from a dozen or so different ones, but it was easy enough to 'force' this slip of paper by placing it in the middle of the proffered 'fan'.

I was yet again struck by how thoroughgoing the brainwashing on the Taiwan issue is here, even amongst very bright and well-educated people, many of whom have spent long periods overseas.

Well, for a start, everybody spoke only about Taiwan. I suspect there's less active propaganda about Tibet, but that seems to result in a complete blind-spot about it - the idea that there might even be a controversy over this was apparently incomprehensible to most of the people I talked to yesterday.

After enduring 30 seconds or so of the knee-jerk, pretty much word-for-word identical gabble of the party line on the Taiwan question, I did a few times interject heavily: "But this article is not about Taiwan. It's about Germany." I wanted to follow up by saying, "Why do you think Germany is so keen to kiss China's arse at the moment?", but I refrained.

One girl gushed, "Taiwan must remain part of China, because Taiwan has always been a part of China."

"Oh, really? How long has it been part of China?"


"What about from 1895 to 1945? It was a province of Japan for 50 years, wasn't it?"


"And when did Taiwan actually come under the political control of the mainland Chinese government? That only happened in the Qing dynasty, didn't it? In fact, it didn't become a full province of China until the 1880s, I think."

"Oh, I am so shamed. You know my country's history better than I do."

I'm not sure if that last remark was true or not. I had been trying to tease out of this girl what exactly they were taught in high school about the history of Taiwan's relationship with China. Is the answer really nothing at all? Or nothing beyond this emotive nationalistic crap about it having been spiritually a part of the motherland since the Dawn of Time?

However, there was one positive note to emerge from a day of depressingly unoriginal thinking. One of the other news items was about a sharp dip on the Shanghai Stock Exchange last week, which was blamed on "fears of a new American depression". One of the news editors I spoke to jeered candidly: "Oh, that's just a pack of lies. We try to blame everything on the Americans. There's really very little linkage between our domestic stock prices and the world markets as yet. It's just that our market is very overheated, and everybody is getting nervous ahead of the next Party Congress in March."

Ah, insight, honesty, irreverence. You don't find it nearly often enough, but there is some of it around. Maybe there is hope for this country after all.....


The British Cowboy said...

Isn't the general populace's opinion simply a product of nationalism? I mean don't you find similar entrenched views in the UK & Eire regarding the status of Northern Ireland, and regarding Irish history in general? I mean, if you speak to most American Irish, Ireland was a happy skippy unified democracy before the British invaded. The view on the potato famine are also somewhat distorted.

moonrat said...

may i say, you wrote some damn fine jacket copy for a man who hasn't even written a book.

Froog said...

Why, thank you Moonrat.

Cowboy, there's nationalism and there's nationalism. A lot of it arises by nebulous, spontaneous, mass-culture means; with the Irish, I suspect a lot of it is through 'oral history'. Then there's the nationalism that is consciously created by state-sponsored propaganda in teaching materials and the news media. Most Chinese have no personal contact with Taiwan or the Taiwanese, and would know or care nothing about it at all but for the constant harping on the issue in the media here.

Most Irish people think that the British treated their country very badly (hard to disagree) and that Northern Ireland should be united with the Republic (I think it probably will happen one day, but it's none of my business); but it's all a bit woolly and sentimental. Most Chinese, by contrast, seem to have a chillingly clear idea that they will re-take Taiwan by force within the next few years.

The British Cowboy said...

I was thinking more of the historical misconceptions of the American Irish regarding the past of the Emerald Isle. But as for future solutions, I think that is more a case of expectations of capability. I have little doubt if the I-A felt Eire was capable of militarily retaking the North, they would press for them to do so. The Chinese people seem to think that China could easily take Taiwan. Therefore they think it should happen and expect it to happen. I am sure a lot of this is government stirred up, but you surely remember back in the early 80's how British people suddenly felt their entire national identity was tied up with a bunch of rocks populated by sheep that few of them could even have found on a map.

Froog said...

Yeah, but you know, we had been INVADED first. The idea of a military expedition was not pre-existing. Here it is. And it is entirely because of the propaganda the people here get subjected to from their earliest childhood.

It's more akin to saying, "Normandy is by historical right a part of the United Kingdom, and we can quite justifiably re-take it by military force whenever we so choose." But maybe you do think that, Cowboy??

The Chinese could probably far more easily conquer Korea or Mongolia or Vietnam or Burma or the untended edges of Russia - but, luckily, they do not currently seem inclined to do so.

Like I said earlier, there's nationalism and there's nationalism. I used to think that the United States was the most insanely patriotic country I had ever visited. But China takes the cake on that. The really worrying thing here is that there is just about no separation of country, nation, people, and government - so anything the government decides on automatically becomes conceived of as being the will of the whole people, and any dissent from that policy becomes an insult to the motherland itself. Really, it is extremely scary.

I challenged one of the girls at this Xinhua English test when she inadvertently candidly said, "Of course, I agree with my government's view on......". "Why do you say 'of course'?" I asked her. "Do you know that in the West most people disagree with their governments a lot of the time, and don't feel any embarrassment about expressing such a view?"

"In China we all agree with the government."

Of course you do. And you can all think for yourselves. And you all understand in clear detail why Taiwan is necessarily and justly a part of China. And you have carefully thought through the military and geopolitical considerations involved in mounting an invasion. Of course you have.

The British Cowboy said...

Don't get me wrong, Froog, I am basically agreeing with you. I also think (hope) the PRC government realizes it is utterly incapable of retaking Taiwan by force - even without (relatively inevitable) US involvement, the PRA Navy doesn't have the capacity to transport/protect the troops. Any kind of seige situation would be so damaging to the world economy China would be economically crippled too.

But I am comparing this idea that there is a natural right to reunification with the view that Northern Ireland should automatically, inevitably, merge with the south. Both are based on historical fallacies.

Froog said...

Ah, you're off on one of your Mick-bashing rampages again.

Ireland might never have been a closely united political entity prior to the British colonisation, but it is quite clearly a single geographical entity, and the indigenous population had a fairly uniform ethnic and cultural heritage. The re-unification of of Ireland (because it certainly was forged into a single political entity under British rule) probably makes practical sense in political and economic terms, and certainly in geographic terms, and will almost certainly happen one day - within our lifetimes, I should think. And I think most of the concerned parties - with whatever qualifications or reluctances - accepts the principle of self-determination for the citizens of the province.

None of that's true for Taiwan. Its original indigenous population (now almost disappeared, I believe) was non-Chinese. The Chinese community that developed there (over the past 400 or 500 years only, not the aeons that the Chinese want to believe) has always been fiercely independent-minded and with a distinct culture of its own. It only even began to be brought under the sway of the central government late in the Imperial period, and wasn't fully integrated as a province until just a few years before it was ceded to the Japs. That's a great line for baiting ill-informed Chinese nationalists, by the way (not that I do so often): "Do you realise that Taiwan was a province of Japan for 7 times longer than it was a province of China?"

Geographically, it probably makes more sense to regard it as a part of Japan as well. I haven't ever dared to use that line here yet. Perhaps I should give it a try.

The Chinese have this huge blind-spot over the fact that Taiwan was never part of (Sun Yat-sen's) Republic of China or the modern People's Republic. It had established a separate government under the Kuomintang before Mao founded the modern nation, and has existed as an independent entity - with no political connection with the mainland - ever since.

Also, of course, the Chinese just don't get the idea of "self-determination".

The will to "national unity", anywhere in the world, is always likely to derive more from emotion than from reason, and to bolster itself pathetically with distorted accounts of supposedly relevant history (or, in the Chinese case, a wilful ignorance of the relevant history). It's also bound to be fraught with controversies over how the "nation" is defined. However, Ireland was quite clearly one country (in the sense of a clearly defined geographical land mass) and one people (at least until the arrival of the Brits confused things), and you can see where the passion for unification of Irish people today is coming from. If they feel that the division of the country was misguided in the first place, a last self-interested imposition of colonial rule - well, even if you happen not to sympathise with that viewpoint, it's not unreasonable. And if the Irish resent the continued existence of British rule on the Emerald Isle as an unhappy reminder of centuries of oppression - well, again, you might not share the depth of their passion about it, but it's difficult not to sympathise a little.

There is, I think, a world of difference between wishing to rid oneself of an 'invader' (even if that 'invader' has become a fully integrated part of your population over the past 500 years), and seeking to become an invader, to "reclaim" by force a territory that is entirely independent of and unconnected to you - purely on the basis that it briefly belonged to you a century or two ago (and remember, we're not even talking about it having belonged to the same political entity here, but to the predecessor state of the predecessor state - a ramshackle and discredited Empire).

Froog said...

And I'm told that the Chinese Navy is buying lots of landing craft. Worrying.

Jeremiah said...


I agree with your frustration over the Taiwan issue here. Trust me, I get it A LOT. "Oh, you study history, You must know that Taiwan has always been a part of China..."

The idea that Taiwan has ALWAYS been a part of Chins is tiresome. I always ask people 1) When did it become a part of China? What's the date? 2) When did Taiwan become majority Han Chinese?

Nobody can give an answer to either. As for the 1) I usually use the date 1683, when Taiwan came under the direct administrative control of the Qing government in Beijing (as a prefecture of Fujian) after Shi Lang's defeat of the Ming loyalist descendants of Koxinga 2) I really don't know, but a helluva later than most Chinese would like to admit.

FOARP said...

@Froog - Man, I have no desire to get involved in any Anglo-Irish arguments, but this phrase: "The re-unification of of Ireland (because it certainly was forged into a single political entity under British rule) probably makes practical sense in political and economic terms, and certainly in geographic terms, and will almost certainly happen one day - within our lifetimes, I should think." is clearly bollocks, unless by 'Ireland' you mean the southern counties, try telling an aprentice boy that Ireland was 'forged into a single political entity under British rule'.

The main difference between Taiwan and Norn Iron is that the Irish government has abandoned its claims on Ulster and is happy to allow the Northern Irish to stew in their own juices. The troubles really have produced '26 county nationalism'. Not only do the Chinese insist on forcing their views on every country with which they maintain relations but they refuse full stop to ever consider negotiating with the ROC government. Compare this totally failed policy to the successful reunification of Germany via Ostpolitik and recognition by the Federal German Republic of the DDR.

As for Taiwan, it is nowhere near as simple as you make it out to be in your description, to whit:

1)"None of that's true for Taiwan. Its original indigenous population (now almost disappeared, I believe) was non-Chinese."

Aboriginal Taiwanese are only 'non-Chinese' in the sense that a lot of people in China are 'non-Chinese', you mean 'non-Han'. However, 'Han' itself is an ethnographically meaningless term, as far as anyone can work out, there is no single Chinese race. The Han are only one race in the same way that all white people are one race, it is their shared language an culture that unites them. Meanwhile, most of the aborigines are in fact uncomfortable with the idea of a Han-majority ruled state, and support the KMT.

2)"Do you realise that Taiwan was a province of Japan for 7 times longer than it was a province of China?"

Taiwan was not a province of Japan, it was a colony - there is a distinct difference. A set of Qing officials had declared an independant republic of Taiwan to forestall any handover and the Japanese hunted down the leaders of the republic and executed them and their followers. There were also brutal reprisals against the local populace following an uprising during (I think) the twenties. A better question to ask them is: "Why do you expect Taiwanese to ever trust a mainland government when they have been failed by mailand officials so many times in the past and they're own government is much better?"

3) "The Chinese community that developed there (over the past 400 or 500 years only, not the aeons that the Chinese want to believe) has always been fiercely independent-minded and with a distinct culture of its own."

This too is largely myth, most of what is now called 'China' was not part of the territory ruled by the Ming dynasty, even Yunnan has been part of 'China' for less time than Wales has been ruled by the English crown. China did not really become a nation state until after the Communist victory. I remember a conversation I had with a historian about the differences between India and China - I had mentioned that I had read in the newspaper that there were still whole villages in India where people did not even know that they lived in India, and remarked that this was impossible in China. His reply was that it had only become so since 1949, and I'm given to thinking that he was right. Before that, political disunity had ensured that the seperate dialects and cultures of each province had been much better preserved. It is for this reason that many people say that Taiwan is far more traditional and has preserved far more of ancient Chinese culture than the mainland.

4) "The Chinese have this huge blind-spot over the fact that Taiwan was never part of (Sun Yat-sen's) Republic of China or the modern People's Republic. It had established a separate government under the Kuomintang before Mao founded the modern nation, and has existed as an independent entity - with no political connection with the mainland - ever since."

This is wrong on many levels, obviously Taiwan returned to (amazingly corrupt and brutal) rule of the Nanjing government after the end of WWII, the KMT was the party that Sun Yat-Sen founded, even if they had ditched many of his ideals. The ROC still claims to be the legitimate government of China (as well as Mongolia), although the provincial governments in exile have now been done away with.

5)"Geographically, it probably makes more sense to regard it as a part of Japan as well. I haven't ever dared to use that line here yet. Perhaps I should give it a try.

This is somewhat dubious, Okinawa is further way from Taiwan than the Phillippines, although mainland China is closer than either.

6)"Also, of course, the Chinese just don't get the idea of "self-determination"."

Nor, obviously, do the Taiwanese, otherwise the various referenda which were organised to co-incide with last week's elections would have been quorate.

7)" . . . even if you happen not to sympathise with that viewpoint, it's not unreasonable."

Nor, really, is the idea that a place in which the majority of people hold similar views, speak a similar language, have a shared history, shares your country's official name and follows similar religions to those that many of the people in your country follow should be part of your country. What is totally unreasonable is the idea that you should expect them to give up the freedom and prosperity that they enjoy to acheive this. Compare this to the IRA's plans for a socialist worker's paradise in the emerald isle following an IRA 'victory'.

8)"There is, I think, a world of difference between wishing to rid oneself of an 'invader' (even if that 'invader' has become a fully integrated part of your population over the past 500 years), and seeking to become an invader"

What mainland Chinese nationalists wish to acheive can be explained as wishing to undo the work of Japanese invaders. Ulster protestants are not 'Brits' and are not invaders, they were born in Ulster and grew up there, they have a right to the land they live on.

As for China's military build-up, you are right to be afraid. I expect to see a war over Taiwan long before I see a united Ireland. Happily for democracy, both stand a good chance of not happening so long as the leaders of the great powers do not attempt to sell out the native populations of either in return for short-term expediency.

Sorry about the long post, I guess once i get start I find it hard to stop!

Froog said...

Excellent, if nit-picky points. Too much in there for me to make a detailed response. Perhaps my fractious buddy The Cowboy will have a joust at you.

Thanks for stopping in. I may attempt a fuller reply later.

Froog said...

Returning to the oddly-named Foarp (I did a quick check on Acronymfinder, just to make sure that it wasn't the name of the rebel party in some African civil war - but no; my next guess is that it is an onomatopoeic rendition of a belch or a fart)....

A couple of quick disclaimers first. 1) This is essentially a private spat between myself and my old (debating society) buddy, The British Cowboy. We've known each other nearly 20 years, and enjoy getting a rise out of each other. We know each other's foibles and prejudices and styles of argument. We will occasionally, I think (well, I certainly will), make deliberately overstated or inaccurate assertions, just to see if the other will pick us up on it. Therefore, in this discussion, no guarantees are issued of historical precision or consistency of argument. And if you're going to step in between two brawling drunks, Foarp, you should be prepared to get slapped around a little.

Second, I have no pretentions of being a serious historian. I leave the real historical commentary on these issues to the likes of Jeremiah.

That having been said, I think my 'inaccuracies' here are few and trivial, and justifiable in the service of my argument.

To deal with your points one by one:

The re-unification of Ireland. The Cowboy's main point about "historical fallacies" underpinning Irish attitudes was (I think) that there was no single political entity of 'Ireland' prior to British rule; there was only a 'dark ages' scenario of multiple warring clans, and even the remit of The High King didn't extend to the whole island. Fair enough. My counter to that was that the idea of a 'united Ireland' did not depend on such distant history; the concept was created by the British, who ruled the country as a single political entity (until the partition in 1921), and the corresponding sense of unity among the (non-Anglo) Irish people was begotten by resistance to British rule.

The opinions of a diehard Proddy apprentice boy are scarcely relevant to this point (although you suspect that, in their deepest hearts, some of these people might still yearn to have a united Ireland subjugated to their will..... but they have at last accepted that this is impossible).

I would imagine that a substantial majority of British citizens (well, everyone bar a few foaming-at-the-mouth 'Plastic Proddies' like The Cowboy) would eagerly wash their hands of Northern Ireland. Equally, a substantial majority of citizens of the Republic have a strong sentimental impulse to create a single united Ireland. The attitudes of the two governments are, of course, far more subtle and shifting, and influenced by other factors than the popular will of the electorate. The Irish government, I think, would have been reluctant to consider unification until recently, since the North was such an unappealing hot potato, and they had problems enough of their own to deal with already. Now that the terrorism has been discontinued and the Irish economy is doing so well, it's a whole different story. I can't see Northern Ireland being a viable independent nation; and I can't see it enduring for many more decades as a remote and pointless offshoot of the United Kingdom. Its political future will be decided by its own citizens, but demographics favour the mostly pro-unification Catholic population (they breed like rabbits, those Catholics) attaining a majority position before long. Moreover, I would think that with such an open border, there is likely to be far more immigration/intermarriage from Eire than there is from Britain, further diluting the the strength of the Unionist vote over the course of a generation or so. And it's not even as if all Protestants are pro-Union. With time, I feel that's likely to become more and more the case..... and we might even see the Unionist delusion die out altogether one day (although I imagine that might take centuries). However, politics is ultimately dictated more by economics than abstract sentiment; economics in turn is largely dictated by geography. It makes no sense for Northern Ireland to be administered as part of a country from which it is separated by a wide tract of sea; and that consideration will, sooner or later, result in the absorption of Northern Ireland into the Republic. I have no real idea when. Perhaps it will take more than a few decades. But I think it's inevitable it will happen.

That's just my opinion, of course. And I reiterate that this is "none of my business" - I have no particular axe to grind on either side. I'm not even saying that this is what I think should happen. I just think it will.

I'm not sure of the relevance of the Ireland/Taiwan/Germany comparison you made. It's an interesting aside, but not directly relevant to anything we'd said in the earlier posts.

As to your quibbles on my presentation of the Taiwan question - well, yes, some oversimplification is, I think, inevitable in order to produce a concise and intelligible argument. I may have been guilty of a few elisions here and there - but I don't think the situation is nearly as "complicated" as you try to make out either.

1) We all know what is generally meant by 'Chinese', i.e. Han Chinese. The identity of the Han ethnicity might be more muddied and uncertain than some, but it is still fairly readily distinguishable by physiognomy and genetics and, perhaps above all, by self-definition. So, in the context of that point, I was, I think, fairly clearly referring to (Han) Chinese ethnicity, not to Chinese citizenship. Yes, 7% or 8% of Chinese citizens are non-Han - so what? That has absolutely no bearing on this argument whatsoever. The point here is that the CCP bases its "Taiwan is a part of China" propaganda on a tie of common ethnicity since ancient times - which is completely bogus. The 'aboriginal' inhabitants of Taiwan are emphatically 'not (Han) Chinese' - genetically, linguistically, or culturally. The Chinese presence on the island is the result a relatively recent colonisation, with a total history to be measured only in 100s not 1,000s of years.

2) Province or colony - what is the important distinction? I have heard the word 'province' used of the period of Japanese rule, but I have no idea what the Japanese terminology is, or how the administrative arrangements might have differed from those of Japan itself. I admit that this remark is just a cheap debating shot designed to antagonize the mainland Chinese - but the significant point of the comparison is the degree and duration of political control. Again, the CCP bases much of its propaganda on the idea that Taiwan "has always been ruled by China". As Jeremiah has pointed out above, direct Chinese rule can only be dated from the defeat of the rebel warlord Koxinga in the 1680s; and I gather from other sources that even then the central government's control was largely restricted to the coastal communities, and was often scant or shaky even there. It was not, so I believe, until the 1800s that the whole island came truly under the sway of the Qing Emperors. The upgrading of Taiwan from satellite prefecture of Fujian to separate province seems to have been a very significant step in the integration of Taiwan into China - but that only happened a few years before the island was given up to the Japanese. The degree of effective political control, sophistication of administration, and harmonization with 'the rest of the country' appears to me to have been far greater under Japanese rule than it probably ever was under the Qing.

The Chinese I've talked with about this always completely disregard the period of Japanese rule.

3) Everything that I've read or heard from friends (both foreign and Chinese) who've spent time in Taiwan supports the assertion that 'Chinese culture' in Taiwan has very distinctive characteristics - amongst which is a deeply ingrained sense of 'separateness' or 'difference' from, or at least distrust of the mainland.

But actually your comment here seems to suggest not that you are suggesting this statement of mine is a myth, but that the 'One China' idea is a 'myth' - or a very recent invention. I don't think there's any question about that. But of course this is a difficult thing to discuss with any citizen of the PRC.

4) I may have been imprecise in my expression. I was thinking of Sun Yat-sen's Republic at the time of its foundation (using his name to attempt to designate the period when he was actually ruling it, or the period proximate to that). I agree that it is ridiculous that a single party (and one with political control over only a very limited portion of the total territory) should purport to be the 'successor state' of the original Chinese Republic. However, I would also suggest that that Republic had de facto ceased to exist as a meaningful entity with the disintegration precipitated by the Japanese invasion and the civil war. The Chinese today have a lot of reverence for the early days of Sun Yat-sen's Republic, but CCP propaganda glosses over the fact that Taiwan was not a part of China in 1912.

Your comment under this head didn't seem to directly address any of the points I'd made anyway.

5) It looks to me as though geographically - and geologically - Taiwan is the southernmost extension of the group of islands that mostly comprise Japan. It is not, I think, part of the main continental shelf. This is no real argument for determining sovereignty. I was just being flippant and provocative again. Mere proximity is, I think, an even weaker argument; but it is one the CCP partly relies on. Some of the smaller Japanese islands are, I think, very close (aren't there some of the the Taiwanese islands that are still claimed by Japan?); probably closer than the coast of China. The Philippines may be in with a good shout as well! And what about distance from the putative capital: Beijing, Tokyo, or Manila - who wins?

As one of my American friends is fond of pointing out, if proximity, family/cultural ties, and strategic interests were enough to justify annexation..... Cuba would be the 51st State in no time.

6) That is a very, very, very cheap shot, Foarp. Taiwan is only a fledgeling democracy; and it is, I gather, plagued by many of the same shortcomings in its education system that bedevil the mainland; but I'm quite sure that there is far more understanding of democratic concepts amongst most of the people there than there is amongst the mainland Chinese. Apart from the worldwide problem of voter ignorance/apathy, the turnout in Taiwan is affected by domestic political considerations (antipathy to the current leadership of the DPP) and fear of consequences (being intimidated by the CCP's sabre-rattling).

7) Unreasonable? Yes, the very idea that you can lay claim to a territory just because of supposed affinities or similarities is.... well, not just unreasonable but ridiculous. If common language, culture, religion, etc. were enough to justify such aspirations, the PRC would be lobbying to annex swathes of downtown San Francisco as well.

Taiwan has a similar (so what??) but not the same name as the PRC, a 'shared history' only in the sense that we all share in the history of the world, and its people really do not "share the views of" most of the people of the mainland on just about any topic you could think of. I agree with your main point that follows, but I found your preamble barely coherent and frankly ludicrous.

8) I deliberately refrained from mentioning the Anglo-Irish or the Unionists - except with the passing acknowledgement that they were integrated in the population of the island over hundreds of years. I put the word 'invader' in inverted commas for a reason. My point here was that the Irish tend to see the continuance of British rule in Northern Ireland - and the intransigence of the Unionists - as emblematic of the unhappy history of invasion, colonisation, exploitation and oppression which they suffered at the hands of the British.

Well, thanks for looking in. I confess to being irritated (or, for a while, baffled) by some of your points, but I hope I haven't slapped you down too savagely in my responses. A long comment is, I suppose, evidence that I have at least piqued your interest. And I am grateful for the additional historical background you have provided on some points.

But I warn you, I expect The Cowboy and I are going to be duking it out on this one for a while. I'd advise you to stand well back.

The British Cowboy said...

This is what frustrates me. Any time a person challenges the (false) concept that England invaded a happy, skippy, unified, democratic, thriving Ireland, one is accused of "Mick Bashing."

Froog said...

That's not true, Cowboy. Actually, I can't think of anybody who makes that 'happy, skippy' assertion. And I just overturned it myself - and no-one has yet accused me of "Mick-bashing".

I accuse you of "Mick-bashing" not for any single assertion, or the accuracy or inaccuracy thereof, but because your stance tends to be based on emotion as much as or more than on reason - you will affect the attitudes of a rabid Unionist, disparaging or disdainful of the Irish.

You are a Mick-basher. You love it.

I know, my last post was very long, but if you read it carefully, you'd see that I actually accepted most of your points - but didn't seem them as very relevant, and made others to counter.

The sense that Ireland can be and should be one country comes not from some prehistoric idyll (except in the sentimental fantasies of certain nationalists), but from the period of British rule: the Brits both created a single political entity out of the country for the first time and created a sense of solidarity amongst the Irish people, unified for the first time by their resentment of British rule.

I think unification now can be justified, and becomes overwhelmingly likely over the next generation or two, not on any grounds of history or sentiment, but for purely practical reasons. It really makes no sense to draw an arbitrary boundary across open fields and bogs. It does make a lot of sense to have a capital you can drive to rather than having to fly.

The British Cowboy said...

Apologies for the delay - I have been on a hideously long training course, with only the time for one hit and run posting.

I am not a Mick-basher. I just don't put up with the crap... My point is that, other than under British occupation, there has never been a united Ireland to return to. That in itself does not mean there should not be a united Ireland in the future - I too think it is likely.

But, while I have a definite soft spot for de jure recognition of countries, there really isn't a "right" for there to be a united Ireland, any more than Canada should be part of the US, or Denmark part of Germany.

Partition was problematic. Including two counties that did not want to be part of the UK in the North was not a good idea, but also the alternatives were certainly problematic too. A united Ireland at that stage would have led to a blood bath.

So we are pretty much stuck with the situation we have. The question is, when does it change? My only answer is self-determination. When the people of Northern Ireland want union with the south, they should have it. If the people of the North want to remain part of the UK, they should be allowed to.

I also object to the romanticizing of Irish history. Much brutal oppression took place during that history, and that should not be forgotten. But then again, nor should the brutal infighting of the civil war.

I don't think there should be any long term grudges held in Westminster about the 1916 uprising, despite the fact that it led to many deaths in the British Army, sapping its strength at a very bad time on the Western Front. That was certainly a legitimate attempt by a people to gain freedom. But what seems to be forgotten is World War II. Neutrality in itself was a bad thing. Aiding Germany was worse. having the first head of state to send condolences to Germany upon the death of Hitler is terrible.

And the harboring of the IRA in the 1970s and 1980s, whether in the Republic or in the US is despicable.

That said, I do love Ireland. I have had many happy times there. I'll be the first to support a united Ireland, as soon as the people of the North want it. I'm just not willing to sell them down the river until they determine that is their wish.

The British Cowboy said...

And Froog, as ever, we are very close on this, and as you correctly point out, are having one of our normal efforts of magnifying differences for the hell of it...

Having read your response to Foarp, I see you are saying very similar things to what I have just said...

The British Cowboy said...

And to make three in a row from me, how ever many landing craft are built, an invasion without air superiority is going to be ugly. Even without a USN carrier group, that is a long way off. Add those in (and a couple of subs of course) and there'll be an awful lot of landing craft on the bottom of the ocean.

Froog said...

Missile bombardment or maybe even some sort of blockade I could see.... but seaborne invasion? Utterly crazy. And yet that is the fantasy that the propaganda is promoting.

Do they think that America would renege on its obligation to Taiwan, abandon it if China appeared determined enough in pursuing a military option??

I think this kind of rhetoric is largely a way for the military to boost its budget and acquire a lot of cool toys. Toys are fun, even if they are of no practical use to you.

Unless, of course, this is all a cunning diversionary tactic and the real target is Korea....

The British Cowboy said...

The blockade is possible if a country is willing to sacrifice its economy for nationalistic pride. I don't think that is likely to be the case. I hope that is not the case.