Minggu, 18 Mei 2014

China , Taiwan - Not same same

If you are a Taiwanese company boss or worker , currently working in Vietnam, you deserve much sympathy and can be excused if you are bawling loudly. How unfair can the word get.

The background is this. China (Mainland China , that is) has been sabre rattling in the South China Sea and picking up a fight with every other country for the last two years now. In typical bully fashion, it is claiming almost the entire South China Sea as its own and pissing off Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and God knows who else. Every so often it does a provocative act - the latest was that it started drilling in waters claimed by Vietnam.

The reaction from Vietnam was unexpectedly massive. Vietnam is also a Communist Party driven totalitarian state and nothing happens without government sanction. In a country that allows no dissent,  it allowed protests, including street protests against China. That triggered a mob response. Chinese factories in Vietnam were attacked, Chinese workers were assaulted and an orgy of looting has happened.

Wait a minute. Now where does Taiwan fit into this. The problem is that many "Chinese" factories in Vietnam are actually Taiwanese. The average Joe (or Nguyen) on the street can't differentiate between a mainland Chinese and a Taiwanese. So Taiwanese factories have been torched. Poor guys - they are pissed off at China's action too, but are instead getting targeted.

This is a world over problem of the average Joe being geographically and culturally challenged. Sikhs being mistaken for Muslims and attacked is an occasional occurrence in the US of A. Closer home, for a number of people , every South Indian is a Madrasi. And 99.9% of Indians can't differentiate a Naga from a Manipuri or a Khasi from a Bodo - so everybody is a "chinkie" - the worst insult to our brothers and sisters from the North East is the ignorant bumpkin asking them if they are Chinese or Indian.

In this globalised world, this sort of lack of awareness is just unacceptable. In the old days, when you pretty much lived in one place and met the same set of people, it just didn't matter. Now in a globalised world blissful ignorance is a recipe for disasters of the Vietnamese kind.

The responsibility is two fold. The locals need to make a special effort to understand and appreciate the cultures of the "foreigners" living amongst them. Equally the new comer should make an extra attempt to learn and appreciate the land he has come to and not live in the metaphorical ghetto. We are privileged to live in an era where  both travel and communication is possible on an unprecedented scale. Sitting on our bums, we can appreciate and gain from the fantastic diversity in cultures in the world. Diversity is a great boon to the human race - if we were all exactly the same, the race would have been wiped out long ago.

So, here's my plea to Nguyen. Invite Hsi from Taiwan and Xi from the mainland to your home. And go to the factory and stay with them to tell them that you would protect them when there is trouble, By all means, march to the Chinese embassy and protest for all you want if you don't like China's action. But go to China's embassy. Not Taiwan's.

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