Gracing the front page of today’s Taipei Times is a story about singer Deserts Chang (張懸) who *gasp* brought an ROC flag onto the stage during a concert in the UK at the University of Manchester.
The conflict broke out in the middle of the show at the University of Manchester when Chang took an ROC flag from a group of Taiwanese students in the front row and unfurled it on stage, saying: “I see there are also people who bring a national flag to the concert. I have not felt so patriotic for a while … and I am from Taiwan.”
The singer’s gesture apparently enraged the Chinese fan, who shouted: “There are students from mainland [China] here. No politics today.”
To which Chang said: “It’s not politics, it is just a flag that represents where I am from.”
The argument continued on the blogosphere on Monday, when a user of the Chinese social networking site Douban.com who identified herself as the Chinese woman who was shouting at the concert, posted an article defending her outburst.
“I just want to point out the fact that she [Chang] did use the words ‘national flag,’ which, according to Wikipedia, means: ‘A flag that symbolizes a country,’” the woman wrote.
She went on to say that she respected the opinions of Chang and everyone who comes from Taiwan, adding that she could not care less what they said about such a “sensitive subject” in private.
“However, as a star whose words carry significant weight, she [Chang] went too far when she brought the subject to the table,” the woman said, adding: “Deserts Chang is dead to me now.”
The woman also criticized other Chinese fans at the concert for not backing her up when their “bottom lines were being challenged.”
Sigh. This is not a story. This concerns one solitary chinese fan who felt the need to dictate to Deserts Chang (張懸) what she can or can’t say or do about her own country and flag. For her part, I think Deserts Chang’s (張懸) response was self-respecting, diplomatic, and tolerant. Which more than can be said of the fan. But then, Taiwanese have suffered international humiliation of non-recognition and Chinese attempts to silence and absent them from the world stage for so long that they have learnt to turn the other cheek, a strategy that I think is long past time for an overhaul. I would not have blamed Deserts Chang (張懸) if she had responded more forcefully and with a degree of indignation and outrage appropriate to such authoritarianism from her ‘fans’. I would however point out that her claim that she was not being political is technically hollow: when you associate with political symbols such as national flags then you are being political. But then, such is the victory of right-wing Fukuyama-esque ‘end of history’ ideology that people have come to regard ‘politics’ as a dirty word and pride themselves on their ignorance and disempowerment and disenfranchisement when in fact it is ‘economics’ that should be treated with a similar level of disdain.
Interestingly, note how the ‘fan’ says that she ‘respects’ the opinions of Chang and everyone who comes from Taiwan and doesn’t care what they say about such a ‘sensitive subject’ in private. This is the classic ploy of giving the appearance of tolerance whilst practicing the exact opposite (you can choose any colour you want as long as it is black). Clearly the fan thinks that Taiwanese are like children in the Victorian era: to be seen but not heard. That kind of mindset is speaks to the ahistorical nationalism propagated by the Chinese education system and the arrogance of a people who consider themselves exceptional. Such attitudes are common in imperial and colonial societies facing internal atrophy - the British during the Empire and the USA currently.
Most amusing though is the broadside against other Chinese fans at the concert who said and did nothing. Perhaps this indicates that aside from some 50 Cent’er PRC ‘students’ ‘studying’ abroad, many Chinese don’t feel the issue of Taiwan, Tibet, or East Turkestan, to be that sensitive or even interesting, and certainly not a ‘bottom line’ or ‘core interest’.