Yes, I’m Taiwanese American, but I’m sorry to inform you that I won’t take sides on whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right to visit Taiwan last week.
My entire extended family lives there and I have many more knowledgeable relatives to answer to. Relatives who, when I proudly display the Mandarin I’ve polished as a reporter in the San Gabriel Valley, pat me on the head like I’m a particularly intelligent talking dog. Relatives who take me to all the delicious places to eat, who might stop if they didn’t like my thoughts on strait politics.
So the strongest opinion I can offer about this week’s debates on Taiwan is this: Please don’t spoil me.
Taiwan is a beautiful island that I visit almost every year since I was a child.
Politics has always been a sensitive subject, and the gap is generational. All my cousins believe in Taiwanese identity and independence, and my aunts and uncles tend to vote for the Kuomintang party, which has favored closer relations with China.
Some commentators are already calling it the fourth Taiwan Strait crisis. The first Taiwan Strait crisis in the 1950s was what brought my family to America.
Although this is not the story I was told as a child. Like most immigrant parents, my father told me he came to America so his children could have a better life.
But the real story is that my grandfather told my father to go to America and start a new life for the family as protection against the possibility of war.
Conflict seemed inevitable and my family was worried that they would have to flee the war.
These are the messy parts we leave out of the simplistic narratives we use to explain immigration. The truth is that immigrants are not only drawn here by their admiration for America, they are fleeing the danger and instability that the US has more often than not played.
Covert illegal American intelligence operations destabilized the governments of Central and South America, and these actions are the ultimate cause of the immigration crisis at the border. Immigrants to the United States, whether we call them refugees or not, are fleeing existential threats.
So I am too cynical to believe that this latest clash between superpowers is about democracy or culture.
Taiwan is the world’s largest producer of microchips, and its location off the coast of China is an invaluable strategic asset for both the United States and China.
When we can see Taiwan only in terms of its political and strategic value, the Taiwanese people lose.
The Taiwan Strait crises, when you boil them down, are essentially a series of overheated rhetoric leading to overheated political action, with the dangerous consequences of actual conflict.
Behind this gripping global drama of clashing countries and ideologies are families like mine trying to survive. Grown children who cannot be at their father’s deathbed. Daughters who never get to take care of their elderly mothers. Immigrants who are forever strangers in their new home and can no longer recognize their country of origin.
So here’s what I’m asking. In a world where instant and absolute certainty has become such a marketable commodity, dare to be uncertain.
Because with uncertainty comes the will to learn. And this is the only way to move these problems forward.
So prevaricate, please, just a little. Hesitating, equivocating, whatever needs to be done. Maybe waffle a little.
Because I don’t know who this rush to judgment helps. Certainly not the Taiwanese people.
Frank Shyong is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.