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Gerald Segal, learn Chinese History before teaching It
Bevin Chu
August 18, 1999

Letters Editor
Straits Times

Dear Sir/Madam,

Gerald Segal, in "Forgo blood politics or get left behind" asserts that "in the China-Taiwan dispute, the appeal from one side is that unity is imperative because of blood ties."

This will come as news to 1.2 billion pro-reunification Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits who demand eventual reunification not on the basis of "blood lines," but on the basis of territorial sovereignty.

China has never claimed, for example, that predominantly ethnic Chinese Singapore is part of China's territory. China recognizes that Chinese-Singaporeans emigrated to a foreign country. The same is true of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Nor have ethnic Chinese in these foreign countries ever been anything but "model minorities." They have certainly never demanded anything resembling the Austrian "anschluss." China does maintain however, correctly, that Taiwan and predominantly Tibetan-Chinese Tibet are integral parts of a multiethnic China.

Segal suggests "societies that stick closely to blood and ethnicity will now lose out in the globalised competition for ideas and talent." I for one agree with this 100%. But what does this have to do with rejecting Taiwan independence?

Even the most technologically advanced "borderless" Information Age nations refuse to tolerate the loss of sovereign territory without a struggle. If Mr. Segal doubts this, let him loudly demand that the United States, the home of the internet, allow Alaska, Hawaii, and Texas, each with an independence movement, to secede, and brace himself for the furious outpouring from American patriots.

Mr. Segal would do well to learn a little Chinese history before presuming to lecture others about it. His entire article confirms that "those who are unaware of their ignorance, will only be misled by their knowledge."

Segal seems blissfully unaware that several millennia of what Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis denounce as "mongrelization of the races" is the reason modern China looks so ethnically homogenous, not outmoded German or Japanese "blood-based instincts of identity."

Jews who centuries ago emigrated to Kaifeng are so thoroughly assimilated they are indistinguishable from "native" Chinese. By contrast Jews in Europe and even America remain physically distinct due to incomplete assimilation.

Yet it is China which Segal, writing from white Anglo-Saxon Britain condemns, and the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, four white Anglo-Saxon dominated former British colonies still plagued with anti-Semitism, which Segal lavishes with praise!

Chinese traditionally did not even think of China as a "nation" but simply as "Tien Xia" ("Under Heaven"). The very term "China" is a western neologism. China's universalist vision merged Hans, Manchus, Mongols, Moslems, Tibetans and 51 other ethnic groups, each at one time independent warring foreign nations, into an integrated multiethnic China. Ancient China was the original borderless economy, limited only by the era's primitive transportation.

If Mr. Segal wants to denounce "blood politics" in China, let him denounce Tenzing Gyatso, aka the Dalai Lama, who rejects his identity as a Tibetan-Chinese and instead demands Tibetan racial purity along the lines of his Nazi mentor, SS Captain Heinrich Harrer.

Segal's obsession with "dividing and conquering" China, well known to those familiar with his scribblings, merely reveal his own "dangerous and increasingly antiquated" Kiplingesque way of seeing the Chinese not as fellow human beings, but as an insidious "Yellow Peril" to be nipped in the bud. And Mr. Segal wonders why "solutions are hard to find."


Bevin Chu
Taipei, Taiwan, China