Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Visit Taipei, Taiwan and China

I had a wonderful time in Taiwan. I’d been there many times when I was a governor. I didn’t visit Taiwan when I was president, because of the US government’s opinion that Taiwan is part of China. This issue makes visiting Taiwan a hazard, because even as an ex-president I have to watch my words.

Everything is almost the same as it was when I was here the last time. The only difference is Madame Chiang Kai-shek. I met her on all my visits to the island. She was well in her eighties when I met her. She was a very charming, and I mean very charming old lady. Still looking beautiful at her age. The first thing you noticed about her though was her Southern accent, when she spoke English. According to her she had been to school in the US.

Taiwan changed a bit since the last time in that Taipei is now even more crowded and more built up. Taiwan, I saw this from the air, is pretty small.

In size, not in influence. People always tell me how Taiwan is losing and China is winning. I don’t understand this opinion. You have to look at the Taiwan, China situation from Hegel’s dynamic continuum principle.

You have two countries, Taiwan, capitalist, democratic, prosperous, and you have China, communist, autocratic, poor. These two countries are on the opposite sides of a continuum. They influence each other. Depending on their strength one of them moves to the position of the other.

Now look at Taiwan and China, who influenced who more? China became capitalist. China is the one opening up to pluralism. I assure you that if Taiwan had not existed as an example of a prosperous place, inhabited by and governed by Chinese, China would never had any reason to change.

I do want to say that China’s growth had a lot to do with Deng Xiaoping’s ideas. But he was influenced by Taiwan. I remember meeting him some time ago. He was in his library, reading a book. I asked the translator, my translator, who like most of the times was a CIA operative and should notice things like this, what Mr. Deng was reading. He told me he was reading a book about Taiwan’s success. He also told me a lot of the books in the library had the same theme.

Mr. Deng was right when he said, it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice. The reason he believed this was simple. He only had to look at Taiwan.

Another thing is, China makes sure every mainland Chinese remembers Taiwan is part of China. What this does is make the Chinese on the mainland think, why are they prosperous and not us? When it came to Hong Kong, the communist leaders might say, it’s run by the British, but they couldn’t say that about Taiwan. Taiwan was according to them as Chinese as Sichuan.

The existence and success of Taiwan was of paramount importance to the China that is now emerging. There is no doubt about that in my mind. And I think Taiwan will continue influencing and opening up the mainland.

In the future, China will look more like Taiwan than Taiwan like the mainland. I was in Shanghai. This city looks like Taipei.

I had a good time. I ate a lot of fish. Japan is also a fish loving country, but they cook their fish in water. On Taiwan they fry the fish. And that’s the way I like it. I met the president Chen Shi-bian. We had dinner together. Afterwards we went to his residence for a private party.

We drank wine from the mainland. I didn’t know China produced wine. The wine isn’t as good as French or Italian wine. The reason for this is the fact that the areas in China where you can grow grapes have a tropical climate. To grow wine grade grapes you need a dry sun. China is too humid.

We also sang songs. A lot of them were Elvis songs. Taiwan apart from the US probably has the most Elvis impersonators in the world. I saw 4 of them on the streets of Taipei.

Taiwan also has one of the biggest collections of Chinese art in the world. I didn’t get a chance to see that, but there is always a next time.

I would like to thank all the people of Taiwan, who bought my book and gave me such a warm welcome. Thank you.