Monday, August 31, 2015

Khitan, Tsai Wan-lin, and an Italian

"China" in Russian is "Китай (Romanize: Kitai). So where did that come from? Many history books explain the origin of "China", but not "Kitai".

Before the Mongolian conquered the Southern Song Dynasty and the Liao Dynasty, they were still in the Mongolian steppe. They looked south and saw the Liao Dynasty founded by Khitan people. So they called northern China "Khitan". Then they brought this term with the conquering of Moscow.

Not only the Russians call China "Kitai" today, but Marco Polo described northern China also with "Catai" during his visit. After returning to Venice, he joined a war, got captured, and shared his experience with Rustichello, who wrote a book about it. In turn, "Catai" morphed into "Cathay" in English.

Fast forward to the 20th century. In the Republic of China in Taiwan, two men, Tsai Wan-chun and Tsai Wan-lin established the Cathay Life Insurance. In British Hong Kong, an Australian and an American founded Cathay Pacific Airline. And its loyalty program is called the Marco Polo Club!

Nowadays very few understand the Khitan language, and only within the academia. The Khitan people never ruled Taiwan or Hong Kong, but it was corporations from these places that bring the name worldwide.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Photoshopped celebrity

I don't understand why people have such a problem with photoshopped celebrity images. This isn't like selling a physical product where the image must be truthful to what you get. In entertainment, the product is the image itself. As long as it looks good, I don’t care how it is derived. If someone looks like naturally, more power to them. If someone needs a little photoshopping, then part of the credit goes to the photoshopper. Someone works hard for this.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend?

The political and ethnic landscape of Caucasus is very complex. On a world map, you see only three countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. But there are also three other "countries" with limited recognition. The map at the lower left is a political map, while the map at the lower right is an ethnic map.

When I read about how the international community responded to these self-declared "countries", I remembered the old proverb "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". But because the relationship is too complicated, too many parties are involved, I decided to make a recognition/non-recognition graph to help myself understand.

From the graph above, we learn:
  • There is no single "principle" that applies to all cases. "Self-determination" and "respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity" are both nice words. But they contradict each other. Any party in the graph that has a blue line and purple line coming out of it is not consistent.
  • While the saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is usually true, nothing is black and white, just like interpersonal relationship. Because the U.S. and Turkey are among the first to recognize Kosovo, I put them on the left. Northern Cyprus is basically a Turkey-made product, so it is on the left as well. But the U.S. is in a good relation with Cyprus too. Also, there was a rumor that Turkey and Russia would trade recognition of Northern Cyprus with recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This rumor is denied. But if true, then there would be no clear boundary between the left and the right in this graph.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the politics in Caucasus. The graph is an oversimplified representation. I'm sure the reality is much more intricate than that. As for "countries" with limited recognition, the graph has yet to include Somaliland, Western Sahara, and Palestine. This is merely a product of my interest in making diagram.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Comparison of news between Mainland and Taiwan

I like to look at politics with a symmetrical perspective; I also like to observe media behavior. So why don't I combine the two and share what I observe from news from Mainland China and in Taiwan.

People's RepublicRepublic
We see this everydaySome minister-level official signed an agreement with his/her counterpart. Our leaders are busy.Key found in drink, dog jumped off a building, automatic doors of a convenient store slammed on customer, disputes between restaurants and consumers (news with no journalistic values)
International newsIsrael is bombarding Palestine again. Civilian death toll has reached X. (But never mention how many civilians Hamas has killed.)Did Beyoncé mime when she performed at the U.S. presidential inauguration?
Political alignmentalign with The PartyTVBS, CTI, China Times, Era, ETTV, UDN, and the China Post obviously pro-Pan-Blue
FTV, SET, the Liberty Times, and Taipei Times obviously pro-Pan-Green
Workers and farmersnow produce much more, thanks to xyz program from the governmentare protesting on Ketagalan Boulevard
College/grad studentsinnovate new techonlogyare protesting on Ketagalan Boulevard
Bad habits die hardlike to educate viewers so and so land has been Chinese territory since antiquitylike to speculate the emotion of the person being reported. Must use literary 4-worded idioms.
Female anchor's voicelowsharp
LanguagesMandarin, dialects of Han Chinese, Mongolian, Uyghur, Tibetan, Zhuang, English, Spanish, Russian, French, Arabic, Korea, Japanese, and PortugueseMandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, English
English newsPropaganda to native English speakersEnglish learning material. Sometimes they speak very slowly.

If I were to describe the two positively, then I'd have to say that Mainland news have broader vision, while Taiwanese news enjoy higher press freedom.

Last but not least, let's enjoy 2 new clips

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Ministry of Foreign Affair of the ROC is so politically incorrect

If you land on this page because you search for independence vs. reunification or the relationship between Mainland China and Taiwan, I'm sorry that you will be disappointed.

The U.S.A. page from the tourist information website made by the MOF says
Unless necessary avoid crime-prone areas and areas where blacks and Hispanics congregate.
Original: 若非必要,盡量避免前往黑人及西班牙語裔等聚集且治安差之區域

What if a domestic tourist site made by the Ministry of Internal Affair warned people to avoid areas with a high density of a certain demographic group? I wonder.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


When are people going to realize that HTC is not a Taiwanese company, Samsung is not a Korean company, and Sony is not a Japanese company. They each has capital, stock holders, employees, materials, factories, and customers worldwide. HTC and Taiwan mutually do not belong to each other, nor do they represent each other.

Consumer electronics have been reduced to mere instruments to vent nationalist sentiments. Mob justice like that is the Boxer Rebellion in the 21 century.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The United States, the Soviet Union, Genghis Khan, and algorithm

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1863-1944)
A Russian photographer and a pioneer of color photography. His technique was to shoot black-and-white photos of the same object three times, each with a red, green, and blue filter. Between 1909 and 1915, he documented the people, the landscape, and the culture throughout the empire. His dream was to educate the schoolchildren of Russia, when color projector became available one day, of the vast and diverse history, culture, and modernization of the empire.
Mohammed Alim Khan (1880-1944)
The last emir of the Emirate of Bukhara. The emirate had became a Russian protectorate before he was born. The emir is claimed to be a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. He succeeded his father in 1911.
He arrived at Bukhara in 1911 and took a set of photos of the emir Alim Khan.Photographer Prokudin-Gorsky took pictures of him in 1911.
Revolution happened in 1917Revolution happened in 1917
Prokudin-Gorsky was appointed to a new professorship under the new regime, but he left the country in 1918. He settled down in Paris in 1922.The Red Army could not take Bukhara in 1918. They did in 1920. Alim Khan fled to Afghanistan eventually.
Died in 1944Died in 1944
The Library of Congress of the United States purchased his work from his heirs in 1948. In the early 21st century, assembling his photos has become exercises in computer science algorithm in many universities.Alim Khan's daughter Shukria Raad Alimi worked as a broadcaster in Afghanistan. She left Afghanistan with her family three months after the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979, and landed the United States eventually. She joined Voice of America in 1982.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Olympics, Politics, and the true nature of Pan-Blue and Pan-Green

The Olympics is a sports event? Of course not. The Olympics must be politicized. It would be foolish for politicians to not fully capitalize an event that happens only once every 4 years. In 1936, Nazi Germany used the Game to showcase their National Socialism. In response, the Soviet Union, Spain, and some individual Jewish Americans boycotted the Game. In the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, the student movement flew a black-dove-shaped kite in protest of the Tlatelolco massacre, two African Americans raised their fists in black gloves during the medal ceremony for the civil right movement, and Czechoslovakian athlete Věra Čáslavská turned her head down while the Soviet Anthem was played, in protest of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring. In the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the United States led her allies to boycott the Game in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union led her allies to retaliate in 1984. The most peculiar of all is the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Almost all African countries boycotted the Game because the IOC refused to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team had been touring South Africa, a country that had the apartheid policy.

In 2012, there are at least 4 incidents about flags
The civil war is still on-going. A report in May hinted that the Syrian athletes may bear the neutral Olympics five-ring flag. But it turned out that they still used the existing flag.
The ship has sailed, but forces of the old faction still try to stop the athletes from bearing the new flag by kidnapping the president of the Olympics Committee of their country.
I believe it's an honest mistake
Same old same old

For the very last item, the debate is getting really old. In the article "Political Symmetry", I have pointed out that on the subject of the Flag of Republic of China, Pan-Green likes to criticize Pan-Blue for "loving to use them for the most part, but would compromise in an international setting or when encountering the Communist", and inversely Pan-Blue would criticize Pan-Green for "normally not using them, except in an international setting or when encountering the Communist". Because of this symmetry, both sides get to say what they say in an infinite loop. Such infinite loop is not without precedence, to say the least.

What I'm trying to say is not "Because this is so cliché, so stop talking about it". It would sound like I'm trying to avoid a certain topic. I'd like to offer an alternative perspective, something that the Facebook populace has not said. I'd like to reveal the true faces of Pan-Green and Pan-Blue.

Chen Shui-bian visited New York in 2003
Everyone knows that the Pan-Green never liked symbols or icons related to the "Republic of China" or the Flag that is "Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth". On the contrary, they prefer symbols and icons that is green in principle, or with the outline of Taiwan. Such claim can be seen from the picture to the right where "overseas Taiwanese" welcomed Chen Shui-bian in New York. The only problem is that factions of Pan-Green have not agreed on a single flag that is commonly recognizable and satisfy the desirable traits. So the second best option is the Blue-White-and-Red Flag of Republic of China, which is a commonly recognizable icon for Taiwan. They would stop using the Flag when it cannot be used as a weapon against Pan-Blue, because they don't like the Flag fundamentally, much like the HK-ers using the Flag in 7-1 Rallies as a mere instrument against the Beijing government (see picture). Pan-Green and Pan-Blue supporters alike must acknowledge this fact about Pan-Green.

On the other hand, the KMT has a recurring pattern of making compromises in its hundred-year history.
  • To overthrow the Qing Dynasty, they made an alliance with Triad, which later became an criminal organization.
  • To maintain a republic system in the early republic days, they gave the presidency to Yuan Shikai.
  • To fight the Beiyang warlords, they joined forces with the Chinese communists and the Soviet Union, making the so-called First United Front.
  • To united the north and the south, they made a pact with Zhang Xueliang. After the Unification of 1928, Zhang had significant autonomy in the northeast and the north.
  • To fight the Japanese during the Second World War, they joined forces with the communists again, forming the so-called Second United Front.
  • In the later years of the Second World War, they traded Mongolian independence with the Soviet Union, in exchange for Xinjiang not getting independence.
  • In 1981, they negotiated with the International Olympics Committee so that athletes could participate in the Olympics and other international games, with the name "Chinese Taipei".

It goes without saying that any compromise consists of cost and benefit. In the said compromises, whether the benefit outweighs the cost is up for debate. But the debates would be out of the scope of this article. Regardless, Pan-Green and Pan-Blue folks must realize the compromising nature of the Pan-Blue. Pan-Green folks must not only see the cost, and Pan-Blue folks must not only see the benefit.

It sucks to be Pan-Blue because compromising policies are hard for political marketing.

Monday, June 04, 2012

News ticker in Taiwan

New channels in Taiwan always come with new tickers. They come in vertical format and horizontal; they tell you weather, lotto numbers, stock prices, exchange rates, minor news, reminders like "Watch the grand finale on channel XY", and how many points has Chien-Ming Wang Jeremy Lin got.

Alright, jokes aside, amongst these seemingly standardized things, you can still find differences across the world, and the subtle variations are shreds of evidence that reveal the different state of minds. The Chinese Wikipedia actually has an article about news screen!
Mock Taiwanese news screenMock Japanese news screen
Mock Mainland-Chinese news screenMock HK news screen
Mock American news screen

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Political Symmetry

Pan-Green Coalition Pan-Blue Coalition
Toward the Communist Party of China and Chiang Kai-shek Would criticize Pan-Blue "sympathize CKS, but they are too soft on the Communist whom CKS opposed the most" Would criticize Pan-Green "criticize CKS, but their dogmatic opposition of the Communist is no different from CKS's"
Toward the Flag and the National Anthem of the ROC Would criticize Pan-Blue "normally love to use them, but would compromise in an international setting or when encountering the Communist" Would criticize Pan-Green "normally don't use them, except in an international setting or when encountering the Communist"
Unification vs Indepedence Not willing to unify, dare not to declare independence Not willing to declare independence, dare not to unify
Attitude toward external entities Some are Japanophile, but they don't say that publicly. On the contrary, the hostility toward Mainland China is quite public. Some are Mainland-Sinophile, but they don't say that publicly. On the contrary, the hostility toward Japan is quite public.