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    Even now I’m all alone / Behind a wall that’s made of stone

    This is par for the course in my adopted corner of the world:

    “It’s a law-abiding state that has a mature democratic system and, in economic terms, espouses liberal economic policies. It’s a country whose values Japan shares.” So saying, Minister of Foreign Affaird Taro Aso, at a lower house budgetary committee meeting on 9 March, called Taiwan a “state.” Immediately thereafter, he corrected himself: “Well, I’m speaking on the premise that China is recognized as one unified legal government. Fundamentally, it would be accurate to say, ‘territory.'” However, there are those who are discomfited by such repeated “off-message” expressions, which are at odds with the official position taken within the government.

    The LDP’s Naoki Okada responded to Aso’s backpedaling with “How do we get a handle on Taiwan strategically?”

    The question is not an idle one, given the state of economics and diplomacy in the region. Naturally, the PRC was spitting nickels:

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang called on Japan to honor its commitments made to China over the status of Taiwan, reiterating Beijing’s stance that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China.

    “China strongly protests this crude interference in its internal affairs,” Qin said, expressing “surprise that a high-ranking Japanese diplomat would make such remarks.”

    Aso has ruffled Chinese feathers repeatedly in recent months, most recently by accusing Beijing of using female spies to seduce Japanese diplomats and later blackmail them for classified information.

    He also triggered protests from Beijing by calling China a significant threat in Asia, and suggesting that Taiwan’s high educational standards were a legacy of Tokyo’s 1895-1945 colonial rule over the island.

    Japan, you may recall, plays the “interference in internal affairs” card about the Yasukuni Shrine pilgrimage issue frequently.

    I don’t think I ever posted about Aso’s honey of a comment about Taiwan’s education standards, BTW. The Nikkei cites part of it in the above article: “Taiwan has kept up with the times because it is a country with an extremely high level of education, thanks to improvements in literacy rates [during the occupation].” (In that bit, he called Taiwan a 国, which can be and usually is translated “country” but can also mean “province,” but unlike yesterday didn’t use the word 国家, which very explicitly denotes a “state” or “nation.”) It doesn’t seem to me unreasonable to point out that some of Japan’s policies benefited the Taiwanese in some ways–though perhaps part of that is due to my American public education, in which a good half of the time spent on social science seems to be devoted to the complex legacies of colonial rule.

    As the foreign minister, though, you’d think Aso would be diplomatic enough to have put in something along the lines of “our forebears did many things for both better and worse in Taiwan, but surely one accomplishment for which we can safely honor them is….” And given that a half-century has passed since Japan left Taiwan, it’s rather odd not to acknowledge that the Taiwanese educational system wouldn’t be of the high caliber it is were it not for the diligence of the Taiwanese themselves in keeping it up since then. The PRC accused Aso of “glamourizing colonization” in that case, BTW.

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