Ko Is Wrong in His Ignorant Evaluation of Cultures

China Post, February 2, 2015 | Go to article overview

Ko Is Wrong in His Ignorant Evaluation of Cultures


The words of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je regarding colonialism, which he was asked about by Foreign Policy magazine, deserve criticism because of the false link he draws between it and cultural advancement. He insulted a large segment of the population while betraying his own ignorance of the complex legacy of mercantilism and subjugation by foreign powers.

The title of the interview is a dig at Ko: "Taipei's Fiery New Mayor Knows Whose Culture Is Best."

"Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and mainland China - the longer the colonization, the more advanced a place is. It's rather embarrassing. Singapore is better than Hong Kong; Hong Kong is better than Taiwan; Taiwan is better than the mainland. I'm speaking in terms of culture," he is quoted as saying of four places in the Chinese-speaking world.

Ko mentions Vietnam, which was under the tutelage of the French, as having better road etiquette than China.

It is necessary to ask the mayor: by what token are you able to generalize on the state of culture between four places with over a billion souls? By what authority do you claim the ability to generalize and disparage others, as well as ourselves?

Culture can mean the arts accumulated over millennia of human civilization. In that sense, the Chinese civilization is the mother nexus from which the entirety of East Asia drew its source of richness, including Japan and Korea.

When one attempts to put over a billion citizens of the People's Republic of China into stereotypes about etiquette, culture, or the like, it is an undertaking fraught to its core with inaccuracies because it is impossible to generalize among 10 people, much less a billion.

Ko's grading of the respective values of the four places is incorrect. Hong Kong and Singapore are not "better" than Taiwan. Given Ko's lack of elaboration, we can't know for sure what he was comparing.

A further problem is Ko's failure in presenting a coherent, consistent definition of the time frame of colonization. How did he arrive at the ranking ofSingapore being colonized longer than Hong Kong, in turn longer than Taiwan? …

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