S Aufrecht

Last July, when our class was welcomed by the dean, we were all asked to stand up by country. This produced an ugly moment when one of the Chinese students obsequiously invited the Taiwanese student to stand with them, since Taiwan is a part of China. He demurred.

Last night this tedious controversy resurfaced in the context of an invitation to class party. I don't mean that the issue of Taiwan is tedious; it's very interesting and raises issues about self-determination and national sovereignty that question the fundamentals of our modern global political system. I mean that the mechanical repetition of the Chinese party line like a Pavlovian response is tedious. All eight Chinese classmates are perfectly nice, smart people whom I like and who are very courteous when I speak my few words of Chinese. But when the propaganda takes over, they're as much victims of uncritical thought as the Americans who parrot lines about "fighting them over there so we don't fight them over here." Please, give it a rest. You aren't winning any friends when you talk like this. The problem isn't the political dispute, it's the insulting vapidity of reflexive stridency: "I strongly protest .... According to the international conventions, Taiwan should be named as Chinese Taipei."

Oh please.

The other interesting question is why all eight Chinese students acted in concert. I hadn't thought all eight to be so doctrinaire or nationalist. Perhaps some of them know or suspect that some of the others are reporting to the Party.