An aboriginal Taiwanese singer named Uni (葉瑋庭, Ye Weiting) appeared on the Chinese singing talent show The Voice of China (中国好声音) yesterday and caused a lot of anger among young Taiwanese. The show which originated in Holland in 2010 is popular almost all over the world, also in China. That Taiwanese singers are joining Chinese TV shows is nothing new, and usually doesn't cause any major discussions. So why is the internet abuzz over Uni's appearance you might ask? When she introduced herself in the preview to her performance, she enthusiastically said "she was coming from China Taipei Pingtung District" ("我來自中國台北屏東區"). After she finished singing and faced the jury, she said again "she was coming from China Taipei Pingtung" ("我來自中國台北屏東").
Making Taiwan lose face
There are two problems with this statement. First she implied that Taiwan is part of China by saying "China Taipei" ("中國台北", not to confuse with "Chinese Taipei" or "中華台北", Taiwan's name used for participating in international sporting events). Secondly, the term she used is not common in China, instead the media usually refers to Taiwan as "China Taiwan" ("中國台灣"), here an example. And Pingtung is a county (縣), not a district (區), so there's another small faux-pas. Patriotic Taiwanese are very sensitive to semantics (which I already noted a while ago). It didn't take long before her video went viral, and her official Facebook page was flooded with angry comments. You can check the video here:
Reactions in Taiwan
When I saw the original video yesterday, it had only few hundred views and less than ten comments. Today it's already over 260k views, and it's noon. Every big and small news site has reported on it, Facebook, PTT and other Taiwanese forums are abuzz. Even a FB hate page popped up today. Most people used words like "可悲" (pathetic), "可恥" (disgraceful), "爛" (rotten), "滾出台灣" (get out of Taiwan), or "丟台灣人的臉" (made Taiwanese people lose face) to vent their anger. Here are some examples in the form of screen caps:
Meanwhile Uni came back to Taiwan and was shocked at the sheer magnitude of the reactions. To counter the accusations she told the media that the producers asked her to say "China Taiwan Pingtung" ("中國台灣屏東"), but because she was too nervous she said "Taipei" instead of "Taiwan." It's no big news to Taiwanese that their fellow countrymen are forced to imply Taiwan was part of China when they appear on Chinese TV, but many people accused her that adding "China" was voluntary and unnecessary, because a week ago a contestant from Taoyuan introduced himself without adding "China." She's said to be the first ever Taiwanese contestant to do so, therefore most Taiwanese didn't believe her. This Taiwanese contestant appeared a week ago, let's see his introduction:
Reactions in China
For most Chinese this is a non-troversy, because Taiwanese are expected to say Taiwan was part of China, so Uni said nothing wrong in their eyes. There were some discussions on forums like Tianya, where people anticipated a strong reaction by Taiwanese netizens, and worried about her and her family's wellbeing. Some commented sarcastically things like "綠毛龜被戳了" ("the green turtle was poked", green turtle is here representing the Taiwan independence supporters) or "PTT已經高潮了" ("PTT has an orgasm, PTT is Taiwan's biggest online forum). The discussion on Douban was short and mostly intelligent, some where surprised that she said "China Taiwan" twice. On FYJS and Baidu nothing noteworthy was said so far, while on Xici they pasted screen caps from PTT to see the reactions of Taiwanese netizens. It's hard to say how open the discussion about this issue can be in China where the internet is censored, and government sponsored trolls always try to interfere.
Reactions around the world
No major (or minor) foreign news website has reported on this, Taiwan is once again far away from the global public's eyes, while the whole country is shaken up. We'll see what happens after my post is passed around. I wrote about it, because it highlights how complicated the Taiwan-China relationship is on so many levels, not only between politicians, scholars, and historians, but also in the hearts and minds of young people - those who have never known anything else but a democratic, self-governing, and highly-developed Taiwan.