Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Wisconsin should support Taiwan

A blog post from the Office of the Chancellor sparked contention among Taiwanese students at UW-Madison. 

A blog post from the Office of the Chancellor sparked contention among Taiwanese students at UW-Madison. 

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

A blog post by the Office of the Chancellor dated August 22 entitled "UW's relationship with China," which originally mentioned Taiwan in the student statistics, sparked a degree of controversy among Taiwanese students. Many Taiwanese students sent e-mails to protest, arguing that China is not Taiwan and that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country. The Office of the Chancellor responded by revising the data to be more specific to mainland China. 

As a fellow Taiwanese student at the law school, I celebrate the efforts of Chancellor Blank to strengthen the university's relationship with China. To be fair, the original blog post cited that UW has 3,500 students from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, which is factually correct but was later revised by the Office of the Chancellor to be more specific.

The term “Chinese” may be confusing because it has multiple different connotations. I agree that Taiwanese students are “Chinese” from a historical or cultural sense. For example, under the status quo, Taiwan’s official and constitutional name is the Republic of China, and over 95 percent of Taiwan’s population is of Han Chinese ethnicity. But we are not to be confused with the PRC, which represents mainland China. People in Taiwan espouse different views about national identity (a growing majority of young people in Taiwan do not identify as "Chinese"). Taiwanese politics is divided across lines of national identity, cross-strait relations, and attitudes on future unification or independence. 

I hope that Wisconsin will give Taiwan the attention that it deserves. The 11th largest U.S. trading partner and 21st largest economy in 2018, Taiwan is a major innovator and manufacturer of technology products. Taiwan’s relationship with the Chinese mainland also affects peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region with potential U.S. intervention.

Frankly, it was quite disappointing to see no significant UW representation at our new students and alumni event in Taipei on May 25, as events in Shanghai and Nanjing during that time were attended by a large delegation from the university. UW should do more in terms of recruiting students from Taiwan and promoting academic and cultural exchanges.    

In the words of Vice President Pence, "Taiwan's embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people." Taiwan’s 23 million people have proven that a democratic system and way of life can indeed thrive in a Chinese society. Just as Taiwan is an enduring ally of the United States, Wisconsin and America have a continued interest in supporting Taiwan as a model for China’s future.

Alfred E. Tsai is J.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin Law School and academic chair in the Student Association of Taiwan. The views expressed in this article are his only. Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

The Student Association of Taiwan has contacted us to clarify that the views expressed in the article do not represent the opinion of the student organization. The author resigned from his position in the SAT on November 7, after the publication of this article. 

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