Why I’ve Never Been to China (& prefer Taiwan)

'Teacher Trista' studied Atayal gardens in the remote mountain villages of Hsinchu County
‘Teacher Trista’ studied Atayal gardens in the remote mountain villages of Hsinchu County
Wild East Editorial / By Trista di Genova
When I’m ‘stateside’ in the U.S., people first — almost invariably — make the mistake of thinkin’ I’m talkin’ ’bout THAILAND. Guess it’s ’cause bein’ one of the world’s WORST in geography skills, we Yanks usually don’t know the difference between the two Asian ‘countries’. The second most common mistake my fellow ‘Amercans’ make about my SECOND HOME OF TAIWAN is to assume I therefore must MEAN I spent some time in CHINA. This mistaken notion I disabuse them of immediately. I have NEVER BEEN TO CHINA, & FRANKLY I DON’T HAVE MUCH INTEREST TO DO SO.
I have spent many years in lovely Taiwan, but I’ve NEVER been to China, and there are many good reasons for that, which I will expound upon today.
I actually first came to Taiwan because I couldn’t find any good teaching jobs in China. In the early Naughties, while doing research on teaching opportunities in Mandarin-speaking ‘countries’ (& it IRRITATES me that I have to put ‘country’ in quotes when referring to Taiwan, because of China’s interference in Taiwan affairs!)
The only teaching jobs in China at the time paid maybe a few hundred dollars a month, or worse! This didn’t even come CLOSE to my needs of paying off my share of burdensome US student loan debts!
Sometimes Chinese schools & teaching programs even expected native English-speaking teachers to pay THEM to teach there! Yeah, ridiculous, huh!
So I heard about Taiwan through an old friend from DC who was teaching in SHIJR of all places! ha! …& enjoying it VERY MUCH. Moreover, the typical ‘cram school’ wages in Taiwan were very respectable indeed compared to the average dead-end job in the U.S. – about US$20/hr ($600NT). As me friend put it, he was ‘living, loving & eating Chinese.”
Although the pay in Taiwan’s ‘buxibans’ hasn’t changed much in 20 years, & even dipped a bit, nevertheless this is still ‘decent’ pay, even today. This is thanks to the lower costs of living in Taiwan than many places, even to Japan; basically, prices on everything are about half that of the U.S. So when payday comes around in Taiwan, we ‘foreign people’ can actually save a lot more money than bein’ at home or most places elsewhere, because rent, food, beer, cigs, etc are all way cheaper.
I ended up falling in love with Taiwan. Perhaps it was the lovely people, the paradise-like, lush natural, sub-tropical surroundings, the AMAAAZING, crazy food at night markets! Or maybe it was the quirky, funny things about quotidian life, like Chinglish signs & snack food packaging! Moreover, as a cunning linguist, I find the constant intellectual stimulation of learning Chinese in situ MOST STIMULATING. In Taiwan, I NEVER felt like I was in ‘a rut’. There are always hiking groups to join, pub crawls with me mates, scooter rides in the mountain, & other adventures to be had.
So why haven’t I been to China? The simple answer is: There hasn’t been any reason to go there. I can learn Mandarin with TRADITIONAL CHARACTERS WHICH I PREFER & live a fun, healthy lifestyle in Taiwan. AND save Money.
The few job opportunities I have checked out in China always fell through for some reason or other; situations & people were undependable. But once I applied to work in Taiwan, my employers were ORGANIZED, PROFESSIONAL & LEGIT. From my understanding, it seems hard to trust anyone there in China; the rules are always changing, too.
In Taiwan, I got scammed out of 1000s by a Chinese boss lady, who just ‘disappeared’ back home to China when it came time to pay me for teaching Tiffany employees for many months! NOT cool.
My Taiwanese bosses never cheated me on my salary. In fact, they were generous & helpful, in helping me adjust & locate accommodation, and so on. Taiwanese people are TRUSTWORTHY. I can TRUST Taiwanese people to do what they say they’re gonna do – for the MOST PART. Of course, there are always exceptions. It’s interesting to learn that the earliest accounts of Taiwanese mention: They don’t STEAL. They don’t CHEAT. They SHOULD be at top of the list for MOST POLITE countries, ’cause they REALLY go outta their way to help out foreigners! I got offered a ride on a scooter once, by a father & his two kids!
You see, China is obviously very different a culture than Taiwan. Btw, I studied Taiwan & China history, culture, languages at National Palace Museum & NTU, TMU for many years, & have eagerly read many books on this subject, as well as discussed this with many people from Taiwan & China. So my grasp on this is good, I think, despite my not having ever been to China! (& it’s just CHINA, not ‘MAINLAND CHINA’ btw! That is W.E. style!)
In the first contacts with the natives of Ilha Formosa, as it was called by Portuguese, the people were EVEN THEN considered honest, hard-working people. In my dealings with Taiwanese, I find that for the most part, I can TRUST THEM to keep their word.
On the other hand, China is SO HARD & DIFFICULT A PLACE TO LIVE & SURVIVE that it is far more of a CUTTHROAT, COMPETITIVE PLACE. Read books about the sweatshops there – in China, exploiting the farming class ‘peasants’ as they’re still considered, by working them TO DEATH for INDECENT WAGES is still pretty much the way they operate. Labor, and people in China are EXPENDABLE & DISPOSABLE.
Plus, another big reason I wouldn’t wanna go to China is it is SUPER-POLLUTED. Whilst workin’ for the Taipei Times, CNA & China Post, I proofed many wire stories telling about the social, economic and environmental CHAOS in China. They have polluted EVERYTHING, water, air, food, to the extent that it is UNCONCEIVABLE to me, at least, how this country hasn’t ALREADY suffered from a MAJOR, CATASTROPHIC COLLAPSE.
In China, they kill off the Environment, systematically. The river dolphins all died out. The water is continually contaminated by algae blooms. Vendors have been found putting cardboard into their dumplings, as filler! Their museums are faking so much, to create tourist traps! In Taiwan, they are hopelessly inept at bilking tourists for their money, & I LIKE THAT!! In Taiwan, they RECYCLE, the Taiwan officials seem to actually CARE about the Taiwanese people’s health, well-being and the Environment.
Haven’t been to China, but I have heard SO MANY stories from travelers who’d been RIPPED OFF one way or another when they went there. By contrast, Taiwanese live well, eat well; have comparable longevity with Japanese. Today, Taiwan’s got the best health care in the world, & compared to the US, at least, they live a wonderful, Buddhist, compassionate existence.
By contrast, the Chinese don’t ALLOW freedom of religion. They chop up Falun Gong prisoners & put them in BODYWORLDS exhibitions. How morally depraved, disgusting & repulsive is that?? In their disastrous CHINESE CULTURAL REVOLUTION, like NAZIS they SYSTEMATICALLY & UNREMORSEFULLY DESTROYED ALL TRACES OF CHINESE CULTURE. They DESTROYED THEIR OWN HISTORY, how terrible & stupid is that? Based on these reasons alone, I should BOYCOTT CHINA.
On the other hand, we have TAIWAN TO THANK for taking such good care of these world-important treasures! Thanks to Chiang Kai-shek managing to flee China to Taiwan, loading up in one massive ship the Royal Cache – effectively RESCUING the greatest treasures of the Chinese Empire. If he didn’t succeed in that, today there would be NO National Palace Museum, the greatest repository of Chinese artifacts in the World! They would have BURNED in the Cultural Revolution had they stayed in China.
Of course it’s not that Chinese people are ‘bad’ people or anything, but as a result of this desperate existence they live in called CHINA, they are just DESPERATE & desperately poor people, the vast majority of 1.6 BILLION PEOPLE. These are people desperate to survive, desperate to feed their families, & the TINY, TINY fraction of SUPER-WEALTHY CHINESE are so far removed from all of this poverty & destitution.
In Taiwan, there are some very wealthy people, but in general everyone has the basics of ‘Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs’, as sociologists would say. Taiwanese are not as concerned as Chinese with the basics of survival: food, water, shelter. A wonderful thing about Taiwan is how few homeless people there are, living on the streets, compared to the epidemic of homelessness in America, for example. The Taiwanese people really stick together, as families, as is the ethnic Chinese way; but I think this is one of great reasons for lack of poverty in Taiwan. It IS a highly developed country; its WiFi is superior in the world, all kids seem to finish high school. I’ve heard Taiwan’s culture compared to Italy’s, where the kids stay at home til they’re married off!
But I digress. Another thing I hate about China is how it’s brainwashed its citizens into parroting the ‘Taiwan belongs to China’ hogwash. Then these obnoxious sheeple do things like grab Taiwan flags away from athletes who are competing in Olympic events on broadcast TV — obvious acts of harassment. Their communist apparatchiks harass Taiwan from gaining entry into the WHO (World Health Organization) & the United Nations. This is contemptible maneuvering on China’s part, which endangers the health & safety of Taiwan’s 23 million people.
I personally think it is DESPICABLE how China acts toward Taiwan. It’s oppressed Taiwan’s people for over 50 years now. First there was the White Terror Era (China sent Chen the Butcher to quell what SHOULD HAVE become a FREEDOM & LIBERATION MOVEMENT. Watch the film or read the book Formosa Betrayed, a real-life account of an American diplomat, George Kerr, stationed in Kaohsiung at the time. Taiwan has for a LONG TIME – TOO LONG – been OPPRESSED by its Big Red Brother, as I call the Bully China.
Then, there has been the saber-rattling by China & its intimidation tactics against Taiwan’s sovereign nation status…. for DECADES! It’s gone on too long! The reason China gets away with BULLYING TAIWAN is that it holds — for now, at least! — extraordinary economic power — MONEY, which means INFLUENCE in world politics.
To me, China acts JUST like an abusive lover! When Taiwan talks of its inherent right to freedom, China beats her up a bit. For this reason, THE WILD EAST MAGAZINE CONDEMNS CHINA’S TREATMENT OF TAIWAN, & CALLS FOR THE COMMUNIST COUNTRY TO GIVE UP ANY CLAIM TOWARDS OWNERSHIP OF IT, OR TIBET, FOR THAT MATTER.
So anyway, Taiwan is ‘prettier’, like the ‘prettier’ Asian cousin of China. The people are nicer, sweeter, more honest in their dealings. In fact, Taiwanese people are perhaps one of the only places where Americans are STILL intensely welcome. This is partially because back in the day – WWII – when China was sending ships to invade Taiwan, the US sent its own ships, to protect Taiwan! Mainly for THIS reason, & the fact Taiwanese believed they were actually being LIBERATED BY THE AMERICANS when the Japanese left its colony in 1949, Americans are kinda GLORIFIED in Taiwan! There are other reasons, but my point is Americans get the red carpet treatment of sorts, when they arrive in Taiwan! It is charming.
Taiwan hospitality is legendary; it makes us wanna stay! After spending 14 years in the ROC, I can say: Taiwan Love You Long Time !
So to summarize, I haven’t been to China because 1) Taiwan is a better, more comfortable & welcoming place – and SAFER than China; and 2) I wholly OBJECT to Communist China’s record of past human rights abuses & interference in other countries’ affairs. Besides, the Communists DESTROYED THEIR HISTORY in the Great Leap Forward (into sh+it), so there is nothin’ much to see there anyway, I bet! Plus, if China wants to tout its concrete jungles, I couldn’t be more bored. I’m not into skyscrapers; & Shanghai is just built on quicksand, anyway! I’m surprised they don’t have skyscrapers falling over alla time!
In sum, China is a disaster waiting to happen, a ticking timebomb both economically & environmentally. It’s gonna implode at any moment & sure as heck I wouldn’t wanna be there when the Fit Hits The Shan!
I’d wanna live in a nice, safe, fun & beautiful place like TAIWAN 🙂

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