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Let’s jump on the bandwagon, shall we?

First of all, a quick shout out to Kevin Wada  for this  amazing piece of fan art. I hope they won’t mind my using it here. Click here for their blog.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is it about?
Set in the same world as Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, Six of Crows  turns to the underside of Ketterdam, a major trade nation, where gangs run the streets. Seventeen year-old Kaz Brekker has quickly become the unspoken leader of one of those gangs, the Dregs, which he spent his childhood transforming from pitiful to formidable. Kaz is tapped by an upstanding merchant to run a near-impossible heist in exchange for unimaginable wealth. Gathering a crew of misfits*, all with their own goals, Kaz sets out to complete a mission that might just change the world.

*A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

What did you think?

Continue reading Let’s jump on the bandwagon, shall we?

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Forbidden Love?!?!: How dating someone made question how I defined rights and culture

Dating in a city where dating is taboo is not thrilling. It’s not romantic.We don’t steal embraces and chaste kisses in alleyways. We don’t even hold hands.  Sure, we often go out together — which has greatly improved our neighbors’ gossip fortunes (you’re welcome)– but the traditionally romantic parts of our relationship were held in one of two rooms, until recently.

Perhaps I should break a rule here by rewinding and dumping some info. (sorry Stephen King, guess I’ll never be a great writer). For the past several months, I have unexpectedly found myself living in Nablus, a city in the West Bank.  When I’m not engaging in socially frowned upon behavior with my boyfriend, I’m studying Arabic at the University in the same city. I knew when I moved here that dating was a complicated social topic, but I had hoped to establish my home and his as a sort of private space–  one where we could be comfortable in who we are.

I spent most of my time at his place, mainly because I could sleep over at his. Occasionally, I would invite him to mine when I had work to do in the evening, or an early class the next day. This also meant I could spend more time socializing with my roommates, whom I really enjoyed, without sacrificing too much time with my boyfriend.

Roughly two months ago, however, the dynamic shifted when a new Palestinian roommate join us. During the consideration period she insisted she felt comfortable with having men over, but another roommate, also Palestinian, though quite liberal, sensed discomfort. We let her move-in anyway; we needed the money and we believed her. Everything continued as normal at first.

My boyfriend visited maybe once a week. Each time I would check with each roommate before he came. Mostly I would take him into my room, out of the common area, so as not to bother the other roommates. The second month the new roommate started shutting herself in her room the moment he walked in. I knocked on her door and asked her if she was certain she was okay with having him there. I told her I didn’t want her to hate being in her own living space. She assured me everything was fine.

One day I walked out of my room to find the landlord sitting in the living room. Not just the landlord, but a girl from next door, whom the roommate had befriended. I had received no call, no warning. He asked me if I’d known that boys were forbidden in the apartment. I calmly informed him that he had not stipulated this when we had moved in. A number of foreigners lived in mixed apartments here, so I assumed it’d be the same in this one.

“Don’t you know about our traditions?” he sputtered. I spent the next five minutes, face burning, listening to him berate me for my choices.I told him I’d never do it again, rushed back into my room, packed up and left.

After the meeting I was enraged, humiliated and filled with self-doubt. I felt violated, like my privacy had been invaded. This was meant to be one of my safe spaces. I felt angry with the societal implication that women needed to be protected and, by extension, that they were incapable of making decisions about their own safety and well-being.  I questioned if this meant I couldn’t ‘cut it’ in the field of work I was most interested in. I struggled to discern where the line was between preserving what you believed to be your own rights and not infringing on others’. I wondered about how to be a good ally to feminists here and whether my own outrage was justified.

While we walked down the street to his house, my boyfriend listened to me puff my frustration into the cold air, before constructing a scenario which ended in this question: “Let’s say you lived here and you saw a boy entering the building. Could you stay silent?”

I snapped my mouth shut. In truth, I didn’t know. If I had been raised to believe boys and girls mingling in their living spaces was inappropriate; if  I felt that seeing a strange boy in my apartment building infringed upon my safety, would I be justified in making sure he left? Even if it affected others? Did my right to privacy supersede theirs? What is privacy and how do different cultures interpret it? Is a right innate?

As we continued walking down the empty streets, I descended deeper and deeper into this question: What makes a right? When do I choose to defend one and let it go? I realized more clearly then what I had known in some small part of my brain. A right is decided by the will of the majority. If others do not define what you believe to be a right as such, you must fight against them, often at great cost.  This becomes even more complex when considering an individual’s right in a country they aren’t a citizen or native of. Add on to this the concept of allyship and the long history of well-intentioned people interfering in the progress of another country and bungling it up.

I knew I shouldn’t extend the conflict by speaking with my landlord. It wasn’t worth the price of making others uneasy– even if they wouldn’t admit they were, even if it meant I was humiliated in front of a stranger, even if I disagreed with the method of communication. My grievance was a relatively small one compared to what others’ had to live with. I might be the subject of gossip for the year. I might be shamed or humiliated for five minutes. But I didn’t have to spend my life here. I didn’t have to conform long-term with a society I didn’t agree with, or be punished for diverging. No bravery is required of me.

Perhaps even the landlord, whose attitude I had found so disagreeable, was  struggling with society in some small way. Perhaps he faced loss of face because of my actions. In order to defend his reputation, he had to make a public show of berating me. Perhaps. Or perhaps I’m being too nice. Who knows. It’is hard to tell when you’ve spent so little time in a new culture. It’s hard to know when to push and where.

Probably the best choice I could make is to throw my support behind a group in Palestine whom I believe in, but even that carries friction.  One on hand, to be an ally I must support someone. On the other hand, how much of my own cultural upbringing informs who I decide to support? It reminds me of the divide I see within feminist groups about things like the hijaab. Some feminists, even  Muslims in Muslim majority countries, view it as a symbol of oppression; others view it as a symbol of expression. Both can be correct, both believe the choice should be up to the woman, but who do you support? And why? And how do you support them? Is there room for nuance and how do you separate cultural influence from individual choice?

Being an ally, and choosing whom to ally with, is a difficult decision. Knowing when to stand up for your individual rights against the greater society can be difficult, too. I’m not sure if I have the right answers, but in some strange way I’m glad I’ve been forced to ask the questions.

*I should note that this should not be taken as a blanket statement on Palestinian culture, and shouldn’t be a comment on daily life here. This is intended to be interpreted largely as a personal experience which made me question my belief system.

The suddenness of religiosity

There’s something to be said about the theory that we become more religious as we near death, or as a friend nears death, or death becomes a greater statistical probability (even if that probability is still very small).
Suddenly, you’re grappling with the metaphysical and philosophical questions you try to avoid in your daily life because you know very well that you don’t have the answers to any of them and hope that you’ll some how absorb them over the course of trying to live.

It starts when you start focusing on them– on those questions– that religion slips in. “Is he okay?” is one of those questions. Inevitably, especially if you’re imaginative (and aren’t all of us really when we are anxious), you come up with scenario. What so many portrayals of this process don’t get is it’s never linear. It’s never bad to worse. It’s bad, better, worse, worst, okay. At some points you focus on just keeping it level at “okay”, even while your heart clenches and burns.

Periodically, as your heart oscillates between hammering and painful twisting, you start making deals.  You don’t even have to name a deity or a creator. You just hope for some temporary influence over the world. You give up things; you sacrifice the hypothetical.

I don’t need my dream job, you say to the universe. I don’t need him to be with me.
I can give up this plan I had for myself, or this treat. I promise I’ll do something to return the price to you.

This is when you are less than okay. When you’re okay, you can tell yourself he must be too.
He must be okay because he’d make the safe choice, because he’d get lucky, because it couldn’t possibly be as bad as you imagine. Then a small voice in the back of your head says “What if he’s not?”

And you say, he is. He probably just doesn’t want to talk to you.

“That’s highly irregular,” the voice retorts.

Then you begin to wonder: What could he do that would lead to radio silence?

Drink too much and fall asleep? Decide that, actually, he wanted to break up with you? Cheat on you?

That’s when you realize, you’d rather he just cheated. That’s when you deals start taking on another form. You say to yourself, I can take that. I can take him cheating as long as he’s alive. I can take him breaking up with me. I can take never seeing him again, as long as he’s alive.

You keep checking your phone. It’s obsessive. Your heart leaps and sinks like a sine graph every time you do, and every time you do you pray that this otherworldly force has taken your deal, no matter which one.

 

Eight Year Old Fears of Cliffsides

“I stare at this ceaseless, rushing crowd and imagine a time a hundred years from now. In a hundred years everybody here– me included — will have disappeared from the face of the earth and turned into ashes or dust…I spread my hands out in front of me and take a good hard look at them. What am I always so tense about? Why this desperate struggle just to survive? I shake my head, turn from the window, clear my mind of thoughts a hundred years away. I’ll just think about now.”- Kafka  on the shore, Haruki Murakami (56)

I was sitting  on the deep raspberry seats of our Lumina looking back at the decorative knit balls that hung neatly in a row along the edge of the rear-window when I decided to ask my dad what he was most afraid of. I can’t remember what he said; I just remember him turning to look at those little ornaments and the crunching sound as the tires spun against the pebbles in our driveway. Or actually maybe he wasn’t looking back, maybe we had just arrived and he had just parked the car.

The sun washed everything in light, bleaching the green grass and the paint on our garage door, which was actually just created from a variety of abandoned doors from rooms in houses long since renovated. I seem to recall it being summer because of the way the heat permeated from the faux velvet seats. I must have been 7, maybe 8, because we sold the gold Lumina before I enrolled in the Catholic school near my house.  I remember him laughing out of surprise, the strange “hyuk” sound emanating from his throat only manifested when he was either dumbfounded or derisive.

“What are you afraid of Leah?” he asked, grinning at me with red apple cheeks.

Again, I can’t quite recall my exact phrasing, but I can recollect– more than recollect, feel–my fear. This fear had been metastasizing since I’d first really understood death, since I’d learned to question Heaven and Hell. What I said was: Nothing. I’m afraid of nothing or, rather, nothingness. I am terrified that when I die there will be no me, no consciousness. No memories of bleached doors or dangling ornaments or pebbles pulled from my rock collection and thrown in a driveway.

My father laughed and said “Well, don’t worry, if you don’t exist then you won’t be there to know it.”

As I’ve aged, though I’m still quite young, I’ve wrestled with this question, and my father’s response, many times. I can never quite figure out if his response is comforting or disturbing. When he said it, I felt this strange twist in my gut, as if he had confirmed everything I felt afraid of. I didn’t sleep well that night because sleep without remembered dreams seemed a lot like death. Not even convincing myself I was the Red King, who created entire worlds as he gave up his own, could persuade me to turn off my light and sleep willingly.

Later, in high school, I truly confronted what the consequences of my fear’s solution would be. In class we read a short story on the types of people in an immortal world. There were two types, the story asserted: those who did everything because they had all the time in the world, and those who did nothing for the same reason. I wonder what eternity as the same soul would be like. How many decades, centuries, millennia would I enjoy everything or nothing? If life is eternity, and we can do everything or nothing,  will it be what I know now?
Should I give up my life for immortality?

At the end of the story, the author reveals a third group, which siphons off the population of doers and non-doers, who leaves for a mysterious cliff-side. Not much is explained, but the implication could be that they choose to die.

After decades, centuries, millennia of looking at the same hands, they chose dust.

Maybe, at some point, we’ll all want to choose dust; but, since dust comes a little sooner than we’d all like, maybe it’d be better to try doing  what we like, if we can, now.
That way, even if we disappear into a great nothing with no hot summer air or surprised laughs, our great life will have made going to the cliffs a little less terrifying.

 

 

Getting personal

I’ve always been an anxious person; I think it might stem from my sensitivity. I take failure really hard. So hard that sometimes the thought of it stops me from even trying.
So, when I spend hours convincing myself to complete a task and the response is negative?  I often surrender too much of my time to obsessive thoughts on how my failure reflects qualities of my character, my intelligence, my likeability, continue ad nauseum.

The more I think about these things, the less I do. They less I do, the more I feel like I am all of these things and they just fester and form a big, self-hating pile of sludge.

As you may have gathered, this is not a pleasant process. My heart clenches and burns and the nervous ticks I sustained throughout my childhood resurface. In elementary, after years of social exclusion and bullying, I started to make small sounds or rub my hands together when I became nervous or stressed. I was embarrassed by this, but I couldn’t stop myself. My throat felt constricted and ticklish at the same time and I felt compelled to make the sounds to stop it. It gave me a small illusion of control.

My family would always tell me to “stop that!” whenever they noticed it. They didn’t know what else to do, or how to help. It didn’t have the intended effect. Instead, the thought of making the noises made me so stressed out that I began picking at my eyelashes. I’d pull at them, twist them and tug them and, for a little while, that’d help. Even so, I knew it wasn’t healthy and soon my new habit began causing stress.

I won’t go into all the reasons I felt stress and anxiety throughout my childhood, that would take too long and I’ve become sick of rehashing all the things that are wrong with me. I really want to make it through this anxiety, and I think I’m at a point where  I can admit I need help.

To this day I feel like a fraud. If something goes successfully it’s because I got lucky or because no one scrutinized my work enough. Any moment, they’ll discover what I really am. I’m not afraid of social situations, at least not initially, because it’s easy to pretend you’re confident when the other person has no way to verify the veracity of your claims, having never seen you react to stress or hardship. It’s later that makes me concerned, because I fear they’ll discover I’m an impostor. I’m not as creative or kind or  interesting as I pretend to be during that first few days, and when they compliment me for being any of those three I feel my heart sink because I’ve mislead them.

Sometimes I manage my anxiety really well and all those self-hating thoughts sink deeper and I forget about them for a time, but they inevitably come back. Today they’ve been really hard to manage and I can’t seem to bite back the vicious idea that I’m a failure.
For now, the simplest thing I can do is take a walk and remind myself that I have a right to happiness and a right to mistakes as a human being.
And like so many out there like me, I’ll work on managing my worries step by step.

So, we broke up: Strategies used in getting over my ex

Break up is a little bit like war.  I can hear you all groan. I know, it sounds a lot like a platitude. “Love is a battlefield”  and even if you put your heart back together it’s never the same and all that nonsense. Just hear me out.

It’s something a lot of political science majors learn in introductory classes. In each war strategists begin fighting using tactics learned from previous wars– sometimes with little regard for how ill-suited they are to the current one.

Stage One:  The bad analogies, similes and metaphors stage

I remember the day we broke up; I cut my toe in the shower.  It bled way more than it had any right to, given it was such a tiny little thing. The whole thing was made worse by the fact that previous to the shower I am pretty sure we were going to–well, anyway, a couple of days later it formed a scab because that’s the body’s response  to being attacked in that way.

I remember looking down at it and thinking “am like that scab. am like this clumsy shower cut. Sure it hurts now, but I’ll heal and soon I’ll barely be able to see the scar at all.” You see, it’s all a healing process.

Looking back I question those thoughts. Did I find them reassuring or did I think this in some sort of mopey-haze? Really Leah, really. You’re like a cut? You can do better.

You see  that’s why I needed a makeover. I wasn’t just cutting my hair, I was transforming myself. I was becoming a new person. The post-breakup makeover is classic. Everyone’s done it because we believe we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re a new, better version of ourselves with a swishy dress and a dramatic haircut.  This way you can look in the mirror and avoid your sad, sleep-deprived eyes and remember that change is coming. It might take a little longer and it’ll probably be more painful than a haircut, but it’s possible. It’s possible to feel whole without this person.

Stage Two:  Do everything (which is really the culmination of stage one)

I hate moping. I hate it. I feel pathetic and the day just seems to lengthen into a dully, pixelated infinity. The day after we broke up a friend came from Taipei and we did all the conventional emergency-recovery things: ate pizza, watched movies, painted nails, re-hashed the break-up too many times at too many different angles.

Then, after I spent my moping-allowance, I threw myself into every activity I could think of. Rock climbing? Sure. Try this new food? Absolutely. Hike a mountain? I’d love to. Attend art events, write a play in 24 hours– all while working– yes to all of these things.
If you wanted a study buddy or someone to be scarily enthusiastic about your idea to visit a cat cafe, I was your girl. No idea was too silly, too scary or too intensive for me. I need to make up for lost time, after all! Time I spent at home or time I spent thinking about a boy who could just toss me to the side. It was my time now– time for the cliched independent woman speeches, time for the indignant dismissals of my ex, time for dreams and ideas and way too many energy drinks.  Oh yes, I was motivated, fierce and exhausted. 

Oh man was I tired– no number of “you can do this” playlists could remedy the exhaustion. Of course this stage of the break up I was also gifted with super endurance and super focus, something I’d be thankful to have now, so I didn’t seem to notice the exhaustion until stage three.

Stage 3: Reality

The first two stages are great coping mechanisms, but eventually you have to contend with, well, reality. Sure you cut your hair and, sure, you climbed to the top of the rockclimbing wall despite being terrified but those things only temporarily alleviate the pain.

I found myself desperately scrabbling for something to keep my mind off of it and I discovered that some of the coping strategies I used just didn’t fit. I listened to strong songs about recovering from a cheating ex– but, while they helped immeasurably during my first break up, they felt strangely hollow this time. This break up wasn’t the result of cheating. I didn’t feel the same righteous anger. I inspected our relationship and I couldn’t find the flaws I found in the first relationship. I was fighting using my old strategies and this, well, this was a different war.

No matter how hard I tried to maintain my anger (much of it borrowed from friends), my enthusiasm (also borrowed) or my rallying calls for change, the reality is change doesn’t happen that quickly.  There isn’t a panacea for break-ups.  There are no shortcuts; the only way is through.

So don’t criticize yourself for not getting over it fast enough. Don’t worry if your last break-up routine just doesn’t seem to help.  Maybe last time you went out every night, but this time you don’t have the energy. Maybe last time you met one-hundred thousand people, but this time you don’t really feel the need to socialize. That’s OK.

Ultimately, what helped the most was taking everything at my own pace and acknowledging that the break-up activities that helped last time might not be as helpful this time. In the end, it wasn’t the haircut or the thousands of hobbies or the angry soapbox speeches that helped so much as freeing myself to just feel sad for a while.  So, I did it. I changed my strategy and I moped. I moped, I moped, I moped. I wallowed in my own pathetic feelings. Then when I got tired of moping, I stopped. I stopped and reflected.

I’m not going to lie and say that I discovered everything in my life was perfect without him. I’m not going to claim I felt instantly healed, but since then I’ve slowly started engaging again. I’ve dedicated myself to a few activities I feel passionate about. I’ve made a small circle of friends  I can rely on.  Most of all I reminded myself that everything was truly going to be ok– and that is one way break ups are nothing at all like war.

A Family Dinner

Reunited with the rest of the group, we set about pitching tents in the dirt parking lot at the edge of Wushe. That night we drank, talked and exchanged stories of out trips since meeting at Taroko Gorger earlier. L floated around, his usual gregarious self, frequently interjecting with an enthusiastic comment or embellishment. An hour or so passed this way, all of us content with sitting on the cardboard we’d carried around for our tents*

Later, I can’t remember what  I was doing, but I looked up to find the others gathering around a man. He stood in the middle of the curious gaggle, a great smile etched permanently on his face, his cheeks puffy and red. I stood at the fringe of the circle anThe house on the hill. d watched as he produced two Chinese apples from a blue bag. He thrust them into two unsuspecting hands, grinned even wider and said a word to L before pivoting on his heel and striding down the hill.

Our eyes followed the man until he disappeared into the building across the street. Then the group turned expectantly to our leader.

“He wants us to have dinner at his place,” L explained to those of us who didn’t understand. “He just needs to ask his wife.” Five minutes of debate on whether the invitation would lead to anything later, he returned and beckoned us over. Giddy, and somewhat amazed by our continued good fortune, we followed him. Inside we were greeted by industrial fluorescent lighting and a large table laden with a variety of food. The man, whose name I later learned was Taybo, produced a motley11020793_10153148646229630_3659414520185067150_o group of plastic stools, styrafoam bowls and a cup holder filled with chopsticks sealed individually in thin plastic.

Behind him sat his mother, looking authoritative but kind. She appraised the room from her wheel chair, clad in knit hat, gloves and jacket. One hand fiddled with the blanket in her lap, the other alternated between a bowl of  sunflower seeds and her mouth. She didn’t speak much but, like her son, laughed readily at our jokes. When she did speak, it was often to chide her son for some comment. Between her bare fingers she held a cigarette, which she’d point at her son whenever he’d ask an innocent, but to her, ignorant question.

The others talked, I listened and observed the room. The room itself was wide and rectangular, bearing only two windows. The front window, if one can call it that for it looked more like an opening attached to a counter where one might order food, bore no glass. Instead, a metal covering hung over it.  The heavy tables we sat at featured two small stoves. In the back corner sat two unused stoves and a small black and brown dachshund. To me the building had many of the trappings of a small restaurant– including an unfinished kitchen in the corner opposite the dachshund, where a woman stood next to a growing plume of steam. Removing a pan from the steam, she walked busily over to the table and added another large plate to it and scooped more food into each of our bowls. The plate quickly became a group favorite.

“What’s in it?” one of us asked through a mouthful. L translated and the woman, Aya, turned red before confessing her family felt bad for catching and cooking them, as there weren’t many in Taiwan. She couldn’t say what the animal was in English, and we couldn’t say in Chinese. One of us grabbed their phone from their pocket and set about trying to translate. After cycling through three potential animals on google images, we finally showed her a picture of a bat. The family, having become equally invested in the game of translation, excitedly bounced and pointed. That’s confirmation enough, I suppose.

Having had my fill, I walked over to the small dog curled up on a dirty, green apron. Plopping down on the rough concrete, I introduced myself before slowly scooping the pup into my lap. She quickly fell asleep. Reluctant to remove her, I attempted to get my groups attention from the floor.

“Is this a restaurant?” I asked, following a successful attempt.28486912

“No, I think it’s just their home– like I think this is their living room,” L steepled his fingers on the table and tapped it twice for emphasis. I looked around again at the exposed piping, and the unused stoves and the green apron and the collection of foreigners they’d  magnanimously invited into their home and wondered what this family’s story was.

*We’d decided early in the trip to carry cardboard boxes with us to line the bottom of our tents, in case of rain. Most tents in Taiwan don’t have the tarp covered bottoms I’d find at home. Naturally, I thought this was a very curious practice considering Taiwan does get quite a lot of rain. As it turns out, most people camp in build wooden structures– think a platform with a slanted roof– so don’t require any of the trappings you might find elsewhere.

Feeling lost? The story starts here.

WTNLOT

Last night my landlord send me a message on line informing me there’d be no water every weekend starting in April. Wondering if I’d misinterpreted the message and trying to find the reason water might be shut off, I took to the internet.
Much of Northern Taiwan’s water comes from the Shihmen reservoir and the persistent drought has been detrimental on its supply.
In response, the government has cycled through two phases of water rationing in an effort to preserve what water is left in the  reservoir through restricting water supplied to industries in nine counties and cities in Taiwan to five percent.  Despite their efforts, the reservoirs depletion continues at an alarming rate. As Channel News Asia reports, the reservoir has reached new lows and “now has less than 44 million tons of water, which could run out in 40 days without rain.”

Starting April, there Taiwanese government will be taking further steps to ration water, limiting water usage in Taoyuan and other northern counties on weekends.  While some may argue the government is taking drastic steps to preserve the water, others disagree and argue the government is not doing enough.

“Delta Electronics Chairman Yancey Hai said: ‘The price of water price is too low. People don’t feel the pinch of paying for it. If the price is higher to a certain extent, then people will pay more attention to it, just like electricity.'”

In addition to the inexpensive water, costing about 30 US cents a ton, Taiwan also suffers from aging infrastructure. Observers say “the aging pipelines are responsible for more than 700 million tons of water lost last year, which was about 20% of Taiwan’s total water supply.”

WTNLOT: “Hong Kong and Taiwan: Evolving Identities”

Pulled from the Diplomatist. 

With 2014 marked by unprecedented protests in both Taiwan and Hong Kong and continued demonstrations

Image Credit: Hong Kong protests image via Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com

in Hong Kong earlier this month, media and analysts alike point to a disconcerting trend for Beijing: an increasingly localized sense of identity among residents in both locales that correlates with a decreasing sense of a national “Chinese” identity.

Perhaps most significant is that this shift has occurred alongside unparalleled growth in cross-strait economic ties, which mainland Chinese leadership had anticipated would have just the opposite effect on Taiwan residents’ sense of identity. And Taiwan’s local elections last November seemed to further reinforce this point, with voters delivering a resounding defeat to the very party that had made increased cross-strait ties the mainstay of its current policy since it regained the presidency in 2008. The trends toward localized “Hongkonger” and “Taiwanese” identities, in other words, do not bode well for mainland China, which seems to be losing ground in this battle of identities with each passing day.

…one’s self-identity and that of an entire society is a complicated amalgamation of numerous factors, and economic growth on its own may not be sufficient for restoring a sense of “Chinese” identity to those in Hong Kong and Taiwan. As Western analysts and media frequently point out, the political system that governs a locale and the correlating political values its people hold is another significant component in identity formation….Regardless of the merits or disadvantages of an autocratic or a democratic system, the reality is that the shift from autocracy to democracy in Taiwan is one that residents are distinctly proud of and cherish, arguably even more than people in the United States, because many of those in Taiwan — unlike most Americans — have known what it is like to live under both systems. More importantly, few people in Taiwan, if any, would prefer to return to the previous autocratic political system.

In essence, although no one can be sure whether the many factors that contribute to determining identities will work for or against Beijing, one certainty does exist: there’s no going backwards. It would be unfathomable for Hong Kong or Taiwan to return to a point of lesser economic development — like that which mainland residents experienced more recently or even are currently undergoing — in a way that would help narrow the differences created by economic growth. It is equally unimaginable that residents in either Hong Kong or Taiwan — especially those in Taiwan — would willingly accept a less democratic system that could effectively bridge this current political disconnect with their mainland counterparts.

Want more (older) news? Here’s another interesting article to read. This one outlines the implications of the Taiwanese governments’ decision to indict 118 students involved in the Sunflower movement. The students, and civic groups, involved in the movement were opposed to expanded economic relations with China outlined in the Cross-Strait Service Agreement. More on the agreement can be found here.
Last month, Amnesty international wrote a report on the lack of independent oversight and the  excessive use of police force involved in monitoring the movement.