Friday, April 25, 2008

I came across this interesting bit of information today while idly googling for "overseas Mongolians". The first search item that caught my eyes was the "Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission" website of Taiwan or ROC as they call themselves. Their website is available in Mongolian, so if you wanna have a read through their objectives, go right ahead.

Objective no.3 is this:
3/ Монгол Улсын залуучууд Тайваньд Хятадын хэл ,соёлыг судлан суралцахад зөвлөгөө өгч туслах.
Translated it says "Provide assistance and guidance to Mongolian youth on studying Chinese language and culture in Taiwan" or their official English language version says: "Encourage Mongolian youths to visit Taiwan to study Chinese culture and language".

I don't know. This whole "encourage... to study Chinese culture" thing worries me. I thought we were doing fine. Why all of a sudden, must we be encouraged to learn an alien culture and language? In Taiwan of all places, a state that has a government commission dedicated to the affairs of a sovereign nation, Mongolia.

Intrigued, I decided to find out exactly how many Mongolians there really could be in Taiwan. And found this Wikipedia article. What this article says is that there were a total of 77 Mongolian migrant workers in Taiwan by September 2004 ( I assume they were trained in "Chinese culture and language" by some guys in chipmunk suits...maybe. I like the idea though. Of chipmunk suits.)

Chipmunks aside, the goal of the project was to have over 10,000 workers from Mongolia by 2005 (source). The Taiwanese were immensely impressed with their new batch of workers from Mongolia, a country which they'd stubbornly considered to still be a part of China for many years after its declaration of independence. They were impressed, because 10 of the first 11 nurses they'd received had university degrees.

But this is the reality in Mongolia, and reality for Mongolians heading across the border for a brighter future and a thicker wallet. Most of these Mongolians are well-educated. In Singapore, I notice that many of the immigrant workers they receive from around the region are indeed workers, though there definitely are exceptions, but in most cases they are high-school graduates barely literate / conversant in English. In the case of Mongolian workers in, say, S.Korea, USA, Japan or Taiwan, they would be people with university degrees in Economic Studies, History and so on. Educated, underpaid and desperate. Leaving their academic careers in Mongolia to wash dishes, clean floors and wrestle with bricks in an alien country.

There are Taiwanese voicing out the protests over the Taiwan-Mongolia labour issue. One Taiwanese writer, a former chairman of the Mongolian Tibetan Affairs Commission opines:
The decision is merely a step toward the "de-sinicization" of Taiwan in a bid to implement the DPP's "Resolution on Taiwan's Future."
And furthermore, quips:
...Article 4 of the Constitution stipulates that "The territory of the Republic of China according to its existing national boundaries shall not be altered except by resolution of the National Assembly." But the ministry's decision undoubtedly treats Mongolia as an independent state. This is unconstitutional.
You will see the emphasized sentence. This article was published in Taipei Times on September 13, 2002. Mongolia had been independent for 81 years by 2002. Yet the writer protests that the bi-lateral agreement decision by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs unconstitutionally recognizes Mongolia as an independent state. This sort of Sino-centric, arrogant, ignorant, imperialistic rubbish is what makes the Chinese so unpopular in Mongolia and contributes to the growing anti-China/Chinese sentiment in Mongolia.

After having questioned our legitimacy as a sovereign state, the writer further adds:
What advantages can we have by playing this card? Will Mongolia admit the ROC as a result or support Taiwan's bid to rejoin the UN? Will high-ranking Mongolian officials, who care very much about China's attitude, pay frequent visits to Taiwan? I'm afraid that the answer is "no" to all three questions.
Advantages to the Taiwanese is obvious enough: cheap imported and educated foreign labour. Will we support the ROC in their bid? In my opinion, never, not so long as a Mongolian-Tibetan Affairs Commission still exists in Taiwan and people such as the writer of this news article continue to perpetuate misinformation about Mongolia as a nation. Why should we support a Chinese state that refuses to respect Mongolia's status as an independent nation?

As far as high-ranking officials are concerned, it's probably the least of our worries. We received the Dalai Lama so many times against protests from the Chinese government. And far as Mongolians are concerned, the Taiwanese ARE Chinese, and we see no reason to meddle in the fight between 2 Chinese states.

Of course, the writer's status as a former chairman of the mis-guided Mongolian Tibetan Affairs Commission may have distorted his perspective. He does admit that the Taiwanese government's policy regarding Mongolia runs contrary to his delusional beliefs.

Awareness of Mongolia as a nation is lacking in the developed world. And more damage is done to Mongolia's status as a nation by Sino-centric articles in the Chinese and Taiwanese media perpetuating the misinformation that Mongolia should be a part of China. Mass distribution of misinformation then becomes mass miseducation regarding history and current affairs.

I have had a Chinese customs official tell me to head down to the domestic terminal for my flight to Mongolia, to which I furiously replied (in English) "Mongolia is a country, it's not in China".

If you are travelling to Mongolia, whether you're Mongolian or a foreigner, and you happen to transit at the Beijing International Airport in China, just go ahead and ask a few Chinese nationals what they think of Mongolia. Perhaps even ask an airport staff. You may be baffled at the completeness of the ignorance they display regarding Mongolia.