Hopeful about students from China

By Daniel J. Bauer

Some of our university students from China are “exchange students,” and some “regular students.”

Our exchange students stay a semester or two, and then return to their “mother schools” back in China. My experience is that in their brief stays here, these students are unlikely to touch on political matters.

Students from China however who are earning their B.A. degree completely from A to Z with us over a four-year period are in a different position. Logic dictates that Taiwan universities and, in a particular way, the classmates and professors of these friends of the A to Z variety, may occasionally need an extra measure of tolerance and patience if teachable moments are to be fruitful. The melodramatic and humanly moving crisis in Beijing this past week that centered on blind activist Chen Guangcheng, protected inside the American embassy, could in some ways be a lightning rod for tension between our Chinese and local students. It could also be a window of opportunity to light a candle in a very large room shrouded in darkness.

The same thing can be said for a flurry of headlines recently about a possible softening of Washington’s position on arms sales to Taiwan. A less explosive but similarly delicate topic was the call of Taiwan-friendly U.S. representative Howard Berman this week to stop forcing Taiwanese-Americans in California to check off an on-line voting form to signal their place of birth as “Taiwan, province of China” (TT 5-02-12 p. 3). This really is the season to be jolly for anyone with a taste for cross-strait relations. And I haven’t even mentioned the possibilities that hover over our re-elected president’s inauguration day speech on May 20. And then there is the question of whatever the gentleman may care to say in commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4. May I begin with this last reference? If the previous Tiananmen anniversaries under his watch are at all illuminating, June 4 will find Ma as gentle as a lamb and eager, as always, not to ruffle Beijing’s feathers. This cliche, with its frankly avarian qualities, is apt. Many of us have been disappointed in the past with the president’s chicken-hearted pronouncements on the importance of improved human rights in the world as a way to acknowledge the mowing down of perhaps as many as hundreds of unarmed demonstrators not all that long ago. Come June 4, I do not expect any drama out of Taipei.