A Thumbs Up to Harvard University!

According to foreign media reports, the Harvard Model United Nations conference held at the end of January listed Taiwan as an independent country in its handbook. The move roused the ire of the attending Chinese delegation, which became so impassioned that it could not hide its disgruntlement from the organizers, saying “Taiwan is not a country; such is common knowledge around the world!” In the end, Harvard was forced to ask them to leave the conference site with the blunt words: “Your presence makes us uncomfortable.”

The Model U.N. conference is held primarily for students as an annual event that allows them to discuss issues in international relations. Reports indicate that as Taiwan was listed as an independent country in the HMUN handbook, Chinese participants responded with protests of “Taiwan is not a sovereign state, so how can it be listed as an independent country?” The delegates went on to opine that Harvard University was “sorely lacking in common knowledge,” and that it had committed an “inexcusable” error at an event with such a heavily politicized atmosphere.

Frankly speaking, it is due to these types of “minute details” that the Taiwanese people feel considerable unease and distrust toward the Chinese Communist Party. Mock exchanges within the academic field are simply that: academic. Perhaps, it is that the CCP’s “party-nation education” was rather too successful in brainwashing the Chinese delegates, or perhaps, it is just a matter of naively believing in earnest that “everything under heaven belongs to the kingdom” that leads such people to doggedly view 21st-century, cross-strait relations with the air of the old “celestial empire” rather than as an equal, mutually beneficial and mutually respectful nation-to-nation relationship.

It is also due to “the devil being in the details” that the Taiwanese people take the CCP’s words with a grain of salt. The Chinese delegation’s written letter of protest demanding that the conference organizers issue an official statement revising allusions to Taiwan as an independent country within the handbook is a classic example of mistaken self-righteousness, and going so far as to suggest that the books be reprinted and Taiwan referred to as a “region” was outlandishly juvenile behavior. One wonders, with such incidents as these, can we still believe catchphrases like “blood runs thicker than water,” “both sides of the strait share the same roots,” and “we don’t hurt our own?”

Meanwhile, it is no surprise that the real “great power,” with its magnanimous air and roots steeped in freedom and democracy, took a different course. In the face of the Chinese delegation’s rabble-rousing, Harvard not only refused to edit the conference handbook, but also further dispatched security personnel to monitor the situation and prevent the incensed from causing further trouble, finally going so far as to “see off” the delegation’s leaders with the explanation: “Your presence makes us uncomfortable.”

It was doing them a favor, truly. As some mainland Chinese netizens have posted, “What, the entire universe belongs to China? Speak for yourself!” Or, “in the eyes of others, Taiwan is a country; Chinese people have just been fooling themselves.” What we should tell the mainland Chinese leadership is that for cross-strait relations to develop normally, talk of mutual benefit and slogans brimming with nationalistic fervor aside, the most important point is to avoid saying one thing and doing another. So, from this author at least, here’s a big thumbs-up to the courageous, capable and clever folks at Harvard University!

The author is a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) living in New Taipei City.

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