Taiwanese entertainers Ouyang Nana and Angela Chang have sparked controversy in Taiwan over news that they will perform at China’s National Day celebrations. Their willingness to serve as propaganda tools doesn’t threaten Taiwan and isn’t worth our time.
A lot of ink and airtime on political talk shows have been expended in recent days over a controversy surrounding the announcement by Taiwanese entertainers Ouyang Nana (歐陽娜娜) and Angela Chang (張韶涵) that they to perform at China’s National Day celebrations on Oct. 1. Many in Taiwan have vented their anger at the entertainers, accusing them of “treason,” while Taiwanese authorities have warned that the pair could be fined NT$500,000 (US$17,000) for violations of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. Politicians from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have cried foul, while their opponents in the Kuomintang (KMT) have defended the right of the young entertainers to perform at the ceremonies in China.
Is all this much ado really worth it?
It is not, and the longer it continues, the more divisive an issue it will become, at a time when Taiwanese ought to be focusing on more relevant issues. The reason why the pair should be ignored is that everybody in Taiwan knows that this is part of China’s propaganda efforts. This knowledge, in turn, neutralizes the effectiveness of this propaganda against Taiwan. Ouyang and Chang can sign to their hearts’ content in Beijing and this will not have one iota of impact on trends in Taiwan. Nobody who sees them perform on stage will suddenly think, Oh, right. Maybe I am Chinese after all, or, Oh, maybe I ought to put aside my fears for Taiwan’s democracy, my way of life, and embrace “one country, two systems” — Beijing’s stillborn, tone-deaf, and unpalatable “offer” of terms to the Taiwanese. If indeed this exercise is aimed at the Taiwanese, it is bound to fail. It will be mocked, derided, and the most damage it can do is to waste Taiwanese people’s time and distract them from more important issues.
The real utility of Ouyang and Chang — and for Beijing they are mere instruments — is rather to propagandize to the Chinese people. Their role, in all its subservience and faked enthusiasm, is to beam to ordinary Chinese the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) message that its Taiwan strategy is succeeding. See, their presence suggests to Chinese audiences, popular artists from Taiwan are telling you that they are Chinese. Never mind that about 95% of the Taiwanese public doesn’t want unification, or that only 2.4% of Taiwan’s 23.8 million people identify as Chinese: the CCP needs proof, for the purpose of self-legitimization, that its strategy is paying dividends. (Whether the Chinese public, seeing entertainers sing the national anthem on stage, are convinced by all this is debatable. Some probably are; others, like the Taiwanese, are probably aware that this is all theater. But they, too, must play along, because to do otherwise, in Xi Jinping’s China, is to ask for trouble.)
Entertainers like Ouyang, the daughter of a KMT politician, and Chang play along because this is their ticket to making money in the Chinese market. It might very well be pragmatism, a temporary suspension of their actual identity as the price to pay to make money across the Taiwan Strait. (Ouyang is reportedly providing for two siblings and an unemployed father.) Maybe they mean it, maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t care, drunk with the promise of materialistic gain. It doesn’t matter. They are, and will remain, isolated cases, and will never generate sufficient momentum to convince the Taiwanese of something that they are not or that isn’t in their interest. And observe them flock back to Taiwan whenever they need medical treatment or seek safety during a pandemic. The crass exploitation of young Taiwanese entertainers by CCP propagandists could, in fact, very well backfire.
So the Taiwanese need not worry. DPP and KMT politicians, all those talking heads and commentators, would make much better use of their time by talking about real issues, or focusing on the actions of individuals who truly are in a position to harm this nation’s sovereignty and democracy. Let them be. Their venality is of no interest to us.
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