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Friday, December 22, 2006


More Fact-free Speculation about Taiwan

Fee over at Forumosa alertly flagged Lonely Planet author Joshua Samuel Brown blogging about the packaging of snack foods in Uni-President's Taiwan Nostalgia (台灣回味) line. Uni-President is the conglomerate that owns 7-Eleven Taiwan. Brown "likes to think" that the "revolutionary era artwork" on the package is Uni-President "...using this archipelago halfway between Taiwan and the Mainland as a petri dish for this lovely bit of cross-strait artistic, commercial cross-pollination." Brown came across the packages while he was in Penghu.

Here's the packaging in question:

Brown says that he hasn't been able to find them anywhere besides Penghu. He hasn't been looking that hard. As Sandman immediately pointed out, this line of snack foods in available in 7-Elevens across Taiwan.

Brown's idea that this is a "ovely bit of cross-strait artistic, commercial cross-pollination" is even further off. An ETToday article from November explains that Brown's 'revolutionary-era artwork' is in fact drawn from Taiwanese movie posters from the 1940s and 1950s. The whole point of the marketing campaign is not to foster cross-strait understanding, but rather to exploit the popularity of the Taike phenomenon with a generous dollop of nostalgia.

Brown also stereotypes supporters of Taiwanese independence as the"betel-nut chewing 'us-or-them-independence-or-die' crowd." There is a strong whiff of ethnic prejudice against Taiwanese people as 'low class' in this poor attempt at humor.

It is also unfortunate that Brown uncritically reproduces Beijing's terminology by referring to China as 'the Mainland' as if it has already been settled that Taiwan and 'the Mainland' are in fact parts of the Greater China polity. One hopes that this terminology will not carry over to the finished guidebook.

Lonely Planet's Taiwan guidebook is one of the most influential books about Taiwan because it helps shape the views of travellors and new residents. Let's hope that Lonely Planet uses this influence wisely and reflectively in the service of the ethos of freedom that its popular guidebooks champion.


At 11:16 PM, Blogger amida said...

Feiren, I see that the Lonely Planet blog accepts comments. You should post a response there, where the LP crowd will see it.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did, but they haven't published it yet. It's good to see you here.


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