Lonely island

by Kai Schnier

Precious Freedom. Voices from Taiwan (Issue II+III/2023)


The Matsu Islands are located in the Taiwan Strait, close to the mainland coast of the People's Republic of China. Administratively, however, they belong to the Republic of China on Taiwan. Photo: Alessandro Gandolfi / Parallelozero

Right now headlines about Taiwan often sound like this: “China’s military manoeuvres”, “Fear of invasion”, or “Threat of World War III”. This is probably because the situation of the island state is indeed “frightening”, as its diplomatic representative Shieh Jhy-Wey emphasises in an interview.

But perhaps such headlines are also an expression of a state of affairs that journalist Mohamed Amjahid criticises elsewhere in this issue. Namely, that many German newsrooms think they can only spark their readership’s attention in stories from beyond Europe by activating concern - or even fear.

“The situation of the island state is indeed frightening. But we should not see Taiwan only through the lens of our relations with China”

On this front, our editorial team is not entirely innocent either. After all, we've headlined this issue with the words “Precious Freedom”. This title is meant to refer to domestic Taiwanese society, but it, of course, also alludes to the spectre of a Chinese invasion. After all,  ignoring this threat would be negligent.

This is especially true when reporter Ho Hui-An tells us that Taiwan is already “in the middle of an information war” with China, and activist Hsi Jui-Ting reports that a (probably only half-joking) saying is doing the rounds in Taipei: “I have a hut in the mountains - let's all go there when the Chinese come.”

“Despite its democratic credentials, the writer Li Ang continues to describe her country as deeply divided”

Nevertheless, with this magazine’s focus on Taiwan we want to avoid the trap that country expert Marcin Jerzewski warns against when he recommends that the island state “not be seen only through the lens of our relations with China”. This is precisely why we let mainly Taiwanese people have their say in order to give us a close-up understanding of their homeland.

The author Hsuan, for example, takes us on a stroll of Taipei’s nightlife, explaining that “the sky is wider here than in the rest of Taiwan”; the heavy metal musician and politician Freddy Lim, who has captured the sound of Taiwan for us in a soundtrack; the photographer H. C. Kwok, who traces the crimes of the dictator Chiang Kai-Shek, who still casts his shadow on the island republic today; and the writer Li Ang, who, despite her country's democratic credentials, continues to describe it as “deeply divided”. This division is also reflected in the fact that in Taiwan's politics, two major popular parties, the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DFP), are implacably opposed to each other. 

“The author Hsuan takes us around the clubs of Taipei”

Why should we concern ourselves with Taiwan even apart from the smouldering China conflict and what really moves the people there? In this issue you will find wide-ranging answers to these questions.

And if you still want to read something new about Taiwanese-Chinese relations, I recommend the moving correspondence between the Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-Yi in Taipei and the Chinese author Yan Lianke in Beijing. Reading it can make you think - and give you hope.


Unsere Ausgabe „Ein bißchen Frieden. Stimmen aus Taiwan“ erscheint am 1. Juni 2023

similar articles

Above (Topic: Mountains)


by Bernard Debarbieux

An estimated 900 million people live in the mountains, worldwide. What connects them? What separates them? 


Finally! (Books)

“I went into hiding in Hong Kong”

an interview with Lam Wing-kee

The bookseller was imprisoned in China for selling political books. A conversation.


Someone else's paradise (Topic: Maldives)

Fresh courage

by Ali Naafiz

For a long time journalists were persecuted in the Maldives. This is slowly beginning to change.


Heroes (In Europe)

An atmosphere of mistrust

by Mariana Gorczyca

In Rumania authors face a tax hike. That is dangerous for freedom of expression.


Precious Freedom. Voices from Taiwan (A house in …)

A house in Bangladesh

by KM Asad

How can our homes deal with climate change? This abode in the Munshiganj region can simply be moved when the floods come.


Nonstop (World report)

“People in Turkey didn’t think it would get that bad”

an interview with Ece Temelkuran

In an interview, the author and journalist Ece Temelkuran points out the parallels between the right-wing populists in Turkey, the United States and Europe.