Wondering Westerners - 洋漂兒

     I had an enlightening conversation with a few expat friends this weekend. The topic of discussion was why we came to China or Taiwan"Taiwan" is also commonly used to refer to the area under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China (ROC) government, not to be confused with the People's Republic of China government. Following World War II, the ROC gained control of Taiwan from the Japanese in 1945, but lost control of mainland China to the Chinese Communist Party four years later in 1949 as a result of the Chinese Civil War. The Kuomintang (KMT) government then retreated to the island and moved the capital to Taipei. While the People's Republic of China (PRC) claims Taiwan as its province, the PRC has never controlled Taiwan. The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa (from Portuguese (Ilha) Formosa, meaning "beautiful (island)"), is located in East Asia off the coast of China, southwest of the main islands of Japan but directly west of the end of Japan's Ryukyu Islands, and north-northwest of the Philippines. It is bound to the east by the Pacific Ocean, to the south by the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait, to the west by the Taiwan Strait and to the north by the East China Sea. The island is 394 kilometers (245 miles) long and 144 kilometers (89 miles) wide and consists of steep mountains covered by tropical and subtropical vegetation. Though for decades following the Chinese Civil War, the ROC was politically a single-party authoritarian state, the ROC has since evolved into a democracy in Asia. Its rapid economic growth in the decades after World War II and the government's relocation to Taiwan has brought it to an advanced economy status as one of the Four Asian Tigers. This economic rise is known as the Taiwan Miracle. It is categorized as an advanced economy by the IMF and high-income economy by the world bank. Its technology industry plays a key role in the global economy. Taiwanese companies manufacture a giant portion of the world's consumer electronics.. Most of us wondered how friends and family "back home" viewed us living and working here. First we focused on why we came. Most of us came to the conclusion that something what I'll call "cultural mysteries" lead us to wonder in this direction.

It appears that Westerners have a romance or sense of mystery with anything Chinese, and this includes the language. I myself, and many other non-Chinese living on either side of the

Taiwan Strait, may come under this category. Interests in Chinese food, medicine and Chinese Martial Arts can easily be found in the West. I think this view of anything Chinese by Westerners is too well understood by people marketing these "cultural mysteries." Now a day you hear more non-Chinese quoting Confucius than Chinese. Take a visit to the Jade Markets of Taipei or the hutongs in Beijing Beijing ( Chinese: 北京; pinyin: Běijīng or Peking) is located in northern China and also the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is one of the four municipalities of the PRC, which are equivalent to provinces in China's administrative structure. The municipality of Beijing borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast. Beijing is China's second largest city, after Shanghai. Beijing is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city. It is also the focal point of many international flights to China. Beijing is recognised as the political, educational, and cultural center of the People's Republic of China, while Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in economic fields. The city hosted the 2008 Olympic Games. The Encyclopædia Britannica describes it as, "One of the world's great cities," and declares that the city has been an integral part of China’s history for centuries, and there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that doesn't have at least some national historical significance. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have long made the city a centre of culture and art in China.. The hutongs of today have become market places for local and international tourists.

Today, more and more people of non-Chinese decent are finding the studying of the Chinese language of great value. This is a direct result of China and the region's future economic and global strength. I can't say that I have the answers because I don't. My only purpose here is to share some reflections on this topic.