Island mentality: Joke map shows uncomfortable truths — about Taiwan

Island mentality: Joke map shows uncomfortable truths — about Taiwan

Staff Reporter  2013-05-14


A world map created as a joke by internet users in Taiwan is an accurate reflection of the prejudices of the country’s people, as highlighted by the local response to the fatal shooting of a fisherman by the Philippine coast guard on May 9, according to the chief editor of a multilingual Taiwanese magazine. The death of Hung Shih-cheng prompted a furious response across Taiwan, with hackers appearing to target government websites in the Philippines and fishermen burning the Philippine national flag. On Sunday, Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou threatened to freeze the applications of Filipino laborers seeking work in Taiwan unless Manila addresses the incident to Taipei’s satisfaction within 72 hours. Chang Cheng, the editor-in-chief of 4-Way Voice, a monthly magazine catering to Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, Filipino and Cambodian readers, said Taiwan’s reaction has displayed a condescending attitude towards the Philippines. Taiwanese netizens and commentators are commonly saying that they are angry because “even” the Philippines is stepping all over Taiwan, Chang said, revealing a prevalent sense of superiority with regards to people from Southeast Asian countries.“So it’s OK for some countries to step all over Taiwan, but not the Philippines?” Chang said. “Which countries can and which countries can’t? How do we decide?”

The editor says the popular Taiwan World View map that has been circulating on the internet may have been created as a joke, but it is actually uncomfortably accurate about a lot of Taiwan’s ugly misconceptions and generalizations of other countries and their people.

In the map, a disproportionately large Taiwan is colored with the Republic of China national flag and labeled “Powerful Taiwan!” The Philippines, on the other hand, is simply marked “Has many maids called Maria.” Part of the map is undoubtedly self-deprecation, Chang said, but it shows Taiwan’s casual disregard for and unmasked discrimination against its southern neighbor.

The map is presented as a satire on Taiwan’s island mentality, the country’s insular fixation on local issues and limited knowledge of the rest of the world — a point picked up by Taiwan-born director Ang Lee at the weekend when he gave a talk in Taipei and criticized the poverty of international coverage on the country’s news networks. Facebook users who have liked and shared the map are likely to appreciate that the joke is on them — but of course, the joke only works because the stereotypes exist in Taiwan in the first place.

The designations are deliberately crass. On the map, Japan is labeled as having “porn everywhere,” while China is regarded as the “exporter of fake products and fraud syndicates.” The United States is the “Evil Empire,” Mexico is full of “criminals,” and everyone in South America plays soccer. Canada is “Brokeback Mountain” — a somewhat confusing reference to a film set in the US state of Wyoming — and a destination for exchange students who can’t afford to go to the US, while Alaska is “Heaven.”

In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia is “ruled by Aborigines” and New Zealand is “ruled by sheep,” while most of Europe is “very cold” and a place where people “drink afternoon tea all day and don’t work.” The United Kingdom, of course, is Hogwarts, the fictional magic school made famous by the Harry Potter novels.

The Middle East is dominated by the desert and war, and a vast swathe of Asia containing the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia is dismissed as “a bunch of similar countries.” Russia is ruled by singer-songwriter Vitas, whereas all of Africa is the place “your mother says you will be sent if you don’t finish your food.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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