Sometimes I wonder: do those on the mainland realize just how despised they are?
Meet Chou Tzuyu (周子瑜). She is 16. She is a part of the K-Pop group TWICE. One of these days I will have to write about what one must to do to succeed on the Korean pop scene. Today I’ll be brief: you must do a lot. Making it in the K-Pop world is an impressive accomplishment for any young performer. It is an especially impressive accomplishment for performers who are not Korean. Chou Tzuyu is Taiwanese.
Miss Chou made the mistake of appearing on a Korean television show with a pair of mini flags in hand. One was South Korea’s. The other was Taiwan’s. I expect she wanted to show that her success in Korea was evidence of the two countries coming closer together. Maybe she did not expect to show anything–the clip is a few seconds long; she waves the two flags in greeting from her bunk, a place where personal items and trinkets are often stored. But why she did it really does not matter. Thoughtlessly or not, Chou Tzuyu appeared on a Korean television show with a Taiwanese flag in hand.
This was a sin. Or so it would seem. It did not take long for the Chinese internet to blow up. A hash tag campaign to boycott Twice was launched. It grew into an effort to boycott all musicians and groups from JYP, her label. Chinese television channels dropped scheduled concerts; Chinese companies have dropped merchandising offers. I haven’t seen any evidence that the CPC has actively supported this, or that the government put any overt pressure on JYP. But they certainly have done nothing to blunt the nationalist social media crusade, as censors often do when tensions with Japan or South China Sea claimants are on the rise. JYP, for its part, tried valiantly to fend off the wolves, but they could not keep them at bay for long. This week JYP asked (read: forced) their little 16 year old star to issue a public apology, to be released on all of its social media channels. The video for the apology is embedded above.  Here is what she said, first in Chinese, then in English:
大家好, 我是周子瑜. 對不起, 本人應該早先出來道歉. 因為(我)不知道如何面對現在的情況, (我)一直不敢直接面對大家, 所以現在才站出來中國只有一個, 海峽兩岸是一體的 我始終認自己是一個中國人而感到驕傲. 我作為一個中國人, 在國外活動時, 由於言行上的過失, 對公司, 對兩岸網友的情感造成了傷害. 我感到非常非常地抱歉, 也很愧疚.我決定終止目前(在)中國一切的活動, 認真反省. 再次再次地向大家道歉, 對不起.
Here is my translation of this into English:
Hello. I have something to tell everyone.
Hello, I am Chou Tzuyu. I am sorry, I should have apologized earlier. Because I did not know how to deal with this situation, and I didn’t dare to face everyone, I am only saying this now: there is only One China. Its two parts are one. I have always been Chinese–here she stops reading for a moment–and am proud of this. As a Chinese person, during my overseas activities, my irresponsible words and actions have damaged my company and have offended the feelings of people on both sides. I am incredibly, incredibly sorry and ashamed. I have decided to stop all activities in China and will earnestly search my conscience [in the meantime].
Once again, I apologize to you all. I am sorry.
In the two days since it was published, the video has been viewed more than 4 million times, by both Koreans and Taiwanese. It will undoubtedly be seen by many more. If my Facebook feed is anything to go by, this apology has created larger stir in Taiwanese society than the election of Tsai Ing-wen. I don’t imagine it will sate the nationalist masses of the Chinese net, however. For them it will never be enough to hear her claim “我是中国人“ (I am Chinese). Miss Chou must also mean it. But how could she mean it? She read her apology from a script.
That is how the internet crusaders will spin this video. But I am sure they are right. Chou Tzuyu probably does not mean it. You cannot watch her pitiful performance and think she would ever do this if she was not being coerced into to doing so. But that is the entire point, isn’t?
I did not realize until quite recently just how many people here in Taiwan despise mainland Chinese. In China people often deride the Taiwanese as spoiled, girlish, and trouble making, but they do not hate them.  In Taiwan things are different. I was not quite prepared for this. I have met hundreds of Taiwanese before I moved to Taipei, but most of my close Taiwanese friends I met through Church. There the warm feeling of brother and sisterhood that attends the saints wherever they gather dampened nationalist tensions a great deal. Most Taiwanese are not Mormon, however, and even those who are do not go to church every Sunday with mainlanders, as they would if they were living in America. Here there is no respite from the anger. The hate is real, especially among the young.
I did not get it. I love China. I love Chinese people. Honestly, I get along with the average mainlander–especially mainlanders from the North–better than I do the average Taiwanese. Their derision did not fit my experience.
But now I get it.
See, there was always this idea that the Chinese people have been fooled–a people indoctrinated, or brainwashed, but salvageable if only you could get the truth to them . The Chinese people are not the Chinese government, folks would say, and what the Chinese government does is not what the Chinese people want. And in some realms that is true. But not here. It was not the Chinese government that forced Chou Tzuyu to renounce her country. No one in Zhongnanhai condescended to ban TWICE concerts or curb their ticket sells. The feelings of the Chinese people were offended, and the Chinese people retaliated. The government did not need to get involved.
To restate the point: Taiwan’s problem is not the Communist Party of China. Taiwan’s problem is the billion Chinese men and women who would rather a 16 year old girl debase herself in front of the world than wave a flag on Korean television.
Now, with twenty years of internet contact and unhindered cross strait travel behind them, the Taiwanese have begun to realize this. They have seen the enemy for themselves. They know that it is not the Chinese Party, but the Chinese people. And so they despise.
There is danger here of falling prey to sentimentalism, thinking that feelings matter more in the course of world affairs than power does. In the long run I do not think it will matter much how much the rising generation of Taiwanese despise those who live across the straits. Taiwan’s independence will not be decided on Taiwanese emotion alone. But still I wonder. Do they know? Do those on the mainland realize how hated they have become?
 I have pieced this story together from Kevin Fox, “TWICE Halt Promotional Activities In China Due To Political Controversy Surrounding Tzuyu,” K-Pop Starz (14 Jan 2016); ; Adrienne Stanley, “2PM’s Chinese Activities May Be Canceled Due To Tzuyu’s Scandal: Is This The Reality Of K-Pop In China?,” K-Pop Starz (15 January 2016); Jeremyn Chow, “K-Pop Winner Apologizes in Video For Holding Taiwanese Flag,” Straight Times (16 January 2016).
 If you wish to see how this plays out in popular entertainment, I would direct you to the 2014 film Women Who Flirt (撒娇女人最好命), whose Taiwanese antagonist manages to combine all three traits.