People Archive

  • A little bird in the hand

    A little bird in the hand

    Folk taxonomy in Taiwan is marked by genericism. Rodents of all shapes and sizes are mice; the most diminutive of raptors ascends to the rank of eagle; and, bound by their spots, leopards are branded cheetahs (“hunting leopards”). One such catch-all that has perennially confused me is xiao niao – literally ‘little bird’. In my […]

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  • The throat singer of Zhuzihu

    The throat singer of Zhuzihu

    Though the blooms will be around for some time yet, this weekend is the official end of the Calla Lily festival up in the Zhuzihu (竹子湖) area of Yangmingshan (陽明山). Although I’ve lived in Beitou District (北投區) for over a decade and ridden and hiked around Yangmingshan countless times, there are still quite a few […]

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  • The mystic and the dictator: the National Palace Museum’s debt to Russian painter Nicholas Roerich

    The mystic and the dictator: the National Palace Museum’s debt to Russian painter Nicholas Roerich

    An edited version of the following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times. Aside from some low-key events in Europe and Latin America, yesterday’s Universal Day of Culture passed in the same way as previous installments: unremarked. Despite the lack of fanfare, the mind behind this occasion played a role in protecting of some of the […]

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  • Jammeh revelations are a reminder about need for transparency in Taiwan’s aid

    Jammeh revelations are a reminder about need for transparency in Taiwan’s aid

    The following op-ed appeared in today’s Taipei Times. Months after assuming the presidency of the Gambia in 1996, Yahya Jammeh made a bold foreign policy maneuver, cutting ties with China in favor of Taiwan. No observer of Taiwan’s diplomacy under then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) would have been laboring under any misapprehension as to the motives […]

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  • Playing the name game is never a joke

    Playing the name game is never a joke

    A shortened version of the following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times: In the summer of 1992, Sir Mixalot was in heavy rotation at parties in northwest London. Rather than his big hit Baby’s Got Back, though, the jam that got most airplay was the Seattle rapper’s scathing takedown of racial profiling, One Time’s Got […]

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  • The cog that slipped: Chiang Ching-kuo’s Russian odyssey

    The cog that slipped: Chiang Ching-kuo’s Russian odyssey

    This is the original text of a piece that The Diplomat ran as the lead article in the October issue of their magazine. Although the editor was nice enough to give me this slot as it gave me more space, I still had to hack away mercilessly to the get things down to just under […]

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  • Ghosts of Volkhonka: Chiang, Deng and the Sunovka Years

    Ghosts of Volkhonka: Chiang, Deng and the Sunovka Years

    The following is the original text of a piece that appeared in the travel section of the South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine. Props to the editor there for doing a sterling job with the butchery: though it gets somewhat easier as times goes on, seeing one’s offspring de-limbed continues to be a chastening experience. […]

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  • Keeping the love from Russia alive

    Keeping the love from Russia alive

    “Look” exclaims Kamil. “No hooligans!” He’s just picked us up outside our hostel close to the Kremlin in Nizhny Novgorod. With insane mark-ups being slapped on taxi fares for the duration of the World Cup, Yandex.taxi – Russia’s ride-hailing app of choice – is a godsend. They generally arrive in minutes and the drivers are […]

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  • Time for Taiwan to make the personal touch count in its foreign aid

    Time for Taiwan to make the personal touch count in its foreign aid

    The following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times: (NB: The original headline was not mine and is quite misleading. I’ve reverted to my original here. The text is exactly as it appeared in the paper.) Few publications have documented Taiwan’s official development assistance (ODA) efforts in such a personal way as the booklet Greening the […]

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  • End of the Road: Will Taiwan Pick Up Britain’s Tab in Guatemala?

    End of the Road: Will Taiwan Pick Up Britain’s Tab in Guatemala?

    “Officially, the British are unpopular in Guatemala,” wrote Nicholas Wollaston, while traveling in the Central American country in 1961. “For Britain occupies the whole of Belice Province by force, and calls it British Honduras. There are three empty seats in the Guatemala assembly with blue and white ribbons and marked ‘Belice’ [sic], and every map […]

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