Hong Taikong and President Who Jean Tao

Internet magazine Slate has a section called Daryl Cagle's Cartoonist Index, which is a regularly updated collection of news and political cartoons from around the world.

A recently added section called China vs. Taiwan offers an insight into Western ignorance about China. Here for example is a cartoon that features "President Jintao".


I suppose you have to forgive the cartoonist.

I mean, if Chinese people insist on being so obtuse and writing their surnames first, how are editorial cartoonists ever going to figure it out?

The other thing about China and the Chinese: their names all sound the same. Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian, Tung Chee-hwa, Taiwan, Taipei, Taibei, Beiping, Beijing, Peking, Shantung, Shandong, Hong Kong, King Kong, Big Dong: What is a poor Westerner to do? So it's not surprising that Slate's China vs. Taiwan section includes two different cartoons about Tung Chee-hwa resigning as Hong Kong's head honcho. Which does not have anything to do with Taiwan or the anti-seccesion law.

This is one of the cartoons about Hong Kong that was mistakenly published on Slate as a commentary on Taiwan issues:


China vs. Taiwan on Slate

- Thanks to Joshua Samuel Brown for the link. Below is a letter he wrote to Daryl Cagle:

Dear Daryl,

I'm an American writer, been living overseas for over a decade, and a regular visitor to your corner of Slate. Editorial cartoons are, in my opinion (and I'm sure you share my views in this respect, being that you are, after all, a professional cartoonist) a good way to take the political pulse of a community, and I think you do a decent job of picking cartoons representing a fairly wide spectrum. That being said, I often browse your pages simply to remind myself why I became an expatriate in the first place, as often political views expressed by cartoonists on your page strike me as inanely naive and overly polemic. This saves me airplane fair, though my mother in Delaware wishes I'd visit more. Still, I had no complaints about the job you'd been doing as cartoon curator up until today (and since it is your name on the top of the page, I've got to assume that you're the man on whose desk the buck stops), so here it is.

One of the things I write about is the extremely complex relationship between Taiwan and China. The American media tends to boil this relationship down to the phrase Taiwan split from the mainland in 1949, maybe throwing in a reference to Chiang Kai-shek, a man who (last I checked) was still dead, and not playing much of a role in cross strait politics outside of who eventually gets the honor of permanently burying his corpse. Swell. American's like their facts simple. The civil war was over slavery. George Washington never told a lie. JFK was shot by a lone nut. And so forth. 

However, in presenting your Taiwan vs. China (itself an oversimplification, but hey...), you include (out of 20 or so) not one but two that pertain not to the titular (heh heh...I love that word..titular) situation, but to Hong Kong's (former) chief executive Tung Chee Hwa. Yes, I know that TCH is also "oriental," and that the Taiwan Straits are part of "the orient", and that to make matters worse, these two events had the temerity to happen in the orient in the same week, but I assure you that they are separate and unrelated news items.

I know that sometimes its hard to tell Orientals apart. Tung Chee Hwa, Charlie Chan...I mean, black hair, slant eyes, right? (well, Charlie Chan's was a dye job. He was just what we call around here "a stage oriental"). But Really, you could try a bit harder. I mean, Taiwan and Hong Kong are probably two of the last places past Hawaii where the average local won't openly mock Americans for being overweight, self obsessed morons who couldn't find Asia on a map with both hands (they believe this, like almost everybody else, but are more polite about it and will only mock us after several drinks). So we should really try to not confuse their political leaders and various situations.

In a pinch, Tung Chee Hwa is a bit rotund and has white hair. His replacement is Donald Tsang, and always wears a bow tie (a cartoonists dream), and has the most western sounding name. Perhaps an Asian donald duck with a bow-tie? (That's my idea, but you can use it. I can't draw.) The leader of China is Hu Jintao, and he's a bit nondescript...cartoonists don't much like drawing him, but editorial writers like playing with the whole "who? Hu!" concept.  And the President of Taiwan is Chen Shui bian, also known as A-bian. He's shortish, wears glasses, has thick black hair and tends to smile a lot more than Hu (Taiwan, in addition to having a more advanced democracy, also has better dentists). So you should be able to keep them straight on your page. Your children will thank you for it when they're looking for jobs in 2020, when the American dollar is trading 1:1 with the Yuan and they need to decide whether they should start sending resumes to Beijing, Hong Kong or Taipei.

Thank you for your time, Daryl. Really. And keep up the mostly good work.

Sincerely Yours,

Joshua Samuel Brown

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