Saturday, August 09, 2014

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How Taipei Times sees international marriages in Taiwan

8/09/2014 Taiwan Explorer
A few days ago Taipei Times published an article named Cross Cultures, that is discussing various aspects of international marriages in Taiwan, or to be more specific, marriages consisting of a Taiwanese national and a foreign national. I was very happy that they dedicated a lengthy article to this topic, because I happen to be in such marriage. But after reading the piece I decided to highlight one aspect that I find problematic. Perhaps you will think I'm too sensitive, but I think great sensitivity is very important in this context. The article starts promising:

From language acquisition to raising children, international marriages aren’t what people commonly think they are

I definitely agree with this part. The author goes on:

Due to globalization, Taiwan has experienced an increasingly robust expatriate community, leading to a rise in cross-border marital unions. People finding love in those holding different passports are walking a newly forged path in this global phenomenon, and often their family units face a litany of common misconceptions from broader society. Hearing the voices of those married internationally reveal helpful information which can help us understand these alternative families.

A great introduction, that makes you even more interested to read on, but as I continued, I realized that the author came to all those general conclusions only by sampling couples consisting of a white American and a Taiwanese. Now, I don't mind to read about the experiences this particular sub-group of international marriages in Taiwan has to share, but they are in no way representative of anything but the sub-group they belong to. If you're introducing a topic in general terms, but then merely write about something that only represents a very small part of that topic, I find this misleading to the reader, and generally harmful to the overall portrayal of international marriages in Taiwan. For example, this part in no way represents me:

Many people think cross-cultural marriages must be extra difficult. Amanda Wu debunks this myth. “In some ways we find that our international marriage is actually easier since we make less assumptions,” Wu says. “Instead of jumping to the conclusion that he’s being selfish or mean or disrespectful, I first assume it must be a cultural thing which allows us a chance to talk about the reasons behind whatever it was that offended or hurt,” she adds.

First of all, for me cross-cultural marriages are difficult, so she hasn't debunked any myth from my point of view. That's just her personal opinion and experience, and I'm pretty sure not representative of a vast majority (but maybe it wasn't meant as such). Secondly, if you assume an argument is caused by a personality trait or by a cultural particularity, you are still making assumptions (you're trading one kind of assumptions for another), so how is that making "international marriage easier" and with "less assumptions"? I don't get the reasoning behind this statement.

To go back to my original train of thought, Taiwanese with white or Western partners get disproportionately more attention in the local media and online forums (search for CCR) than Taiwanese married to other foreign nationals. According to my research from 3 years ago on interracial relationships in Taiwan, I came to following conclusions:

- Taiwanese, who marry foreigners, will generally marry someone from East Asia or South East Asia (in 97.1% of the cases).

- Most foreign spouses come from People's Republic of China (66% of all foreign spouses). However, this is a bit tricky, as these "foreigners" have a special status in Taiwan.

- Most foreign female spouses, that are of non-Han Chinese descent, come from Vietnam. If we exclude nationals of PR China, they would constitute 62.2% of all foreign female spouses.

My post is a little old, but I believe the overall conclusions and interpretations of that data are still valid today. I think a little bit of nuance changes everything, so this is how I would phrase the introduction to this article, if I were the author:


What do you think about this issue?