More than a strait ?

As my conference is about electrical engineering, a majority of the scholars are Chinese, usually from the mainland. For nearly all of them, it is the first time in Taiwan, given the tremendous difficulty to be issued a visa. When I speak with them, we swiftly shift to political subjects, about the Taiwanese independence and the Chinese civil war. As they are all very educated and bright people, their opinions are of acute interest. The only things they agree on are: Taiwan is a beautiful place, traditional characters are much more beautiful than the simplified ones, and no museum in the mainland can compete with the National Palace in Taipei.
One of the persons I met, a computer science professor in one of the top Chinese universities has a surprisingly high opinion of Taiwan and her achievements. He praised Chiang Kai-shek for succeeding in building up a modern society while keeping alive antique Chinese customs. According to him, the communists had a very disastrous influence on the Chinese civilization (especially during the Cultural Revolution) whereas they (until recently) lacked of a consistent economic agenda. Another of my acquaintances, a middle-aged woman who settled in Canada has an opposite point of view. A point she mentioned is that the Chiang Kai-shek memorial in Taipei is nothing but vile propaganda. According to her, the vast majority of Taiwanese people despised him. More, after severing its relationships with the mainland, the rebellious island was more or less left isolated from the Chinese culture and could only maintain a superficial surface of Chinese traditions.

An interesting anecdote illustrates the possible cultural difference between mainlanders and Taiwanese. An evening, at my hotel (a four star one), I came across a delegation of Buddhist monks, presumably high-officials. As Buddhists are supposed to be free of material desires, it is rather surprising to see some shaved heads in the most luxurious hotel in Taipei. Moreover, some of the younger monks were carrying shopping bags as if they had spent the afternoon in Taipei malls. Their presence is not only incongruous but also shocking. A Singhalese (i.e., Buddhist) colleague of mine shared my thoughts and wondered why they were not staying overnight in a random temple downtown. When I asked the hotel's receptionists (who did not even know the word Buddhist in English), they told me that they were dignitaries from the mainland in Taiwan for the approaching Buddha's birthday. The moral of this story is that somehow mainlanders lost part of their moral values. There, even Buddhist high-officials don't respect basic moral precepts.