Essays and Theories

Evolutionary Psychology: A Possible Solution to the Taiwan Problem from an Evolutionary Perspective?: An Open Letter to China’s Civilian and Military Leaders.
William A. Spriggs
July 28, 1998

This is an open letter that appears only on the internet and does not involve influence by any governmental agency of any nation. It is my hope that the intelligence community of China will intercept this evolutionary perspective solution and pass the information to those higher individuals involved in the decision-making process. There is no need to respond to, nor acknowledge receiving, this open letter.

I am a independent scholar who is trying to establish my credentials in using evolutionary psychology to resolve what some people believe are seemingly unsolvable international problems. We in the evolutionary community believe that this newly forming science gives us the strongest resources to date for solving problems that involve not just individuals, but stretching to include nations as an example of a group acting through collective thought processes.

I strongly suggest that you refer to our main web site at Evolution's Voyage: for additional information and continued study of the fundamentals of evolutionary psychology.

Let’s get something straight and be blunt: Your country cannot reach out and invade Taiwan and still remain a member of the international community at your present level. This is not 2,000 years ago when military strength determined a nation’s hierarchical standing with the rest of the world. Your global neighbors, with whom, you have painstakingly worked so hard to gain their trust, would most likely reject and condemn your actions. Invading or continuing to bully Taiwan could possibly lead to containment, and with containment your country could once again plunge into darkness and repression. Again, the world would be denied your ancient art, folk medical knowledge, and philosophy that it so desperately needs.

Yes, in a few years your military build-up would most likely allow you to take over the island by force and hold off any international military reaction. However, the terrible loss of a large percentage of your forces by a entrenched Taiwanese military and civilian defense motivated to protect their island seems like a terrible waste of China’s male youth. I am not privy to Taiwan’s military secrets, but I imagine that there could be terrible hidden self-destruct weapons awaiting any invasionary force.

In this rapidly shrinking world where global communications can be flashed to any other point on the globe in seconds, we are all neighbors in a global village. Now, in no more than seconds, one’s country’s actions become visible on the global stage for all to see, criticize, or praise where once large-scale national action could have been done in anonymity.

Since neighbors live separate lives according to the dictates of each of their local environments, we are bound to be different from each other in only cultural beliefs. Our behaviors have been shaped by the evolutionary rules of natural selection and the conscious cultural teachings of our forebearers

What amazes me the most about all of my evolutionary studies is that the remarkable sameness of everyone on the planet. I am an American male living in Lakewood Colorado, USA, and I share 99.988% of the same genetic make-up as one of you in China who happens to be reading these words.

Studying the elementary core of evolutionary psychology shows us that we seem to have a reached a consensus that our ancient ancestors emigrated north out of Africa and evolved from the old world primates. It was at this time in our primate past that there was a literal explosion in the size of our brains. It has been strongly suggested that forming hunter-gatherer groups was the main thrust of this escalation due to language, hunting, mate selection, and alliance formations. In particular, the male gender evolved the complex but not too subtle method of using violence to dominate others since it had immediate short-term advantages. But this created a problem. If the male lost a battle in competition , he was  finished. It did not take our ancestors long to realize that violence was not beneficial to anyone’s continued existence, so a new behavior evolved in which the losers acknowledged the superiority of the winning male, and the result would be the that the dominate male would spare the loser’s life. Despite the temporary set-back (loss of face) and the disadvantages that the position brings, the losing male accepts the fact that survival is better than dying, which allows for another attempt at becoming the dominate male at another time. We call this acknowledgement behavior by the loser in deference to the dominate male as submissive acknowledgement. In your ancient Chinese cultural, I believe that the evolved behavior would be similar to bowing deeply to an acknowledged superior.

These superior and submissive positions produced what we call hierarchical position status. The obvious connection here is that the higher one’s hierarchical status, the more beneficial would be the resources one could obtain. With our common ancient ancestors, it most likely meant more access to higher-ranking or multiple females with whom to pass one’s genes. After we domesticated plants and animals about 10,000 years ago, we also evolved cultural beliefs that contributed to the equivalent of achieving status. Throughout history these might include the possession of jewels, property, wives, or herds of animals. All these items must be subject to the same test: is the item at that particular longitude and latitude perceived to have substantial value with the culture that dominates the society at that location? Evolutionary psychology is, of course, more complex than all this, and for the sake of brevity,  again I strongly suggest that you continue your investigation by studying other areas of our web site that appeal to your interest to gain a better foothold of the concepts that I will present here

Leaping forward from hunter-gatherer bands to international politics, we find the core of evolutionary psychology still with us.

Like our primate ancestors, we understand at an innate level the fundamental principle of strength over weakness. It is everywhere in our modern political world. To cite a perfect example, on July 10, 1998, India’s prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told his parliament that his country is eager for talks with Pakistani leaders concerning ways in which to discuss ways to ease nuclear tensions between their two countries. I quote him here: "However, nobody should feel that we are ready to participate because we are weak." Does anyone in your military and civilian leadership not understand what he means about the concept of a nation’s strength and weakness? 

Another example of international understanding of strength and weakness: On March 24, 1999 Operation Allied Force, a joint NATO coalition of 19 allied countries began an air campaign against Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic for his brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo providence. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had this to say at the beginning of the campaign: "Our response to these appalling acts, far from halting or slowing the allied action, must be to intensify it and see it through to a successful conclusion.  For every act of barbarity, every slaughter of the innocent, Milosevic must be made to pay a higher and higher price.  I hope no one who has seen the utter, callous brutality with which the Kosovo Albanian people have been treated is under any remaining illusions about the nature of the Serb regime.  The proper answer to it is not weakness but strength."

It should be fairly obvious that the core belief of any nation’s military force is to project an image of strength and send shivers of fear (weakness) down the spine of any possible foe. The problem lies in inaccurate or blatant disregard of information acquired by a nation’s intelligence gathering community, which leads to delusional beliefs in one’s own military invincibility. If a nation’s military is dominated by aggressive military leaders who use nationality (or some other excuse) to force confrontations in order to advance their own personal fiefdoms, the action could result in disaster, resulting in a setback for the nation who perpetrated the action. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein comes to the fore in my imagery over this scenario.

Unfortunately, the majority of our planet’s inhabitants are not always consciously aware of these dominance and submissive behavior mechanisms.  The main point that I want to stress, however, is that I strongly believe that once most of our planet’s population becomes aware of this behavior it will create a paradigm shift in national behaviors, after which military violence and unrest will soon become part of our past. ("Soon", in terms of an evolutionary timeline could mean twenty or more years).

I feel strongly about this is because, even in my lifetime, I can see that all responsible, democratic nations are becoming more and more directed, in their diplomatic and military actions, toward preventing military confrontations from spreading into larger conflicts on any place on the planet. It is happening at an ever accelerating rate due to increase global communications. I am referring to incidents such as Bosnia and elsewhere, where a united international community has stepped in and made peace. Any form of conflict is being rejected as the norm for behavior in global membership of the international community. It is in everyone’s best interest, the right thing to do, and a sign of evolved human intelligence at its highest and most refined behavior. We don’t like to see our neighbors killing each other needlessly.

Now I could be wrong, but I fear that you may be at a momentary loss of which direction to travel in a non-military course of action in facing the Taiwan situation. If one particular plan falters, one could, in frustration, fall back on the behavior that has worked in the past. That usually means that the prevailing voices are those that insist that strength of military action be the only means of achieving one’s goal. This is the voice of all our common ancient ancestors: the barbarian warrior who took what he wanted and did not offer any alternatives. Both my country and yours have a history of such behavior. I know that it is now time to look for peaceful solutions for any political matter; be it for small, local disagreements within our own countries, or over disagreements between a nation and a rouge territory. I would like to offer several small steps that could be taken to "get the creative juices flowing;" suggestions that lead to real, constructive, positive advances that do not require use of military action.

As my fist suggestion, I would like to offer the most basic of interpersonal behavioral mechanisms that all humans share and desire. To be treated with respect and dignity.  My mother was a folk philosopher extrodinaire and she always seemed to have a simple solution to difficult problems. One particular jewel of wisdom that stood the test of time in my memory: "You can attract more flies with sugar than you can with vinegar." The implication, of course, is that toning down harsh rhetoric that you have used regarding Taiwan and beginning to speak in a respectfully and non-threateningly to your desired objective will elicit a more receptive reaction to your ideas that you bring forward. Oh, and by the way, it would be a good idea to apologize for any past behavior and action that you have committed against your desired objective.   Words are not as important as deeds, but they are essential if you wish to demonstrate your non-threatening intentions and therefore further encourage any possible consideration of your proposals.

As a second suggestion, if we study our primate cousins, we learn that our evolved behavior includes the behavior mechanism of "Tit for Tat." The principle of the behavior is also simple: when resources are low, if you have something of perceived value you could spare, you offer food, advice, or a cooperative alliance effort to an individual with the hopes that when your resources become low, that individual will return the favor and you will benefit from their act of reciprocal kindness. Of course, if your friend or ally does not return the favor, then they become what we call a cheater. This person receives the benefit of your actions without having to sacrifice his resources;   he gains twice with no required effort on his part. However, we do tend to learn from the experience by being able to detect any such cheaters, and we adjust our behavior accordingly. Nevertheless, offering assistance and resources without the expectation of reciprocal action is very important because it helps to reverse years of strained relations between individuals, groups, territories, and nations. A perfect example of non-assistance can be seen with both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland today.   They are still using deep remembered battles of more than 600 years ago as excuses for their political maneuvering.

What I am driving at in this second suggestion is this: Do you have anything that Taiwan needs? Do you have any raw materials from the earth, manufactured products, or intellectual services that China can offer Tit for Tat to Taiwan in the hopes of receiving something in return? It has been indicated recently that Taiwan’s economic affairs ministry may relax its policy of restricting direct investments in China. Is this something that is beneficial to China? If so, then why not offer them something in exchange, something that could be to their advantage to ensure their investments? If so, offer if with a tone of genuine friendship in your vocal transmissions. Remember my mother’s advice about sugar and flies. You could receive nothing back, but this could have an upside as well: Not only will your friendly gesture land you squarely in the international spotlight, but a non-reciprocal response from Taiwan will do the same for them as well.

The third thing that you should do is to establish cultural exchange programs for the youth of your two countries. These exchanges can be sent up immediately with little costs. Remember the Ping-Pong matches with the U.S. some twenty years ago? They really did help to establish contact with the wider world. But, even this method is not really effective, and would just be too slow for some political and military leaders of your country. Quite frankly, what you need to do is to establish a genetic interest in each other. Yes, you read that correctly, I’m talking marriages, babies, and households.

If you were to break down your problem of uniting your two territories into the smallest significant parts, the crutch of the problem that you both face is that the two territories have been separated by five generations of two populations not linked biologically. This creates a cultural separation that widens every day. It is genetic predisposition, in combination with culture, that rules our modern day behavior. The very spirit of a nation is propelled by citizens that do nothing extraordinary but adapt to their local environments and live each day as it dawns. The most fulfilling motive for all groupings is the innate desires to generate new populations of children and to give those children the best possible future that one can provide. It is no different for you, Taiwan, the USA, or wherever people have developed a culture and have passed that culture down through the generations to the present. We all want the same basic things at a biological level -- only our cultures divide us.

This is most important: I strongly believe that unless China and Taiwan have biological relatives living in each other's territories in large numbers where the basic concerns of health, safety, education, and the future potential of those biological entities are closely linked, then any political or industrial attempt at unity would be superficial at best. Each side would remain defensive of each other’s territories and be suspicious of each other’s motives.

One suggestion I have flows naturally from the cultural exchange programs I outlined above; I call it Operation Romeo and Juliet. Like the enduring English play by William Shakespeare, two young lovers from two competitive clans (Substitute China and Taiwan) wanted nothing to do with politics and only wanted to be bonded together forever. This is universal with all young people on the planet. The biological urges that swirl through their young bodies dictates to them instructions to mate and usher in the continuation of their genetic code to the next generation. DNA chemistry has nothing to do with political organizations. Its goal is to replicate and multiply. For China and Taiwan, instead of standing by and watching the tragic ending to the Romeo and Juliet play, your two territories should be doing everything to bring young lovers together, and then support them with the best resources that your two territories can create.

The reason that I stress youth in this exchange is important. By youth, I mean those who are neither married, nor have established a household with a mate. Why is that important? Because, if you look at the very essence of your two political organizations, you will find that you and Taiwan disagree about territory. In primate studies, we call this territorial defense. The biological root of this behavior comes from what I call D.A.D., or The Darwinian Area of Defense. The biological primate knows, innately, that his territory offers him the best advantage for his survival and, hence, he strongly defends that territory for all it’s worth. But, what is more important, the primate will become even more defensive once the primate has selected a mate and children are involved. We humans are no different.

This is where parts of this proposal begin to get exciting or ridiculous depending on your age, socioeconomic rank, or political status. I know that your youth will find the proposals exciting because, to them, it offers amazing possibilities. As for your elders, it would be to their advantage to delay any radical changes for fear of losing control over anything that may be a threat to their own and ultimately their families', financial standing.. That is why if new territories and opportunities are opened, there would be no gatekeepers blocking entrances to these new territories (as they do now) by standing in the doorway of their present fiefdoms and collecting entrance fees. This proposal is about the future, and the future always belongs to the youth.

What I suggest in this section is that large areas of real estate be created and set aside on both the Chinese mainland and the Taiwanese island, perhaps facing each other across the Formosa Strait, and designated as mutual exchange zones. China would build its zone on Taiwan, and Taiwan would build its zone on the mainland. Each zone will be under the control of the territory or country that built the zone from their territorial capitals that would be built from scratch.

These zones would be highly-developed areas in which both territories would put their latest industries and their best educational systems, from elementary through university level, and all staffed by the best teachers and professors. The latest environmentally safe methods should power all entities, including as much solar and wind power as possible. I would also suggest developing public and private housing with all the latest gadgets that your two great territories could create. I would make them showcases of your mutual talents. I would link all private and public housing into an intranet, and this would be connected to the internet. As for the size of the exchange zones, I don’t know; what’s a good hunk of real estate? The size of Disneyland in Orlando Florida? The size in circumference of Paris?

Pretty serious stuff, huh? Well, that’s why we have elders and their collective wisdoms. Now, how do you pay for something like this? Well, since the biological link that I suggested is so important, then it seems logical that the people involved should be the ones who help to contribute the largest amounts. I would have special "exchange zone" lotteries, for which the winning prize is the opportunity to live in the opposite exchange zone. Chinese winners must relocate to Taiwan, and the reverse for Taiwanese winners. The winners get a house, job retaining, financial planning assistance, and of course, free higher education for their children at the exchange zones, middle schools and universities.  Oh, yes – and a monthly allowance to pay for the minimum of expenses. The winners would still be expected to work or create for a living. Basically, the lotteries would pay for people to relocate and give them secure footing once their arrived in the new territories, with the majority of the prize going to the future and any children.

Now, this is also most important. Anyone can enter and win an allotted, sizeable sum of money, but only unattached youth can relocate. Those not eligible to relocate, could sell their winning tickets to others for the highest price, or sell them to appointed agencies who would then resell the prizes with long term financing to those who would be eligible for relocation.

There could be several layers of prizes, such as free transportation to the exchange zones as tourists, or vacation homes as second homes, escalating up to the weekly grand prize of complete family assistance after relocation and the marriage to a mate. This is very important to a young male from, say, your interior, who has no formal education. You see, as evolutionary psychology teaches us, he would instantly becoming a high-ranking male and would become very attractive to eligible females. For it is the female that is interested in the male who can provide the best possible situation for her unborn children. Each female inspects and weighs the factors of each of her male suitors, and then selects the male with the best advantages. And to protect the male who perhaps is not sophisticated, the female could not take the winnings away from the male because the prize is only located in the future in a new territory.

It would take perhaps twenty to fifty years before the populations of these two cultural, economic exchange zones help to provide enough inertial force to bond your two territories together. All individuals involved would be aware and understand that the objective of the relocations is ultimately the unity of the two territories under Chinese rule at a future date. But it is simply the biological link with focused resource allocations that would reinforce the benefits of any alliance and cooperation. Unification would be inevitable.

Does all this sound a little too slow? Want to speed up the process? In order to speed up the process something even more dramatic and on a larger scale must be done. The next suggestion that I am proposing is highly controversial, but based on an evolutionary perspective of human behaviors that we all share, could work – and work within twenty years..

While Operation Romeo and Juliet is in the planning stages, both sides could begin to define both areas and begin construction of elementary schools, middle schools, and dormitories to house large numbers of young children from each territory. What I’m suggesting is that both territories each select 10,000 children ranging in ages somewhere between 10 and 15, with the largest percentage being around ten years of age. Political loyalty could be used, but would fall on deaf ears in this suggestion. Parents of the children would only want to participate if it benefited their children. Offering the best educational resources and the best possible future, would easily fill the quota.

It would be the goal of your two territories to educate these children for leadership roles in the two territories The object is that these children would want to remain within the two territories while the relocation transformation is taking place.

My theory is this: That you both would be so concerned for the safety and proper education of your biological children that other issues such as trade disagreements, political differences, and cultural unfamiliarities would become secondary. The high-risk factor is so high, and the possibility of failure so great, that international attention by your global neighbors would be drawn into the process and they would also be interested in the outcome. It would be a great opportunity for China to do the right thing, and to display to the world your unique talents.

The children would, of course, be in constant touch with their parents each day via internet video technology, and I suggest that every three months, with the change of the seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, on the calendar, be allowed to go home for a period of one week. Visitations by parents and guardians into the zones would be allowed at any time, but they would be escorted into the exchange zones in accordance with the agreements reached beforehand.

Initial costs would be within each government’s reach, but expansion would start to drain the resources of both. It is at this time that the lotteries would begin to kick in and populate the areas. Even before both territories begin to map out planned territories, I suggest that an establishment of a web site containing plans mapped out for all to see.. The reason for this would be to allow suggestions from as many people as possible to be aired from the two controlling parties. Then the people who are connected to the web site can be polled for their views toward any particular idea concerning matters within the exchange zones. This gets people involved and interested in the process. And, if the people get to decide the direction of the exchange relocation program, they will be more likely to accept the entire project. This process demonstrates that a house build with a firm base will stand on a solid foundation. As my mother, the folk philosopher, said to me: A hundred heads can come up with more ideas than one. This would also demonstrate to the world that you are preparing for democratic elections through this process, and this could help in your arguments for entrance into the WTO – another goal of yours.

Does this all sound all like fantasy? Not really. During World War II, the children of London were rounded up and sent to the country side by the thousands. Perhaps your British consulates could find out how they both accomplished the plan and overcame any problems that they faced. I will not mention your own country’s mass population movements, but I know that if you wanted to do something like this, it is not from a lack of will or experience.

I’m going to end these suggested solutions here, because these are merely ideas to get you interested in viable options other than military conquests.. I think what is so exciting about these ideas is that I know that they could work. The best part is that if it works for China and Taiwan, it could work for the Jews and Palestinians, the Catholics and Protestants, the Serbians and the Muslims, or any groups on the planet that are faced with a conflict. All people on the planet are genetically the same; the solutions will work for all.

China could provide the world with its valuable experience in creating peaceful solutions to conflicts on the planet. It is an exciting prospect for China to show its full potential and greatness.

Good luck, and whatever direction you take, enjoy the Voyage.

William A. Spriggs
Evolution’s Voyage
Evolutionary psychology for the common person. 

Origin: July 28, 1998

Updated: April 12, 1999

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