In his column “Question of Taiwan’s independence debatable,” (1/28) Carl Kubler makes an interesting case for the issue of Taiwan independence. Kubler’s article addresses a de facto control of Taiwan by the Republic of China. The vast majority of the world focuses on mainland China’s unwavering insistence of the “One-China Policy” while failing to acknowledge the existing hostilities and potential for war associated with the political divisions across the Taiwan Straits. The unjustified Desinicization policies launched and supported by the current pro-independent administration of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), headed by Chen Shui-bian, are the most significant obstacles for peace across the straits and the mutual prosperity which is the common hope of both the mainland China and Taiwan.
Kubler states that “it is undeniable that Taiwan is increasingly developing its own sense of cultural and national identity.” Although the statement is entirely true, many in the West are completely misled on the origin of such a phenomenon. Considering that the Taiwanese population, excepting a small percentage of natives, is made up almost entirely of migrants from the mainland, the country’s seemingly new nationalism is not the result of a sudden “discovery,” but, rather, it’s driven by the manipulation of a central Taiwanese government eager to distance itself from mainland China.
Central to the success of such manipulation is promoting the notion that Taiwanese is a distinct ethnicity not entirely composed of Chinese blood. Many in the government have come to define “Taiwanese” as a mixture of Chinese and aboriginal influences. However, in a government where few individuals have any aboriginal blood and in a culture that largely ignores its native population, arguing for a Taiwanese identity based on aboriginal connection is as ridiculous and illogical as white colonists in America identifying with Native Americans as a reason to seek independence from the European powers.
Simultaneously, many pro-independence politicians, such as Lee Teng-hui of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), have emphasized the importance of Japanese elements in Taiwanese culture. Lee argues that it is Japan, not China, who brought modernity and the modern culture to Taiwan, and thus redefined modern-day Taiwanese culture. Yet one can say that Japanese colonial rule also brought modernity to Korea. Yet, it is also true that South Korean pop culture, like that of Taiwan, has strong Japanese influences, but no Korean would dare say they are “partially” Japanese as a result.
While seemingly arguing that they are both aboriginal and Japanese, the DPP and the TSU are also keen to educate their constituents in becoming less Chinese. The enthusiasm is most prominently reflected in the DPP-led “improvements” to the textbooks of Taiwanese primary and secondary schools. In many regions of Taiwan, the history and geography of mainland China have already become parts of “foreign” history and geography while the rigor and details in which the China-related subjects are studied has been drastically decreased. Some have even gone as far as placing Chinese classics as Confucius’ Analects and Sun Tzu’s Art of War in the collection of “foreign literature.” Much against the spirit of a country named “Republic of China,” the authorities have managed to educate millions with little or no knowledge of their ancestral homeland.
The Taiwanese rejection of China is further reinforced by the lack of direct communication across the strait. Chen’s administration, under the pretense of necessary security measures, have been eager in preserving the decade-old rule that requires any communication, whether through plane, ship or mail, between the mainland and Taiwan to be conducted through a third country or region. However, this method seems to serve no practical purpose in increasing security, as it is highly doubtful that, in the case of a mainland invasion, Chinese warships, fighter planes and missiles will voluntarily divert to a third country before heading to Taiwan, and it is also highly doubtful that diverting to a third country will discourage any Chinese spies and agents from entering Taiwan. Additionally, these measures prevent many in Taiwan from visiting the mainland, ensuring the continuation of their mutual alienation from one another.
Almost six decades after the Chinese Civil War, the political status of Taiwan is as controversial today as it has ever been. Yet, one thing about the future of Taiwan is certain: Mutual understanding between the two cultures must be achieved before any specific political problems can be solved. With its narrow focus on creating a distinct Taiwanese identity through Desinicization, the current DPP government has manipulated its people while frustrating the Beijing government and diminishing hopes for economic cooperation with the mainland. These policies, however, can only lead to the complete isolation of Taiwan from mainland China and its rapidly expanding global community.
Xiaochen Su is a sophomore in Davenport College.