The UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen described Taiwan as "Taiwan, Province of China" reported the China Times (via Taiwan Today). Taiwanese officials complained that the mistake happens every year, and then promptly go on to say that they will use the odious "Chinese Taipei" to describe Taiwan -- surely the exact same wine, in a different bottle.
BBC blew another headline and subsumed us into China, though you probably missed it. In this article on the Golden Horse Awards, the BBC originally said that the Taiwanese film won an Oscar "in China". Quick action from a number of different government and private vectors soon righted that error, and the headline now reads: Taiwanese tear-jerker wins Golden Horse award which is exactly the same as the Reuters article on the topic. Great minds, etc.
Cultural appeals are an important component of China's assault on Taiwan's independent existence, as the Reuters piece out today on art treasures on display in Taipei observes:
"The two sides come from the same roots," said Tian Qing, an academy professor managing the exhibit, suggesting that Taiwan's youth should study the treasures, then act to save them.The thinking offered here is classic right-wing purity politics: outside influences are "contaminating" Taiwan, which would otherwise have the "pure" Chinese culture (that too being a total political construction). This is reminiscent of the way the KMT arrived in 1945 to tell the locals that they had been tainted by Japanese colonialism, only in this case the villain is the Americans, who contaminated the island with the dread virus of democracy. The academic quoted here offers the art treasures as a proxy for Chinese culture: "On the path to modernization, don't let it get lost!" Alas, Chinese colonialism is the same no matter which Leninist political party is carrying it out.
"One aspect is to tell people we have this beauty from the past and another is to let them know it needs protection," Tian said. "On the path to modernization, don't let it get lost."
China lost some of its best pieces in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when signs of wealth and status were wiped out, he said. Taiwan, for its part, should be mindful of the cultural influences from outside the region, such as that from the United States, Tian said.
Among the (many) things which vanish in this ethnocentric discourse are the local aborigines, who quietly make up a larger portion of the local population than everyone imagines -- the reason there are so few now is that so many have assimilated to the local Han mores, adopting Han names and fake Han origins for their families -- they have Sinified. The result is the most interesting of today's explorations of identity....
My friend Feiren pointed me to this article in the China Times today replete with the same telling misconstruals of history and identity. It tells the story of a group of clans in Henan Province in China who allegedly have Taiwan Tsou ancestry and settled there 300 years ago. 100 of them returned to Taiwan to seek their roots. One group surnamed Chen there in China has even applied to have their ethnicity changed from Han to "mountain people."
How do we know they are aborigines? Well, there's texts and oral traditions and some remains, but my favorite passage has to be this classic colonialist representation of minorities as children who love singing and dancing:
一直以來，村裡居民有與漢人不同的深遂輪廓與膚色，也保有非常不同的生活習俗，除熱愛歌舞外，有一首守喪時吟唱的輓歌，歌詞內容竟然是「回去吧，回到大洋彼岸！那裡有阿里山，那裡有日月潭…。」The mention of "Sun Moon Lake" is quite curious and hints at a modern origin for the tale of the Tsou in China. The people around Sun Moon Lake were all Thao, not Tsou. During the 18th and 19th century the Thao were basically wiped out, knocked down to only a few hundred survivors, after once controlling all the area around the lake. During the early part of the KMT period they were classified into the plains (Pingpu) aborigines, and thus disappeared as a separate classification, and nearly as a people. Later, since the Thao claim to have come from Alishan in some way, they were reclassified as the tribe around Alishan, the Tsou (see SM Lake website). The Thao people were later formally recognized as the tenth tribe in 2001 (Wiki). The connection between Alishan and Sun Moon Lake in the alleged funeral dirge appears to be the direct descendent of this modern administrative confusion of Thao and Tsou, pointing to a modern origin for this story.
All along, the village residents with Chinese Shensui different contours and skin color, but also maintain a very different lifestyle, in addition to love of singing and dancing, there are a mourning when the singing of the dirge, lyrics turned out to be, "go back and return to the ocean on the other side ! where Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, where there is....[Google translation]
And lo, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that the song happens to mention two of the most popular tourist destinations for Chinese tourists in Taiwan. Or that it emphasizes that who you are = where you come from -- identity, like so many other ideas in Chinese culture, is inherited patrilineally, since where you come from is determined by g-g-g-g-grandad, not grandmum. Take that, you Taiwanese independence mongers!
The last paragraph adds bogus history to the dubious ethnography, saying that Koxinga "recovered" Taiwan, although the Cheng regime itself did not see it that way, nor did the Qing Court. That is strictly the usual Chinese tactic of backreading current political ideology into Taiwan history in order to legitimate it.
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