It is election time in Taiwan, so Ma Ying-jeou is going to temporarily become Taiwanese. Sure enough, President Ma responded to DPP Presidential Candidate Tsai Ing-wen's declaration of Taiwaneseness with a forthright one of his own, as a Taipei Times editorial noted today:
The Ma camp accused Tsai of manipulating populist politics with the aim of stirring up ethnic division. However, it appears that calling oneself Taiwanese is acceptable if Ma is the one doing the talking.My friend Thomas has already blogged on some of the pan-Blue political infighting going on over Taiwaneseness. This "being Taiwanese" declaration of Ma's is fascinating for what it reveals.
“I am a descendant of the Yellow Emperor in blood and I identify with Taiwan in terms of my identity. I fight for Taiwan and I am Taiwanese,” Ma wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday. “In nationality, I am a Republic of China [ROC] citizen and I am the president of the ROC.”
In case Ma didn’t know, the public has noticed that whenever he starts venting hot air about being Taiwanese, it means campaign season has arrived.
Ma is a descendent of the Yellow Emperor "in blood." In 2008 Ma was not nearly so open about his identification with China, but here he says it out loud, dragging in the racialist code for Chinese identity that is essentially a declaration of Han chauvinism. His declaration thus pits "blood" against the mere "identity" of being Taiwanese. Ma's particular program has been to treat "Taiwaneseness" as a subclass of Chineseness -- to subsume it into the Greater Han identity even while paying lip service to its uniqueness. For example, in an interview a while back:
President Ma: The idea behind the Taiwan Academies is to showcase some of Taiwan's cultural achievements over the past 60 years. I have often said that Taiwan culture is a kind of Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics. Its roots may have come from mainland China, but it has merged with other cultures here in Taiwan and has developed new features. This is what we wish to convey in the Taiwan Academies.Ma sees himself as a defender of Chinese culture which is a great treasure to be handed down to subsequent generations, and Taiwan as a great bastion of Chinese culture as opposed to China, where Communism has permanently polluted it -- rhetoric out of the 1950s -- 1970s.
The Richburg interview shows this tendency toward Ma to subsume Taiwan into China again further down:
Q17. Washington Post: I understand promoting Taiwanese culture separate of mainland China is important for you, Mr. President.Note how Richburg invites Ma to emphasize the uniqueness of Taiwanese culture and Ma declines and responds by emphasizing that Chinese culture is consistent. He then offers -- clearly to illustrate the idea of "Chinese" culture -- a movement toward Confucianism in China while links to Confucian studies in Taiwan, which as I understand are widely detested by local students.
President Ma: In fact, Chinese culture is consistent, including Confucianism as I have just mentioned, but actual practice is the important thing. Over the past decade or so, Confucianism has received great attention on the mainland. This is surprising, but also comforting for us to see. Many people, from students to entrepreneurs, are hiring private teachers to instruct them in Confucian philosophy. In Taiwan, however, Confucian philosophy has been taught in schools for the past six decades, and every student has studied it. If mainland China can move in this direction, I believe it will be the right direction and can promote closer cross-strait relations.
Thus, Ma's declaration of "Taiwaneseness" fronted with the reference to blood ties to the Yellow Emperor is just another display of his consistent downgrading of Taiwan culture. He is probably signaling to his allies in Beijing as well.
Finally, it should be noted that Ma's racialist conception of identity-via-descent is directly contradicted by the DPP view that being Taiwanese is an identity open to anyone who loves the island and that citizenship is not based on blood but on participation as a citizen in the democratic community of Taiwan. Hopefully the DPP will emphasize the themes of openness, democracy, citizenship, and Taiwan identity as one in response to Ma's 19th century Volkish view of his own identity.
- SPECIAL: Japan repays Taiwan's generosity after quake/tsunami by denying Taiwanese students relief funds other foreign students in Japan are receiving. No diplomatic relations is the excuse.
- How should a romantic honeymoon in Taiwan be planned? Help her out.
- 2011 Yingge ceramics festival kicks off
- Unifying the "Two Chinas" across the Strait. Argh.
- ERA poll on the 2012 election, the Lee Teng-hui indictment, and legislative vote by party.
- Cruise ship visits Taiwan, Chinese passengers get free transportation.
- The idiotic beef stand-off between the US and Taiwan continues.
- Taiwan to set up red-light districts under regional governments. I believe the entire city of Taichung already qualifies for this special status....
- A friend's new blog on regional affairs opens strong with a post on Taiwaneseness and Chineseness.
- Washington Post letter on weapons sales to Taiwan. It's amazing that there are people who think 66 F-16s for a democracy are provocations, but remain silent on 1600 missiles wielded by an authoritarian, expansionist state. The whole pro-Beijing tone of the letter is awful, I hope it generates some more informed and pro-US, pro-Taiwan, and pro-democracy responses.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.