Saturday, September 24, 2005

Li Ao at Tsinghua

Richard at ESWN has been kind enough to supply a transcript of Li Ao's speech. Li is usually labeled a maverick, though he is more of a spleen venter than a serious intellectual. Sad, actually.

Li's rambling and disjointed remarks offered little meat to remark on, but I think there are a few points worth making. First, anyone who argues that Li's generation of mainlanders has any regard for Taiwan should be made to read his remarks. It's pretty clear where his loyalties lie, and those of thousands of others...and many of their descendents as well.

This question from a student I found interesting:

My question is this. You have defined yourself as a mainland style scholar, and you are famous for having a patriotic heart. But we are very concerned that the Taiwan authorities are pushing for de-Sinofication. That will have a huge impact on young people, who are the future citizens and political decision-makers in Taiwan. How do you think that cultural Taiwan independence can be opposed? A chasm in culture means a permanent separation.

The question is revealing on many levels. Advocacy of a separate Taiwan culture is "de-Sinofication" (But I thought Taiwanese culture was part of the great Chinese cultural stream?). Note that China's hegemony is viewed in specifically cultural terms here (but ask this student why then Tibet should be part of China and you'll get a completely different answer). Neither has anything in this student's background and training prepared him to understand that Taiwan is already culturally separate from China, and has been since at least the middle of the Japanese period, and probably earlier. "A chasm in culture means a permanent separation" -- quite true. Why do you think Taiwan wants to be independent? The cultural foundations are already there, however impaired by KMT policy.

I wish I had a clearer idea of exactly how Taiwan is understood by everyday people in China, by students, and by the governing elite.....

Li's answer to one question is unintentionally ironic:

Therefore, I think that the ability to quickly evaluate and to tell good information from dogshit is very important.

True! Which side of that divide did your presentation belong on, Mr. Li?

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