Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ma is Taiwanese Again

Took the train back from Tainan today. Great cloudy blue skies, and clean windows.

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.

“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.
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.

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.

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.
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.

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.
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Tim Maddog said...

Very informative post, but a few additional words would have made it even better.

In the title, you missed "sorta" before "Taiwanese," as the post eventually clarifies via the details.

In the "Daily Links" item about "Cruise ship visits Taiwan," you could have added "while Australians and Europeans (and any other non-Chinese) don't even get to sit in the back of the bus."

Tim Maddog

Marc said...

We are tAIwanEez if you please;
We are TAiwaNEeZ if you don't please.

Anonymous said...

The DPP should stop to
campaign like its still 1999. This whole whose Taiwanese/whose Chinese/F16 business only plays in the hands of KMT and the PRC. Why? Because YOU DON'T WIN ELECTIONS WITH IT.

Michael Le Houllier said...

I love how the KMT is trying to claim that this is an incitement to ethnic divisions. Taiwanese is not an ethnicity as much as it is a nationality and an identity.

Tsai herself is Hakka, not Minnan, and her meaning was surely meant to include all people who consider themselves to be Taiwanese.

Though I, myself, am not a citizen, many of my friends and students consider me to be as Taiwanese as anyone due to my love of the country and my efforts to promote it and make it better, THAT is what it is to be Taiwanese -- not your ethnicity or your skin color.

Once again, it is the KMT who is showing its true colors with the ethnic card while the DPP is trying to be more inclusive. Remember, it is the KMT-president and other KMT members who have given us racist statements about aborigines in the past few months,

Anonymous said...

What is very interesting is that KMT racialism is a reflection of "western" ideas of race and ethnicity. Not simply in as much as Sun Yat-sen borrowed directly to the German Volk movement, but also in that it continues to reinforce the proto "western" cultural bias that was established and later rejected by the West.

Racialism was used by "the West" to lend validity to the various colonial projects underway in the 18th and 19th centuries through the use of scientism and concepts of social darwinism.

As western colonialism crumbled during the first half of the 20th century, so did the need for explicit racialism in the form of ethnic nations in the way Germany tried to invent an Aryan Reich. Western nations adopted pluralist policies and have even tried to incorporate former colonials into their nations. Western governments have even stepped in to prevent the elimination of ethnic minorities within sovereign nations.

Chinese nationalism on the other hand gets away with a similar racialist ideology that was so rejected and vilified by "the West" as it fulfills, in the mind of the "Occidental", the image of the homogenous Oriental.

Westerners want to celebrate their own particularity among other westerners, but a racialist, neo-colonial China still satisfies the racialist desires of the West. China plays on this dissonance to further its political and territorial ambitions.

SY said...

Ma Ying-Jeou said: “I am a descendant of the Yellow Emperor ... ...I fight for Taiwan and I am Taiwanese,.....In nationality, I am a Republic of China [ROC] citizen....”

To ladies:

If your man cannot tell you straght: "I love you" and, when asked to say so, he always (and always) has the urge to wrap it with "I certainly love our children" (before the "I love you") and "I absolutely love our parents" (after the "I love you"), you know what to do.

Anonymous said...

I love how the KMT always runs and hides behind the ROC. The idea is that if the DPP does not support the ROC then why are they running a candidate to be its president. Ignoring the fact that...

Jade said...

"I am Taiwanese." If the majority of the people in Taiwan start to say that, I think it could have a ripple effect. For the past few decades, KMT’s white terror made people uncomfortable to say it loudly and proudly. Even though the white terror does no longer exist in most people’s mind, KMT continues to maintain that atmosphere as if saying “I am Taiwanese” was a shameful statement. They created an image that only the extreme Taiwan nationalists would use words like that. The truth is most people in Taiwan identify themselves Taiwanese including people whose parents came from China in 1949. They are professors, doctors, shop owners, farmers and any professional you can think of. They love Taiwan and are proud to be Taiwanese. I am surprised that DPP did not take this opportunity to fight back with a TV ad of people of any profession saying a simple statement “My name is Jade and I am Taiwanese.”

Anonymous said...

Michael Turton- are you Taiwanese? Is your daughter Taiwanese? Is your son Taiwanese? Is Ma Taiwanese? When should people stop questioning all of your "Taiwaneseness". Ma is as Taiwanese as your family.

I am tired of DPP's Taiwanese slogan and your constant questioning of Ma's intention when he clearly states his being Taiwanese. DPP doesn't own or have the power to define who is Taiwanese and who is not. DPP's identity politics is backward; it's divisive; it distracts Taiwanese from discussing the real issue. Enough is enough.

Michael Turton said...

Michael Turton- are you Taiwanese? Is your daughter Taiwanese? Is your son Taiwanese? Is Ma Taiwanese? When should people stop questioning all of your "Taiwaneseness". Ma is as Taiwanese as your family.

Nope. Ma isn't Taiwanese at all; he thinks of himself as a Chinese, as he clearly states. I don't know what my name is doing there, the use of a cheap personal attack simply shows that you nothing to say but stereotypical KMT propaganda, as the rest of your trolling shows.

Anonymous said...

The 62-year-old CCP and the should be proud it has such people working hard to put the final nail in the coffin of the 100-year old "Free China".

Tsai wants to become Queen of Taiwan, to hell with the country's name, constitution, etc.

Taiwan is not the only island governed by RoC.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see the way that right from the first sentence Ma plays along with the whole "descendants of the Yellow Emperor". I mean why doesn't he just roll out the whole "Please annex us NOW" welcome mat for the C.C.P and the P.L.A? When I was in the Peolpe's Republic of China I found this found this whole appeal pseudo primodeal mysticism to justify annexing Taiwan most disturbing and irritating. Disturbing because to have fully grown adults in professional positions taking common ancesotr legends literally in the 21st century is a sure sign of all out indoctrination and irritating because to people blindly repeating phrases parrot fashion without any independant rational fashion annoys the hell out of me.
Having Ma blindly repeating such banal trite dogma is even worse.

Anyway is it just me or can anyone else see the gross contradiction in defining what it is to be Chinese? As you have the common ancestor doctrine as used by Ma but if you were to use that wouldn't you exclude many of China's "56 minorities" which historically don't identify as being descendants of the Yellow Emperor, have their own legends regarding their racial origins or as in the case of the Uyghar it would make no sense at all to be referred to as descendants of the Yellow Emperor?

The same logic in the above paragraph could be applied to things such as Confucianism and various forms of ancestor worship which would be a completely alien culture to some the "56 minoritites".

Finally does anyone know if there are any festivals for the Yellow Emperor in September or October of this year?