Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thinking about what is "Taiwan'

Mango shaved ice after a morning bike ride: breakfast of champions.

It's always a shock for people who think about Taiwan in conventional ways governed by the tropes and talking points that are the most important aspects of Chinese soft power to encounter this blog, which rejects all propaganda that supports Chinese imperialism against Taiwan. This most importantly includes the construction of the Manchu Empire as "China", a rhetorical and ideological move whose purpose is to enable Beijing's expansion at the expense of Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and other areas. The "'Taiwan' was a province of 'China'" is a trope that appears quite often in the media, one that serves the current wave of Chinese imperialism and expansionism.

In the 19th century western travelers were well aware of the reality of Qing governance on Taiwan, and they were aware quite early. The 1807 edition of John Aikins' Geographical Delineations: Or, A Compendious View of the Natural and Political State of All Parts of the Globe observes that Taiwan is also known as Formosa, and describes:
...A chain of mountains divides it lengthwise into an eastern and western portion, of which the latter only is possessed by the Chinese, while the eastern is left to the original inhabitants.
Similarly, the 1812 edition of The American Universal Geography, Or, A View of the Present State of All the Kingdoms, States, and Colonies in the Known World: In Two Volumes notes that the Chinese control only the western portion of the island. This knowledge would form the basis for much colonial speculation by westerners and eventually, Japanese, for most of the 19th century.

The Manchus of course never controlled the entirety of the island; the first government to do that was that of Imperial Japan. Moreover, it is often forgotten that the eastern part of the island (actually a majority of the island as early Japanese maps show) was held by the Qing themselves to be outside the Manchu Empire until after the Western powers and Japan began sniffing around. It was only in the mid-1870s that the Qing finally proclaimed the whole island belonged to them and attempted to extend Qing control into the highlands, an attempt which failed. Only for the last decade of Qing control of Taiwan did the Qing define it as a province.

Hence, today when we speak of "Taiwan" we are actually speaking in a subtly anachronistic manner that has inherited the tropes of the great age of imperialism. We are back-projecting the current unity that is Taiwan into the Qing period, an act which has us thinking of Taiwan the way Beijing wants us to -- as a (1) unified object that (2) belongs(ed) to the Manchu Empire (which is now "China"). In one real and important sense, there was no such thing as Qing Taiwan as we lazily imagine it, a whole island placidly under Qing/"Chinese" rule. The actual Qing "Taiwan" was a slender strip in the lowlands that was constantly in revolt, parts of which at times paid a danegeld to nearby aborigines. The Qing process of settlement and colonization, no different from European settlement and colonization, never assimilated the highland peoples. Yet the ideological tropes of 19th century Qing and western imperialism still dominate our thinking: we never speak of "Aborigine Taiwan" in that period, even though the majority of the island was in their hands throughout the entirety of Manchu "rule".

The recognition of the Qing as imperialists carrying out a process of colonization who were only partly in control of Taiwan is important, because, as Emma Teng notes in the profound epilogue to her excellent Taiwan's Imagined Geography: "The very idea of 'national reunification' between China and Taiwan is predicated on the denial of Qing imperialism." Denial of Qing imperialism is crucial, because if you think of Taiwan as the site of Qing colonization and imperialism, then you deny the whole idea of "unity" between Taiwan and "China". It was merely a settler colony and separate territory -- just as today no one would speak of "unity" between France and Algeria, or between London and New Delhi, or between Philippines and the US. The strangely idiosyncratic nature of the "divided China" claim is true even for the Qing empire itself -- no one speaks of "divided Vietnam and China" even though the Qing controlled a large area of what is now Vietnam. Tellingly, that trope applies only to Taiwan.

The idea of "unity" and "division" between "China" and "Taiwan" is thus a PRC propaganda trope, part of discourse on "national unification" whose purpose to deny that PRC expansionism is a form of imperialism and colonization by redefining the Qing empire as "China" and the peoples who inhabit them as "Chinese" and Qing expansion as "national unification." Under the Qing the Manchus, Mongols, Han, Tibetans, and Muslim peoples had been regarded as the "Five Nations" at whom the Qing emperor looked out from the center, being all things to all men -- a Buddhist to the Tibetans and Mongols, a Confucian to the Han -- and publishing Imperial texts in all five languages. The Qing saw themselves as the polar center of a multicultural empire that required an ethnic balancing act, just like the British in India, the Austrians in Eastern Europe, or the Ottomans in the Mediterranean basin. It was the Han expansionists of the 1930s who turned all this on its head, with Chiang Kai-shek finally declaring that these peoples were all sub-races of the Chinese race in 1939 (see Gladney, 1991). The burgeoning Han imperialism had subsumed the Qing empire at last.

This wholly modern, ideological, imperialist claim that the Qing Empire was China, with its concomitant claim that "Taiwan" was part of "China", widely accepted in the media and even among academics who should know better, is one of the most important components of PRC soft power. When writers use it, they accept claims about the history of China which they would never accept if they were made about the history of another nation. It forms the basis for its "historical claims" to a number of territories, including the Senkakus, which are linked to Taiwan in the historical fantasies of Beijing. That is why you will never find it on this blog, and that is why to identify and deconstruct this claim is not to twist history, but to untwist the knot that Beijing currently uses to bind Taiwan.

UPDATE: Brian Benedictus has a related discussion on Ketagalen media
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!


Anonymous said...

I don't know if the following information is correct or useful. But it points out the origin of the term '中華民族‘.

(seen in someone's FB)


Anonymous said...

Kudos! Well said.

Political actors are constantly seeking to distort and obscure history to suit a political ends.

Too often we will anachronously superimpose ideological constructs of history, culture and identity onto the past, which distorts it and prevents us from understanding or learning from history.

The people of Taiwan were acutely aware that their island home was unique within the Qing empire and demanded and were awarded very Taiwan specific laws and regulations to better manage the great complexities of the island. At times Taiwan residents enjoyed a type of "affirmative action" on their test scores for the civil service.

The ideas of Taiwan as a part of a Chinese racial nation only emerge in the mid-20th century... from outside Taiwan. Prior to the Japanese colonial experience, Taiwanese viewed themselves and their identities on a more local level, where frequent blood feuds erupted between peoples who, now, would be considered ethnically the same, but in 18th century Taiwan, viewed themselves as vastly different peoples.

Jerome Keating said...

Good post Michael. This needs to be said over and over again until the rest of the world gets wise to the trope!!

Anonymous said...

"Under the Qing the Manchus, Mongols, Han, Tibetans, and Muslim peoples had been regarded as the "Five Nations"

No, that was Sun Yat-sen. The Qing system had Manchuria, Mongolia (sometimes divided), Xinjiang, and Tibet as dependencies or suzereinties.

" whom the Qing emperor looked out from the center"

which was in Beijing

"being all things to all men -- a Buddhist to the Tibetans and Mongols, a Confucian to the Han"

well at least you didn't claim him to be a Muslim to the Muslims

"and publishing Imperial texts in all five languages."

Tetralingual (Manchu / Mongol/ Tibetan / Chinese) inscriptions were routine. What did you think the other language was?

TaiwanJunkie said...

Very good post.

Growing up under KMT propaganda, the first thing learned is the Chinese nation has been continuous for 5000 years. Then you realize in reality, over the last 700 years, the Han people were colonized by a few thousand horsemen they called barbarians for 400 of that 700 years.

This is not unlike the Ottoman Empire, which controlled almost all of the Arab world for 200-400 years in the same 700 years. Just as the Mongols and the Manchus had to become Emperors with Mandate of Heaven to govern the masses, the Turks had to become the Caliphate to govern their masses.

Just as one can not use xxx was a province under the Ottoman Empire therefore it should be part of Turkey today, one should also not say xxx was a province under the Manchu Empire therefore it should be part of China today.

Readin said...

TaiwanJunkie wrote: "Growing up under KMT propaganda, the first thing learned is the Chinese nation has been continuous for 5000 years." You should also learn that the number 5000 is about 1000 too high. Look at the actual dates for archaeological finds in China for civilization and you see they're not from 5000 years ago.

The Egyptians and Sumerian civilizations existed about 5000 years ago, but the Chinese civilization came much later. It is more accurate to say that European civilization (which grew from offshoots of those civilizations) is 5000 years old.

Readin said...

The argument is that the Manchu, by taking over all of China and adopting Chinese way of ruling, became Chinese and thus Qing became a Chinese dynasty. (Can the House of Windsor (Hanover) be called an English monarchy?)

When I argue with people that Taiwan is independent and should continue to be I would love to be able to say that no part of Taiwan was ever a province of China, but I don't think I can honestly do that. Rather I point out that 1. the control wasn't complete (the eastern mountains remained separate), 2. despite having Chinese leaders in Taiwan the region was largely neglected (compare what the Japanese did to improve Taiwan with what the Qing did), 3. the period of Chinese colonization was 120 years ago, back when Cuba was part of Spain, Africa was divided into European colonial regions, Victoria was on the English throne, the Russians had a Czar, and the Chicago Cubs still had a World Series win in their future.

Readin said...

The main point, I think, is that the age of colonization is over and is best left in the past. Also important is that we can't have every empire go back to their largest size, too many places belonged to more than one empire (would Taiwan go back to China, Japan, or the Netherlands?) Finally important, is that at some point the past has to sink into the past. Whatever China's claim on Taiwan was 115 years ago, anyone who was wronged by the separation is long gone and the people of Taiwan today want to remain separate. If we allow blood feuds of our ancestors to govern our lives there will never be peace anywhere.

Readin said...

I get opportunities to tell other Americans about Taiwan, and I usually start out by comparing it to America. It was populated by aborigines until around 1600 when foreigners started arriving. I point out that the Chinese were like the Europeans, coming into a populated region and displacing the aborigines, although in Taiwan it seems the displacement wasn't as thorough as it was in America. There was a lot of intermarriage.

That helps clarify the racial and ethnic questions (Are Taiwanese people Chinese?) while clarifying that Taiwan was a colony of China, not "an integral part of China from ancient times" and also introducing a similar situation in which the independence of the former colony is unquestioned and there is no suggestion that racial or ethnic ties mean that the two countries must become one.

Michael Turton said...

What great comments. Thanks all.

Mike Fagan said...

The historical case is quite beside the point, and it is only a form of "soft power" for the government in Beijing because their opponents haven't got the balls to stand on explicitly ethical premises... the major point is the absence of consent among the Taiwanese population to be annexed to China. That's it - top and bottom, start to finish. Beside this point, neither history nor ethnicity should be judged as having any relevance whatsoever.

It's like engaging in a discussion over the history of a man and a woman viz the question of whether he can legitimately rape her or not. The relevant principle of consent still applies in both cases, and is really the only thing of any ethical importance here.

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, but I think it is important to identify the propaganda and to separate interpretations from facts. China makes a case in propaganda, we deconstruct it.


Anonymous said...

The other incongruity is in the deliberate construction of the Han ethnicity and its conflation into "Chinese".

Mike Fagan said...

If only you took the same attitude to other topics...

John Schmidt said...

Austria was never part of Germany (barring WW2) even though it was inhabited by ethnic Germans. In fact, Austrians have developed a seperate cultural identity even though they recognize that they are historically and ethnically German. The people in the two states have grown apart to the point that while they understand there is some sort of kinship and shared history, ultimately they are two distinct and seperate cultures. I would argue that Taiwan has reached the same place and China refuses to accept it.

John S said...

I think the biggest part of the "China and Taiwan are divided" type of thinking is the belief among many people (whether or not they are aware enough about it to articulate it clearly) that all people (whom they suppose to be) of the same or similar cultural/linguistic/DNA/ethnic must have same national identity. Korean people belong to Korea, Japanese people belong to Japan, Chinese people belong to China, etc.

This mode of thinking does not belong in this century.

This kind of belief makes so much more sense to people who were educated in either A. culturally/ethnically homogeneous countries (e.g Sweden, Japan, etc.) or B. in countries with diversity, but where kids are taught to think of themselves as part of a homogeneous whole (e.g. 'han' in PRC and ROC).

As other posters point out, the ethnic Koreans, Tibetans, etc. who have lived centuries within the current borders of the PRC are complications that are conveniently ignored in this DNA = nationality thinking.

STOP Ma said...

You truly have put that author from The Economist to shame with this post, Michael. Well done!!

I hope he reads this (as well as the readers of the Economist).

Anonymous said...

In fact, Austrians have developed a seperate cultural identity

I am curious how strong Salzburg residents identify themselves as Austrian since Salzburg was not part of Austria until it was annexed to Austrian Empire in 1805.

Readin said...

"It's like engaging in a discussion over the history of a man and a woman viz the question of whether he can legitimately rape her or not. The relevant principle of consent still applies in both cases, and is really the only thing of any ethical importance here."

When you make comparisons to a relationship between two people, you are making the assumption that both sides are distinct _atomic_ individuals and equally capable of having rights and responsibilities.

From the Chinese view, the metaphor is invalid because Taiwan isn't separate, it's just a province.

For someone with a long view of history, you have to answer the question of "What happens if every group of people who want to declare independence is allowed to do so? Can I declare that my house and yard are independent of my (now former) country?

For both it is important to be able to show, using both history and current status, that Taiwan is not "just a province of China" but is a special case because it is has already been separate for a century and that it is already functioning as an independent nation exercising the rights and responsibilities associated with that status.

So history is important at least for showing that independence doesn't separate Taiwan from China, it is already separate and has been for more than a lifetime.

Sorry this post is so long, I need to get to work and don't have time to shorten it.

Mike Fagan said...

"From the Chinese view, the metaphor is invalid because Taiwan isn't separate, it's just a province."

Well firstly, what those twat-trumpets in the PLA think about Taiwan isn't worth a wank into an empty crisp packet. It's not a good idea to try to reason with people who would point guns at you to get their way.

"Can I declare that my house and yard are independent of my (now former) country?"

I am not going to get sidetracked by that here, at least because Turton is likely to nix my reply. If that is a genuine question, rather than a rhetorical one, then you can ask it of me elsewhere, e.g. on my blog.

"For both it is important to be able to show, using both history and current status, that Taiwan is not "just a province of China" but is a special case..."

Not at all. Wales has been a principality of England for something like 500 years and yet if the Welsh were to seek independence from England, as the Jocks up in wee bonny Scotland currently are, then there is no reason to suppose they would fall into immediate chaos. In any case few people in England (outside the Labour party) will mind very much one way or another whether the Celtic fringes decide on independence or remain in the UK.

Here's the relevant point: people in England are still, by and large, relatively civilized and are more interested in their individual pursuits than in collective identity moron-festivals. That being the case, there will be no popular demand in England to force either the Scots or the Welsh back into "national unification". But the UK has the still considerable cultural inertia of the Enlightenment behind it, whereas the Chinese equivalent was the "Great Leap Forward", which, as we all know, was in actual fact a demented fucking pratfall backward into insanity and mass misery.

Jerome Besson said...

I strongly believe that defending a Taiwanese identity on the basis of its cultural heritage as it has been construed and nurtured in the post-war period is lame. The uninformed will believe Chinese claims that Taiwan is Chinese since it obviously belongs to the Chinese cultural area. And the informed with their agendas will play up that impression as the evidence.

With the hindsight of what struggles visited colonial empires in the age of decolonization, it is safe to assume that the SFPT interim solution of the Taiwan issue most probably saved both Japan and Taiwan a lot of bad blood between both. And I surmise that quite a few are relishing the troubles Zhongnanhai will make for itself once Taiwan is left to sizzle on its plate.

If I may, I would venture that Formosans should wise up and deliver the Chinese Taiwan trope a blow by reclaiming their Japanese cultural heritage starting with language. Taiwan enjoying the past it does, it is shameful that it does not recognize Japan's contribution to its development by holding Japanese its official language. It is shameful that no Taihoku-published Japanese language daily is available at the news-stand. It is shameful that young Formosans are not schooled into the language.

If you spoke Japanese when you first came to Taiwan as I did in the mid-1970s, you discovered a definitely hush-hush Japanese Taiwan still alive in Taihoku, less so in Tainan and other areas of the south generally, and impossible to ignore on the East coast and the Central Mountains range. I witnessed young Formosans born post-1952 — yes post 1952, I kid you not — who spoke Japanese with total abandon in public spaces. And that was under that redundant "kaigenrei" the occupier had been enforcing for twenty-seven or eight years already.

Incorporation of Taiwan into the political map of Japan had once gone full throttle as "Kominka" vouches for. And, furthermore I believe it actually wound up being covered by the Japanese constitution from April 1, 945 onward.

It befuddles my understanding that PM Shigeru Yoshida did not make the case more forcefully to John F. Dulles. Prior to forcing on his government a renunciation of Japanese control over Taiwan, the allied powers should have considered what noxious precedent they were creating for themselves when canceling the legitimately acquired and nurtured sovereignty of another state over part of its territory once the end of foreign occupation was declared.

If you deem Ukraine 's claim on Crimea and the Donets Basin legitimate and worth standing up for, then you have now to deal with the consequences of denying Japan's sovereignty over Formosa and the Pescadores.

But still, what dome would better shield Taiwan against the shrill Chinese ghouls than the ancestral protection bestowed on hallowed Taiwan by divine spirits resting in the 'honden" on the quiet and severe premises of a Shinto Shrine?

Readin said...

@Mike Fagan
The question about declaring independence for my house was of course rhetorical. It was meant to show that questions of independence are not as simple whether or not a particular group wants to be part of a particular country.

More broadly, the world would be quite chaotic if countries split and rejoined frequently based on the whims of various groups of people. The writers of America's Declaration of Independence acknowledges as much by saying, "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

The example of Scotland and the UK doesn't go very far with me. I think it is just silly for Scotland to leave a union that has served it so well in terms of collective defense and economic prosperity. Scotland can consider independence because it is in a strange situation where its defense is largely provided by America and its economic bargaining power may come to unimportant because of the European Union. However there a pretty good chance both of those situations could deteriorate in the near future as the European Union squabbles and America shows it is an unreliable ally while continuing to fall economy-crushing debt.

Regardless of whether fortune continues to smile on Scotland, the situation in East Asia is completely different from the situation in Western Europe. European countries may be treating each other in civilized ways, but for the rest of the world "might makes right" continues to reign and in such an environment the splitting and joining of countries is generally accompanied by much bloodshed.

I don't know of any easy answers or fixed rules for saying when a region that wants to be a country should be allowed to do so. But people who look at the world more broadly than just Taiwan will consider it an important question so it is good for us to be able to answer it. Fortunately the answer for Taiwan is pretty easy. Taiwan has been separated from China for at least 115 of the last 120 years. Since 1949 it has functioned as an independent country. A declaration of independence would therefore not be a change of the status quo but merely a recognition of the status quo.

Mike Fagan said...

"It was meant to show that questions of independence are not as simple whether or not a particular group wants to be part of a particular country."

The word you are looking for is "consent". And in Taiwan's case, the question is not one of independence it is one of annexation. Taiwan already has de facto independence and the context in which our discussion is set is outside perceptions and beliefs about whether China can *legitimately* annex Taiwan.

The *proper* way (note: that is an "ought" statement, i.e. an ethical/ideological one) to go about this politically is the referendum and the reason for this has fuck all to do with history - it is *entirely* about consent. And as we all know, the Taiwanese would overwhelmingly vote against annexation by China, thus establishing that there is no consent for annexation. If that would not convince the rest of the world to support Taiwan against China, then no amount of arcane historical detail will, and frankly I would be skeptical of any outside support that was not premised upon Taiwanese consent. Some desk-jockey from the State department muttering about how the U.S. will support Taiwan because of some old scraps of paper or some conditional legal interpretation does not invite confidence. The *only* thing that would invite confidence is openly declared support on straight-up ethical premises, a la Reagan's outright "fuck you" to the Soviets right in front of the Brandenburg gate. I am not a conservative, and I think Reagan is over-rated, but that was good. That was really good. Taiwan may at some point need something similar.

"The example of Scotland and the UK doesn't go very far with me."

I gave you the (hypothetical) example of Wales, not Scotland.

"European countries may be treating each other in civilized ways, but for the rest of the world "might makes right" continues to reign..."

I knew this would come up. You make this point as if you are the only one who is aware of the reality. It would be nice if you could do the rest of us the favour of imagining that we too, are aware of the existence of the PLA's 2nd Artillery. Newsflash: I am not claiming that the Taiwanese can declare formal independence on the back of a narrow consent argument and the PLA will not begin murdering us. I am saying that foreign support for Taiwan must be based upon ethical principles which in this case is that there is no popular consent among the Taiwanese for annexation. The history is at best of adjunctive importance, and at worst a distraction that serves to sow argument and doubt.

Anonymous said...

Readin -
"Taiwan has been separated from China for at least 115 of the last 120 years."

And Taiwan has been separated from Japan for at most 69 years.

If Taiwan must be returned to a previous "owner",
Japan is the last and it should be returned to Japan.

Readin said...

@Mike Fagan
I agree it would be annexation. As I said, declaring independence would be a recognition of the status quo, not a change in the status quo.

The reason a take-over would be annexation, and a declaration of independence would be recognition of the status quo, does have to do with history. Getting back to your Wales example, if tomorrow there were a coup in Wales and the new leaders declared independence (without or without the approval of the majority of the Welsh)and had enough guns to scare the lower levels of government to support them, would you be saying 1 day later that Wales was already independent and that for the UK to send in troops would be "annexation"? Maybe you would but most people would say that Wales was in a state of rebellion, not that it was independent.

You and I at least seem to agree on the importance of scraps of paper. The Cairo Declaration, the Treaty of San Francisco, and the Treaty of Shiminoseki all pale in importance next to the fact that Taiwan has been in reality been functioning as an independent country for 65 years.

TG said...

More broadly, the world would be quite chaotic if countries split and rejoined frequently based on the whims of various groups of people.

Gee, I'm glad we don't live in such world. Thank god the past 100 years were not chaotic at all.

Mike Fagan said...

"If Taiwan must be returned to a previous "owner", Japan is the last and it should be returned to Japan."

For fuck's sake. Taiwan should not be "returned" to anybody because "it"* is not the moral equivalent of a piece of property that can be bought and sold on a market. How is it the only libertarian here has to be the one to say that property rights and market transactions do not apply to this matter?

The underlying claim that whole nations of people can be bought and sold like goods in a flee market should be considered beyond the pale.

*In reality Taiwan is not an "it" because we are referring - at least - to some 23 million individual people each with their own lives.

Jerome Besson said...

@Mike Fagan (and Reading, but only as an afterthought, really)

Does not it bother you that the Formosan Japanese never show up in post-WWII arrangements? Who's to blame for how Taiwan was treated as a mere piece of real estate while the lawful tenants were served a raw deal in the bargain? Is it a way to hold the people supreme?

While the issue is still in the balance, the lawful tenants should remind the world that, as of last record, they were family with the owner.

I believe that their only way out of the now 69 year-old limbo (and that is, putting it mildly) is to first reclaim their last internationally recognized identity. They shed blood enough to deserve it, for eight million god (八百万の神, yaorozu no kami)'s sake!! 

And not to dash the dreams of independence under an internationally recognized sovereign Republic of Taiwan, Formosans will first have to seek the approval of the owner whose identity the present realtor in charge of the property is keeping to its own absconding self.

Neither the Chinese on Taiwan nor the Formosans who are still deeming themselves "Chinese on Taiwan" will ever possess Taiwan. They are only enjoying the usufruct while the realtor, or the principal occupying power of Japan, keeps tolerating them on US-occuîed Japanese Taiwan as mere janitors and tenants.

When interpreting the latest move of the US immigration authorities, many pro-independence Formosans misconstrue the TWN designation of locality of origin as the "Republic of Taiwan". Dreadfully wrong.

The US holds Taiwan a mere WTO separate customs territory, as it should while Taiwan is in effect an occupied area awaiting ultimate territorial disposition.

It is worth noting that, of late, AIT consular authorities consider Kinmen and Mazu Chinese territory, but not Formosa and the Pescadores. Now guess were all those who deem themselves Chinese are heading in a hopefully near future.

I know many poor Formosan clod's offspring who will be still treasuring the key to their last dwelling in Al Formosa all over the area known as China down the ages to come. Unless those nitwits know to cease participating in the internal affairs of the exiles they host, they are doomed for "repatriation" to the cradle of the ghost of a republic they are keeping on life support.

Jerome Besson said...

@Mike Fagan (again, and at the miscellany TI-dreamers on this thread)

To grasp what Taiwan is about you'll first have to learn Japanese first.

Most of the foreigners who came to Taiwan during the post-war period came to gain a smattering of Chinese culture. Hence, the pro-China slant some have been displaying later on. The real Taiwan eluded them.

Once the Tangwai had gained qualification as the counterweight to a KMT on life support inside the exiled/:occupier's administration, everybody became Taiwanese identity-conscious. We know where and when that dream plummeted.

A few years back I happened upon the study report a Japanese scholar attached to an American university published on her blog. She reported interviewing a tribal chieftain from the West coast (somewhere in the Shinchuku area) who held both Emperor Showa and the nuclear Peanut the US dropped on Formosa in the same awed reverence. When that man speaks of "zuguo" now, he means the Chinese (exiled Chinese civil war rebel faction in) Taihoku version of China.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back in me. Why did this elder make that dreadful analogy? Was not he a peer of the bright young aborigines I had witnessed speaking Japanese forty years ago?

And then, it dawned on me. As his father had been enforcing the law among his community for the Japanese governor of Taiwan, he was doing it for the unlawful occupier. He was another "jungongjiao". But this one was selling his ancestral land out under the auspices of perpetrators of grand larceny.

Formosans will need going through a reeducation period under Japanese supervision at least as long as the unlawful alien occupation lasted before they can begin bargaining for independence. Meanwhile the Chinese blowfish will have imploded, hopefully.

Jack Hosey said...

It seems to me that part of the problem is that the trope of nationality is too new to the region to be useful in an intellectually honest attempt to understand the issue.

For Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, the leap to national identity was much easier because of geography, language, and their conscious and selective adoption of a foreign cultural system. But, for China, it could never be that easy. Most Chinese dynasties were semi-Sinicized 'barbarians' when they took over the Center, and gradually the two fused together. So, was Qing Chinese or Manchu? This is as worthwhile as ruminating on whether the Mughals were Indian or not or the Macedonians Greek or not. If people insist on asking that question, then I think the only answer is to ask the Manchus themselves today.

China is not a ready-made nation in the way peripheral east Asia has been. It will have to be forged, which is what the communists and KMT have tried to do or it will have to be reduced to a civilization. Either way, it will be bloody.

Taiwan is an heir to that heritage. When the Americans declared independence, they were not embarrassed to do so largely in defense of their rights as Englishmen. The Taiwanese cannot draw from their native cultural springs to justify independence. They have to draw on something universal, like human dignity, in order to justify independence both to themselves and to the outside world.

Ultimately, though, the question is simple. Let's say somebody digs up some treaties that somehow show that Taiwan belongs to "China". What kind of person could that really be meaningful to? Would anybody who is in favor of Taiwanese self-determination say, gosh, I guess I was wrong about that! Obviously not.

So, what us the point of debating the Chinese on these points? It only confirms the trope you've been trying to berate others into ignoring: Taiwan and the mainland have a complicated historical relationship.

If I had written the Economist piece and then read the intricate run down of which dynasty held what when and then proceeded to argue that this or that group did or did not have a Chinese identity, guess what conclusion I would draw? "I don't know much about the Wing dynasty, but I can see the Chinese and Taiwanese are fighting a tooth-and-claw struggle over their identity and the outcome of that struggle will determine their collective future.

This article is as much a part of the trope it decries as the trope itself.

NONE said...

One thing Taiwan shares with other Asian nations is the bond of a common colonial experience. Vietnam would not have been a natural nation state were it not for the collective experience as a French colony. The same can be said for Indonesia and the Dutch, Malaysia. What matters is how people imagine their community today and how well they seek to forget prior regimes. This is Taiwan's stumbling block as the ROC has made the process of forgetting much more complicated.