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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

»We are Taiwanese, not Chinese«

I spotted these banners a short while ago near Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station in Taipei. I don't know how long they are displayed up there, but judging by how worn-out the color is on the smaller one on the right, it must be for a long while. The bigger one in Chinese looks newer and I'm very curious about how they managed to put it up there. It says "台灣人不是中國人" ("Taiwanese are not Chinese"). The term "Chinese" is here most likely related to "nationals of the People's Republic of China", not "Chinese" in the ethnic sense, although it can also mean the latter in some cases (read more).

Taiwan, unlike China, guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The people behind these banners are either very patriotic citizens, or part of the Taiwan independence movement (or Taidu, 臺獨). They are well aware, that if they were living in China right now, this banner would most likely be taken down, the people behind it questioned, and most probably to disappear in one of the numerous labor camps across the country for an unknown period of time. Now you may agree or disagree with the statement on the banners (that depends on your political convictions), nevertheless I am sure that you'll not contest the statement, that freedom of expression and freedom of speech are universal values, that must be cherished and preserved for future generations. Keep in mind, that these freedoms are rather an exception in the region, which makes Taiwan's young and often fragile democracy so much more significant.


I for one fully support the right of the people of Taiwan to be a de jure as well as a de facto independent nation. However, as I think I mentioned when we met up in Taipei during my visit there, the PRC government has indoctrinated its people from childhood onward that Taiwan belongs to the mainland. In doing so, they have basically painted themselves into a corner because it means that no PRC leader could ever concede independence for Taiwan. There would be mass rioting in the major cities of China if such a thing were ever proposed.

It all boils down to the ridiculous notion that there can be only "one China" and that it should be the mission of every Chinese government to achieve that goal. Every year, the number of people in Taiwan who lived under a government on the mainland grows smaller and smaller. The vast majority of Taiwanese have lived their entire lives without being ruled by the mainland and it should be their decision who rules them.

"Taiwanese Identity" is on the rise. The other reason may be it's there for the "visitors" from the other side to see. HaHa.

@Tommykey: Very well written. You understand the complexity of the situation very well. I still think the US could do more for Taiwan. The US and it's role in north Pacific is the key to Taiwan's future.

@DesertFox: Well, you have a point, but the banners hang in a residential area, I don't think any tourist will find his way there.

Hey, first of all, congrats on the safe arrival of your daughter. I hope you guys are getting plenty of sleep nowadays. I know how it feels to have a new born baby to stir up your life. Enjoy it!

I am a Taiwanese woman who is married to an American husband and now live in the US. I remember that I engaged in a debate concerning Taiwan independence with some Mainland China classmates when I was pursuing my Master's degree at the University of Washington, Seattle in 2010. I set them straight that more than 50% of the Taiwanese identify themselves as Taiwanese, not Chinese, and we have no intention of getting back with China. They were stunned at what I said because the Chinese government has been brainwashing them that how eager people in Taiwan want to return to the bosom of the motherland. And they believed the nonsense! For some reasons, they didn't chew me out for not identifying myself as a Chinese and not loving the motherland (maybe my expression was rather murderous at the time, lol). Of course, I told them to tell their people the truth when they go back to China.

I would love to see Taiwan to be independent, but I doubt it would ever happen. Especially when we consider the domino effect of people in Tibet will want the same thing---it'll cause China's economy to suffer, which is a scenario the Chinese government cannot allow to happen. Forget about getting any help for Taiwan independence from the US government either (it sure will be nice if it could). How can we expect the Americans to support their government's going to war against China for Taiwan independence when most of them cannot even differentiate Taiwan and Thailand? Not to mention the US government will encounter huge opposition from the super rich and powerful corporations since the Chinese market is where they make their money—it won't work as the government is completely controlled by big corporations today. The whole situation sucks for Taiwan, doesn't it?

I concur with Shu-chen that the United States will not go to war to defend Taiwan against the PRC. We're already overextended and over indebted from the Iraq and Afghan wars.

That being said, I don't see the PRC trying to take Taiwan by force, at least not in the near future, unless independent minded forces in Taiwan actively try to pursue independence. The best case scenario is that if Taiwan can stall and hold out for long enough, changes will happen in the PRC to increase political freedoms.

Interestingly, in a recent e-mail exchange I had with an acquaintance who lives in Shanghai, she vented a lot of her disappointment with her country, how expensive it has become and how corrupt Party officials and connected businessmen enrich themselves and lie to the people. Of course, she's just one person, but if there are millions more like her in the PRC, it hints at the possibility that if a critical mass is reached, maybe there will be a shakeup.

Tommykey, I agree with you that the PRC will not try to take Taiwan by force any time soon. Based on my graduate study at UW (I studied modern China's political structure, international relations, economy, and social issues), I think it is very unlikely for the new leader Hsi Chin-ping to throw out the old doctrine of "harmonious society" installed by the two previous leaders, Fu and Wen, and attack Taiwan for no good reason. Hsi would want to keep things as is as long as they are going well. China simply can't afford to make its neighboring countries even more wary about its surging power on the world stage while doing business with them. The PRC doesn't want to be an aggressor now and wants to be seen as a "Mr. nice guy" who is happy to do business and share the new found wealth with everybody. After all, how are you going to convince people that you are harmless while attacking Taiwan? To wield "soft power" is China's current strategy in its international dealings. I also agree with you that the best thing for Taiwan to do is to wait patiently and hope for the best that good changes will happen in China.

@Shu-chen Lucas: With all due respect, but I completely disagree with you when you say doesn't want to be aggressor now and wants to be seen Mr. Nice Guy.

How about the anti-Japan protests last September? Do you remember the violence and the nationalistic atmosphere, that was pushed by the government? Do you remember the officials, who called for war and bombing Japan?

Do you remember the new passport, that included all disputed territories with about a dozen South East Asian countries and even included Taiwan?

How about the recent hack attacks?

The increased military budget?

If they want to be seen as Mr. Nice Guy, they're doing a helluva bad job to convey that notion. Most of their neighbors observe them with great concern and feel threatened, that's the fact. They are not willing to engage in wars (like the did under Mao), because the US and its allies are still keeping them at bay. It's just a question of time, though.

I agree MKL, particularly with regard to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and the Diayou/Senkaku dispute with Japan.

Hello MKL: I believe this statement is partly flawed, I support Taiwan's current status as "independent" away from an autocratic regime with a very corrupt human value system. I think by keeping Taiwan "independent" like right now is a good thing to preserve what little traditional Chinese value that is left. But the only flaw is that I recalled a survey done on most of the Taiwanese youth, majority of them responded "they wouldn't defend Taiwan, if the communist ever attacked" so this is where the funny part comes in, they want to preserve their unique identity yet they won't defend it. MKL I recall that you're from Czech Republic right? I still recall your people's brave struggle against Soviet aggression during the Cold War era, my respect to you and your people's brave act. Just like Israel, whenever they were threatened in the 6 days war and Yom Kippur, their citizens rose up and fought as a nation against their Arab invaders. But for some reason most Taiwanese youth want the good life but not wanting to fight to protect it. If so then, I guess we might not really deserve to be "independent" after-all.

@Anonymous: Thanks for your additional comment. Btw, I'm not from Czech Republic, but from Slovenia. We used to be neutral, not controlled by Soviets. Nevertheless, I get your point :)

I love this banner.
Unfortunately not all Taiwanese feel the same. And I think that is the biggest problem - if Taiwanese cannot make up our own mind who we are, I don't think anyone else will.

Oops my bad, it's Slovenia, beautiful place by the way, but never the less, your country went through a turbulent time during the breakup of Yugoslavia as well, and your people went through it. Although Bosnia and Croatia is kind of a different story...

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