Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What’s next, Chinese ‘patriotic’ education in Taiwan?

The Ministry of Education confirmed today that Taiwan could recognize Chinese diplomas obtained after 1997 as early as June next year, provided that the proposal is approved by the (KMT-controlled) legislature (meaning that it will).

The ministry plans to start by recognizing diplomas from 41 top Chinese universities — those that Beijing has poured more money into since 1985. Some of those academic institutions include Peking University, Tsinghua University, Tianjin University and Fudan University. Public universities would only be able to recruit Chinese graduate students, while private universities could recruit undergraduates.

Anyone who has read the paper “National Humiliation, History Education, and the Politics of Historical Memory: Patriotic Education Campaign in China” by Zheng Wang of Seton Hall University, published in International Studies Quarterly last year, would know that extra funding by Beijing most likely means more brainwashing in school curricula. If Jian Junbo (簡軍波), one of Fudan University’s top students, is any indication, products of that system never waver from the party line, not even after long exposure abroad — even in Western universities. (This is why, to use one example, so many Chinese students in the US supported Beijing when it cracked down in Tibet prior to the Olympics last year.)

The more Jians enter the school system in Taiwan, the more difficult it will be for Taiwanese students and professors to perpetuate their own historical discourse. The mix of chauvinism and strong nationalism that characterized the Chinese academics who spoke at forums in Taipei over the weekend — where they dictated and threatened, while exhibiting a total disinterest in learning from others — would also likely be present in those students, who from very early on have been fed a strong dose of CCP ideology and little else.

Another worry is that an influx of Chinese students embracing their own ideology would eventually result in strong demand for teachers from China, which could engender a process whereby Taiwanese teachers are slowly elbowed out — especially those who espouse a pro-independence line.

As Zheng and others have argued, schools play an important role in the formation of national identity. If the Chinese discourse is allowed to grow roots in Taiwanese schools — through students, curricula and perhaps professors — then Taiwanese identity will slowly be diluted, and future generations of Taiwanese will have little access to the material that, in their formative years, informs them about, and shapes, who they are.

Of course, all of this would be a different — and less worrying — thing if Chinese who come to Taiwan were actually keen on learning different opinions and bringing those new ideas back to China, in which case exchanges would be a positive development. But this isn’t the case, and the fault lies with the tremendous efforts at educational socialization that Beijing has made, starting in 1991, with its Patriotic Education Campaign.

Taiwan is under attack on many fronts. By opening up universities to Chinese students, a new beachhead could soon be stormed.


Anonymous said...

I don't see the potential for "Mainlanders" to overtake the academic circles in Taiwan, after all no matter how many Chinese students come to Taiwan, they will still be the miniority. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if this creates strong clashes and fragmentation among the students, once a critical mass of Chinese students has arrived and people start to feel confident enough to openly speak their minds...

Anonymous said...

the Junbo piece was interesting in a way. the PRC, KMT (and anyone who holds to the idea that Taiwan is the ROC) probably adheres to the One China Policy. they are stuck with the problems of that position. the new book The 'One China' Dilemma (ed. Peter Chow) is an interesting (Taiwan friendly) look at the issue.

Anonymous said...

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FOARP said...

I'm sure that Taiwanese lads are going to hate sharing their campuses with pretty mainland co-eds . . .