Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fear not the cross-strait culture war

Those who argue that Chinese culture poses a fundamental threat to Taiwan’s sense of self fail to fully appreciate the resilience and adaptivity of Taiwanese identity

Much has been made in recent years of an apparent campaign by elements on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to convince Taiwanese that they share a common culture, ethnicity and history with Chinese. This emphasis is without doubt part of the multifaceted effort by Beijing — an effort that also has political, military and economic angles — to unify Taiwan with China. However, culture is the weapon in Beijing’s arsenal that is the least likely to succeed.

A good number of Taiwanese and their supporters recoiled when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), once he was safely ensconced in office, began waxing lyrical about the “shared ancestry” of Taiwanese and Chinese, or hurt sensitivities when he harped on about a so-called “Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics.” Similar apprehensions arose when his administration, and its counterparts in China, began encouraging cooperation in all matters cultural, from the movie industry to linguistics.

Suddenly, Taiwanese culture and identity seemed to be under assault, dwarfed by the weight of 1.3 billion Chinese who, we can only deduce from Beijing’s propagandistic line on such matters, all share a homogenous “Han” culture. Some of the deformities that have arisen from such a stubborn adherence to a cultural “one China” include “Chinese Taipei” and, as one often encounters in the opening paragraph of reporting by (state-controlled) Chinese media, “China’s Taiwan,” as if repeating a lie often enough would somehow transmute that into truth.

[...] But greater cultural contact need not necessarily translate, and oftentimes will not, into the uncritical and total assimilation of foreign ideas — let alone serve as an instrument by which to change a people’s identity.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.


Anonymous said...

stupid cracker, gtfo taiwan

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

Eloquent and constructive, thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

I pretty much have to agree with you.

I like to draw a clear line between modern Chinese culture and the policies of the people in Zhongnanhai. I am not opposed to modern Chinese culture, and my critiques of it are no deeper than my critiques of many other modern cultures. I think it is fine for anybody - Taiwanese or not, to enjoy and support modern Chinese culture. The polices of Zhongnanhai on the other hand...