Friday, July 06, 2012

Fear not the great ‘brainwashing’

A child rides his own 'dragonboat'
The claim that young Taiwanese can somehow be 'brainwashed' not only goes counter to the evidence, it is also insulting and condescending 

Recent efforts by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government to emphasize Chinese studies in school curricula have led some people to warn of a possible “brainwashing” of the nation’s youth and the eventual dissolution of national identity. While the government’s measures are a cause for concern, their effectiveness in undermining Taiwanese identity is questionable. 

For decades following its relocation to Taiwan in 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) imposed strict controls on education and the media to re-sinicize Taiwanese after half a decade of Japanese colonial rule. However, even in an authoritarian and pre-Internet society, those efforts failed to transform Taiwanese into something they were not (for another example of the failure of government propaganda to turn people into mindless automatons, even in closed societies, just ask any cab driver in Cuba for his views on Fidel Castro and communism). However, despite the KMT’s repressive tactics, Taiwanese identity flourished, first as an underground movement and, after the lifting of Martial Law in 1987, as part of national politics with the emergence of the Democratic Progressive Party.

Gone are the days where state control of education can fundamentally shape young people, if it ever did. 

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.


Chrsitine said...


CCP is doing the same thing in Hong Kong.

In my opinion, the KMT brain washing tactic still works to some degree esp to those who are older than 40 years old. Once I asked a friend not to call herself "Lau Chung" (old Chinese), since we are NOT Chinese. she innocently answered: we are Lau Chung, and people from Mainland are "Lau Kong" (Old Communist), I rest my case with her.

One major concern of mine is the media in Taiwan, esp that of Want Want. group.

The problem with the younger generation in Taiwan is that while they have strong identity toward Taiwan, they seem to have a hard time finding a decent job, let alone setting up the young families. When people are busy coping with everyday life, abstract ideas (such as identity) will be marginalized.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

Thanks for your comments, Christine. I see your point, but it should also be noted that several thousand people have protested at Beijing's efforts to impose Mandarin in schools to replace Cantonese. Language is part of one's identity and many Hong Kongese are very unhappy with this.

See also:

You write: "When people are busy coping with everyday life, abstract ideas (such as identity) will be marginalized."

While this may be true, the marginalization of abstract ideas does not necessarily translate into people's willingness to compromise who they are; it simply means that they are focusing their energy on more immediate concerns.