Sun, Jan 14, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Hatred toward Japan should end

By Chen Ro-jinn 陳柔縉

A recent Japanese comic book, Taiwan Ron (台灣論), emphasizes that the Japanese colonization of Taiwan demonstrated the world's most benevolent governance. It also calls Japan a "divine nation" and so on, all of which has caused certain people in Taiwan to don their armor and wield their spears. When 80-year-old Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) insisted on evaluating the book positively, saying it "revealed all aspects of Taiwan," those people shouted even harsher criticism of "fawning on Japan." The clubs fell like rain.

We must recognize that Taiwan people's attitude toward Japan is closely divided along ethnic lines. "Mainlanders" (外省人), the people who immigrated to Taiwan with the KMT after the war and their descendants, view Japan as an enemy nation. Their hatred stems from the brutality that Japan waged against China during World War II. On the other hand, the older generation of native Taiwanese spent their youth identifying themselves as Japanese. Under Japanese colonialization, they experienced ethnic discrimination, but also enjoyed the benefits of the development and progress that was made. The complexity of this encounter is felt even more strongly by the intellectual elite, like Lee Teng-hui, who have a background in the landlord class. After completely losing hope in China and the KMT government, judging the performance of the KMT by comparing it with the Japanese colonial era has become a powerful way for such individuals to balance their emotions.

Unfortunately, the right to discourse about Japan has long been under the control of Mainlanders, and Japan has been portrayed simply as an enemy that invaded China and once governed Taiwan in an exploitative and discriminatory way. The feelings of the older generation of Taiwanese therefore have no outlet and may even be structurally oppressed. Having "a complex" about Japan is like being branded with original sin. We can see a tiny part of this in the way Lee Teng-hui was harshly criticized for frankly saying that prior to the age of 22, he was Japanese. This statement was nothing more than the presentation of a historical fact and an objective explanation. However, seen through lenses colored by hatred for Japan, it became evidence of fawning on Japan and compromising national dignity.

Any Taiwanese can make a "declaration of love" for any country. Only Japan is taboo. Some people can't sleep at night if they don't drink French coffee. Some people advocate Taiwan becoming the 51st state of the US, and some people, unable to wait for that time, immigrate to the US. On the streets, Taiwanese wear every sort of European and American fashion, but nobody scolds them for "fawning on France" or "cozying up to the US." Young people are equally smitten with McDonald's and Hello Kitty, but only the trend of admiring all things Japanese is scrutinized. Nobody looks squarely at the fact that Taiwan has already become a quasi-colony of US popular culture.

In political matters, Taiwan obeys the US unconditionally, but not even a handful of people worry that Taiwan has become a pawn of US interests. However, when the former president identifies with a right-wing book from Japan, everyone becomes obsessed with fear that Taiwan will become a "Japanese puppet." How strange!

This kind of "allergic reaction" to Japan is the accumulated result of decades of education. As soon as there is any slight disturbance or false alarm involving Japan, people begin to sneeze and get red in the eyes. In the view of those who are allergic to Japan, Lee Teng-hui naturally has a genetic predisposition to fawn on Japan. But looking at the matter from a humanitarian angle, Lee Teng-hui should logically have the freedom to feel any way he wants. He can love Japan, and do so with perfect self-assurance. His love has nothing to do with Taiwan's national dignity.

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