Sun, Aug 05, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Traditions benefit Chinese culture

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Prejudiced by Chinese nationalism, the pro-unification factions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are singing from the same hymn sheet in describing Taiwan's "nativization" (本土化) movement as "de-Sinicization." Nativization is being branded as a most heinous crime. But the question is: what is so detestable about de-Sinicization anyway?

In his memoirs, Singapore's former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), writes that he once told Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) that had China successfully conquered Taiwan during the 1958 artillery battles in Kinmen and Matsu, it would today be unable to absorb all the US economic and technological resources that are channelled to it through Taiwan. Jiang nodded in agreement.

Even Beijing has to admit that a "region" developed independently of China is now making great contributions to China. Lee went on to ask, "Isn't it better to have Taiwan remain a separate entity? That way, Taiwan will continue to come into contact with western technology and knowledge in the next 40 or 50 years. China will further benefit from Taiwanese investments." Jiang shook his head in disagreement. This anecdote reveals a judgment clouded by Chinese nationalism.

Both history and emerging globalization indicate that the obsession with Chinese unification often results in political, economic and cultural stagnation. Places outside of Chinese control -- such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and even Shanghai, also a foreign colony -- were able to develop independently on the basis of their particular regional characteristics. Now, they are better able to contribute to China and even the ethnic Chinese community.

Singapore, an ethnic Chinese nation outside the control of China, has made an all-out effort to help develop the Suzhou Industrial Park (蘇州工業園區) in China. Singapore has also helped introduce modern technology and management into China. Hong Kong has been the biggest source of foreign investments in China. After it left Chinese rule, Hong Kong learned how to interact with ethnic Chinese around the world, while acquiring modern Western values and views. Now it acts as a conduit between China and the Western world.

Taiwan has made major contributions to China, including US$45 billion in investments and 5.2 million job opportunities. In Jiangsu Province (江蘇), Taiwan provides 13 percent of all jobs in the manufacturing sector and 37 percent of the province's total exports. In Fujian Province (福建), Taiwan provides 25 percent of the jobs in the manufacturing sector and 43 percent of the province's total exports.

Had Singapore, Hong Kong or Taiwan always been under Chinese rule, they might have been unable to make the contributions they have made. They must retain their own political and economic characteristics and continue to act as indispensable points of liaison between China and the world.

Globalization gives local cultures access to the international stage, and the opportunity to be visible worldwide.

This also gives Chinese culture the chance to break free from the post-colonial hegemony of the West.

In addition, developing Internet technologies are creating new platforms for ethnic Chinese culture.

Due to the international importance of local cultures, the development of Chinese culture must rely on these independent variants to enrich its form and content. Otherwise, a unified Chinese monoculture will result in cultural ossification and stagnation.

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