Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Take three steps for nationalism

By Hsu Shih-kai 許世楷

The 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally has received widespread coverage in newspapers and on TV programs. Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the head of the organization promoting the rally, is promoting the event with particular vigor. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) have also called on the public to participate.

We at Chen's Taichung-based campaign headquarters are also busy. I've received many phone calls from people asking how to participate in the rally. Our office sent out 800 invitations asking people to participate in the section of the chain for which I am responsible, hoping to find 400 who would actually participate; to our surprise, nearly 1,000 people signed up.

Ever since I started taking part in organizing the rally, I've been thinking about why Feb. 28 was chosen as the date for this massive rally. The following represents my personal understanding.

Since I believe that the 228 Incident is a very important collective memory for the Taiwanese people, and one of the factors in the formation of Taiwan's contemporary nationalism, I am obliged to offer my thoughts for discussion. I hope this article can encourage more people to join this rally to protect Taiwan.

Taiwan's history of the last century or so can be divided into two parts.

The period beginning with Japan's occupation of Taiwan in 1895 and going through the end of World War II is modern history; the period thereafter belongs to contemporary history.

The 228 Incident is the biggest and most profound event in the nation's contemporary history. It is not too much to say that this event has defined the nation's subsequent development.

The 228 Incident has become a decisive point in Taiwan's contemporary nationalism.

Under Japanese colonial rule, the people were suppressed, but gradually cultivated their own awareness.

Then the 228 Incident smashed China's pipe dream, helping Taiwanese people become aware of the distinction between themselves and the Chinese people, and more decisively strengthening the self-awareness of the Taiwanese people.

Then, in the 1990s, Taiwan's localization developed when China intimidated Taiwan through propaganda and military force, resulting in a great transformation of Taiwanese self-awareness into national identification.

At the same time, also starting from the advent of Japanese rule, Taiwanese ethnic groups adjusted their attitudes toward each other, as evidenced in the Wushe Incident (霧社事件) in 1930, when Aboriginal people killed only Japanese, not Han people.

Provoked by the 228 Incident, self-awareness continued to grow. For example, faced with the strength of people with roots in China, other ethnic groups developed attitudes of mutual solidarity.

Then in the 1990s, when democratization was under way, the four main ethnic groups were encouraged to strengthen their identities while at the same time showing respect (not integration and assimilation) toward each other.

People's identification with the new nation and harmony inside the nation are two issues of great significance to Taiwan's contemporary nationalism. The 228 Incident began the process, which accelerated during the 1990s when Lee was president. It is meaningful that it is Lee who is behind this rally.

The historic significance of the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally is that Taiwanese people, based on their national identification with Taiwan, will stand up to say "no" to foreign invaders -- namely China, which has said it will not hesitate to use military force to annex Taiwan.

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