Fri, Nov 12, 2004 - Page 8 News List

History of China part of Taiwan's history too

By Lee Ching-hsiung 李慶雄

Why are national history and geography tested in the National Civil Service Examination?

The standard answer is that civil servants carry out public policy and serve the nation's citizens, and an understanding of national history and geography is therefore necessary to foster loyalty toward the nation.

If this nation included the Chinese mainland, then wouldn't testing Chinese history and geography foster loyalty toward the People's Republic of China (PRC) in our civil servants?

Some say that if the controversial parts of the history and geography exam were eliminated, maybe these loyalty concerns could also be eliminated. Doing this clearly turns the issue into an ideological issue. While we were hoping that ideology could be avoided, we instead fell into an ideological trap.

History should be true to historical fact, and geography to the current situation. Mongolia is now independent -- a major incident in Chinese history, and also a geographical change to its national territory.

The question of whether Mongolian independence should be included in the exam has been a matter long deliberated upon.

Excluding Mongolian independence from the exam because it is a sensitive and complex issue that leads to too much conflict would be nothing but a head-in-the-sand approach, and a matter of anti-intellectual education.

Just like Mongolia, the PRC was also founded as a state, abandoning the imperial calendar and adopting the Christian calendar to symbolically leave feudal thinking and dynastic changes behind, establishing diplomatic relations with the US, going from opposition to cooperation.

The PRC joined the UN and became a permanent member of the Security Council, launched satellites, joined the nuclear arms club and washed away colonial humiliation with the return of Hong Kong and Macau.

The map of China's territory was redrawn, reducing the number of provinces from 35 to 29, the capital was moved to Peiping which had its name changed to Beijing, a big dam was built on the Yangtze River and an unprecedented 4 million people were relocated.

Major railways were built from Jiangsu Province in the east via Lanzhou and the Gobi Desert to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province in the west, and from Xining in Qinghai Province in the north over the Qinghai-Tibet plateau 4,000m above sea-level directly to Lhasa in Tibet in the south, and Peiping, Kulun and Tihua disappeared from the map, replaced by Beijing, Ulan Bator and Urumqi.

This is both a historic and a current geographic fact.

The question of what to and what not to include in the exams has become a dilemma that remains unresolved.

Examination Yuan member Lin Yu-ti (林玉体) has all along said that anything including Taiwan's history and geography should fall within the scope of the exam.

The relationship between Taiwan and China goes back more than 400 years, through the PRC, the Republic of China, and the Qing and Ming dynasties. We speak the same language and we are of the same race, and China's politics, culture and religion have all had a massive influence on Taiwan.

This makes it an important part of Taiwanese history and it thus of course falls within the scope of the exam. It has nothing to do with desinicization.

All of us who are born, grow up, grow old and die here should have a deep understanding of Taiwan's rich history and geography.

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