In 1937, the Taiwanese author Yang Kuei (楊逵) published the novel Model Village (模範村) in which he describes a small community that has been "awarded" model village status. The Matsu and Kuanyin figurines in many homes "had been forcefully removed by the authorities and replaced with Japanese altars." The character Han Chin-fu (憨金福) tries to bribe the Japanese officials to soften the policy, but "not only did he not gain any benefits, he had to pay a substantial sum." The result was that he ended up dead. The inspiration for Yang's novel were the events that took place in 1935, when imperial Japan held a "Taiwan Exhibition" to display its benevolent rule of Taiwan to the world. Yang's novel exposed the cruel reality behind the "model village" concept.
In fact, in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was normal for imperialist countries to see colonialism as a good thing. France, for instance, saw the conquest of Egypt as an act of benevolence. Napoleon Bonaparte even said that "France is the only Muslim who truly follows Islam" and made Egypt a model village to show off France's greatness. It was also during this period that colonialists began to collect strange animals from their colonies and place them in pretty animal parks to show off their good governance. The zoo thus became the model village of imperialism.
It is a tragedy that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
In his article Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Taiwan's Retrocession, Ma criticizes Japan, saying that "the beautiful appearance of its colonial construct was built on cruelty and oppression," while also claiming that "equal opportunity was the greatest social capital bequeathed by the KMT government to Taiwan." He made it clear that the people of Taiwan should return the favor and called Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), Lai Ho (賴和) and Yang Kuei "model students" who proved that "Taiwan's localization movement is nothing but a movement to build the Republic of China."
Ma then said in his article Becoming a Normal Democratic Society that "the people of Taiwan have proven that China is capable of building a democracy." What is the difference between this kind of "proof" and a patriarchal society where fathers sacrifice sons and daughters, and men take the lives of women, to show their power?
This kind of authoritarian language from Ma, who is also mayor of a city on a once colonial island, is not much different from the language of Napoleon Bonaparte. At this point in time, the Chinese dictators have decided to cooperate with Ma by giving Taiwan two "diplomatic model students" -- the two pandas. Accepting this gift would be no different to letting the world know that Taiwan has accepted a benevolent gift from authoritarian China and is willing to become a model village of Chinese imperialism.
Could Taiwan really be fated to become a model village for imperialism? Will Taiwan one day be given as a gift to China in the same way as China now is offering Taiwan two pandas? After all, Ma has already declared that "[cross-strait] unification is the ultimate goal of the Chinese Nationalist Party."
Given China's history of more than 2,000 years of dictatorial totalitarianism and patriarchal culture, it is not surprising that authoritarian modes of thought such as Ma's would appear. What is surprising, however, is that many Taiwanese seem to approve -- which shows that human rights have not yet taken root in Taiwan.