Last Saturday, at the opening ceremony of the President's Cup sports meet for central government civil servants, President Chen Shui-bian (
Unlike other nations, singing the national anthem in Taiwan often gives rise to embarrassment, for the lyrics are an adaptation of a speech originally given by Sun Yat-sen (
As a declaration of loyalty to the party-state, the anthem was sung at all public functions. Even before the founding of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), there had already been a strong movement rejecting it. Before the abolition of martial law in 1987, then Ilan County commissioner and later minister of justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) abolished the requirement that the anthem be sung at cinemas, a move that infuriated the central government. With such a history, it is no surprise that many people either refuse to sing the anthem, or only mutter it under their breath.
The current national anthem also rubs China up the wrong way. Taiwanese pop diva A-Mei (
The fact that the anthem's lyrics are associated with the KMT is not really a serious issue. Most national anthems date back many years and they do not always reflect contemporary reality. But if there is a common attachment to the song, it does not undermine a nation's sense of identity. Americans sing The Star-Spangled Banner, the French the Marseillaise and the Japanese the Kimigayo, and these anthems do not interfere with their sense of identity, or their loyalty to the national anthem and the national flag. But Taiwan's national anthem is a reflection of the divisions in Taiwan's sense of identity, and it is pulling the nation apart rather than conferring any solidarity.
If the public cannot identify with the national anthem and it is divisive, then it is a failure. No wonder US President George W. Bush did not support a Spanish version of The Star-Spangled Banner. In an era of party politics, using the KMT's party anthem as the national anthem is inappropriate. Changing the lyrics should be an easier process -- unlike the national flag, the Constitution does not prevent changes to the lyrics of the national anthem.
Thus, as long as agreement can be reached between the ruling and opposition parties, the Cabinet can issue an order to revise the lyrics or even replace the current anthem with a new one. If this change can be given final approval by the public through a referendum, the new national anthem will win greater legitimacy and wider acceptance.