Nothing is more ordinary than taking a map and going sightseeing. But there is a power structure associated with tourism and maps.
Let's look at tourism first. Sometimes the government combines society and culture to make landscapes into scenery. Scenery is infused with values and ideas that rulers want to propagate.
For example, many places in Taiwan have a list of highlighted travel destinations known as the "eight scenic areas." What areas these are change from period to period. In the Qing Dynasty, these were often places where officials gathered to admire the view, write poetry about it and recite poems together with local scholars, thereby winning them over and gaining favors.
Scenic spots can reinforce the legitimacy of a ruler through a system of legends and symbols.
For example, when Taiwan was under Japanese rule, the Japanese government planted cherry trees to encourage the tradition of admiring cherry blossoms. When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government arrived, it planted plum trees instead.
Now we have entered a democratic society in which information is freely available and leaders are not able to use information as they used to. But they can still use it to promote their interests.
In the travel guide Insight City Guide: Taipei, published in conjunction with Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) when he was mayor, the assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on March 19, 2004, the eve of the last presidential election, is described as an election stunt. The book tells foreign travelers that calling people "Taiwanese" might make Mainlanders who came to Taiwan after the war feel uncomfortable. This is how a politician uses tourism as an instrument for power.
Maps reveal this, too. The book The Power of Maps by Denis Wood tells us that the usefulness of maps is in how they advance agendas. The agendas are often hidden, but they can be detected in map symbols and legends.
After the KMT arrived in Taiwan, it changed the names of Taipei's streets to those of Chinese cities according to their location relative to one another. But it was only in 1973 that the party formulated the "Regulations on the Compilation and Erection of Street Name Signs and Doorplates in Taipei City" (台北市道路名牌暨門牌編釘辦法) in order to base this practice in law.
The fourth clause of the law states that streets should be named after provinces, cities, historical sites, mountains and rivers in China. That's why Chinese visitors to Taipei feel very much at home when they walk through the streets. Meanwhile, the government has turned a deaf ear to many people who want this legacy of colonial rule to be changed.
The Taipei City Government recently published a tourist map of Taipei in simplified characters prior to attending a tourism expo in Beijing. On this map, the Presidential Office ceased to exist, and "President Chiang's Grass Mountain Chateau" became "Mr Chiang Kai-shek's Chateau." Not surprisingly, this map was also printed when Ma was mayor.
Likewise, Ma exercised his municipal power to implement Hanyu Pinyin Romanized street names and block amendments to the regulations on street names that would have allowed more local names to take their place.
But to outsiders, especially those from China, the impression is that Ma has relinquished power and that he has made Taipei into a city that will not offend visiting Chinese.
In the context of Ma's recent bout of "localization" in his book Taiwan Spirit, one can only think that perhaps China is where Ma's spirit really soars.
Tseng Wei-chen is a political commentator.
Translated by Anna Stiggelbout
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
On Sept. 8, at the high-profile Ketagalan security forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries to deal with the China challenge. She said: “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.” The “Taiwan model” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic provides an alternative to China’s authoritarian way of handling it. Taiwan’s response to the health crisis has made it evident that countries across the world have much to learn from Taiwan’s best practices and if
Midday in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 16, was sunny and mild. Even with the pandemic’s “social distancing” it was a perfect day for “al fresco” dining with linen tablecloths and sidewalk potted palms outside one of New York City’s elegant restaurants. Two members of the press, outfitted with digital SLR cameras and voice recorders, were dispatched by The Associated Press to cover a rare outdoor diplomatic meeting on one of these New York streets. American diplomat Kelly Craft, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations, lunched in the open air with Taiwan’s ambassador-ranked representative in New York, James