Since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regained power, cross-strait political, economic and diplomatic relations have entered a new phase as seen in the opening of cross-strait transportation and tourism. However, limited progress has been made on cross-strait academic exchanges, with the exception of the government’s plan to recognize Chinese educational credentials.
China’s rigid “one China” policy remains a major obstacle to equal academic exchanges across the Taiwan Strait. One example of this is a research paper that I recently published in a Chinese academic journal, in which the Chinese title of the institution I work for — Academia Sinica (中央研究院) — was put in quotation marks. If China refuses to recognize the Taiwanese organization I represent, how can we engage in exchanges on an equal footing?
Under the “one China” principle, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has never recognized Taiwan as an independent state and insists that Taiwanese universities and academic institutions are not qualified to organize international conferences. China has boycotted invitations to international conferences held by Taiwanese universities or academic institutions, but is not averse to promoting jointly organized cross-strait meetings because they are seen as being conducive to cross-strait unification.
I have on many occasions asked leading Chinese academics why Taiwanese academic institutes are not qualified to hold international meetings, because even meetings premised on the “one China” policy could not be construed to mean that Taiwan cannot hold academic conferences at the international level. After all, Fujian Province in China is not a country, but it can still organize international conferences. My question is regularly met with silence.
Academia Sinica was recently planning to invite Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, to an academic seminar in Taiwan. The seminar would be co-hosted by the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy under Academia Sinica and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS, 中國社會科學院).
It was Fujii Shozo, a professor in the Department of Chinese at Tokyo University, who initiated the idea of the seminar. Shozo, the founder of the Japan Association for Taiwan Studies, who has translated several novels written by Taiwanese author Li Ang (李昂) into Japanese, has spared no effort in introducing Taiwanese literature to Japanese readers. Not only was he invited to the seminar, but he would also have been responsible for translating some of the papers presented in the conference into Japanese and helping to edit the Japanese version of the academic publication for the conference.
He had generously promised to seek sponsorship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in the name of Tokyo University for the conference. In order to file and justify the expenses for reimbursement, he had to ask the organizers to list the Department of Chinese at Tokyo University as one of the co-organizers of the seminar. However, this sensible request was rejected by CASS and resulted in the withdrawal of Shozo and Tokyo University from the conference.
The seminar had the potential to be a successful event co-hosted by three different organizations, but China’s inflexible position created several losers. Tokyo University lost by being excluded from the conference. CASS’ behavior has angered some in Taiwanese academia, making it a loser. Academia Sinica was unable to uphold the principle of equality by giving in to unreasonable requests from China and risks being ridiculed for succumbing to humiliating terms. Finally, to Oe — a writer who places importance on the conscience of writers and humanism — it must have been ironic that Taiwan suffered such unequal treatment. All this has greatly undermined the value of the conference.
China’s inflexible position has drawn wide criticism across political lines in Taiwan. As a cross-strait economic and cultural forum will soon be held in Changsha, Hunan Province, I urge the government to place “equal cross-strait academic exchanges” on the agenda and Academia Sinica to insist on the principle of equality and suggest that the CASS reconsider its position. We demand equal academic exchanges with China lest such exchanges widen the existing gulf between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Lee Ming-huei is a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy.
TRANSLATED BY TED YANG
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