Tue, Oct 26, 2010 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Taiwanese identity in the spotlight

Maybe it’s something in the water, but Chinese officials have developed the bad habit of airing their extreme nationalistic tendencies with a little more boldness when they find themselves in Japan, resulting in situations that often undermine Beijing’s objectives.

The latest such incident occurred on Saturday at the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival, when the head of the Chinese delegation, Jiang Ping (江平), accompanied by a robotic-looking Chinese actress, attempted to drill into the heads of the Taiwanese delegation that they were all Chinese. Faced with the refusal of Government Information Office Department of Motion Pictures director Chen Chih-kuan (陳志寬), who headed the Taiwanese delegation, and the organizers of the film festival to change Taiwan’s name to “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei,” an outraged Jiang announced that China was partially pulling out of the festival.

The Chinese delegation decided to pull out of festival-related events because the organizers “covertly violated the ‘One China’ policy Jiang was quoted as saying by the Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party-run publication.

Interestingly, Jiang was also quoted as saying that the spat, and the decision to pull out of the film festival, had “nothing to do with our Taiwan compatriots” and was rather “the fault of the Tokyo organizers.”

Given Beijing’s silence on the matter, added to the fact that the news was covered in a state-owned publication, we can assume that Chinese authorities gave tacit approval to Jiang’s actions and that he wasn’t simply being overzealous. What this also points to is China’s efforts to portray Taiwanese as being on their side: It was all Tokyo’s fault, as it refused to respect the “one China” policy. In the process, Chen’s protest and clear declaration that he and his delegation were Taiwanese, not Chinese, was ignored, as if the opinion of the principal party in the equation — Taiwanese — didn’t count.

There is no doubt that Chen’s commendable resistance to Chinese bullying, rather than that of the film organizers, was the main reason behind Jiang’s fit, but no sooner had the delegate finished foaming at the mouth than party-controlled publications endeavored to portray this as the continuation of Japanese intervention in China’s domestic affairs.

In fact, the same Global Times article felt it necessary to add that the film festival is being held “amid simmering tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai [釣魚台] Islands.” Nearly half the article focuses on recent developments surrounding the contested islands, as if the simmering crisis were the real cause of the walkout at the film festival.

The article, coming as it does with Beijing’s blessing, highlights yet again the fact that China’s strategy for the annexation of Taiwan does not take the will of the people into consideration. This it does to such an extent that when Taiwanese express their opposition, their voices are silenced altogether. The root of the problem — Taiwanese identity and resistance to irredentism — is taken out of the equation, and the anger is deflected toward an external enemy, Japan.

However hard and often they try, however angrily, Chinese officials will not change the fact that their so-called “Taiwanese compatriots” are unwilling to forsake their identity, even as relations between the two countries improve in certain areas. Chinese tourists may come in droves, students can enter our classrooms and Chinese firms can invest all they want in various sectors of the Taiwanese economy, but when it comes to identity, Chen put it as simply as one could near the “green carpet” in Tokyo: “You are Chinese, I am Taiwanese.”

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