A series of official celebrations will mark the Republic of China’s (ROC) centennial today, as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government devotes its efforts to invoking public passion about the 100th anniversary of the ROC’s birthday with military displays, parades, fireworks and a sea of flags on the streets.
Amid the enthusiasm of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration for the ROC centennial celebrations, a poll released on Saturday showed that 69 percent of respondents answered the question “Where are you from?” by saying “Taiwan,” while only 24 percent said they were from the ROC.
The poll, released by the Taiwan Thinktank, also showed that even among those who perceived themselves as pan-blue supporters, 54.4 percent said that they were from Taiwan, while 34.8 percent said they were ROC citizens.
Those figures reflected the forming of a consensus among people in Taiwan on national identity that Taiwan is our homeland and we identify ourselves as Taiwan’s citizens.
Therefore, the Ma administration’s grand celebrations of the ROC’s birthday are both disturbing and unrealistic, and highlight how distant the government is from the public, who feel very little connection with the ROC and its history, even when they are pan-blue supporters.
The Double Ten National Day celebrates the start of the Wuchang Uprising on Oct. 10, 1911, which, under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山), led to the final collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of the ROC in 1912.
Taiwan was not under the ROC’s jurisdiction at that time since the island was a colony of Japan until the end of World War II.
Taiwan was only under ROC rule for four years after that, when the KMT lost the Chinese Civil War to the Chinese Communist Party and the dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) fled with the KMT to Taiwan in 1949. Since then, the KMT regime and the People’s Republic of China both claimed to represent the state of the ROC.
In the meantime, Taiwan has evolved into a full-fledged democracy amid a string of anti-KMT regime uprisings, such as the 228 Incident, and the independence movement, and the nation is in the process of forming a national identity despite the ongoing debates on unification versus independence, and national status.
A nation’s centennial should be meaningful and deserves a joyful celebration. However, most of the celebrations organized by the government — military parades, concerts filled with patriotic songs that pay tribute to the ROC and the glorification of Sun — have only vague relevance for the majority of people in Taiwan.
Taiwan is a land of diverse ethnic groups, groups who share different collective memories and interpretations of the nation’s history. On this day, we should reflect upon the historical events that happened in this nation and share stories of all the people living here — Aborigines, Hakka, Taiwanese and Mainlanders.
Speaking at a re-election campaign event prior to Double Ten National Day, Ma gave an ambiguous answer on the issue of national identity by saying that “ROC is our nation, and Taiwan is our home.”
While promising to lead the ROC as it begins its next splendid 100 years, Ma and his administration should probably ask themselves whose centennial they are really celebrating. And whose splendid 100 years are they seeking?
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