If psychological projective tests could be used to examine the collective memory of different ethnic groups, a comparison of the reviews and box office success of the Taiwanese play The Village (寶島一村) in China with the negative reception the Chinese gave to the Taiwanese film Seediq Bale highlights commonalities and differences in the collective memories on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Such a comparison also allows us to examine the reasons for the pronounced opposition between the pan-blue and pan-green camps and suggest how candidates in the Jan. 14 presidential election should handle the issue.
When The Village was performed at the National Theater in Taipei, NT$2,800 only bought a back seat on the right-hand side of the first floor. The play made a very deep impression on me and helped me to better understand the hardships many experienced living in military veteran’s villages in Taiwan. However, when I looked around the theater during the intermission, I noticed that most of the audience were “Mainlanders,” middle-aged and older, of a social and economic standing easily inferred from the expensive tickets. Parts of the plot described how veterans worried about Taiwan’s future, highlighting certain aspects of their collective memory.
In contrast, Seediq Bale describes the Wushe Incident (霧社事件) which took place during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan. Personally, I felt that the movie was something of which the Taiwanese film industry should be immensely proud, in addition to which it depicted a part of history that I knew nothing about.
As the presidential election approaches, the popularity and box office success of Seediq Bale in combination with the experience of Japanese colonization will almost certainly have a political impact on certain voters.
Given that the search for peace is universal, the dispute over the so-called “1992 consensus” is just one more projection of the domestic opposition between the pan-blue and pan-green camps. As the Republic of China Constitution is a “one China” constitution, the inescapable conclusion is that unless it is rewritten, taking the Constitution as a staring point means that opposition to the “1992 consensus” equals opposition to peace across the Taiwan Strait.
However, insistence on this conclusion and a refusal to compromise, thus ignoring the history and reality that underpins the collective memory of Taiwan’s different ethnic groups, is tantamount to telling the public that there can never be a transfer of government power.
That would underestimate the intelligence of Taiwanese voters, and it would also result in claims that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party are collaborating to sell Taiwan down the river.
Efforts to give the public a “friendly” warning to promote one’s election prospects and elevate Taiwan’s domestic standoff to the level of a cross-strait standoff is an old trick that has gradually lost any practical usefulness.
However, national leaders from both the pan-blue and the pan-green camps seem incapable of transcending Taiwan’s domestic opposition. In 2008, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected president after defeating his opponent by more than 2 million votes, and his party won almost three-quarters of all legislative seats. He enjoyed the highest vote in the country’s democratic history and began his term as president with high public expectations.