Wed, Aug 30, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The fallacy of desinicization

As Gerrit van der Wees said in his opinion piece (“Hung needs to read up on history,” Aug. 29, page 8), former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu’s (洪秀柱) comments on “desinicization” have little historical basis, showing that support for people who use the term is running out.

Most recently, this phrase has been used by those opposed to curriculum reforms. Yes, a possible reduction in the number of classical Chinese works in high-school textbooks is worth debating, but not on a political or ideological level.

Should students be learning modern material? Will cutting classics affect students’ cultural knowledge? How do other countries handle this? These are valid questions.

However, the desinicization argument is fallacious, because the classics are to be replaced by works also written in Chinese. No matter what the claims, Chinese is the prevalent language in Taiwan. The nation uses traditional Chinese characters (as opposed to simplified characters in China) and that is not going to change any time soon, nor should it.

So, no: Adjusting the number of classical Chinese works might be controversial, but it is not desinicization.

Cutting the amount of Chinese history in textbooks is a clearer case. For decades, Taiwanese grew up knowing virtually nothing about their own history, even learning outdated or incorrect geography and other things that were part of the propaganda of the regime of the time.

Instead of trying to rectify this historical injustice, opponents are again turning to the desinicization argument.

However, people who live in Taiwan should prioritize Taiwanese history.

Chinese history is fascinating and it is beneficial to better understand that nation and the forces that have shaped Taiwan. It is definitely worth learning, and it will still be taught, as the changes do not propose eliminating Chinese history.

However, it should not be emphasized.

What is going on is not desinicization — Taiwanese are simply trying to reclaim their history and erase the propaganda and brainwashing that were imposed during the Martial Law era.

The problem is that people who use the word “desinicization” like to equate it to the promotion of a “Taiwanese identity.”

This is not happening.

Most Taiwanese are Han Chinese and Chinese culture is an important root of who Taiwanese are, Aborigines excluded.

However, Taiwan is not China, so Taiwanese need their own identity. That does not mean desinicization. They can be Taiwanese while keeping their roots — not just as Chinese, but incorporating all the forces that have shaped the culture.

What the Japanese did in the 1940s — when everyone had to adopt Japanese names and speak Japanese — was desinicization.

According to the book Uprooting Japan, Implanting China (去日本化, 再中國化) by Huang Ying-che (黃英哲), by the end of the Japanese colonial era, more than 70 percent of Taiwanese spoke primarily Japanese, while almost nobody under the age of 30 could read Chinese. Nothing even near that situation is happening today.

Furthermore, what the Japanese tried to get rid of was not Chinese language, but Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) and Hakka. Virtually nobody in Taiwan spoke Mandarin at that time.

The early KMT administrations trying to eradicate Hoklo and Hakka would also have been “desinicization,” as those languages were brought to Taiwan by Chinese hundreds of years earlier.

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