Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Classic texts dilute free thinking

By Yu Jie 余杰

Many key members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which had not risen to power at the time, including Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), were either disinterested in or opposed to the May Fourth Movement. The KMT were largely against many of the modern values that formed the basis of the movement, such as democracy and science, as it leaned toward the Soviet Union, from which they tried to secure financial support, and import weapons and authoritarian communism.

As the KMT attempted to take control of China through the Northern Expedition, it also worked on promoting traditional Chinese culture, which was used as government propaganda, as well as a way to teach obedience, preventing the development of a healthy civil society, making it easier for the party to rule.

After fleeing to Taiwan, the KMT, for a while, supported Free China magazine, but it was unwilling to let Taiwanese exercise their basic human rights and freedom. Meanwhile, to fight the spread of communism, the party launched the Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement, which has led to an extremely obedient mindset among the public.

Despite having been a democracy for 25 years, Taiwanese today are still deeply affected by the slavish mind-set which has yet to be purged from the nation’s culture. This is especially apparent in education, politics and media, where there has been a serious lack of independent, free thinkers.

Years of worshiping classical texts has killed China and made it lose its vitality. Classical Chinese works will not help cultivate people’s civic awareness, nor will it secure or improve Taiwan’s democracy.

Classical Chinese literature should not be listed as compulsory reading for students, but should be used as optional reading material for students who are interested in history or literature. This way, students would not be so overburdened by their schoolwork and would be less likely to get poisoned by the ideas contained within.

Yu Jie is a Chinese dissident writer who lives in exile.

Translated by Tu Yu-an

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