Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Expedient love of the ROC flag

Unlike in most countries, where national days are often a catalyst for unity and nationalism, Taiwan’s Double Ten National Day, which this year ended once again in conflict and protests, is perhaps one of the most divisive days of the year for the nation’s 23 million inhabitants.

It is a day of mixed feelings for some Taiwanese, especially those who grew up thinking that the “Republic of China” (ROC) was an innocent byword for “Taiwan,” only to later learn the history of brutality and atrocities committed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime after 1949.

Letting go of the conviction that “the ROC is Taiwan” and realizing that Taiwan and the ROC are different entities forced to work together, and which are still going through an agonizing breaking-in period, has been painful for many.

The difficulty is compounded by having to answering questions such as: “Is the ROC the legitimate government of Taiwan or just another colonizer?” “How can I identify with the ROC after knowing how the KMT treated my ancestors?” and “Does the ROC government’s ideology and sense of national identity instilled in me reflect who I am?”

Many, after going through this process, wish for a nation that Taiwanese can truly call their own, instead of one that reeks of colonialism and assimilation.

They spurn the ROC flag and national anthem as symbols of one-party rule.

On the one hand, the sight of ROC flags flying on Taiwanese soil on a day meant to commemorate the Wuchang Uprising — the armed rebellion that started on Oct. 10, 1911, in Hubei, China, and led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the ROC — is reminiscent of the blood shed by “Taiwanese” prior to the nation’s democratization.

It also serves as a reminder that Taiwanese are still controlled by a foreign force, a government-in-exile, and still does not have a day to proudly call its “national day.”

That is why many applauded President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration for its subtle, but clever way of making this year’s Double Ten National Day more Taiwan-centric.

However, people feel very differently when they are abroad or at an international sports venue.

Although they would hate to admit it, Taiwanese often feel a rush at the sight of the ROC flag flying alongside those of other countries, or when someone defies the rules and raises an ROC flag smuggled into a venue.

The ROC flag is the closest thing we have to a national symbol, at least for now. Although it reminds people of colonialism and suppression during the party-state era, abroad its presence often evokes a sense of patriotism that is unusual for a nation with a divided national identity.

Seeing the ROC flag also bolsters people’s desire to see their birthplace transformed into a nation that is recognized globally and not internationally isolated.

It is true that Taiwanese have a love-hate relationship with the ROC flag, but one must not mistake people’s expedient identification with the flag for support for the ROC political system.

They would paint it a different color in a heartbeat.

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