Mon, Dec 25, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Let Taiwan finally just be Taiwan

By Jerome Keating

What does “desinicization” mean and what would it take to desinicize Taiwan? If Taiwan were desinicized, what would be left? Would that allow Taiwan to finally be Taiwan?

These and many other questions flood the mind after American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty opened an old can of worms with comments made during his visit to Taiwan.

Moriarty, who was quoted by an unknown legislator as being worried about desinicization problems in Taiwan’s transitional justice, soon found himself backtracking and having to qualify what he had said.

With those words, he resurrected the many nomenclature and identity issues that the US created with its on-again, off-again “strategic ambiguity” practice regarding Taiwan.

Let us start with the nomenclature problems. Many call the democratic nation Taiwan, but in its Constitution, it is officially the Republic of China (ROC). The ROC, of course, lost its place in the UN when the followers of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) left in 1971 before they were voted out.

The AIT was formed in 1979, when the US moved its embassy from Taipei to Beijing. It is purposely called the American Institute in Taiwan, not in the ROC. How does this relate to the desinicization of which Moriarty spoke?

Consider the original inhabitants of Taiwan, of whom 16 tribes are recognized. Some of these Aborigines are credited with developing and spreading the linguistic and DNA-related Austronesian “empire” that extends from Madagascar to Easter Island and from Taiwan down to New Zealand. This influence certainly could be called the Taiwanization of the Pacific.

On the other hand, the earliest colonial powers that ruled Taiwan were the Dutch and Spanish in the early 17th century. The Dutch in 1643 drove out the Spanish, but in 1662, they were replaced by Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功), also known as Koxinga, and his Ming loyalists who were fleeing the conquering Manchu in China. Should Koxinga then be credited with de-europeanizing Taiwan and beginning its sinification?

Koxinga died the same year that he defeated the Dutch and, much to the chagrin of his followers, they were pursued by the Manchus and Shi Lang (施琅), who captured Penghu and brought them back to the continent in 1683.

Since Koxinga’s followers were replaced by the Manchu and the Han Green Standard Army defectors who joined their ranks, would this be considered a desinicization of Taiwan and the beginning of its manchurianization? One could hardly consider Manchu banner rule an extension of sinicization.

The Manchu Qing controlled the western half of the island originally with the purpose of keeping any Chinese loyalists from returning. Much later they gave the area to Japan “in perpetuity” with the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki. Thus, Taiwan became Japan’s model colony and Japan became the first nation to control the whole island.

The Japanese naturally set about nipponizing the island.

However, in 1945, Japan lost World War II and had to give up Taiwan by signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which came into effect in 1952. However, this treaty never said to whom the island should be given, leaving the door open for it to be given to the Taiwanese in the spirit of self-rule fostered by the UN.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) began coming to Taiwan in 1945 as an occupying power on behalf of the US. After they lost the Chinese Civil War to the communists in 1949, they came in force since they had nowhere else to go.

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