Sat, Nov 16, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Putting the elections in perspective

By Jerome Keating

On the continent, the Manchus had just begun to expand their kingdom. Starting in 1644, they conquered lands and brought the inhabitants — the Han Chinese, the Tibetans, the Mongolians, etc. — under the control of the Manchu Qing Dynasty.

In pursuit of China’s fleeing Ming loyalists, the Manchus crossed the Taiwan Strait in 1683 and took control of the western half of Taiwan.

These events happened a mere 350 years ago in the long history of humans.

In 1895, Japan defeated the Manchus and took advantage of them in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. This made Japan the first nation to control and rule over the whole island of Taiwan. All of those living on Taiwan became members of the Japanese Empire.

The Manchus had given Japan more than they actually owned, but that was never told to the Aborigines of eastern Taiwan, who also became part of Japan’s empire.

On the continent, the Manchus had, by 1911, lost control of “China.” In 1921 — less than 100 years ago — the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formed.

After these “communist” newcomers won the Chinese Civil War in 1949, they began to create their own imagined community, a one-party communist state.

Subsequently, China and the CCP’s imagined community would muddle their way through the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution — killing 30 million Chinese in the process. This was their imagined community — but not Taiwan’s.

Taiwan’s imagined community had its own struggles after the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty. Although the treaty officially ended World War II, it left Taiwan in “political purgatory.” To this day, the victorious US remains “undecided” on the status of Taiwan.

On-again, off-again support from the US throughout the Cold War led to Taiwan suffering through the White Terror and martial law imposed by the fleeing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) diaspora.

Taiwanese eventually won the right to self-determination and elected not only their legislators, but also their president in 1996 — just 23 years ago.

This full-fledged democracy makes up Taiwan’s current imagined community and this is what the Jan. 11 elections are all about.

The imagined community of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is completely different. As an authoritarian, one-party state with hegemonic ambitions in Asia, it has not even been able to fulfill its past promise of democracy for Hong Kong by 2017.

These macro and micro perspectives are important and can help Taiwanese sift through all the rhetoric to find their true identity, as well as to see how laughable it is for the PRC to make the claim that “we are all Chinese.”

They can also see how absurd it is when the CCP rulers of the PRC spout such memes as “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the motherland” and “Taiwan has been a part of China since time immemorial.”

Taiwanese — in knowing the reality of their Austronesian past, as well as understanding the centuries of colonialization — can understand “the why” of their struggle for democracy.

As Ionesco said: “Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.”

From macro and micro perspectives, Taiwanese understand how they fit into today’s world. They do share a common humanity of dreams and anguish with the Chinese, but also with every other human on the planet.

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