Beware of the ‘Chinese culture’ pill

By Huang Tzu-wei 黃子維  / 

Mon, Oct 10, 2011 - Page 8

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) recently said he advocates the study of classic Chinese texts. With the presidential election just around the corner, this is a sensitive time and his announcement has caused much debate. However, the first traces of how the Ma administration uses politics to steer education and culture could be seen a long time ago.

The promotion of traditional Chinese culture is only for show and the real goal behind the administration’s move is to follow Beijing’s instructions to use education and culture to subtly influence the way people think in order to change Taiwanese perceptions of a national identity and weaken their feeling of having a unique ethnic identity — thereby paving the way for China’s eventual annexation of Taiwan.

The early signs can be seen in Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” on Jan. 1, 2009, better known as “Hu’s six points.” In this message, Hu made it clear he believes there are six steps that must be followed to gradually achieve cross-strait unification.

The first is adhering to the “one China” principle; the second is promoting economic cooperation and the creation of a mechanism for economic cooperation with cross-strait characteristics; the third is using Chinese culture to strengthen spiritual bonds, in particular through youth exchanges and signing a cross-strait cultural and educational agreement; the fourth is increasing exchanges and dialogue with Taiwanese to build a joint vision for cross-strait development; the fifth is making “reasonable arrangements” for Taiwan’s foreign relations based on the “one China” principle and the sixth is creating a mechanism to build mutual military trust and reach a peace agreement.

Hu gave a more detailed explanation of the third point about culture and its use in unification, saying: “Compatriots on both sides of the Strait are heirs to the fine Chinese heritage and are entrusted with the task of carrying it forward.

The two sides must engage in various forms of cultural exchanges to strengthen the national awareness, form a common will and cultivate the spiritual strength that sustains us in the pursuit of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Hu’s six points did not hold back at all, showing no fear about making Taiwanese feel they need to be on guard because he fully expected the full cooperation and assistance of the Ma government.

After taking office, Ma first pulled the so-called “1992 consensus” out of his hat and signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), thereby meeting the first and second of Hu’s points.

At the same time, he promoted the idea that students should read traditional characters and write in simplified characters; that China and Taiwan jointly compile an online dictionary of Chinese culture to facilitate cross-strait exchanges; that Chinese academic credentials be recognized in Taiwan and that Chinese students be allowed to study in Taiwan as well as promoting cross-strait youth exchanges.

In March, the National Cultural Association had its name changed to the General Association of Chinese Culture. In May, half a semester of Chinese history was added to the new version of the senior-high history curriculum. In June, the four Confucian classics were listed as a compulsory subject for senior-high school students. This was all done to increase the common spiritual bond between Taiwan and China.

Now all Ma now needs to complete the third stage on the road to unification is to sign a cultural ECFA.

What Beijing and the Ma administration are really trying to do is copy the “Japanization” promoted by the colonial Japanese government by carrying out a “Sinicization” program within Taiwan to replace Taiwanese identity with Chinese identity.

This is misleading people. All this talk of “Chinese people” is aimed at weakening the ability of Taiwanese to tell friend from foe. What they want is to create a “one China” in which people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait are part of one big family. To achieve this end, “Chinese culture” has become a tool for unification and turned into a sugarcoated poison pill.

Huang Tzu-wei is a researcher at Taiwan Thinktank.

Translated by Drew Cameron