Defining Taiwanese identity
I always read Jerome Keating’s articles with much interest and delight due to his knowledge, well-argued style and a dose of humor.
For once, allow me to react to his last article (“China’s slim chance for democracy,” Jan. 9, page 8).
I understand Keating’s fondness for Taiwan, as I myself could easily lean toward sympathy for its people.
Therefore, I would like to add that the propaganda slogan in China “to get rich is glorious” is also without a doubt a philosophy well anchored in society’s mind here, where a blatant propensity for greed does not seem to be a sin.
Taiwan also has its load of nouveau riche, whose behavior does not differ much from that of their compatriots on the other side of the Strait.
On the other hand, whether Chinese people in Taiwan kept their soul and still abide by the Confucius principles is another interesting debate if we do not limit Confucianism to filial piety.
Sadly, with all due respect to the people living in Taiwan, I do not see much evidence that people put into practice in their daily lives the major principles of Confucius’ doctrine “discipline-order-respect.”
At the end of Keating’s article, Taiwanese identity is mentioned, as opposed to Chinese identity, I assume.
It appears to be a very recurrent term nowadays used in the press or elsewhere, but is the meaning not a bit tarnished?
What exactly is the criteria used to define a people’s identity?
Race? Language? Geography? History? Religion? Culture? Customs? Eating habits?
In all these aspects, nothing seems to drastically differentiate the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait enough so that we could speak about two distinct identities.
Exception is given to the Aborigines, of course.
As a result, foreigners in general do not really observe many differences in terms of identity between the Chinese descendants who are now inhabitants of Taiwan and the Chinese people living in China.
It is also worth mentioning the confusion for Westerners as Taiwan still uses the name “Republic of China” in all official documents and participates in some international events with the title “Chinese Taipei.”
People in Taiwan are blessed. They have been given freedom without a single battle after years of an oppressive dictatorship.
They can now heedlessly enjoy their fortune with sometimes too much tendency to mix up democracy with permissiveness.
Does that new regime and liberty make the Chinese people living in Taiwan very different or unique from those on the continent?
Has Taiwan’s president not used the term zhonghua minzu (中華民族) to refer to the people on both sides of the Strait?
Finally, who can really claim to represent the so-called Taiwanese identity except the Aborigines?
The descendants of Chinese immigrants from Fujian?
The Hakka community?
The mainland Chinese nationalists who arrived in 1949?
From what we see and hear nowadays in the local news, the more the people lull themselves into believing the illusion of a specific identity as opposed to the Chinese one, the more they embrace China at the same time, after electing for a second term a president who has never concealed his intentions regarding an aggressive China that is more eager than ever to close the reunification chapter.
In the meantime, thousands of local Taiwanese residents (businessmen, investors, scholars, retired high-ranking army officers, etc) whose loyalty goes where the money is did not wait long to rush to the other side.
This debate about a so-called identity is far beyond their concerns.
“After all, we are Chinese,” as they always say eventually.