President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said it was his presidential duty to preserve “Chinese culture (中華文化)” and hand it down to the next generation.
“It is our inescapable responsibility to pass on Chinese culture and as president of the Republic of China [ROC], it’s my duty to promote Chinese culture,” Ma said while attending the annual gathering of professional writers, painters and poets at the Chongyang Festival in Taipei.
The event was organized by Wen-Hsun magazine, a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) affiliate.
Ma said he has dedicated himself to promoting Chinese culture since he was minister of justice and when he was Taipei mayor, he established the Taipei Chinese Character Festival.
“It is not conservative or stubborn,” he said. “It is an important undertaking in terms of history and culture. It is not political, but absolutely cultural.”
Ma said he was not against Chinese using simplified characters, but he would like to see them also understand traditional characters. He also expressed the hope that the Chinese government would include a list juxtaposing the two systems in its elementary and high school textbooks.
While traditional script was more difficult to learn, it was harder to forget, whereas simplified characters were easier to learn, but they were hard to remember, he said.
The president said Taiwan has recently seen a “new climate” in its cultural development, pointing to the passage of the Cultural and Creative Industry Development Act (文化創意產業發展法) in the legislature in January and the agreement Taipei and Beijing signed on intellectual property rights (IPR) in June, which seeks to protect the IPR of Taiwanese and expand the Chinese market.
The legal revision to upgrade the Council for Cultural Affairs to a ministry of culture was estimated to be completed by 2012, he said, adding that he would also like to see the establishment of a “Taiwan Academy” overseas to promote traditional Chinese characters.
Referring to the ROC’s centennial next year, Ma said “we should demonstrate the 100 years of our efforts to preserve the value of Chinese culture and the Taiwanese spirit, especially in the past 60 years.”
“The series of centennial celebrations next year would be tantamount to a year-long Taiwan expo that will not only deepen and make known the essences of Chinese culture in Taiwan, but also further transform it to be a core value that will serve as the base of the nation’s development,” the president said.
Commenting on Ma’s remarks, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said Ma would not be qualified to call himself president of the ROC if he defines “Chinese culture” as that defined by Beijing.
While Ma defined Taiwan’s culture as “Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics,” Chen said Taiwanese and Chinese cultures are two different things.
“Taiwanese culture is Taiwanese culture and Chinese culture is Chinese culture,” Chen said. “Taiwan has its own culture and it is brand new. There is no such thing as a Greater China culture here. If there is, it only fits the definition of Ma and his cohorts, not that of the Taiwanese.”
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