Tue, Mar 02, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Taiwanese identity in the spotlight

TAKING NOTICE A major Asian newspaper noted a surge in national identity, while China restarted its personal attacks on the 'reckless' Chen Shui-bian

AGENCIES , HONG KONG AND BEIJING

National identity is growing in Taiwan, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

The newspaper said in a report from Taipei that the presidential race is putting the spotlight on the growth of a unique Taiwanese national identity -- a trend that suggests the nation's accelerating economic integration with China is not necessarily bringing the two sides closer to Beijing's goal of political unification.

"The burgeoning sense of national identity was on vivid display Saturday, as more than one million of Taiwan's 23 million people took part in a human chain stretching nearly 500 kilo-meters from the island's northern tip to its southernmost point," the report said.

For decades, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had tried to instill in people the belief that Taiwan was part of China, it said.

"But with the flourishing of the island's democracy since the early 1990s and the advent of generations of younger people who generally have no direct, personal connection to China, a sense of a separate Taiwanese identity has emerged," it said.

The Taiwanese identity, the report said, was evident in the actions and statements of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

This Taiwanese identity has gained strength even as trade and investment across the Taiwan Strait have exploded.

The report said a poll conducted by National Chengchi University last June showed that 41.5 percent of respondents identified only as Taiwanese, up from 17.3 percent when the university conducted its first such poll 11 years earlier.

In related news, Chinese state-run media stepped up its rhetoric yesterday against Chen, calling him an aggressive henchman who had failed his electorate.

Reacting to Chen's remarks over the weekend that an independently existing Taiwan was not equivalent to de-Sinicization, the China Daily accused him of being a "reckless, tight-rope walking `president.'"

"Personality disorder aside, the rationale behind `president' Chen's statement is obviously unpersuasive," the paper said.

Chen was quoted as saying: "From the perspective of state dignity and sovereignty equity, Taiwan is not a part of China.

"But the other way round, from the perspectives of history, blood relationship and culture, China and Chinese culture indeed are a part of Taiwan," Chen had said.

The China Daily said Chen was wooing votes and did not want to "alienate those worried about his dangerous anti-mainland posturing."

"It is unusual for `president' Chen to admit the island's kinship with the mainland," it said.

"Until very recently, he has been an aggressive henchman of an ambitious name-changing movement targeted at eliminating the island's association with the mainland.

"In order not to draw criticism for kowtowing to the mainland one-China stance, `president' Chen took China as a part of Taiwan while acknowledging the island's association with the mainland," it said.

In a separate opinion piece by Liu Hong (劉紅), a researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Chen's "separatist posturing" had led to instability on the island and "serious blunders" in formulating economic policy.

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