Taiwan should develop a “Pacific identity” and learn from the experience of Pacific islands’ independence movements as it pursues a future as an independent country, an academic said yesterday.
“While Pacific countries in the so-called Oceania region are all small countries, they appear to have a unique worldview and concept on their own way of survival with a strong identity. I think we can learn from them,” Edwin Yang (楊聰榮), an associate professor at National Taiwan Normal University and expert on Pacific and Asian history, told a forum organized by the Taiwan Society.
Among the countries Yang was referring to are Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu, Samoa and Papua New Guinea, mostly former colonies with small populations.
Rather than demanding immediate independence right after World War II, these island nations tended to be more inclusive and tolerant during the process and allowed independence movements to take their course at various speeds, Yang said.
“They were also creative in the status of the country — for example, the Federated States of Micronesia — and did not particularly care about ‘de facto independence’ like some of us did. They were patient, flexible and they supported each other,” he added.
He described the independence-building process as a “Pacific model,” as opposed to the European model based on nation-states, the immigrant-based US model and the Asian-African model based on post-war nationalism.
Sharing the same Austronesian heritage and living on a Pacific island, Taiwanese have never had an islanders’ and Pacific identity primarily because of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime’s China-centric ideology, Yang said.
“Taiwan has never considered itself a Pacific country, which is odd for a Pacific country,” Yang said.
If Taiwanese developed a Pacific identity, Yang said that the way Taiwan and Taiwanese deal with the rest of the world and domestic issues could change dramatically.
To make changes happen, Taiwan could immediately increase bilateral cultural exchanges, as well as engagements on various fronts, including environmental protection, language preservation and the preservation of relics from World War II, with the Pacific islands, he said.
Increased exchanges with islands in the region could also win Taiwan a diplomatic ally or two in the future, with places such as Bougainville Island, New Caledonia and French Polynesia all possibly declaring independence someday, Yang said.
The professor also warned that the independence groups in Taiwan “have not done as much as independence supporters on some of the Pacific islands in terms of long-term efforts and promoting awareness.”
“In the long run, developing a Pacific identity and a worldview of diversity could help raise awareness of the Taiwan independence movement because it highlights an ‘island mentality,’” Yang said.