A recent Japanese comic book, Taiwan Ron (
We must recognize that Taiwan people's attitude toward Japan is closely divided along ethnic lines. "Mainlanders" (
Unfortunately, the right to discourse about Japan has long been under the control of Mainlanders, and Japan has been portrayed simply as an enemy that invaded China and once governed Taiwan in an exploitative and discriminatory way. The feelings of the older generation of Taiwanese therefore have no outlet and may even be structurally oppressed. Having "a complex" about Japan is like being branded with original sin. We can see a tiny part of this in the way Lee Teng-hui was harshly criticized for frankly saying that prior to the age of 22, he was Japanese. This statement was nothing more than the presentation of a historical fact and an objective explanation. However, seen through lenses colored by hatred for Japan, it became evidence of fawning on Japan and compromising national dignity.
Any Taiwanese can make a "declaration of love" for any country. Only Japan is taboo. Some people can't sleep at night if they don't drink French coffee. Some people advocate Taiwan becoming the 51st state of the US, and some people, unable to wait for that time, immigrate to the US. On the streets, Taiwanese wear every sort of European and American fashion, but nobody scolds them for "fawning on France" or "cozying up to the US." Young people are equally smitten with McDonald's and Hello Kitty, but only the trend of admiring all things Japanese is scrutinized. Nobody looks squarely at the fact that Taiwan has already become a quasi-colony of US popular culture.
In political matters, Taiwan obeys the US unconditionally, but not even a handful of people worry that Taiwan has become a pawn of US interests. However, when the former president identifies with a right-wing book from Japan, everyone becomes obsessed with fear that Taiwan will become a "Japanese puppet." How strange!
This kind of "allergic reaction" to Japan is the accumulated result of decades of education. As soon as there is any slight disturbance or false alarm involving Japan, people begin to sneeze and get red in the eyes. In the view of those who are allergic to Japan, Lee Teng-hui naturally has a genetic predisposition to fawn on Japan. But looking at the matter from a humanitarian angle, Lee Teng-hui should logically have the freedom to feel any way he wants. He can love Japan, and do so with perfect self-assurance. His love has nothing to do with Taiwan's national dignity.
The older generation has its own love-hate issues. Some stand on this side and some on the other. When speaking of Japan, their words and tone run to both extremes and tend to remain polarized. But 50 years have passed and the younger generation should have a different attitude toward Japan. God gave people three dimensional space, not just this side and that side. The younger generation has neither an obligation nor a responsibility to inherit the attitudes toward Japan of the KMT or of older Taiwanese. Apart from this side and that side, there is at least one more perspective -- that from above.
Jumping clear of either side and looking down from above, the landscape of Japan looks quite different. Japan is now a neighbor of Taiwan. We simply wish for friendship and peace among all our neighboring countries. As for popular culture and merchandise, we wouldn't presume to criticize Japan or revile the US. We only hope that people will cherish Taiwan's own special qualities and not invariably chase after other country's popular trends, thereby showing the spinelessness and sense of inferiority of the Taiwanese.
Chen Ro-jinn is a freelance writer.
Translated by Ethan Harkness
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