Can people from Taiwan call themselves Taiwanese? The answer appears to be no, judging by the flood of criticism leveled by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign and pan-blue groups at Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) after she recently unveiled the televised campaign slogan: “I am Taiwanese.”
In an immediate response to Tsai’s slogan, Ma campaign office spokesman Yin Wei (殷瑋) accused Tsai of resorting to “Taiwanese rhetoric,” an electioneering tactic he said was no different from tactics used by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Afterward, pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) media published a slew of articles accusing Tsai’s campaign of “giving people the creeps” and “appealing to people’s shallow sentiments, while depriving them of reason and thought.”
Why all this hoopla over Tsai simply stating the obvious — that she is Taiwanese?
The Ma camp accused Tsai of manipulating populist politics with the aim of stirring up ethnic division. However, it appears that calling oneself Taiwanese is acceptable if Ma is the one doing the talking.
“I am a descendant of the Yellow Emperor in blood and I identify with Taiwan in terms of my identity. I fight for Taiwan and I am Taiwanese,” Ma wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday. “In nationality, I am a Republic of China [ROC] citizen and I am the president of the ROC.”
This long-winded answer to a simple question — “Who am I?” — prompted sneers from some and suspicion from many.
In case Ma didn’t know, the public has noticed that whenever he starts venting hot air about being Taiwanese, it means campaign season has arrived.
Just ahead of the 2008 presidential election, Ma said he was Taiwanese, adding that even if he were struck down and burnt to ashes, he would still be Taiwanese.
Little did the Taiwanese public know that just as soon as it voted Ma into power, the name Taiwan itself would be reduced to ashes.
Since he has taken the reins of the nation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has begun describing in official documents visits by foreign dignitaries to Taiwan as “visiting the Republic of China,” not “visiting Taiwan.”
The name of state-owned Taiwan Post Co was changed back to Chunghwa Post Co, while the Ministry of Education said that Hoklo should be referred to as the “Minnan language,” not “Taiwanese.”
These incidents serve as examples of sharp contrasts between what Ma says ahead of elections and what he does after elections. This explains why the Ma camp is so nervous about Tsai’s campaign slogan. Ma can say he is Taiwanese as many times he likes, but if his actions don’t measure up to his words, the public will notice.
It would be helpful for Ma to answer the following questions:
How serious is he about being Taiwanese?
Are his policies chiseling away at the name of Taiwan in the international community?
It would be useful for Ma to give proper answers, not more insincere words.
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