Taiwan Struggles with Its Identity and the GIO is No Help

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Tuesday February 02, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Taiwan is a nation replete with anomalies, an out-moded constitution and a big identity problem. Only the Taiwanese can solve this problem, but to do so, they must face up to the totality of their past, admit who they are and decide where they want to go. Nowhere are these issues and problems more easily seen and recorded than in the recent and annual Government Information Office's (GIO) publication "The Republic of China Yearbook 2009." If you think the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing or wants, you need look no further.

The first chapter begins with this interesting admission, "The Republic of China (Taiwan) is an oceanic nation of 23 million people with a combined area of approximately 36,000 square kilometers (13,900 square miles), making it slightly smaller than the Netherlands." This seems a clear statement; it is a nation and it has a limited size. Of course Taiwan's current president often hesitates to express that thought and prefers to call Taiwan a region or an area. Remember that as subsequent ideas are put forth.

In the third chapter we see that "The Republic of China (ROC) has been transformed many times since its founding in 1912." It certainly has! Transformed is hardly the word. That is particularly true when one realizes that the tiny islands of Kinmen and Matsu are the only parts of the Republic of China that were both part of it when it was founded in 1912 and are part of it now. Taiwan proper of course was a part of the Japan at that time and remained so until Japan formally surrendered it in the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco. That treaty never did say who Japan was to surrender the island nation to. Was it to the Taiwanese people?

In the chapter on people, we see "The Republic of China's population was 23,069 million at the end of June 2009. Han Chinese made up the overwhelming majority of people - at over 95 percent - with the remainder composed of Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) peoples and recent immigrants." That statement is deceptive and reflects a chauvinistic Han interpretation of race. Perhaps it is also indicative of the current president's attempts to Sinicize the island nation. Perhaps only five percent of the population is pure Austronesian, but recent DNA studies show that 85 percent of the people are Austronesian with Austronesian DNA as well as that of Han or other races. Based on that, at most 15 percent but more likely only 10 percent of the people on Taiwan are pure Han Chinese. Those would no doubt be the waishengren who had come between the years 1945 to 1949 and did not intermarry with Taiwanese or others. The reality of Taiwan is that the overwhelming majority of the people are Taiwanese (mixed bloods) and have been so for centuries from the Dutch and Spanish era on; yet the GIO tries to claim that Taiwanese are Han and not Taiwanese. The GIO's motivation for its claims is open to question; aboriginal blood is nothing to be ashamed of. Taiwanese must see the true nature of their identity and past and be proud of it.

The anomalies of the nation begin to pile up when one looks towards the back of the yearbook and finds the "Constitution of the Republic of China and the Additional Articles." The introduction to the Additional Articles makes this unusual claim. "To meet the requisites of the nation prior to national unification, the following articles of the ROC Constitution are added or amended to the ROC Constitution in accordance with Article 27, Paragraph 1, Item 3 and Article 174, Item 1." (Article 27 and 174 treat amendments to the Constitution by the Legislative Yuan and the subsequently defunct National Assembly.)

This is the first time that unification is mentioned, and the challenge comes with these words "the requisites of the nation prior to national unification." Unification with whom? Taiwan remains saddled with a Constitution that attempts to claim a lost past and predestine it to unification. That is not the end. In numerous areas of the subsequent amendment articles, one finds frequent references to the "free area of the Republic of China," and how it should include Mongolian and Tibetan representatives. If the Republic of China (Taiwan) has been originally defined as an oceanic nation of 23 million people in the first chapter of the yearbook, what are its "not free" areas? Why does it need to be united with something out there? Is this where Taiwanese see their future? Yet they remain saddled with the Constitution that the waishengren brought with them when they were driven from China and imposed martial law and the White Terror on Taiwan.

This of course explains the double talk of Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou. Why at election time he tells the Taiwanese that he is for them and even for a free Tibet, but in reality he continually tries to push Taiwan towards unification with China and to Sinicize all that is Taiwanese. This is what Taiwanese must face, examine and ask themselves; do they want such a President especially if he is incompetent? Do they want someone who continually denies their Taiwanese identity and tries to replace it with the imposed identity of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) a party that is still in a state of denial, anger, and/or bargaining over its loss of China? This is not what it means to be Taiwanese.