Recently, it seems that the government has purposely implemented a program of “desinicization” in the nation’s education system in the hope of making Taiwan and China two separate cultural entities. Intentionally or not, this action denigrates the value of Chinese culture. I cannot help but wonder if “Chinese culture” deserves to be looked on with such disdain.
If we define “unification” as a conditional and future hope of unification (to happen when the political and economic systems of the two sides are compatible), I would be happy to be categorized as pro-unification. Despite this, I still regard the political advocacy of Taiwan independence with sympathy. There is no absolute right and wrong between unification or independence, for these are sentiments that are best thought about in terms of which might be better — given the risk of a war in the Taiwan Strait — rather than which one is correct.
I am, however, unable to acknowledge using “desinicization” as a means by some politicians to realize the goal of Taiwan’s independence. This is because Taiwan’s independence does not need to and should not be based on a separation from Chinese culture. Even if Chinese culture is not a source of pride for politicians overly conscious of their superior Taiwanese identity, would what is left after cutting away Chinese culture truly be Taiwanese culture?
Taiwan’s folklore and religious beliefs mostly originated from Chinese legends. Although some politicians have made meticulous calculations to claim that Taiwanese have long since ceased to have very much Chinese blood in their veins, can we return Chinese surnames such as Chen, Wang, Chang, Wu and others, back to China? Would it be possible to stop using “Chinese” characters and create our own new script? Should we cease using the Hoklo dialect (which originated in the Min-nan region of China) and rather create a whole new language for ourselves?
If the answers are no, what is the reason? Because culture itself is an inseparable “historical result.” Taiwan has its inheritance of Chinese history and culture, and also its own unique history and culture derived locally; the characteristics of these two cultures have long been merged.
Taking out Chinese culture as a way to search for a separate Taiwanese culture is just as absurd as telling a person to remove the genetic inheritance of one parent to isolate the genetic inheritance of the other. I would go so far as to say that this method would destroy Taiwanese culture, for the Chinese culture which gave birth to it is intrinsic to it, and any attempt to remove it would undermine the foundations of Taiwan’s culture.
It cannot be denied that, in the short term, the manipulation of “desinicization” will create and feed disdain and even enmity toward Chinese culture. As it puts up barriers between the people of Taiwan and China, desinicization might be seen as a way of facilitating the pursuit of Taiwan’s independence.
But another result would be to push Taiwan’s people into a cultural void. Speaking from a utilitarian perspective, because the impact of Chinese culture in Asia and around the world is positively associated with the rising power of China, separating Taiwanese culture from Chinese culture is tantamount to abandoning the advantages of our cultural inheritance.
Finally, even if we want to pursue political independence for Taiwan, we should not distort the origin of Taiwan’s history. Chinese culture is a part of Taiwan’s culture, so shouldn’t embracing this cultural inheritance simply be a way of displaying the broad tolerance of Taiwanese culture?
C.V. Chen is a senior partner at the law firm Lee and Li.
TRANSLATED BY LIN YA-TI
中文版〈什麼是中國？ 政治獨立不應與文化歷史混淆〉,自由時報, 2004/11/18
【2004/12/02 Taipei Times 931202】