Friday, July 24, 2009

Taiwan history: Do we belong to China?

Eric in his defense made attempts to know more about the history and culture of Taiwan than the locals. Hence his anger when they treated him like a dumb foreigner.
He was a big independence supporter and he spent all his time trying to convince us of the logic of Taiwan not belonging to China. Even when you were just relaxing in the bar.
“Man, I bought this book last week," said Eric and we all groaned knowing what was coming.
"You know it is bullshit that Taiwan has always been a part of China."
"You have told us that before," I said.
"I know," he replied. "But i didn't have the historical evidence to back me up before. Listen please."
"Do we have a choice?"
"Not really, man. Hey, you know, up until the 1600’s the island was populated by people of Malay and Polynesian descent, the aboriginals, then the Dutch took the island briefly, but were driven out by a small Ming dynasty army, which had fled the mainland because the Ming had been defeated by the Ching – much like Chiang Kai-Shek and the commies. The Ching came then to defeat the Ming, but did not occupy or annex Taiwan, because they were not really interested in the island, just getting rid of the remnants of the Ming. Over the next 200 years, Chinese from Fukkien province emigrated to Taiwan because of starvation. They weren’t sent by the Chinese government but had come seeking opportunities much like the Europeans going to the new world. And they inter-bred with the aboriginals.
In 1887 the China government formally declared Taiwan part of its territory for no other reason than they expected Japan to annex it, and they wanted to stop Japanese expansion. Eight years later they lost the Sino-Japanese war and signed Taiwan over to the Japanese forever. Up until then the Taiwanese had been living in a state of de-facto independence for 200 hundred years and, when they knew they were going to be given to the Japanese, they declared the Republic of Taiwan; so, for a long time they have had a sense of national identity.”
Josh: “And where did you get this information from? I don’t think from KMT or Chinese Communist Party sources.”
“Of course! You have to search hard for the suppressed truth,” said Eric.
“But they were whipped by the Japanese? – When they tried to declare independence,” said John.
“Brutally and swiftly! Yes, of course, but that is not the point. Taiwan was only ever a part of China for 8 years is the point. Josh, you are an immigrant, too. Your ancestors moved to a new land to give themselves a chance.”
“Didn’t the Taiwanese butcher the native population? I have no sympathy until they redress this injustice,” said Josh.
“Native populations get wiped out. Look at our own countries. Anyway, the government is trying to do something.”
“And I don’t live in Canada in protest. Next time tell us about what the government is doing for the aboriginals then we might listen to your claims of Taiwanese moral superiority,” continued Josh.
John and Pierre were realists but they nodded anyway because they knew it made Eric angry!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Didn’t the Taiwanese butcher the native population?"

That's a myth perpetuated by the KMT. Taiwanese supposedly butchering the Aboriginal population and the remnants fleeing to the mountains.

There are actually both plains and mountain aboriginals. Plains aboriginals generally just became Taiwanese (living among Minnan and speaking Taiwanese) and many don't even know their ancestry now. The mountain aboriginals even during the Japanese Period used to come down the mountains every now and then and take scalps. But what really hurt them was the loss of land and the overhunting of deer driven by the Dutch (pelts sold to Japan for samurai armor or something).

If you mean general wars, besides the taking of heads by the mountains tribes of the plains aboriginals and everyone else, there were Minnan-Minnan and Minnan-Hakka battles and Aborginal-Aborginal battles. But there was little large scale warfare between "Han" and Aboriginals except when colonists (Dutch, Japanese) in alliance with Aboriginals fought the Han.

There is more serious info on Wikipedia's Taiwanese aboriginal article if you are interested.