Matters of the heart and soul

During the 19th National Party Congress of the Communist Party of China last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered the following about Taiwan in his speech (begins towards the bottom of page 50):

解决台湾问题、实现祖国完全统一,是全体中华儿女共同愿望,是中华民族根本利益所在。必须继续坚持“和平统一、一国两制”方针,推动两岸关系和平发展,推进祖国和平统一进程。

一个中国原则是两岸关系的政治基础。体现一个中国原则的”九二共识”明确界定了两岸关系的根本性质,是确保两岸关系和平发展的关键。承认”九二共识”的历史事实,认同两岸同属一个中国,两岸双方就能开展对话,协商解决两岸同胞关心的问题,台湾任何政党和团体同大陆交往也不会存在障碍。

两岸同胞是命运与共的骨肉兄弟,是血浓于水的一家人。我们秉持”两岸一家亲”理念,尊重台湾现有的社会制度和台湾同胞生活方式,愿意率先同台湾同胞分享大陆发展的机遇。我们将扩大两岸经济文化交流合作,实现互利互惠,逐步为台湾同胞在大陆学习、创业、就业、生活提供与大陆同胞同等的待遇,增进台湾同胞福祉。我们将推动两岸同胞共同弘扬中华文化,促进心灵契合。

我们坚决维护国家主权和领土完整,绝不容忍国家分裂的历史悲剧重演。一切分裂祖国的活动都必将遭到全体中国人坚决反对。我们有坚定的意志、充分的信心、足够的能力挫败任何形式的”台独”分裂图谋。我们绝不允许任何人、任何组织、任何政党、在任何时候、以任何形式、把任何一块中国领土从中国分裂出去!

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Linguistic challenges when writing about “China”

The Financial Times last month published The dark side of China’s national renewal (subscriptions required), addressing the idea that all Chinese people should help China achieve the “China Dream”:

To an English-speaking ear, rejuvenation has positive connotations and all nations have the right to rejuvenate themselves through peaceful efforts.

But the official translation of this crucial slogan is deeply misleading. In Chinese it is “Zhonghua minzu weida fuxing” and the important part of the phrase is “Zhonghua minzu” — the “Chinese nation” according to party propaganda. A more accurate, although not perfect, translation would be the “Chinese race”.

Zhonghua minzu 中華民族 is a phrase that doesn’t translate well in English. As discussed by Arif Dirlik in Born in Translation: “China” in the Making of “Zhongguo”, the words China and Chinese are inherently invited by the West.

As Lydia Liu has observed, “the English terms ‘China’ and ‘Chinese’ do not translate the indigenous terms hua [華], xia [夏], han [漢], or even zhongguo [中國] now or at any given point in history.”

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Chinese, Taiwanese, or Chinese Taiwanese?

There are many factors that play into how Chinese and American people see their identities. Chinese people pride themselves on being a civilization with 5,000 years of history, and hence everyone who is born into a Chinese family, no matter the geographic location, is obliged to always identify him or herself as Chinese. Otherwise it’s a dishonor to the family and what have you.

On the other hand, other than the Native Americans, the U.S. is a country of immigrants, who left their home countries in hope of finding a better life in the states. They may retain the cultural heritage of their country of origin, but they and their descendants primarily identify themselves as Americans (e.g. Asian American, African American, European American, etc.). Continue reading “Chinese, Taiwanese, or Chinese Taiwanese?”

Taiwanese culture?

If you are able to read Chinese, the comment section of the Facebook picture above provides a selection of fairly common (and ongoing) arguments used for and against Taiwan-independence and a Taiwanese identity. Essentially the comic argues that Taiwanese culture is not synonymous to Chinese culture, even though past and current policies have long given preference to Chinese culture while suppressing cultures of other subgroups that make up of Taiwan’s population.

Somewhat related, The Upper Han by The Economist provides an interesting read on how Han people in China view ethnicity, nationality, and the Chinese identity. This attitude helps explain the attachment many in Taiwan still have towards “China” and their disdain towards de-sinicization and a separate Taiwanese identity and culture.

Do Taiwanese people feel Chinese?

This question, along with “are Taiwanese people Chinese?”, is easy to ask, but takes a while to answer. Taiwan is an country of mostly immigrants. The original inhabitants of Formosa island today only accounts for less than 3% of the population. Similar to the United States, where while everyone is an American, most people can trace their ancestry to somewhere else. Here we use the word Taiwanese as a term for the nationality, i.e. people born and live in Taiwan and/or Taiwanese citizens. Much like trying to explain Taiwan’s political status, answering the question requires one to understand Taiwan’s history of immigration and population composition.

taiwan-population-groups
Major socio-cultural groups of Taiwan, as % of the total population (~23.5 million).

Continue reading “Do Taiwanese people feel Chinese?”