The presidential elections were held in Taiwan on Jan. 16. After Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan, won the election, sharp political debate has accelerated and broken out about the future relationship between mainland China and Taiwan. So, what is really going on?
For general concepts, you need to know about the extremely complicated history of Taiwan. Here is the “Taiwan profile – Timeline” published on Jan. 20 by BBC news. The history around 1949 has given Taiwan a controversial status.
The conflicts between Taiwan and China don’t only exist in history, but also in daily life, whether noticeable or not. The conflicts even happen around Michigan State University.
Recently, Holden Hall at MSU posted a board displaying the “Home Countries.” As the picture shows, the Live On office put Hong Kong, Taiwan and China’s flags separately. Some students voiced their anger about the display and one Chinese student sent an email to the MSU Live On office claiming the incorrectness of this composition. The student expressed his issues with Taiwan and Hong Kong being referred to as home countries on the board.
The “Holden Home Countries” board in Holden Hall. Photo via Kaiyue Zhang.
“The word shown in the picture are seriously disrespectful and insulting, especially for Chinese students,” Li, a math freshman who asked not to use his full name, wrote in an email. The Live On office gave a response very quickly.
“She replied (to) me in a few seconds and showed the willingness of discussing the future boards with me after I sent (an) email to her. She is pretty nice,” said Li.
According to investigation, the responsible officer from MSU Live On used the home country data from the sheets students completed when they signed in.
The environment Chinese people and Taiwanese lived in has influenced their consideration of their identity.
“The government system is different, I’ve grown up in democracy, I’ve grown up speaking the way Taiwanese speak, I’ve grown up writing how Taiwanese would write, so I consider myself as Taiwanese,” said Austin Shiau, a freshman who was born in Australia and grew up in Taiwan.
Undeniable, the culture difference is a big part of the reason why people from Taiwan consider themselves as Taiwanese instead of Chinese; however, the government education also influenced people’s perspective.
Beijing and Taiwan both hold that “There is only one China.” “The One-China Policy” states that countries seeking diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China must break official relations with Republic of China and vice versa.
What’s interesting and the real cause of ambivalence is very likely because of the different textbooks and education about sovereignty in Taiwan and mainland China.
According to the Anti-Secession Law of People’s Republic of China: “There is only one China in the world. Both the mainland and Taiwan belong to one China. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, the Taiwan compatriots included. Taiwan is part of China…”
However, at the same time, the 7th Additional Article of the Constitution of Republic Of China states: “The territory of the Republic of China, defined by its existing national boundaries, shall not be altered unless initiated upon the proposal of one-fourth of the total members of the Legislative Yuan…” This has been effective since 2005.
There is an important basic cognitive bias in psychology called the Availability Cascade, which refers to a self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public resource (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”).
Whatever the governments are doing, the conflicts between mainland China and Taiwan have been planted deeply in everyone’s mind.
The president Tsai Ing-Wen said when interviewed by CNN: “Only through strength, can we gain more respect and protect our people and our democratic way of life.” CNN reporter Kristie Lu Stout also mentioned the decreasing support of “One-China” in Taiwan: “According to Taiwan’s national research center, a growing number of young people on the island are identifying themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, choosing to identify with their birthplace as opposed to the homeland of many of their ancestors.”
On Jan. 20, after Tsai Ing-wen won the election, some people from mainland China jumped out from the Great Firewall and started a furious attack to the people who insist the independence of Taiwan on Facebook. The main sponsor of this attack was Diba, one of the largest Chinese message boards on the Internet, which has 20.54 million followers while the population of Taiwan is 23.43 million.
The question about sovereignty of Taiwan has been asked by people for a long time. Some questions in Quora (a question-and-answer website) and Zhihu (Chinese version of Quora) also clearly represent the totally different opinion between mainland and Taiwanese people. While “Why do educated Chinese people still believe Taiwan is part of People’s Republic of China, if the PRC has never actually controlled Taiwan?” gained 100+ answers with rational evidences, the question, “Why people from Taiwan do not regard themselves as Chinese?” attracted around 100 informative answers before the question was closed by the Zhihu official account.
The conflicts seem to never end. Recently, the words “Taiwan is an island country in the Pacific Ocean with a democratic government” and a series of information about Taiwan was posted in the same board as “Holden Home Countries” posted before. Under the map and flag of Taiwan, a small sentence, “Information from: Taiwanese Student Association” heaves in our sight. Even though it’s just a small board in one of many universities in America, people from mainland China and Taiwan still care and fight for their sovereignty standpoint; and those people are just normal students. It’s even harder to imagine how the conflicts distribute in all other corners over the world.