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I'm Chinese, and this is how I see Taiwan

By Wang Weining (People's Daily Online)    11:29, December 21, 2017

During welcome week here at NYU, I heard a girl introducing herself: “I'm from Taiwan. I'm Taiwanese.” I feel heartbroken every time I hear the word “Taiwan,” and a part of me was waiting for her to say “Taiwan, China.” I have to say I was prepared, coming here, knowing that not everyone I meet will share the same view as I do. I was even told not to argue with people about this issue, but it still strikes me hard when I hear people speak of Taiwan without mentioning China. From what I’ve learned, both at school and at home, no matter historically or politically, the island of Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. Though this could be a personal issue I'm attached to, it also has political backgrounds.

Later, in my dorm, I read an article by Jane Perlez on The New York Times called “China Sees New Ambiguity with Donald Trump's Taiwan Call.” The article introduces the cause and effect of a phone call between president-elect Trump and Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen. An expert from a university in China is quoted: “Mr. Trump broke a Chinese taboo merely by using Ms. Tsai's title. Chinese media refers to Ms. Tsai as the 'leader of the Taiwan region,' to indicate that Beijing regards Taiwan not like a sovereign nation but as Chinese territory to eventually be brought under its control.” This is important because the one-China policy, agreed upon by the late US President Richard Nixon in 1978, is relationship bedrock for China-U.S. relations, yet the phone call no doubt challenged this consensus.

Adam Taylor, in his article "With Trump in China, Taiwan worries about becoming a 'bargaining chip,” from The Washington Post, concludes, “Taipei is pursuing a number of policies that seem [to be] designed [for currying] favor with the Trump administration, including a ban on all trade with North Korea.” This develops the matter that China and the U.S. both want the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons program, however, Trump's call diminished the bond between the two countries, thus making it harder for them to work together.

To complicate matters, in article The New York Times op-ed titled "Taiwan feels forgotten. But not by Trump,” Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian illustrates how Taiwan feels abandoned and ignored, standing from the side of right deviated Taiwanese/standing with Taiwan’s right deviation. Bethany quotes Tsai, "We are this vibrant democracy, but people always forget about us.” But Taiwan cannot be left out by the world, because it is not an independent country, and it can never be neglected within China, because it is a very important region that shapes China as a whole. Bethany's article is not helpful for Americans to understand this complicated matter, and is counterproductive to the progress made in China-U.S. relations. Tsai's political stance as right deviation is wrong and meaningless, because nothing can cut off the bond of blood between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

Historically or politically, there has never been a controversy on whether Taiwan belongs to China or not. In 1885, Taiwan was established as a province of China, after being a city which belongs to Fujian province for many years. Though occupied by Japan during the Second World War, it came back to China with glory after Japan was defeated. Thereafter, the Kuomintang (KMT) fled to Taiwan, because they lost the civil war against the Communist Party of China (CPC), and since then, Chinese mainland and Taiwan have developed under different systems. But that doesn't change the fact that Taiwan is still a part of China, and will always be a part of China. Ma Ying-jeou, the former leader of Taiwan, tried hard to deepen the connections with the mainland and made great progress in enhancing the relationship. However, as a radical right-deviate, Tsai keeps trying to push Taiwan away from its motherland China.

Why do “Taiwanese” harbor this belief that they are a separate country?

In my New Student Seminar class, I approached a Taiwanese girl and asked her why some Taiwanese people refuse to acknowledge the fact that they’re a part of China, and this question caught her by surprise. She never thought about it before and after a few seconds told me that all her beliefs are based on how she was raised and what she was taught; “Like a religion,” she said. The way she described how she gets offended when people mix up Taiwan as a part of China, and how there can only be “Taipei, China” in the Olympics, was very upsetting, and my feelings get hurt every time a Chinese person from Taiwan tries to separate themselves from Chinese mainland, or when I see a flag of Taiwan sitting next to other country flags. This mutual feeling of anger, sadness, and powerlessness actually places us on the same side.

This complicated feeling we have toward our culture reminds me of Jamaica Kincaid, an American writer. Growing up as a colonial child, Kincaid conveys in her essay “On Seeing England for the First Time” about how she was forced to see England. When she finally saw it, everything was not like how she was told. She wanted to fight for a change, and let her own people see the real England, and also let the world see what stereotyping did to them. She asked, “Who were these people who forced me to think?” which indicates that she was angry about being forced to see the world, hurt about losing her own culture over another that was disappointing, and felt powerless because what is done is done and she cannot change the history.

For me, my question is: Who are these people to decide if they want one part of my country to belong to my country or not? I am angry because it is none of their business, hurt because some people who call themselves Taiwanese are pushing Chinese mainland away, and feel powerless because this is a huge political issue that I alone cannot change. When people accuse China of “coaxing” other countries to agree to the one-China policy, they need to understand that we Chinese are not "coaxing" anything. The problem is that their misinterpretation of "Taiwan Independence" is affecting their judgment. For the majority of people in Taiwan, it only means to have their own system, just like the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region does. In this sense, they already have their independence. People in the world need to recognize the fact that Taiwan, this Mandarin speaking island, is a part of China.

When I was talking to the Taiwanese girl, who is now my friend, we both agreed that it isn't the place for the U.S. to try to decide its fate. Additionally, this historical controversy doesn't prevent us from being friends. In fact, if not for this conversation, we probably would have never talked to each other. I finally understand why I was warned not to argue with people about this matter—as a teenager, I should not worry about this political issue, nor could I have done anything to change it. "Keep believing what you believe, but also try not to let this affect your life," my mom told me when I was telling her about this through FaceTime. I believe, historically, Taiwan never left China. I believe, economically, it makes no sense for Taiwan to leave Chinese mainland. I believe, people holding different beliefs can become great friends. I also believe, after all the difficult negotiations and sacrifices made by both parties, Taiwan will eventually realize that it is an inseparable part of China. For I believe in my beliefs, I embrace those with different beliefs, and hope for the best for all. 

The author is a student of the New York University.

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(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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