Proudly Taiwanese

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2021 - 12:00am

In the novel 2034, China invades Taiwan and achieves limited success as the Americans and the Taiwanese fiercely defend the island nation. America retaliates using tactical nuclear weapons on some Chinese cities and the Chinese retaliate by also sending tactical nuclear bombs on some American cities. The result is that both countries are devastated and cease to be the superpowers of the world.

Last March, at a US Senate hearing, the head of the US Indo Pacific Command, Admiral Phil Davidson, said that the threat of a Chinese attack on Taiwan is “…manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years.” Admiral John Aquilino, the newly confirmed successor to Davidson, said that the prospect of a Chinese attack is “…much closer than we think.”

In the event of hostile conflict over Taiwan, an American defeat would be the end of American influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The ideal scenario for the Chinese Communist Party would be a peaceful takeover with the full consent of the Taiwanese. While at one time this seemed possible, this scenario is now almost impossible.

Taiwan has become a very prosperous economy and is the leading nation in the technology and production of semiconductors. Its people have become used to living in a liberal democratic state and, by all indications, will resist being placed under the control of an authoritarian regime.

There was a time when China was offering a “one state-two systems” formula which was attractive to many of the people. However, after the complete takeover of Hong Kong and the abolition, for all practices, of the one state-two systems government, there is very little trust that China will keep its promise in Taiwan. The brutal suppression of the protesters and the complete shutdown of freedom of the press and assembly in Hong Kong were taken as a warning of what could also happen to Taiwan.

The most important barrier to unification is the changing nature of the island nation’s population. In 1949, the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai Shek moved to Taiwan to escape an impending Communist victory. At that time, there was no question that the Nationalists considered themselves as Chinese and were looking forward to a reunification. Since then there have been two to three generations born and raised in Taiwan who have a different view of their heritage.

A 2020 poll by Pew Research Center found that about two-thirds of adults on the island identified themselves as purely Taiwanese. About three in ten consider themselves as both Chinese and Taiwanese. Only 4 percent called themselves pure Chinese. Among the young, the percentage calling themselves Taiwanese is even higher.

Another indicator is that Tsai Ing Wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was reelected president last year. In principle the DPP favors an independent Taiwan. This was the same situation in Hong Kong where the pro-independence Hongkongers won every election. Finally, China ordered the use of force against these pro-democracy campaigners.

Taiwan is different in that there is a body of water between Taiwan and China – the Taiwan Strait. Also Taiwan has its own armed forces and has the protection of the US naval and air commands in the Pacific.

The problem of China is that there is an ever growing number of people who consider themselves Taiwanese and not Chinese. And every new generation will become even less Chinese. This is not strange actually. In the Philippines, I assume that all those with Chinese ancestry residing here consider themselves as Filipinos and not Chinese. In the future, if ever there is any conflict between China and the Philippines, they will fight alongside their Filipino brethren.

If you look at the map of Southeast Asia, one can see that the Philippines and Taiwan are very close neighbors. It is obvious that any major conflict in Taiwan will eventually spill over to the Philippines. We need, therefore, to keep a close watch on what is happening in that island nation.

Philippines and early Formosa

The Philippines is geographically located very near Taiwan, known formerly as Formosa. The Han Chinese did not settle in this island until the 13th century AD. The original settlers were the ancestors of today’s Taiwanese indigenous people, who started settling around 6,000 years ago. Their language belonged to the Austronesian language family and therefore belonged to the same family as the Malay race.

Linguists and historians theorize that these original settlers of Taiwan were seafaring people who eventually settled in the islands of the Pacific. They reached as far as Polynesia, Hawaii and New Zealand. Sailing westwards they reached the islands of the Indian Ocean and Madagascar off the coast of Africa. There are even theories that these seafarers reached the Western coast of North and South America.

The indigenous people of Taiwan still live mostly in the mountainous eastern half of the island. There are some cultural historians who see some similarities between the cultures of the Taiwanese indigenous people and the mountain tribesmen of the Cordillera in the Philippines.

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Young Writers’ Hangouts via Zoom on May 8 &22, 2-3 p.m. with Write Things alumni Sean Carballo & Mica Magsanoc.

Writefest2021, our annual six-session workshop, runs from May 17-28 (MWF, 3-4:30 p.m.) with guest authors Sarge Lacuesta and Mookie Katigbak.

Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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