Mar 23, 2009

A Zombie Amongst Us

The appearance of a Zombie is a frightening sight.

What bothers me with recent German scholarship on China and Taiwan is that it still follows two outdated leads to view Taiwan as either a) as part of China proper (although not openly falling in with the "renegade province" CP hymn), or b) as the "other", the "free" China, as the alternative to authoritarian rule and role model for China's development.
Either one does little to enhance our understanding of Taiwanese society.

What they actually do is carry on colonialist and imperialist myth, the only difference being not Western colonialism the culprit, but the Chinese claim on the island in its place taken for granted. In a way, Taiwan has grown to play the part of the reparation the West is willing to pay for all the harm and sorrow it has shed on China in the past.
Since the 1980s the metaphor of the "other China" has become less and less attractive due to China's opening up and integration into the capitalist World system. Notions of democratic change through economic liberation and rising incomes are still going strong, so the hopes for China becoming a democratic state have increased since then. On the other hand, relativism has told us that democracy does not follow a teleologic script. It might just not fit in everywhere.
But does that ease our mind on the fact that we abandon countries which have democratized all by themselves? Can we value potential economic gain over our ideological commitment to fellow democracies (which in the long run is a commitment to our very own democracy)?

Viewing Taiwan as "China" or at least as part of it has nothing to do with Taiwan. It is about Western hopes and fears, not to mention the distinctly European origin of the mere constructs that have enabled political entities such as the nation state to rise to global domination in the first place. Taiwan has had millions of years not belonging to anybody but itself. And that's the way it should be. If there ought to be someone to judge the political affiliation of that island at all, it is its population and no one else.
In light of post-colonial theories, the troublesome concepts of Chinese Taiwan should be abandoned in an instant. All they do is continue an outmoded way of thinking, and this thinking has already profoundly impacted the ways in which Taiwanese see themselves. True liberation of the minds comes through liberation from colonial thinking.

A Zombie, even a mere conceptual one, should be laid to peaceful rest eventually, not to trouble future generations with its "one country" claims.

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