Paik Nak-chung’s theory of overcoming ‘division system’: rethinking China-Taiwan relation with reference to the two Koreas
The essay is an integral part of the six papers presented by the “Overcoming ‘division system’” group in the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies, and therefore should be read along the side of other essays. This specific essay aims at approaching the problematic of Taiwan and Mainland China relation by inter-referencing the experiences of the two Koreas, as articulated in Paik Nak-chung’s theory of overcoming division system. It traces, in his English writing and translations in Chinese, the background in the 1970s for the proposal of a distinctive project of “national literature” and its relation to the Third world; in the 1980s, in his engagement in the People’s Movement and responses to the Marxist challenge, Paik began to develop the concept of “division system”, and then more systematically theorize it in the 1990s. On the basis of Paik’s theory, the essay moves on to unpack the conditions of the Taiwan-mainland relations with reference to the experiences of the two Koreas. It argues that, to move towards reconciliation, we will need to develop a historical worldview, which will overcome the self-centered nationalist historiography on both sides; by bringing global and regional history to the center of analysis, the dynamic history of imperialism and colonialism will be able to offer explanation on the formation of the division itself. Therefore, overcoming the division system needs to be understood as a long term intellectual-political project, to study the historical formation of the division system, on the one hand, and to reconstruct historiography so that the narrowing tendency of existing ways to understand the unification or independence can be overcome.
Keywords: Paik Nak-chung, division system, overcoming, national literature, third world, Two Koreas, Taiwan and mainland China
Kuan-Hsing Chen teaches in the Institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan. His most recent publication is Asia as Method: Towards Deimperialization (Duke University Press, 2010).