East Asian perspective on Taiwanese identity: a critical reading of ‘Overcoming the Division System’ of Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies
In recent time, the need for an East Asian perspective is being increasingly discussed in the Taiwanese intellectual community. A noteworthy attempt is a special feature titled ‘Overcoming the Division System’ published in the June 2009 issue of Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies. In this feature, Paik Nak-chung’s ‘division system theory’ is used as a reference to the cross-strait issue.
However, the ‘division system discourse’ as a reference framework leads to a difficulty because it involves national unification, one of the most sensitive issues in Taiwan. Indeed, we encounter a serious dilemma: the dichotomous structure of the People’s Republic of China versus Taiwan has to be overcome to ensure that the cross-strait discussion does not degenerate into a dispute on nationalism, while it is impossible to hold a productive discussion unless Taiwan’s relation to China is dealt with.
Facing this dilemma, Chen Kuan-Hsing focuses on Paik’s concept of a ‘nation’, which could transcend nationalism owing to its orientation toward democracy, third-world solidarity, and anti-capitalism. Capturing this concept, he proposes ‘Chinese as a post-nation’ in order to overcome the cross-strait system. However, it is questionable how the ‘Chinese’ would ensure people-orientation that resist a nation-state and maintain solidarity with East Asia. The concept of the ‘Chinese’ may be effective in deconstructing the ideological identity of Taiwan, but it is vulnerable to the dilemma of being identified as another ‘super-identity’.
Taiwanese nationalism should be overcome immediately. However, for the ultimate solution to the cross-strait dilemma, it is important task to develop the capacity of a civil society in both Taiwan and mainland China. These efforts are closely related to achieving regional peace across East Asia. Therefore, the cross-strait issue is a burden that has to be shouldered not only by Taiwan but also East Asia.
Keywords: Taiwanese nationalism, Taiwanization, sinocentrism, East Asia, cross-strait issue, national literature discourse, division system discourse, Third World discourse, post-nation, reunification
Baik Ji-Woon 백지운 is a research professor at the Center for Korean Studies, Inha University in Korea. She earned her PhD degree at Yonsei University in 2003 with a dissertation on Liang Qichao’s enlightenment thought and Chinese modernity discourse. Her research interest includes comparative studies of modern literature and culture of East Asia. She is a member of the editorial staff of The Quarterly Changbi.