It's Taiwan culture

By Goh Sui Noi, The Straits Times, 5 August 2000

President Chen is actively promoting Taiwanese culture, which he says is distinct from that which exists on the mainland. This view worries Beijing.

TAIPEI—Drawing a line between Chinese and Taiwanese culture, President Chen Shui-bian yesterday stressed that Taiwan's culture was not a frontier Chinese culture, but had its own independent and self-determining characteristics.

He described the main characteristics of Taiwanese culture as pluralist, indigenous and international.

Speaking at a culture camp in the southern county of Tainan, the President pointed out that Taiwanese culture was the root of Oceanic culture and said that Taiwanese must have confidence in themselves.

He emphasised cultural development as the most important aspect of nation-building, adding: We must study how culture can take root and germinate on this land.

He further urged that past local literature be raised to the status of representative literature of Taiwan.

The President had also spoken about the development of a Taiwanese culture in his inauguration speech on May 20, a move that Beijing feared would steer the island's people further away from mainland China. He had then spoken about Taiwan's wealth of diversified cultural elements and the development of the island's local cultures.

The President, who is from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, had promoted local Taiwanese culture when he was mayor of Taipei in 1994-98.

He changed the name of the boulevard in front of the presidential office from Chieh-shou Road, meaning long life, to Kaitegalan Boulevard, the name of the first aboriginal tribe to inhabit the island.

However, this process of stressing separate culture began under the President's predecessor Lee Teng-hui.

In the final term of his presidency from 1996 to 2000, the fiercely nationalistic Mr Lee tried to forge what he termed a new Taiwanese identity, beginning with a change in the school curriculum to emphasise Taiwanese history, geography and society.

Where in the past, anyone caught not speaking in Mandarin at school had to pay a fine, the learning of mother tongues, from Hokkien to Hakka to aboriginal tongues, was subsequently encouraged.