Archive for September 13th, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lai Yiyou: How Japanese was my Island? (II & end of article)

The following is the second instalment, and finish, of my reproduction of an article by Lai Yiyou (赖奕佑), a researcher with Tsinghua University’s Institute of International Studies. I’m not putting it into blockquotes, as this is only a rough (and possibly at times inaccurate) account of what he wrote himself in Chinese. Part one of my reproduction of Lai’s article is here »

Unequal treatment under Japanese colonial rule in terms of daily life and education, and the Japanese rulers’ distrust of the Taiwanese, had left a negative impression on the Taiwanese, writes Lai Yiyou. But the way the KMT ruled Taiwan after the war was colonial, too – and the KMT viewed the Taiwanese as Japan’s accomplices. The way the Taiwanese – consequently – began to see Japanese colonial rule in a more positive light still served some Japanese media to acquit their own country these days.

But even as Chiang Kai-shek’s government emphasized the KMT’s role in having defended China against Japan, Chiang also took a rather friendly stance in relations with Japan. For American and Japanese acknowledgment, and for the sake of the goals Washington, Tokyo, and Chiang had in common within the post-war international environment, Chiang also abandoned demands of Japanese war compensation, thus “rendering good for evil” (以德报怨, yǐ dé bào yuàn). The cold-war structures made Taiwan lean not only on political and military relations with America and Japan, but also made Japan a major direct investor in Taiwan, with 27.53 per cent of all foreign direct investment from 1952 to 2008. Japan wasn’t simply the old colonizer, or the mere old imperialist force against China, but a contributor to Taiwan’s economic growth. This defines the way Taiwan views Japan these days, writes Lai.

After the lifting of martial law, Taiwanese authors started writing down their memories, and making them public. Local history, including that about Japanese rule, came to public attention again. The government also started research projects of its own. Lai emphasizes that those who started to rediscover their local or family histories were no trained historians, and that therefore, their research of daily life under Japanese colonial rule wasn’t “vigorous” (回忆录的作者并不是训练有素的历史学家,因此对于生活在日本时代的记述也就不会在历史文献上做一番严格的考证,对于记述内容自然偏向生活经验的陈述而非严谨的历史考察).

Taiwanese didn’t like Japanese mass culture simply because this were politically wanted, writes Lai. And younger Taiwanese peoples’ awareness of Japan mostly amounted to awareness of Japanese mass culture, not to knowledge of the past. When it comes to differences between Taiwan and Japan these days, the Diaoyutai islands were issues, but not the Yasukuni Shrine, or history textbooks. Taiwanese politicians these days were no longer in position to guide the opinions of the young, but had, ever since the 1990s, rather themselves been driven by the aspirations of the younger Taiwanese.

On the fifth page of his article (as republished by Huanqiu Shibao), Lai Yiyou evaluates the Taiwanese public’s state of mind by – apparently – socio-cultural means. Rewriting this part of his article into English exceeds my language skills, but Lai apparently wants to prove that a collective understanding of the past can be distorted, by politics and otherwise. I’m not sure if this is a criticism of how the Chinese public views Taiwan’s attitude toward Japan, or if it is a criticism of the Taiwanese attitude itself.

For sure, Lai points out that it wasn’t really that much the case that Taiwan’s leaders had shaped the views of the Taiwanese towards Japan, but rather that their policies had reflected the existing views of the Taiwanese (与其说是领导者决定了台湾人的对日情感,不如说是领导者的政策反射了台湾人的对日观感). However, Lai does criticize the KMT for not properly handling the “Taiwanese provincial feelings” (战后国民党政府无法妥善处理省籍情结的结果) which was responsible for some of the “beautification of Japan”, and attributes another portion of responsibility for the “pro-Japaneseness” to the political aspirations of Taiwanese “localization” (本土化), after the lifting of martial law in 1987.

In a diverse media environment, all currents of thought had a chance to emerge, writes Lai. If the Taiwanese confronted the Japanese colonial past in a proper way [“proper” seems to refer to Beijing’s way of recording history], he hoped that this wouldn’t lead to new emotional barriers between the people on “both sides of the Taiwan Strait”, and that it wouldn’t give rise to mainlanders perceiving another divide between themselves and the Taiwanese (笔者希望这样的趋势不要成为两岸人民情感交流的隔阂,或者再次成为中国大陆人民划分台湾人的心结).

%d bloggers like this: