Ma Administration takes another step back to the 1950s
Very scary news reported the other day in the Taipei Times. The National Security Council (NSC) has ordered that Taiwan students be taught that the Senkaku Islands, which are currently part of Japan, actually belong to China.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has caused a stir with its recent directive that elementary and junior high schools teach that the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) “have been a part of China since ancient times,” and consequently belong to the Republic of China (ROC).
Critics called it “brain-washing under the guise of education.”
Huang Chi-teng (黃子騰), head of the ministry’s Department of Elementary Education, said the directive was sent after an interministerial meeting convened by the National Security Council (NSC), in which it was decided that the ministry would give schools a paper for use as reference in teaching “the relations between the Diaoyutai Islands and Taiwan.”
The paper, which includes comments such as “Japan stole the Diaoyutai Islands,” places China and Taiwan on the same side opposing Japan, using the claim that “the Diaoyutai Islands have belonged to China in the past” to argue that sovereignty over the Diaoyutais belongs to the ROC.
The position that the Senkakus belong to “China” is an invention of both Chinese governments since the late 1960s (Ampontan has a long post discussing this, with many maps and references). Prior to that time, both governments regarded the islands as uncontroversial Japanese territory. The claim to the Senkakus is thus another item in the long wave of Chinese territorial expansion that Asia has witnessed since the 1930s, which follows the typical pattern of Chinese making claims to a given territory based on some interaction that the government has followed in the past.
On so many levels this is scary. For one thing it is bound to peeve Japan. It shows that the KMT continues to regard education as a process of ideological indoctrination. It also gives a glimpse of the Party-State mentality that continues to drive the KMT’s interactions with the rest of society. It shows how the KMT Administration regards itself as “Chinese.” And finally, as many of us noted at the time, it is a prophecy of conflicts to come.
Will Taiwanese voters notice? Perhaps the DPP can somehow make them pay attention….
This directive coincided with a forum between scholars from China and ROC scholars from Taiwan at which a MOFA official declared that the Senkakus (Diaoyutais to the Chinese) belonged to China.
Earlier at the forum, Wu Jinan (吳寄南), director and senior fellow of the Department of Japanese Studies at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, Shaw Han-yi (紹漢儀), a research fellow at the Research Center for the International Legal Studies at National Chengchi University, as well as other Chinese and Taiwanese academics, presented papers to rebut Japan’s claims to sovereignty over the islands.
Examining related legal claims and historical evidence under international law and traditional East Asian order, the academics concluded that the Diaoyutais belong to “China.”
Asked to comment on the conclusion, Shaw Yu-ming said he did not find it problematic saying the islands belong to China as opposed to the ROC.
“Like I said, the Diaoyutai Islands were incorporated into the Kavalan Prefecture administration office in 1837. At that time, the ROC had not been established. Furthermore, the ROC is also part of China. China is the generic term for the ROC and the People’s Republic of China [PRC]. This case shows why the ‘1992 consensus’ is necessary. For us, it’s the ROC, and for the mainland, it’s the PRC. Together, it’s China,” he said.
Shaw Yu-ming said he agreed to the suggestion made by several Chinese academics at the forum that “China shall publicly declare its position that the Diaoyutai Islands belong to Taiwan.”
“If we say that the Diaoyutais belong to ‘China,’ it would lead some people in Taiwan to wonder why they need to fight for sovereignty of the islands. But if China declares that the Diaoyutai Islands belong to Taiwan, which I think it would not oppose because Taiwan is part of its territory in China’s view, the problem would be solved,” Shaw Yu-ming said.
Frighteningly, this official envisions Taiwanese boys dying to make the Senkakus safe for Beijing’s expansion. Fortunately China will never declare that the Senkakus belong to Taiwan, but the mentality exhibited here is scary.
Note also the use of terms like “stolen territory.” Many Chinese believe that Okinawa is similarly “stolen territory”. The public rhetoric suggests a revanchist position that will make it difficult to avoid conflict between Japan and China. This rhetoric also shows how Taiwan, the Senkakus, and Okinawa are all basically linked in Chinese minds and thus, how expansion into any one area will lead to more expansion into the others. Brrr……
I took a short look at Shaw Han-yi’s long piece on the Senkakus here. It is simply a sophisticated bit of ultra-nationalistic historical exegesis that utterly fails to establish its case, but gives a good look at how such things are constructed.