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What Divides Us - A Cultural Explanation of the China-Taiwan Problem

2007: What Divides Us - A Cultural Explanation of the China-Taiwan Problem
By: Professor Lung Yingtai



2007 Chuan Lyu Lecture
The University of Cambridge,
Department of East Asian Studies
Tuesday, May 17, 2007 at 5pm
Room LG 17, Law Faculty Building, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge


Subject: What Divides Us - A Cultural Explanation of the China-Taiwan Problem

By: Professor Lung Yingtai
Chair Professor at the Centre for General Education, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan


            The Taiwan Straits is one of the world's most serious flash points. 500 Mainland Chinese missiles are aimed at Taiwan. China has 256-times greater area, 58-times population, and at least 3 times as many titles published every year. I want to ask today how different are their values and how might those differences be bridged.

            For over half a century the threat from China has not been an abstraction to the Taiwanese. It is concrete and can even be found on the beaches, 10.000 bombs for every square mile on the islands between the Taiwan and the Mainland. Three generations in post-war Taiwan grew up on a powder keg. The beach to us had the image of a frogman invader rather than a place of fun and leisure with palm trees. This siege mentality was a natural outgrowth of all these fears for my generation, with heroes on one side and traitors on the other.

            If we try to plot Taiwan's political and social culture in terms of order vs. disorder, one would have to say that compared to Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai, the people in Taiwan are more "romantic," and less willing to accept orders from the center as their policy. Chinese intellectuals envy Taiwan for its freedom of speech in the media that they lack. As I know from my own trips to China, surveillance and censorship are common.



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