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The Study of Taiwanese Literature: A Conflict in National Identity

Lin Jui-ming

Translated by Robert Smitheram


Taiwan's Record of the Three Kingdoms

     Martial Law on Taiwan set a world record for being the longest in duration, extending over a period of thirty-eight years from the declaration of Martial Law on May 19, 1949 to the July 14, 1987 declaration that Martial Law was to end at zero hour on July 15.  Although the National Security Law was implemented on the day the Martial Law was lifted, clearly proscribing the advocacy of Communism and the division of the national territory, it does not in any way create the intimidating atmosphere of the Martial Law days.  Owing to the stalemate between the Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as well as the Republic of China's (ROC) consistent adherence to the One China Policy while on Taiwan, there is, at least internally, this aura of Chinese orthodoxy;  and yet internationally this identity has been thwarted at every point by Mainland China forcing Taiwan to act under the name of "Chinese Taipei," as if Taiwan were only some local government, when indeed the more substantive name would be Taiwan-a name, however, that cannot and dare not be used.  The endless wrangling internally on Taiwan between the anti-independence and pro-independence forces continues, and although the government has adopted an even-handed approach to these two viewpoints and suppresses the extreme pro-independence and anti-independence camps, nevertheless, within this contradiction there exists a symbiotic aspect.  To put it simply, Taiwan after the Martial Law period still adheres to the National Security Law, but depending upon background, ideology, and differences in expectations towards the future, various forms of perhaps unspoken national identity have come into being among the people on Taiwan.  To identify with the Republic of China that is now in power naturally does not present any problems, but there are those who identify with the People's Republic of China across the straits, as well as those who identify with a Republic of Taiwan that has yet to come into being;  within the general parlance, then, these three could be typified as the independent ROC (Republic of China) group (tu-T'ai-p'ai), the unification group (t'ung-i-p'ai), and the independent Taiwan group (T'ai-tu-p'ai).  Taiwan at the present stage contains within itself these three "republics" as reflections of illusion and reality, thus producing the problem of national identity.

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