Reflections on Su Beng's July 17 appearance @ Harvard organized by FAPA-YPG, MA

Article and photos by Chia-Chun Chung
July 20, 2011

The second public event for Su Beng in Boston, organized by the local FAPA-YPG, took place on Sunday, July 17 at Harvard University. The gathering was attended by students, young professionals, and local members of the community, making it truly a cross-generational meeting of the minds.

Su Beng spoke about how his experiences in Japan and China shaped his own identity and prompted him to embark on the long, and sometimes lonely, fight for Taiwan's independence. As one attendee later put it, ironically, “Su Beng found Taiwan in China.” Su Beng shared his interpretation of Taiwanese Nationalism: Taiwan and its citizens have evolved together through history, and developed their own culture along with collective economic and political interests. He has written about and frequently discussed this concept for decades. Su Beng believes that this self-awareness, understanding and acceptance of Taiwanese Nationalism will lead to Taiwan’s independence, given that Taiwanese people unite and stand firm to safeguard Taiwan’s interests.

During the Q&A sessions, several interesting questions prompted equally dynamic answers from Su Beng. When asked what he would say to President Ma, a former student at Harvard many years ago, Su Beng responded, “Ma should really explain his relationship with China.” Su Beng, 92, called Ma’s recent self-declaration on facebook, “I am a descendant of the Yellow Emperor in blood and I identify with Taiwan in terms of my identity. I fight for Taiwan and I am Taiwanese,” totally archaic, and said that the concept of lineage only befits a feudal system and is of no relevance in multicultural modern Taiwan.

Su Beng’s staunch belief in Marxism prompted a lively exchange. One attendee questioned how Su Beng could continue to call himself a Marxist after witnessing the brutal acts by the Chinese Communist Party firsthand. Another in the audience asked Su Beng whether he wants to see Taiwan eventually become a Marxist society. Before the questions could get completely translated for Su Beng, others in the audience jumped in with their thoughts. The discussion was cut short and resumed after the event and through dinner. In the end, those involved all agreed that the differences in opinion arose mainly from different interpretations of “Su Beng’s Marxism.” It seemed that Su Beng holds the theoretical view of Marxism very close to his heart, but at the same time he disapproves of the dictatorships that have historically grown out of Marxist beliefs.

Although I did not partake in this particular discussion, just sitting next to Su Beng at the time gave me much to think about. He sat, calm and composed, took everything in, and then insisted on clarifying his take on Marxism in his own deliberate, logical, matter-of-fact way. I watched and wondered how many times had he faced similar questions and even sharper criticism on his ideology before. It is almost certain that the “Marxist” label would not go far in winning friends in today’s world, let alone in Taiwan a few decades ago. Su Beng, however, held firmly to his convictions through the years and never gave them up. In his frail, slouching figure, I saw a quiet resolve that must also have been the driving force behind his decades of tireless toiling to free Taiwan from what he calls “a colonial regime.” Perhaps that inner strength is best embodied at the end of his speech, when he proclaimed, with full passion and confidence, that “Taiwan WILL BE INDEPENDENT!”

Chia-Chun Chung is the Chapter President of FAPA-MA