1/26 interview of Su Beng with Samuel Lee of LATWTV (Part 2 of 3)

Here's the English translation for the second third (0:19:42-0:42:01) of the 1/26 interview that Samuel Lee of LATWTV (conducted in Taiwanese and Mandarin Chinese) with Su Beng. The first third of the interview was translated here. To watch the entire interview on YouTube click here.

*Special Thanks to Professor Ching Lee for his invaluable assistance with this and future translation of this interview.

SL: So what do you think the Democratic Progressive Party […] You advocate-Taiwan nationalism as a core principle and you have quite a complete theoretical foundation […] As far as the Democratic Progressive Party is concerned, Tsai Ing-wen has proposed a “Taiwan consensus” (i.e. consensus about the future of Taiwan. The Kuomintang [in addition to others] has also criticized the Taiwan consensus as too ambiguous a term. So why doesn’t the DPP want to use your concept of Taiwan nationalism? Then the idea would be very clear, more solid and have a theoretical foundation and a historical foundation. What is your view on this?

SB: This has to do with the tendency of the Taiwanese people’s movement. A movement or revolution serves to change the status quo. If there is no principle or ideas, it won’t get done. In this area the Taiwanese haven’t established this [way of thinking]. Everyone from Liao Bun Geh or Peng Min-Ming’s time onward discussed the Kuomintang’s shortcomings but didn’t have a theoretical foundation to mobilize people. They didn’t discuss what Taiwan is, what Taiwan’s history is and what history we have gone through, what was Taiwan’s situation in the past, or what is Taiwan’s place in the international community. No one discusses this. They just attack the Kuomintang’s weaknesses and fight against each other and this is called politics [in Taiwan]. This is the Taiwanese people’s biggest problem

SL: In talking about this it seems to be only skin deep [very shallow], [it] doesn’t have spiritual depth.

SB: That’s right. When it comes to a social group or movement, if you want independence, if you want to take care of things [get things done], if you don’t have spiritual depth, then it will not be possible. Spiritual depth comes from a historical tradition.

SL: Regarding Taiwan nationalism, something the [you] O-ji-san has talked about/advocated for so long […] If we look at Egypt and the Middle East, their culture, [and] with a land mass so large [larger than Taiwan’s] and they have had the Arab Spring Revolution it can happen there [but] why [with] Taiwan being such a small island, how come your idea of Taiwan consensus [i.e. Taiwan nationalism], [why] haven’t a lot of people reacted to it like that [in the case of the Arab Spring Revolution]. O-ji-san, what do you think is the main reason why this is not happening?

SB: This, well you see, Taiwan has 400 years of history, if you look at Asian and African countries colonized by the Westerners, in about the same time period… This question that you just asked, I haven’t really thought about it too much. But I think whether it’s Egypt, Syria, or India, they were each colonized by one colonizing country for about 3 or 500 years. If it wasn’t England, it was France or Germany or […]. If you look at Taiwan’s 400 years [of history], there were several sections, the Dutch for 38 years, the Ching dynasty for 213 years, Japan for 51 years, and now so on… In this period of time, the Taiwanese people’s Taiwanese-ness [sense of being Taiwanese] and thinking has been divided by them [colonial rulers] several times. Another thing is, colonization is a strategy to cause separation [division]. With this strategy to separate, if ethnic groups [and] nationalism is intact, if you have focal point [core values], then you won’t be that easily influenced. In Taiwan most of the aborigines came from the south, and the Han came from China. In the midst of all this they didn’t want to be ruled by others. But with these things, if you don’t get to the root of it, then you just end up criticizing the [weaknesses] rulers. In doing the work of a revolution, if you don’t have very strong principles [or beliefs] or ideology, you cannot stand firm, then your strategy and tactics can’t be very strong you’ll waver from one side to the other. If your ideology is not firm you can’t stand firm.

Now before, why did I say that before that Taiwan’s democracy became one of a state without a government [i.e. no rule of law]? At the time when Chiang Ching-guo died, the democracy that people spoke of […] meant total freedom, if people had freedom/civil liberty this was [considered to be] democracy. But actually democracy has a social base, if there is no foundation it is not possible. If we don’t have the basic structure and everyone has total freedom but the result is a state without government, meaning anything could be said, people could say anything they wanted. It had just become like that.

SL: 0:25:50 Now I’d like to ask you another question. Now presently we have [the idea of] independence ideology. Taiwan has many historians who have written about history. The strange thing is that historians would talk about the history of it, and not take a stand on it. O-ji-san you wrote Taiwan’s 400 Years of History, you have taken a position [on this]. Many scholars have not taken a position. Is the reason because they don’t dare to or …

SB: Let me tell you, what you are pointing out about, this is one of the most basic problems of study. Modern science comes from the west, which has a definite methodology, there’s a paradigm. When looking at something you first look at the essence, then you see how it develops, then see what must be done about it, then see the ideology, stance [position], strategy, discipline. Taiwanese people are not familiar with this. This is the result of colonialism. So in a sense the Taiwanese are all victims, with all the education problems, young people are victims, but this problem of being victimized, how do we overcome this problem? You must go back to the origin [roots], if you don’t have the basics, if you just overcome the branches and leaves. It is no use. If the Taiwanese themselves don’t have self-awareness or spirit, if you don’t have the spirit or soul then everything is like branches and leaves.

SL: So we can say that the impact of colonialism is quite major.

SB: Colonialism had a huge impact on the people and society of Taiwan. With the Kuomintang, they had learned from the Chinese Communists [so when they ruled] they were not just taking advantage of you politically, but they were reforming your way of thinking. That’s the biggest problem. The way they reformed your thinking was not like Japan, in which they just did so by teaching you. They [the Kuomintang] used the secret police and political oppression to force you, so the suffering of the Taiwanese people was huge.

Part of the problem, if you discuss it further, lies with the Taiwanese people themselves. If the Taiwanese people themselves don’t think that being treated like this is disadvantageous, then it [the status quo] will continue. So whatever it is, it’s just like life, if you do not have a direction and you keep flip flopping, then you will not have any strength [power].

SL: If we talk about the changing stance of historians now, for example Japan has [its] Japan nationalism, and China has Chinese nationalism from Sun Yat Sen, Taiwan has O-ji-san’s Taiwan nationalism. When you proposed this idea, could tell us how you came up with the idea that Taiwan needs this ideological perspective?

SB: This actually has to do with my life experience. In the Ching dynasty my grandmother and great grandfather for example, everyone [of that generation] said, we all came from China, but when they saw Chinese people they called them immigrants from China and most people distained them [the Chinese]. There was an opposition to the Ching dynasty [this opposition lasted into] the Japanese occupation period, for the elderly they all thought the Chinese were no good.

I grew up during the Japanese occupation period. When I was in middle school and high school I used to have to chant “Long live the emperor.” I used to think who was my emperor [what did that have to do with me]? So there was a very basic questioning of what it meant to be Taiwanese. That made me think about these things. And because my grandmother, great grandfather and mother, none of them thought of China as their homeland. [The term] homeland is a modern concept and they viewed the Chinese as being worse than us [beneath us]. So naturally in my youth, China didn’t really matter to me and because I went to university where I studied socialism. My father was a member of the Taiwan Culture Society. He had opposed the Japanese. Since my childhood, I had known Lim Hian Dong, Jiu Wei Sui, [who were active members of the Taiwan Culture Society] so unconsciously, these experiences were the roots. […] When I graduated [from university] I decided to resist the Japanese and so I ended up going to China. As I worked in the resistance against Japan, I saw that the Chinese [Communists] methods were inhumane. When I saw people killing each other and being killed on a massive scale, I realized that I am not Chinese and I don’t need to die in China. From that moment on I had the awareness of being Taiwanese.

So because of that, in 1949, when I returned [to Taiwan], I thought when examining Taiwan’s issues I should go to the essence, I needed to read and know about Taiwan, starting with history. I am not a historian, so that’s why I started from history and kept going.

SL: Now Ma Ying-jeou is opening up Taiwan to China more and more. And with Taiwan awareness, the idea of “I’m Taiwanese” is more and more important to China’s [planned] invasion. If we don’t have a sense of Taiwanese-ness then we will become Chinese-ized, and then if Chinese immigrants and the Taiwanese merge as one. Under this circumstance how will we make the DPP put more emphasis on Taiwanese-ness, otherwise unlike this election in which Taiwanese-ness was purposely de-emphasized, and even one China and one Taiwan on either side [two states instead of two countries] was deemphasized [Taiwanese-ness] is slowly being diluted and if we keep on going backward [like this] until Taiwan becomes the Republic of China, and the Republic of China becomes Taiwan… Ms. Tsai’s idea initially was that the Kuomintang is a government in exile, but then she said that the Taiwan is Republic of China. As this keeps switching [back and forth], Taiwanese-ness is being diluted. Less and less [people] discuss it [Taiwanese-ness]. Since you are so concerned with these issues you must feel uneasy [to see this]. So what can young people do to recover the meaning of Taiwan nationalism?

SB: The question [problem/issue] of nationalism is on the one hand, for example [is about] the same bloodline, living in the same place, or the same environment. These are the basic requirements [conditions]. Then on the other hand there’s one’s way of thinking, like awareness [feeling/sentiment]. For example, [take] you and I, if we spent time together you will realize that you are different from me. This is an awareness of psychological processes. So on this topic, this is my view, if Taiwan has absolutely no awareness of Taiwanese-ness [nationalism] and no ideology and if China comes [takes over] then the future of Taiwan will degenerate. But with this thing, awareness, when the ideology [Taiwanese-ness] meets some opposition, it [Taiwanese-ness] will become stronger and stronger. On the contrary when you meet opposition, it will become even stronger

Actually, nationalism comes from the encounter with other societies or ethnicities. That is where nationalism comes from. If at the end of the Japanese occupation, after the World War II if the Kuomintang had not [ruled] the way that they did, there would not have been a rising Taiwanese awareness.

But when [the Taiwanese] saw the Kuomintang’s essence, [and] the way they ruled, it made the Taiwanese people’s sentiments run high. Sentiments are the beginning [of Taiwanese-ness]. When sentiments run high, then the reaction to immediate oppression… [However] in reality you must obey, you have no choice, but the feelings and awareness have increased [Taiwanese-ness will grow] Let’s take China, in my view when I was there [in China in the 1940s] I saw that it was not mainly socialist, it was a dictatorship. I saw the Chinese peasants, they couldn’t escape the ruling of China. When they were told to do this they would do it. They didn’t see me as a Chinese person, they saw me as a Japanese person and so they [felt they] could me what they really felt from the heart. Their true inner most feelings were against the Chinese Communists.

After Mao Tse Dong died, then Deng Xiao Ping […] so many people [population of China], they could not rule over everyone. China’s politics and organization are very strong, but the Chinese people’s hearts have grown apart from Chinese Communists.

[With] us Taiwanese, I think it’s the same, when the KMT came. At that time because of our livelihood we had to accommodate them, but many people have a conscience and can tell good from bad. So actually people’s feelings of resistance against the Kuomintang will emerge and then when the KMT collapses then Taiwanese-ness will rise. Then the Taiwanese will say we want independence. Once this comes out on the surface it [Taiwanese-ness] will be suppressed, but these feelings, this awareness [in the heart] cannot be suppressed.

For example Communist China is the same, take Tibet. In the beginning Tibet, before the Republic of China period, had a population of 3 million. There was not even a thousand Chinese who had gone there, but China has penetrated and infiltrated it up until now and the population is now 6 million. It’s half Chinese and half Tibetans and so then China will win politically, militarily. But you see Tibetans are still the way they are [against China].

SL: To avoid being taken over by China, the increase of Taiwanese-ness is very important, to be just like Tibet and East Timor.

SB: It’s all the same. China now has 55 ethnic minorities, and China always uses these same methods. Take Mongolia, now there are more Mongolians […].

SL: So the Chinese Communists want to have the Taiwanese aborigines to attend their ethnic minority group/meetings. This is the start of a new tactic.

SB: With each ethnic group, they try to separate [factionalize/divide] them one by one. And us in Taiwan, we are the easiest to divide. So us Taiwanese [are], 84-85% Holo people, Hakka make up 13-14%, and Aborigines are only about 50,000 or so. So dividing us up is easy to do. So whenever I go somewhere like Hsinchu I always say that we need to work together because… How are the Taiwanese and Chinese different? First the land of Taiwan was developed by our Holo, Hakka, and aborigine ancestors. It has nothing to do with China. This is the point, their ancestors are not the same as ours. This is one of our major roots. I’ve often said that, in the past, during the Ching dynasty, they… Let me give a bit of a longer explanation, hear me out. Shi liong, who was general and Koxinga’s father had come to occupy Taiwan. He [Shi liong] had fought with the Hakka people in Chao Tso and then in Xia Men. When he took over Taiwan. He brought the governing documents and in the beginning in 1895 he only allowed Holo people to go to Taiwan but banned Hakka people [from going to Taiwan]---- Hakka –1895, no that’s not right, from1795-1874, in the time, for about 80 years the Hakka people weren’t permitted to come. So because of this when the Hakka did come, all of the good land had been claimed. There was only rocky areas or mountainous areas.

SL: Like Miaoli.

SB: Under those circumstances the majority took advantage of the minority. So the Holo had taken over everything. This a historical tragedy. What I’m saying is that now if the Taiwanese are not united, they cannot afford to not work together. What does working being united mean? If only the Holo work together we can’t accomplish anything. If only the Hakka work together, we can’t do anything. Everyone needs to work together
If we use the democratic process, they [Hakka] will always be a minority, if this is always the case the Hakka and Holo will always be a minority. So we need to find a political solution to this situation, so that we can be united.

Translation of the last third of the interview will be posted soon.