Monday, January 29, 2007

When has an Asian textbook ever been controversial, after all?

Way to go, Taiwan. Japan had that whole "uselessly inflammatory school texts" market cornered, and you've managed to move in.
Taiwan has revised its high-school history textbooks to show that Taiwan is an independent country and not part of China, media reports said Monday.

The China Times said that on the education ministry's order, the title of the national history textbook for high-school - to be used after the winter vacation - has been changed from 'National History' to 'China History'.

In this textbook, terms like 'our country,' 'this country' and 'the mainland' have been changed to 'China' to indicate that Taiwan is not part of China, the daily said.
Now the difference between Japan and Taiwan I suppose is that while Japan's troublesome texts are basically apologist screeds for Japanese imperialism, there's an obvious and clear case to make that Taiwan is, de facto, a different country from China.

Still, inflammatory and unhelpful.


Battlepanda said...

Heh. You haven't seen those textbooks have you? Believe me, they were ripe for a re-hauling if they were anything like the texts of my youth. We're talking about semi-mythical stories about the childhood of generalissimo Chang-kai shek, how he would watch a fish swim upstream and realize that he would need to have the same determination to suceed...

I suppose there is an argument to be made that they could have been rehauled gradually, subtly, with an edition by edition decrease of the yukkery. But the way I see it, the new texts are a good move. There is a limit over how mad the Chinese can get over them (i.e., a little bit of footstomping but I don't think the missiles are going to fly) but they probably do inject a much-needed boost of Taiwanese identity into history classes, making them more interesting and frankly more relevant.

Battlepanda said...

BTW, you might sense a subtle shift in my stance on the independence issue after I started living in Taiwan. What has always been important to me (and remains so) is not nominal independence (getting to call ourselves 'republic of Taiwan') but actual political independence, which we have right now, where the Taiwanese government operates pretty much free of Chinese interference within Taiwan.

I used to call myself "pro status-quo" when I lived abroad because I percieved the threat to that political independence to be from without -- to a Chinese invasion.

I no longer think that. I think the Chinese footstamps and plays petty games to hinder us diplomatically, but the real threat for the de-facto independence we now enjoy is from within, from the faction that contends that since reunification is inevitable, we should be resigned to it and all but welcome our new Chinese overlords.

This changes the cost/benefit equation of something like the textbook rehaul. Sure, it angers China, but it also strengthen Taiwanese identity, and I think doing the latter is getting to be more important than trying to avoid the former.