Article first, comments below.
Textbook revision draws criticism
STAFF WRITER, WITH AGENCIES
Tuesday, Jan 30, 2007, Page 4
The Ministry of Education has revised a high-school history textbook to more accurately reflect Taiwan’s development as an independent nation, media reports said yesterday. Under the ministry’s orders, the title of the textbook was changed from National History (
本國史) to Chinese History ( 中國史), reports in the Chinese-language daily China Times and by the state-funded Central News Agency (CNA) said.
In the textbook, terms like “our country” (woguo,
我國), “this country” (benguo, 本國), and “the mainland” (dalu, 大陸), were changed to “China” (zhongguo, 中國), to indicate that Taiwan is not part of China, the reports said.
To put Taiwan and China’s relationship into context, the textbook now uses neutral words to describe events in China’s history, such as describing the 1911 Wuhan Uprising that toppled the Manchu Dynasty as a “riot” (qishi, 起事) instead of a “justified uprising” (qiyi, 起義).
In addition, the Republic of China’s first president, Sun Yat-sen (
孫逸仙), was referred to as the “founding father” (guofu, 國父) in previous versions of the book. The revised textbooks merely refer to him as “Sun Yat-sen.”
Another change condensed ancient Chinese history, but includes a section on the Taiwan-China separation. The section includes a passage that reads: “Taiwan’s future remains a big question mark. Will Taiwan’s independence bring war? How to protect Taiwan from being swallowed? How to maintain the status quo? How to deal with China? Taiwan’s people are frustrated.”
“School textbooks must reflect social changes, regardless of the era or the nation,” National Institute for Compilation and Translation Director-General Lan Shun-teh (藍順德) was quoted as saying in the CNA report.
Some teachers, however, are opposed to the revisions.
“In the compilation of the history textbook, there was strong political intervention from the government and only one voice was allowed. This is control by the state apparatus,” Wu Chan-liang (吳展良), head of the history department of the National Taiwan University, was quoted saying by the China Times.
In recent years the government has undertaken many “desinicization” measures, such as removing the word “China” from the names of some state-run enterprises.
Currently, Taiwan’s executive branch is controlled by the pro independence Democratic Progressive Party, while the legislature is controlled by the pro-China (but not pro Communism) Nationalist Party (Kuomintang: KMT for short). The two parties continually struggle for the political upper hand, and there has been a tendency for the party in power to promote their particular vision of Taiwanese identity, in great or small ways. For example, the DPP administration has made great progress in desinicization and promotion of local Taiwanese culture, such as the promotion of the Taiwanese and Hakka dialects and aboriginal languages and culture, the recent creation of a cabinet level Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, the currently under debate Aboriginal autonomy law.
On the other side, we have seen the KMT controlled Taipei government institute standard correct pinyin signs, while much of the country continues to use virtually random alphabetic spelling of Chinese names and words. (Incidentally, Taiwan needs to adopt pinyin universally on public signs. Since pinyin is present purely for the convenience of foreigners, making the signs actually legible should not be a political issue.)
This textbook revision is just another example of the same type of action. Interestingly, while the actions of the pro-independence faction are generally looked at as anti-China, the thinking behind their textbook revision is probably best described using the Confucian idea of rectification of names.
Confucius believed that social disorder resulted from failing to call things by their proper names, and his solution was “Rectification of Names/Terms” (zhèngmíng, 正名). When Duke Jing of Qi asked about government, Confucius replied, “There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.” (Analects XII, 11, tr. Legge). He gave a more detailed explanation of zhengming to one of his disciples.
Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?” The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” “So! indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?” The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.” (Analects XIII, 3, tr. Legge)
Xun Zi chapter (22) “On the Rectification of Names” claims the ancient sage kings chose names (ming 名 “name; appellation; term”) that directly corresponded with actualities (shi 實 “fact; real; true; actual”), [Japanese readers may recognize this characters as 実] but later generations confused terminology, coined new nomenclature, and could no longer distinguish right from wrong.
The blues (KMT) continues to claim that Taiwan is in fact part of China, and they therefore must continue to refer to Taiwan as part of China. Likewise, the greens (DPP) can not allow Taiwan to continue to be referred to as the Republic Of China, since they do not believe that it is in China at all. While most of them are still too scared of China to offically declare independence and change the constitutional name of the republic from China to Taiwan, there is a movement to apply for membership to the UN under the name of Taiwan. (As their application as “Republic of China” has been rejected for 13 years running.
The two sides may disagree over whether Taiwan is in fact part of China, but they are doing so in a very Chinese way. To paraphrase, names are rectified by the winner, but in Taiwan’s tempestuous democracy there is unlikely to be a clear and decisive majority party in the near future. However, recent polls show that the number of Taiwanese self identifying as Taiwanese, instead of Chinese, has increased from 36% when the DPP president Chen Shui Bian was elected in 2000 to over 60% today. If this trent continues, reality may become undeniable, with even the KMT being forced to rectify names.