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The desired Taiwan by China is gradually disappearing


There was a time when the smile of a dictator would greet you wherever you went in Taiwan—it was a widespread phenomenon.


Because of the removal of an increasing number of those likenesses, which once numbered more than 40,000, it is now a sight that is much less common.


Around two hundred statues have been hidden away in a park that is located on the riverfront south of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. In this particular location, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek can be seen standing, sitting, dressed in the uniform of a marshal, dressed in the robes of a scholar, riding a stallion, surrounded by children who are loving him, and in his dotage leaning on a walking stick.


Even in a democratic Taiwan, it would appear that there is no longer any room for the former monarch.


This next Saturday, Taiwan will hold elections for a new government, which will once again put the island's developing identity to the test. China is becoming increasingly concerned about Taiwan's claim of a Taiwanese identity, which it views as a threat to the possibility of what it refers to as "peaceful reunification" with the mainland. This concern grows with each election.


In 1949, Chiang fled China in order to avoid the oncoming defeat that he was going to suffer at the hands of Mao Zedong's communist forces during the civil war. He arrived in Taiwan, which later became the Republic of China and continues to be a part of China to this day. It was Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party that established the People's Republic of China, which was the name given to the mainland. Both parties asserted ownership of the other's area. On the other hand, neither Chiang nor Mao conceived of Taiwan as a distinct location with a distinct population. But that is exactly what it has turned into.


In contrast to Taiwan, China's claims have never diminished. On the other hand, practically everything else on either side of the 100-mile strait has seen significant changes. China has become more powerful, wealthy, and an evident threat in recent years.


Taiwan has attained the status of a democratic nation and is currently in the midst of yet another election, which is putting its relations with Beijing to the test. Its freedom poses a threat to the hopes of unification held by the Chinese Communist Party, regardless of the outcome of the referendum that will take place on Saturday.


In the same way that Chiang does, there are still people who consider themselves to be Chinese; they gaze to China with admiration and even a sense of desire. On the other hand, there are people who have a strong affiliation with Taiwan. According to their perspective, Beijing is only another colonizing foreign force, similar to Chiang and the Japanese before him.


In addition, there are approximately 600,000 indigenous peoples who can trace their genealogy back thousands of years. In addition, there is a younger generation that is conflicted and frightened of inquiries concerning their particular identity. They are of Taiwanese descent, yet they do not believe that Taiwan should proclaim its independence.


Despite the fact that they wish to have a peaceful relationship with China and conduct business with it, they have no intention of ever being a part of it.


"I belonged to Taiwan. "However, I have faith in the Republic of China," adds a woman in her fifties who is dressed in tinsel and Christmas lights, much like Elton John.


During an electoral rally for the Kuomintang, often known as the KMT, which Chiang headed until his death in 1975, this is an unusual response to come from the audience. The county of Taoyuan, which is considered to be their heartland, is the location where tens of thousands of people have gathered to watch their presidential candidate, Ho You-ih.


As its longtime adversary, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Kuomintang (KMT) is negotiating peace and dialogue with the CCP. It asserts that Taiwan can only flourish if it engages in dialogue with Beijing.


"We ought to be friends with the mainland," the woman says with a chuckle. "We can make money together!"


The sound of patriotic rock is so loud that it drowns out her name, making it impossible to hear.


As Chiang Wan-an, the great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek and a rising star in the KMT, takes the stage, there is a tremendous roar of approval from the audience.


"I like him very much, he's very handsome," the woman can be heard saying while wearing the tinsel. "I hope he will be president one day!"


Those in their 50s or 60s make up the majority of the attendees. These individuals are traditional KMT supporters who have family or commercial ties to the mainland countries.


I was born in China. Taiwan is but a relatively small island. "Take a look at China!" exclaims a man in his fifties, ecstatic over the recent string of space launches that China has organized. "Of course we should reunify - not now maybe, but one day we must reunify."


A small number of young people are present in the throng, and those who are present do not appear to be interested in the legacy of the KMT.


By saying, "I'm not voting for the party, I'm voting for the candidate," Lin Chen-ze is expressing his opinion. "Although I am Taiwanese, I'm looking for peace. It is time for a change, and Hou Yu-ih is a fine man. The Democratic Progressive Party has been in control for eight years, and it is time for another party to take power. He has integrity and is very productive.


A party in Taiwan is requesting that voters decide between war and peace.

There is a confusion regarding the responses to a question that has been asked for decades: "Do you consider yourself to be Chinese or Taiwanese?" For Beijing, this is a cause for concern. When it comes to Taiwan's political parties, this is a delicate and novel dance in which ideological certainty is being quietly shelved.


"It's not right what they've done to these statues," says Fan Hsun-chung, a sprightly veteran who is 94 years old, as he strolls around the park that is filled with statues of Chiang.


Fans left his home in Sichuan, which is located deep within the mountains of southwest China, when he was 18 years old in 1947 in order to join Chiang's army. For the purpose of preparing Taiwan for its role as a bastion, Fan's unit was dispatched to Taiwan at the beginning of 1949, when the Chinese civil war was turning dramatically against them.


After a period of six months, Chiang, his administration, and an army consisting of nearly one million troops who had been defeated followed.


Fan believed that he would get back to his house soon. On the other hand, after Mao took power, he was unable to return home or even write home. "So, I waited and waited, for decades."


It wasn't until 1990 that he finally got to visit his hometown, which is located high up on a tributary of the Yangtze river. By that time, his family had already passed away, with many of them having been prosecuted by the Communist Party for his deeds associated with the "counter-revolutionary" movement. It was revealed to him that his mother and older brother had perished as a result of starvation during Mao's industrialization program, which had resulted in a famine.


Fan claims that he has never stopped feeling Chinese about Taiwan, despite the fact that he has lived there for seven decades. He says, "When we came here, our country did not perish; we are still the Republic of China." There are more than thirty provinces in the world, and Taiwan is one of the smallest of them all.


It is not too far away from here that Chiang himself is laid to rest in a state of unquiet slumber: within a sarcophagus made of black marble, which has not been buried for nearly half a century after his death.


"We were fighting for the unification of China," according to Fan. It was our hope that China would become powerful, unified, and independent. That was our ideal scenario.


Taiwan was nothing more than a bastion for Chiang, from which he could lick his wounds and pursue his aspirations of retaking China. Although the guy and his dream have been gone for a very long time, his mark is still palpable.


When you go around Taipei, you will find that you are surrounded by names that date back to a different era in China. Some of these names include Nanjing East Road, Bei-ping North Road, and Chang-an West Road. Mandarin, which is a dialect which originates from northern China, is the language that is used for education and trade.


Once again, wheat noodles and dumplings are the staple foods of Taipei, which is a city in Taiwan. At the same time that the communists assumed power in Shanghai, a significant number of the city's most prominent businesspeople fled the city, leaving behind a large number of good Shanghainese restaurants.


However, Chiang's legacy was not without a significant price. In a brutal manner, any displays of Taiwanese political identity were thoroughly suppressed. Chiang, whose personality cult rivaled that of Mao, Stalin, or Kim Il Sung, was responsible for the torture, imprisonment, and execution of tens of thousands of people before killing them. During this time period, the White Terror was written into the annals of history.


John Chen, a political activist who is 86 years old, describes the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as "like identical twins with the same mindset." "They both have this idea that we are all part of Greater China."


Chen is making his way through the cell block of an ancient military detention center located on the southern side of Taipei. This is a location that he is more than familiar with.


In 1969, he was prosecuted and sentenced to prison by a military court here. It had been three weeks since he had tied the knot. He was incarcerated for the subsequent ten years in Jing Mei, which is considered to be one of the most dreaded prisons in Taipei. Participating in a group that advocated for Taiwan's independence while he was attending medical school in Japan was his crime.


He was one of six other prisoners who were confined to the small cell. However, they did have a squat toilet in the corner of the room, as well as a bucket and a tap for washing their clothes. In the summer, they were sweltering, and in the winter, they were freezing. Just fifteen minutes of time each day was allotted to them for physical activity outside.


Chen is proficient in Japanese and acknowledges that he feels more kinship with the customs of Japan than with those of mainland China. Chen was born under Japanese rule and speaks Japanese fluently due to his upbringing.


In my opinion, I am not of Chinese descent. He identifies himself as Taiwanese.


Why are relations between China and Taiwan so high?

An extremely straightforward guide to China and Taiwan

The complicated politics of Taiwan are illustrated via the use of popcorn chicken and bento.

Chen is one of the many millions of people, who accounts for the majority of inhabitants on the island, whose families moved from China. Beginning in the early 1600s, they arrived in multiple waves, the most of which originated from Fujian. In the same way that English is distinct from Portuguese, Taiwanese, which is a dialect of southern Fujian, is similar to Mandarin in terms of its differences.


As far as he is concerned, "Taiwan is already independent," and the future looks promising.


There will come a time when the Chinese Communist Party will fall apart. And when it happens, we will be able to completely integrate ourselves into the global society.


The arguments made by Beijing that Taiwan is a part of China due to the fact that the two countries share a same culture and language are refuted by him.


The question is, what does that mean for Tibet or Xinjiang? So, if being Chinese or speaking Chinese is the foundation upon which the Chinese country is created, then what about Singapore?


The time of military authority in Taiwan has long since ended, and memorials can be found all throughout the island to commemorate the White Terror.


Nevertheless, there are those who suggest that Beijing's constant statements are causing a younger generation that is brittle to reevaluate how they perceive themselves.


Approximately five years ago, Lōa Ěng-hôa started the process of learning Taiwanese. Now, he is only able to communicate in Taiwanese or English, and he is adamantly opposed to speaking Mandarin.


The language of a colonial oppressor is what he perceives it to be. Since England was a part of the Roman Empire in the past, he compares it to the situation in which individuals in the United Kingdom were compelled to speak Italian.


"When I was in elementary school, we would get together every morning and sing the national anthem of the Republic of China. And there were always some kids who were too lazy to bother singing, and I would yell at them, saying, "Don't you love your country!" I was under the impression that I was Chinese.


According to him, he did not start to become aware of his identity until he started working in Australia and seen how the country was dealing with the traumatic history it had passed through.


When the KMT was in power, it was strictly banned for schoolchildren to speak Taiwanese, and they were disciplined if they did so. Because they believed that learning Mandarin would make it easier for their children to get into college or obtain a good job, Taiwanese parents forced their children to speak the language even at home.


According to Lōa, although Taiwanese may not be prohibited. However, the "ideological dominance" of Mandarin continues to exist.


"And the most essential point is that we are still denied the opportunity to be educated in Taiwanese. Eighty percent of the population speaks Taiwanese as their native language, yet we do not have the right to be educated in our own language. What level of absurdity is that?


Young people like him believe that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is currently in power and which originally advocated for Taiwanese independence and whose rise was a direct result of anti-Beijing fervor, is not going far enough.


There was a time when the Democratic Party of the Philippines (DPP) was a motley organization that had a difficult time winning local elections and seats in parliament. At its rallies, Taiwanese was the language that was spoken. Now it is the party that holds the power. It has reigned for a total of sixteen years, each of the most recent eight years included.


For the time being, its younger followers are fluent in English and are more concerned with issues pertaining to LGBTQ rights and the environment than they are with the urgent need for Taiwan to achieve official independence.


During a recent rally in Taipei, Hsiao Bi-khim, who is running for vice president of the Democratic People's Party, delivered her first major public address. She had a lot of charisma and was young, so she was a huge success with the audience.


Despite the fact that she was born in Japan to a mother from the United States and a father from Taiwan, Hsiao is reviled in Beijing. Her most recent position was that of Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the United States. It is a common misconception that she is unable to speak Mandarin, but the Chinese official media has been actively propagating this false information.


However, China is concerned by the growth of leaders such as Hsiao, who have essentially no family ties to the mainland and feel that Taiwan is more closely connected to Tokyo and Washington than it is to Beijing.


In addition to the Democratic Progressive Party, this election marks the first time that all three candidates for the presidency are of Taiwanese heritage. Not a single one of them comes from families who accompanied Chiang to Taiwan in 1949. As the son of a market trader from southern Taiwan who rose through the ranks of the police force to become the chief of the national investigative bureau, Hou, who is a member of the KMT, is a member of the party.


Both the Democratic People's Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT) no longer discuss the necessity of formal independence. On the other hand, the KMT does discuss communication with Beijing, but they avoid discussing the issue of unification or whether Taiwan is a part of China.


The anomalous "status quo" of Taiwan, in which the island nation elects its own leaders yet is not recognized as a country, is currently acknowledged by both parties.


The woman dressed in tinsel gave a succinct summary of the situation at the KMT gathering, saying, "This is the mountain protecting us." In the absence of the status of the Republic of China, Taiwan is out of the question. Independence for Taiwan is not possible. War is the price of independence.


This phenomenon is referred to as "strategic ambiguity" by professionals. Everyone, even Beijing, has been pleased with it up to this point. This, however, is not how people identify who they are as individuals.


Regardless of where our forebears originated from, we are all Taiwanese living in this day and age. During their conversation, a group of hikers on a route close to Taipei said that they had intermarried and mixed Taiwanese and Mandarin when they spoke to each other.


When they travel outside of Taiwan, they claim to be born and raised in Taiwan. "We do not want people to think we are from China."


Because Beijing is in the process of determining what it wants to become, this presents a challenge for the city.


This is in direct opposition to the message that the Communist Party of China (CCP) is trying to convey, which is that China should be unified under the leadership of the CCP. The message has been conveyed to the people of Hong Kong, as well as to the Tibetans, the Uyghurs, and the Mongols.


Despite the fact that not everyone has a Taiwanese or purely Taiwanese identity, polls indicate that an increasing number of young people are leaning toward this identity.


In this new Taiwan, Chiang's family name is still recognized and respected. Many people in this area have expressed their desire for the KMT to nominate his great-grandson in the year 2028. In addition, Hsiao has been a candidate for the Democratic People's Party (DPP).


The issue for China is that the Taiwanese will make the decision, yet either side has a chance of winning.


"I have two younger brothers, and I am very worried that they will end up fighting in a war with China," says Shen Lu, who is 21 years old and is speaking at the KMT event. Youth voters have expressed that peace is the only thing that is important to them.


Very few Taiwanese people discuss the possibility of independence, much like their most powerful allies, because they believe it to be impractical or perhaps impossible. Peace, on the other hand, has turned into a chant for them to remain with what they have, regardless of what they choose to name it.


"I am Taiwanese but the most important thing for my generation is peace," according to Shen. "I do not desire to be unified..." I would like for the current state of affairs to continue. We should maintain it in this manner for all time.


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