Actually We Want Taiwan Independence, Right?

中文版 Chinese Version

This only happened yesterday. I was there, so I want to provide some more information about the incident.


Video transcript:

StudentWhat is our stance when signing the Services Trade Agreement? Are we signing the agreement as two countries?

Zu-Jia LinIn our constitution, it mentions the Mainland Area and the Free Area, and the Free Area is Taiwan Area. Therefore, this is the agreement between the Mainland Area and Taiwan Area. It’s not between two countries.

StudentSo you’re saying Taiwan isn’t a country right? Taiwan is just an area.

(The students applauded.)

But what this video doesn’t show is:

Zu-Jia Lin wanted to avoid further discussion about this political issue,but the students urged him to continue. Therefore, he finally said:

“The Republic of China is an independent sovereign state. I’m sorry but this is as far as I can go.” (The students applauded again after this.)

Later, Zu-Jia Lin mentioned that of course we are afraid of the Mainland because they keep threatening Taiwan’s sovereignty. However, we have two choices: not trade with the Mainland until they don’t threaten our sovereignty anymore, or we can cooperate with the Mainland by providing some compromises.

Zu-Jia Lin represents the opinions from the government. In my opinion, the idea that the current ruling KMT party in the ROC government has about the Mainland Area and the Taiwan Area is the result of themselves not being able to admit the fact that the Mainland has been ruled by other people for a long time. The Republic of China hasn’t ruled the Mainland for a long time. Instead, it has been ruled by the People’s Republic of China. What the ROC has ruled for the past 60 something years are Taiwan Island, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. In fact, the ROC and the PRC have been two separate sovereign states for a long time. Our government shouldn’t say “this is the agreement between the Mainland Area and the Free Area. It’s not between two countries.” Just like how the PRC shouldn’t say that Taiwan is part of their territory.

Taiwan isn’t an independent country. It is Republic of China that is an independent country. Before the ROC came over, Taiwan was colonized by Japan. It wasn’t an independent country. Before Japan fully colonized Taiwan, Taiwan declared independence and there was the Republic of Formosa ( However, Taiwan was only independent for 150 days before Japan conquered it. Before the Republic of Formosa, Taiwan was part of the Qing Dynasty.



The flag of Republic of Formosa. The Republic of Formosa led Taiwan to have a 150-day independence before Taiwan was fully colonized by Japan.

I think the reason why the young people in Taiwan now think Taiwan is a country is that we naturally developed identity connected to the soil we step on everyday. The number of people who regard themselves as Taiwanese has been the majority (source, and the number has been increasing. The younger generation born after the 70s grow up on this island, hearing that “Lee Teng-hui is the first elected president of Taiwan,” “Taiwan is a democratic country.” When we apply for our National ID card, we do it through the government in Taipei, not in Beijing. We have been hearing since we were children how different China and Taiwan are. Taiwanese education also started to be localized to Taiwan when we were in junior high school. The younger generation has walked further and further away from China. Whether the families of these young people were bensheng (people who were here before the ROC government came over to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-Shek) or waisheng (people who came over to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-Shek after WWII), it is hard to avoid these young people identifying themselves as “Taiwanese.” Even if these people don’t want to say that they are “Taiwanese” for the fear of being said to have connections with the DPP (the pro-independence party), they probably won’t say they are nationally Chinese. They will probably say they love Taiwan, but not China.


The research done by the Election Study Center National Chengchi University in 2013 shows that about 57% of the people in Taiwan think that they are Taiwanese (not Chinese). The number has been increasing for six years. Source:

Whether the people who think Taiwan is a country noticed the difference between “Taiwan” and “the Republic of China,” they seem to have accepted the ROC government is the government of Taiwan. One good example is that most people in Taiwan say that October Tenth is Taiwan’s birthday. However, that is only true when you equate Taiwan with the Republic of China.

When the ROC government is accepted, there is some problem to be solved. The ROC was the government that retreated to Taiwan after WWII when it was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party. It basically fled here and tried to continue the operation of the ROC government. It succeeded. However, the people that came over with this government were different from the people that had already been in Taiwan. They didn’t identify themselves with the island of Taiwan. That made sense, because they didn’t grow up on this island. That was also why when the ROC government first came to Taiwan, their main goal was to reclaim the Mainland.

The ROC government has been in Taiwan for over 60 years, and they still have this unsolved problem, because the ROC government still rules Taiwan with its constitution which says that their territory includes the Mainland (and Monglolia) and the “Free Area” (Taiwan). To put it plainly, legally according to the ROC constitution, the current one the current government uses now, says that Taiwan is just an area, not a country.

I have so many friends who don’t like to talk about politics, but more than often they talk about how much they don’t want to be part of China. They also like to stress that Taiwan is a country. When they hear the news about how Taiwan can’t hang their national flags in some international occasions, they feel angry and sad. When they travel abroad and get asked: “Oh you’re from Taiwan. Is Taiwan part of China?” they often answer promptly: “Of course not! Taiwan is a country!” They don’t seem to realize that they are talking about the most controversial political issue about Taiwan’s sovereignty, and what they really want is for Taiwan to be independent. When the politicians mention Taiwan independence, these people are silent, because they don’t want to be political. When they meet people from China, they are also silent, because they don’t want to talk/argue about politics.

I think the ROC government has long been aware of the difference between Taiwan and the Republic of China. Nevertheless, they cannot Taiwanize or localize the constitution because this is equal to declaring Taiwan independence. During the time when China would threaten us with military force, the ROC government didn’t want to do it. Now when China uses economical benefits to attract us, the ROC government probably doesn’t have the desire to do it anymore.

The government official has stated clearly that the Services Trade Agreement is regarded as being between the Mainland Area and Taiwan Area. It isn’t looked at as an agreement between two countries. The Taiwanese people now have to think about one thing: what kind of future do we want for Taiwan?

If what you want is also for Taiwan to be a country, don’t be afraid to say so, because a lot of people think the same as you.


Protesting against Service Pact at Formosa Boulevard and Central Park

中文版 Chinese Version

As soon I heard that there was going to be an event supporting the Occupy of Legislative Yuan, I didn’t hesitate at all before I decided to take part in it, because I support the Service Pact being reviewed clause-by-clause. I also really want to show the students who are occupying the Legislative Yuan now that they are not alone!

I know a lot of people could not sleep at all in the middle of night on the 19th, following the news update of a lot of activist groups on Facebook. I am really nervous. I know if this doesn’t grow bigger soon, the government is going to think they can just ignore us. Even though there have been a lot of protests all over Taiwan now, and the government still says nothing. This doesn’t mean that our protests mean nothing and don’t work though. Instead, we need even more people to stand up and speak up. More people means more power!

I went to the protest at Formosa Boulevard MRT last night. Today I went again to the protest at the intersection of Wufu and Zhongshan. My experience was that the protests in Kaohsiung really seem thousand times easier than the ones in Taipei. Taipei police were ordered to clear the people occupying the Legislative Yuan. The police in Kaohsiung were leading the people to go inside of the protesting event, with big smiles on their faces. The major who went through the Formosa Incident even came to speak to us to show support. Today at the protest at Central Park, from time to time there would be people giving us a big thumb-up.CIMG6288 CIMG6289 CIMG6299 CIMG6302

“Our Country’s Capitol is Nanjing”…what? Our…Your…Whose Country?


中文版 Chinese

I always know that the current government doesn’t really identify themselves as “Taiwanese” but Chinese, but this document issued by the Education Ministry to all the senior high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools in Taiwan really blew my mind.

The main purpose of this document is to direct the high schools and elementary schools how Taiwan and China should be marked on a map, which is a controversial topic in Taiwan. The second point states that the colors for Taiwan and China on the maps should be different. The third points states as follows:

“3. As for marking the capital, our country’s capital is Nanjing according to the constitution of Republic of China. Taipei is the current location of the central government. Considering that the legends on the map are used worldwide, the legend for the capital will be used for Taipei in the current textbooks. The accompanying text should state “the location of the central government.”

Okay, here we go, “our country’s capital is Nanjing.” When I read it, I was angry at first. I thought “our country’s capital is TAIPEI, NOT Nanjing!” But then I soon fully realized who is stating this sentence. It is Republic of China that is stating “our capital is Nanjing.”

Republic of China (ROC) still thinks that they rule the whole Mainland China. They want to reunite “ROC in Taiwan” with the bigger part of China over there across the strait. They still call Nanjing their capital. However, plenty of Taiwanese people like me have long been in Taiwan and think that Taiwan is their country and Taipei is the capital. We grew up on this island and the Taiwanese identity developed quite naturally.

Yesterday I told a group of my 40 high school students about this news and this document released by the Education Ministry. When I got the the part when I said “…and in the document, it says that ‘our country’s capital is Nanjing’,” all the students laughed like crazy. I didn’t quite expect this reaction. I thought they would all be silent like usual or look confused. But no. They laughed, like I was telling a joke or saying something silly. Taiwanese young kids think you’re making a joke, Education Ministry.

When our government issued a document like this, it pinches my heart, because it shows so sharply that there’s a big gap between what I want and what our government wants. I know that the country they call “our country” isn’t the same as the country I would call mine. They think their country is Republic of China, a country that rules Taiwan and the whole China over there (which is a huge joke) with the capital in Nanjing. I think my country is Taiwan, including the islands around, and the capital is Taipei. The weird thing here is that the government that’s leading Taiwan now, the ROC government, doesn’t think the same way as I do. But they’re ruling Taiwan. There’re plenty of people in Taiwan who think like me. My students are good examples. There’re also over 57% of the people in Taiwan that think they’re just “Taiwanese” now (source: This gap between the government and the people worries me, and I’m doubtful about if our current government, the ROC government, can give its people what is the best for the country of Taiwan?

I have to say though that I grow up thinking ROC is Taiwan, and I also identify the ROC flag as the flag for Taiwan. ROC is the government(country?) that has led Taiwan to what it is now, anyway. However, if I could choose, I would identify with the word Taiwan more. In the media in Taiwan, we often hear “Taiwanese government” as well, instead of saying “ROC government”. When people ask me where I’m from, I definitely always say I’m Taiwanese instead of saying…I’m a ROCer.

This is a hotly debated issue in Taiwan. I think that’s because the formation of Taiwanese identity is still on its way. With the data given by the survey done by National Chengchi University (source:, I think Taiwanese identity will only keep rising year after year. The government should not respond to this with ignorance.

Aiyo, My Mandarin Is Not Standard!

中文版  Chinese


In Taiwan, you’ll hear a lot of Taiwanese people say,

“Aiyo, my Mandarin isn’t standard.”

“If you want to learn standard Mandarin, you have to go to China.”


You might also hear a lot of foreign people in Taiwan say,

“I want to learn Mandarin in China, so I can learn the kind of Mandarin that everyone understands.”

“Taiwanese people pronounce ‘zhi’ and ‘zi’ almost the same. So confusing.”


Every time I hear comments like these, my blood pressure goes up rapidly. These comments are often based on misperceptions about Taiwan Mandarin. What is Taiwan Mandarin? Don’t confuse it with “Taiwan Guoyu”! Taiwan Guoyu is the accented Mandarin spoken non-natively by people whose mother-tongue is Taiwanese (Taiwanese Minnan). Taiwan Mandarin, on the other hand, is one of the mother-tongues on this island now. Some Taiwanese people don’t speak the other “native languages” (Taiwanese, Hakka, or aboriginal languages), but only Taiwan Mandarin. Taiwan Mandarin may have come from Taiwan Guoyu, but it is now a separate variation of natively spoken Mandarin, just like the Mandarin in Beijing.

When the government of Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist Party was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party and came to Taiwan, they practiced the “Guoyu Policy”, which means “National Language Policy.” What they meant by Guoyu, National Language, was Mandarin, or what’s called Putonghua in China now. In public, all the Taiwanese people, young and old, were forced to speak only Guoyu, a new language that they had to learn from scratch. Then, these Taiwanese people who used Mandarin as their second language slowly brought changes to this language. Here are some examples of Taiwan Guoyu spoken by people whose native language is Taiwanese Minnan: chi1 fan4 (eating a meal) becomes chu1 huan4, guo2 yu3 (national language) becomes go2 yi3. Today the people who tend to speak Taiwan Guoyu are people over 50, or those who live in the area of Taiwan where the vast majority of people still speak Taiwanese as their first language. One of the reasons why these people speak Taiwan Guoyu is that they didn’t have native speakers of Mandarin around to imitate when they were learning the language (The mojority of the people spoke Taiwanese then).

The younger generation in Taiwan mostly speaks Taiwan Mandarin now. Taiwan Mandarin is not mother-tongue-accented Mandarin. It is a fully developed language variation. Just like other languages, Taiwan Mandarin has both formal and colloquial forms. Formal form of Taiwan Mandarin is taught in school, and appears on TV news programs or subway announcements in Taiwan. It is almost the same as Putonghua (standard Mandarin spoken in China). Some differences are that the pronunciations of “zhi,” “chi,” and “shi” in Taiwan Mandarin are less retroflex (pronounced with the tongue curled back) than the same ones in China (but still sound different from “zi, ”“ci,” and “si”). There are also some variations in word usage and tones. The other kind of Taiwan Mandarin is the colloquial kind, which can often be heard when Taiwanese people chat with each other. In this variation, the pronunciation of “zhi,” “chi,” and “shi” are typically identical with “zi, ”“ci,” and “si,” though some Taiwanese people won’t ever admit that. Another pronunciation difference is the merger of “en, ” and “eng” (they usually won’t admit this either; just observe them typing Chinese sometimes). The informal Taiwan Mandarin is heavily influenced by Taiwanese Minnan in terms of vocabulary and grammar as well. For example, the “xiong1” in “yong4 hen2 xiong1” (meaning using extremely fast and in big amount)  is a word imported into Taiwan Mandarin from Taiwanese. Asking people if they have been to the Love River in Kaohsiung, an informal Taiwan Mandarin speaker would say “ni2 you3 qu4 guo4 ai4 he2 ma?” but a Putonghua speaker will say “ni2 qu4 guo4 ai4 he2 le ma?”

The Taiwanese people who claim to have non-standard Mandarin often don’t realize that the variation of Taiwan Mandarin they speak has formal and informal variations. They probably are not aware that the variation they use when they give speeches is really similar to Putonghua, and this is the kind of Mandarin that foreign people will learn in Taiwan. The difference between the two is similar to that between American and British English. Some people might even mistakenly think that the Taiwan Mandarin they speak everyday is the same as what people call Taiwan Guoyu. Taiwan Mandarin is a newly arisen Mandarin variation. Everyone is still trying to figure out how to feel about it.

Whether you’re speaking the formal of the colloquial variation of Taiwan Mandarin, it is mutually intelligible with Putonghua in China. Even if you go to China to learn Mandarin, you still have to get used to different variations of Mandarin within China. I understand the merger of “en” and “eng” or “zhi,” “chi,” “shi” and “zi,” “ci,” “si” in colloquial Taiwan Mandarin can be confusing to Chinese learners, but one can certainly get used to it. Context is often enough to avoid misunderstandings. This is similar to how the English taught in schools is different from colloquial English in everyday life. In addition, Americans from different rigions all have different accents anyway. When we learn the Enlgish taught in schools, we still have to get used to the local variations when we really speak it in different areas.

The difference between Taiwan Mandarin and Putonghua in China is like the difference between British and American English. There are some variations in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, but it doesn’t prevent one from understanding the other. Aside from Taiwan Mandarin, there are also other variations of Mandarin, such as Hong Kong Mandarin, Singapore Mandarin and Malaysian Mandarin, just like how English has other variations besides American English, such as Australian English, South African English, or Scottish English. The language or the language variation you speak represent your background and ethnic identity. What language variation you want to learn depends on where you are going to live and which cuture you identify with. Saying that the language variation you speak yourself is non-standard is selling yourself short, and saying that the language variation other people speak is non-standard is arrogant and disrespectful.

12-Year-Olds’ World

中文版 Chinese

Being “internationalized” or having “world vision” is a canned phrase used to describe the goal for schools and businesses alike. In my opinion, it’s just window dressing most of the time. For example, universities might brag about having an increasing number of international students, but in fact they put them in separate dorms so Taiwanese students/school officials don’t have to deal with the cultural clashes.

I’ve always been looking for chances to see how much Taiwanese students know about the world. This summer, I had the opportunity to teach English to two classes of students  freshly enrolled in junior high school. I took the chance to do a little survey during the class about place and country names in English. I thought they would be good subjects because I would be able to get a glimpse of the fruit of Taiwanese elementary school education regarding “world vision”, and they weren’t so jaded by Taiwanese high school education that they would be unmotivated to even fill out the blanks.

So this is how I did it. I chose 27 countries in total, as shown on the map below:

blank map with numbers

I chose these countries because I thought these would be easier for the students, since they are on the news more and people talk about them more in Taiwan.

I distributed 60 handouts including the map shown above and 27 blanks for their answers. I gave them 10-15 minutes to fill in the countries they knew or thought that they knew. Then, I gave them the correct answers and told them to use a different color of pen to correct their answers. Among the handouts returned to me, 45 were countable and valid data.

I thought it was interesting that the first reaction a lot of students had was shouting, “Teacher, why isn’t Taiwan numbered?” So that’s comforting. A lot of them know where Taiwan is, and no one asked me “Teacher, why isn’t Republic of China numbered?”

So how much do these 12-year-olds know?

Most of them know where China and Japan are (93% for both). Many of them know where the Philippines are (71%). I started out this project expecting the worst, because I’m generally pessimistic about the Taiwanese cramming style of teaching. So I already consider it comforting that most of these kids were able to name the countries closest to us.

Following China, Japan, the Philippines were Australia (56%), U.S.A (47%), Russia (36%), Canada (29%), New Zealand (18%), India (16%), and Egypt (11%). The percentages were relatively low for all of these countries, especially for Australia, the U.S.A. and Canada when considering that they had come up often in conversation, and a lot of native English-speaking teachers are from these countries.

All the other countries not mentioned had percentages under 10%: Spain (9%), France (9%), Indonesia (7%), Mexico (4%) and Germany (4%). Only one student knew where Norway is. Same for Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

What was also interesting was their mistakes. I really appreciate these mistakes because they tell us something more interesting than correct answers. Most of the students just left the places they didn’t know blank.

wrong answers

The number in the parentheses is the number of students who gave that answer. So yeah, three people named Canada “U.S.A.” Surprising? What’s probably more funny is that one student named the U.S.A. “Russia”.

Another thing I would like to mention is that all the students seemed to enjoy this activity a lot. I could see that they were actively thinking when they were filling out their answers. When I announced the correct answers, they would raise their hands (usually you have to push ten times for that in Taiwan) and share what they knew about the countries with me. A lot of them were stereotypes, true, but those at least gave me chances to correct them. I don’t know if they’ll stay like this until the end of senior high school or if they’ll become super jaded, teacher-hating students. I certainly hope they can keep up their interest in the world.

2013 Formosa Foundation Ambassador Program

中文版 Chinese

I took part in the Formosa Foundation Ambassador Program with all my passion for Taiwan, and I came out with even more and I suspect I am starting to obsess over Taiwan. I have been thinking about what I can do for Taiwan ever since the program ended on June 28th.

“Write about it. Writing helps me organize my thoughts.”

The program lasted for two weeks. There were Taiwanese people from Taiwan, Taiwanese people who are/were studying in the US, Taiwanese-Americans, and other Americans. There were a total of 18 of us. Most of them were bilingual in Taiwanese/Mandarin and English or even trilingual in Taiwanese, Mandarin and English. One of the guys Jeff  I met in the program could even consistently speak with these three languages in a single sentence.

In the first week, we attended a lot lectures and speeches given by experts on Taiwan issues, such as Randall Schriver, Rupert Hammond, and Richard Bush. We also met a lot of big supporters of Taiwan who are working on the Hill, such as Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Ileana Ros-Letinen (R-FL). We typically started the lectures at 9am and ended around 6pm or 5pm. In the second week, my group members, a Taiwanese-American and another American, and I took what we had learned into the congressional offices to meet with congressional members or their staffers, sharing with them the information we knew about Taiwan’s current situation and giving them suggestions about what Taiwan needs now. We had to make appointments with all those offices ourselves actually, and I should express my thanks to my group members Rebecca and Cedric. We mostly met with the congressional staffers, but we did meet a congressman in person, Representative Mark Meadows from North Carolina.

Taiwanese people typically don’t have an international perspective on politics and cross-strait relations. If more Taiwanese people realize, for example, what US policies have affected Taiwan and how those policies come into place, they would understand what role Taiwan plays on the global stage. They will also realize that Taiwan really doesn’t stand alone in this world. Cross-strait politics don’t only involve Taiwan and China. This feeling of isolation leads Taiwanese people to think that no one really cares about them in the world and no one really knows anything about Taiwan. As a result, pessimism about Taiwan’s current situation comes into place and they themselves become those people who don’t know anything about, and don’t care about, Taiwan.

The world is watching. We should keep fighting for Taiwan.

Rupert Hammond giving us a speech

Rupert Hammond giving us a speech

Senator Talent giving us a speech

Senator Talent giving us a speech

Randall Schriver giving us a speech

Randall Schriver giving us a speech

Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) giving us a speech

Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) giving us a speech

Meeting with Ileana Ros-Letinen (R-FL)

Meeting with Ileana Ros-Letinen (R-FL)

Richard Bush giving us a speech

Richard Bush giving us a speech

Meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Our group meeting with Representative Mark Meadows
Our group meeting with Representative Mark Meadows