Taiwan’s declining birthrate forces schools to close

Source: The Guardian (6/14/24)
Empty classrooms, silent halls: Taiwan’s declining birthrate forces schools to close
Authorities fear looming economic crises caused by an expanding elderly population without enough workers to support them
By and Lin Chi-hui in Taipei

Chung Hsing private high school in Taipei, Taiwan, which closed in 2019 due to low enrolment. Dozens of schools, colleges and universities are closing their doors due to population decline. Photograph: Helen Davidson/The Guardian

In the courtyard of the Chung Hsing private high school, desks and chairs are piled high like a monument or an unlit bonfire. Mounds of debris cover the play area, as two construction workers pull more broken furniture from empty classrooms, throwing them towards a pickup truck.

The central Taipei private school closed in 2019 after failing to reverse financial problems caused by low enrolment, and was sold to developers. The school was an early victim of a problem now sweeping across Taiwan’s educational institutions: decades of declining births mean there are no longer enough students to fill classrooms.

Like much of east Asia, Taiwan is struggling to achieve the “replacement rate” needed to maintain a stable population. That rate is 2.1 babies per woman, but Taiwan hasn’t hit that number since the mid-80s. In 2023, the rate was 0.865.

Demographers and governments fear looming economic crises caused by a growing elderly population without enough working taxpayers to support them. In Taiwan, the impact of shrinking generations has already started affecting military recruitment, and now is flowing on to enrolments at schools and universities. Continue reading Taiwan’s declining birthrate forces schools to close

Taiwan factcheckers

Source: The Guardian (6/4/24)
From beef noodles to bots: Taiwan’s factcheckers on fighting Chinese disinformation and ‘unstoppable’ AI
Taiwan is the target of more disinformation from abroad than any other democracy, according to University of Gothenburg study
By Elaine Chan

A person uses her mobile phone outside a restaurant in Taipei. Experts blame China for much of the disinformation aimed at Taiwan. Photograph: Ann Wang/Reuters

Charles Yeh’s battle with disinformation in Taiwan began with a bowl of beef noodles. Nine years ago, the Taiwanese engineer was at a restaurant with his family when his mother-in-law started picking the green onions out of her food. Asked what she was doing, she explained that onions can harm your liver. She knew this, she said, because she had received text messages telling her so.

Yeh was puzzled by this. His family had always happily eaten green onions. So he decided to set the record straight.

He put the truth in a blog post and circulated it among family and friends through the messaging app Line. They shared it more broadly, and soon he received requests from strangers asking to be connected to his personal Line account.

“There wasn’t much of a factchecking concept in Taiwan then, but I realised there was a demand. I could also help resolve people’s problems,” Yeh said. So he continued, and in 2015 launched the website MyGoPen, which means, “don’t be fooled again” in Taiwanese.

Within two years, MyGoPen had 50,000 subscribers. Today, it has more than 400,000. In 2023, it received 1.3m fact check requests and has debunked disinformation on everything from carcinogens in bananas to the false claim that Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, had a child out of marriage. Continue reading Taiwan factcheckers

Why lawmakers are brawling and people protesting in Taiwan

Source: NYT (5/28/24)
Why Lawmakers Are Brawling and People Are Protesting in Taiwan
Supporters of President Lai Ching-te are protesting legislative amendments introduced by the opposition that would limit his authority.
By Amy Chang Chien and 

Throngs of people pack a city street, with one person holding aloft a Taiwanese flag.

Supporters of President Lai Ching-te at a protest in Taipei, Taiwan, last week. Credit…Yasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Opposition lawmakers in Taiwan pushed through measures on Tuesday that could challenge the powers of the new president, Lai Ching-te, defying tens of thousands of his supporters who poured into the streets in recent days in protest.

The legislation proposed by Mr. Lai’s opponents gained passage only a little over a week after he took office, highlighting the challenges he will face in pursuing his agenda without a legislative majority. In elections in January, the opposition Nationalist Party and Taiwan People’s Party together secured more seats in the 113-seat legislature than Mr. Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party.

The bill backed by the two opposition parties would expand the legislature’s powers to investigate the administration. Mr. Lai’s supporters have accused the opposition of overreach and of serving the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, which claims Taiwan as its territory. Nationalist and Taiwan People’s Party legislators have rejected those accusations, and Mr. Lai’s officials have not offered proof of allegations that Beijing orchestrated the legislation.

Debates in the legislature have been heated. Politicians jostled and fought, and members of Mr. Lai’s party covered the floor and walls of the chamber with protest placards.

The legislative changes would give lawmakers more power to question senior government officials and demand internal documents. The amendments would also authorize lawmakers to punish officials found in contempt, which could include refusing to answer questions or hand over documents. Continue reading Why lawmakers are brawling and people protesting in Taiwan

Taiwan will tear down remaining Chiang statues

Source: SCMP (4/22/24)
Taiwan will tear down all remaining statues of Chiang Kai-shek in public spaces
DPP government says more than 760 statues of Chiang, who ruled the island for nearly three decades, will be swiftly removed. The move is seen as a bid to erase his legacy and ‘will be seen as an unfriendly gesture towards mainland China’, analyst says
By Lawrence Chung in Taipei

There are hundreds of statues of late president Chiang Kai-shek in public spaces across Taiwan. Photo: Shutterstock Images

Taiwan’s government will remove all remaining statues of late president Chiang Kai-shek from public spaces in what is seen as a bid to erase his legacy and the historical link with mainland China.

Chiang ruled the island for nearly three decades until his death in 1975. He had led his Nationalist or Kuomintang troops to Taiwan in 1949 and set up an interim government on the island, declaring martial law, after being defeated in a civil war by the Communists on the mainland.

Taiwan’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party government set up a transitional justice commission in 2018 to investigate Chiang’s rule, finding perceived political dissidents had been persecuted and he had misused government funds to benefit the KMT.

One of the commission’s proposals was to remove thousands of Chiang statues across Taiwan. Critics have branded Chiang as a dictator who sent troops to kill hundreds of civilians during unrest in 1947 and say he does not deserve to be remembered.

On Monday, a cabinet official told the legislature that the interior ministry would swiftly remove the more than 760 statues of Chiang that are still standing across the island. Continue reading Taiwan will tear down remaining Chiang statues

Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan

Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan
2024 UCLA-NTNU Taiwan Studies Initiative Conference
Friday, April 19, 2024 – Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan

Image Credit: 作者 (Photographer):余如季 (Yu Ru-ji)。《蚵女》拍攝現場採訪照 (Interview Photo from the filming of “Oyster Girl”)。典藏者:余立。數位物件典藏者:中央研究院數位文化中心、國家電影及視聽文化中心。創用CC 姓名標示-非商業性-相同方式分享 3.0台灣(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 TW)。發佈於《開放博物館》[https://openmuseum.tw/muse/digi_object/6262314d95bf7f0b4f4528ae98bd1ec4#211035](2024/02/06瀏覽)

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Organized by Shu-mei Shih (Irving and Jean Stone Chair in the Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature, Asian Languages and Cultures, and Asian American Studies, UCLA) and Faye Qiyu Lu (Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA), the Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan conference is presented as part of the UCLA-NTNU Taiwan Studies Initiative, a partnership of UCLA and National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) that aims to create research synergies to promote cutting-edge research in Taiwan studies.

Over the past decades between the “old” and the “new” Cold Wars, the (in)significance of Taiwan in world culture and history has often been determined by ideological assumptions that are overly simplistic. Yet not only have approaches to Taiwan studies in Taiwan experienced drastic changes (from area studies to postcolonial to settler colonial critiques), the positionality of Taiwan has also demonstrated unique potential for relational comparisons with the world. This conference examines ways of rethinking Cold War culture and history in Taiwan as well as the implications of the global Cold War culture and history for Taiwan studies from interdisciplinary and transhistorical perspectives. How do philosophical thought, literary and cultural productions, and geopolitical relations intersect when we situate Taiwan in the global Cold War? What does “being human” mean in Cold War Taiwan, taking into consideration Sinophone and transpacific entanglements? How is Cold War cultural politics negotiated in the developments of literary, cinematic, and media genres? What does the practice of rethinking Cold War culture and history in Taiwan do to better our understanding of Taiwan, China, and the world at the current moment with the formation of what may be called the Second Cold War? Continue reading Rethinking Cold War Culture and History in Taiwan

Special issue of Taiwan Lit–cfp

Call for papers: Special Issue of Taiwan Lit
Theme: Mobility in the 21st Century Taiwan Literature and Film
Guest editors: Pei-yin Lin, Hsin-Chin Evelyn Hsieh, Wan-jui Wang

While Taiwan-centric nativization has been a prominent trend in post-martial law Taiwan literature and film, there has been a notable transformation in literary works and films in the new millennium. This transformation has been characterized by endeavors to explore Taiwan’s intricate interactions with the global community, specifically through the lens of people’s movement, migration, and displacement. As nearly a quarter-century has passed, it is now an opportune moment to reflect on how literary works and films produced in the past 25 years have portrayed Taiwan’s evolving social, cultural, and political landscape, as well as the experiences of individual writers and directors navigating these transformative shifts.

The term “mobility” can be understood from various perspectives. It can encompass the actual movements of Taiwanese people, both domestically from rural areas to cities or vice versa, and transnationally, such as traveling or living abroad facilitated by globalization. It also includes those who immigrate to Taiwan from elsewhere in search of better economic opportunities or more conducive creative environments. Literature and films provide creative outlets for expressing the challenges faced by individuals as they adapt to urban life, confront social disparities, and grapple with issues of identity and belonging. Continue reading Special issue of Taiwan Lit–cfp

Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies 2024-25 repost

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University is pleased to announce the 2024-25 competition for the Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies.

The Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies sponsors one Postdoctoral Fellow and one Pre-doctoral Fellow to join the Fairbank Center to pursue Taiwan-focused research in humanities and social sciences for six to twelve months between August 1, 2024, and July 31, 2025. Affiliation for the full academic year is encouraged. Fellows

Hou Family Fellows are expected to reside in the Greater Boston area for the duration of the fellowship. Fellows will have the opportunity to engage with the Fairbank Center’s interdisciplinary community of scholars and will have access to Harvard’s world-class libraries and other resources.

In addition to maintaining their own research agenda, the Hou Family Fellows will contribute to the Fairbank Center community in ways that could include the following:

  • Presenting research to the Center’s Taiwan Studies Workshop series, or to other Fairbank Center events and audiences,
  • Participating in professional development workshops and serving as a mentor for current graduate students,
  • Attending seminars and academic events and participating in community building activities.

For more information see  https://fairbank.fas.harvard.edu/programs/hou-family-fellows-in-taiwan-studies/ Continue reading Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies 2024-25 repost

Shih Ming-teh dies at 83

Source: NYT (1/23/24)
Shih Ming-teh, Defiant Activist for a Democratic Taiwan, Dies at 83
He spent 25 years in prison for campaigning for Taiwan’s independence and democratization. After his release, he led protests to oust one its presidents.
By Chris Buckley and 

A black and white photo of Shih Ming-teh in a suit jacket over an open-collared shirt as helmeted police officers escort him toward a courtroom. He is smiling, and his hands are in his pockets.

Shih Ming-teh being taken into court in 1980 to face trial after he helped lead a pro-democracy protest in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, that was brutally broken up by the police. Credit…CNA

Shih Ming-teh, a lifelong campaigner for democracy in Taiwan who spent over two decades in prison for his cause and later started a protest movement against a president from his former party, died on Jan. 15, his 83rd birthday, in Taipei, the island’s capital.

The cause was complications of an operation to remove a liver tumor, said his wife, Chia-chiun Chen Shih.

Mr. Shih helped lead a pro-democracy protest in 1979 that was brutally broken up by the police and that is now viewed as a turning point in Taiwan’s journey from authoritarianism to democracy. When he stood trial over the confrontation, he smiled defiantly to the cameras, although his original teeth had been shattered years before under police torture, and delivered a groundbreaking argument for Taiwan’s independence from China, an idea banned under the rule of Chiang Kai-shek and then his son, Chiang Ching-kuo.

“I was imprisoned for 25 years, and I faced the possibility of the death penalty twice, but each time I came out, I instantly plunged back into the whole effort to overthrow the Chiang family dictatorship,” Mr. Shih said in an interview with The New York Times in 2022. “I’m someone who never had a youth.” Continue reading Shih Ming-teh dies at 83

KMT fights to survive

Source: Wall Street Journal (1/19/24)
Party Backing China in Taiwan Fights to Survive
By Chun Han Wong

Kuomintang candidate Hou Yu-ih speaks at a campaign rally. I- HWA CHENG/ AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE/ GETTY IMAGES

TAIPEI—Beijing’s closest political partner in Taiwan is fighting to remain relevant in an island democracy where voters increasingly see a future that is detached from an authoritarian China.

The Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, once governed China and had dominated Taiwanese politics for decades. It is now on its longest losing streak in presidential elections since this self-ruled island started choosing its leader by popular vote, consigned to a third straight term in opposition.

Whether the century-old party can get back on its feet has ramifications for Taipei’s rocky relationship with Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its territory and considers the KMT a useful partner in efforts to assimilate the island. The prospect that Taiwanese voters might never elect a Beijingfriendly government again could tilt China toward harsher methods to seek unification, including military force.

KMT leaders have put on a brave face, saying they still have the clout to keep Taiwan’s ruling party in check during the next four years. But many members worry that, without decisive overhauls, one of Asia’s oldest political parties could fade into irrelevance, as more Taiwanese embrace a local identity separate from China and reject the KMT’s perceived coziness with Beijing. Continue reading KMT fights to survive

Taiwan’s democracy draws envy and tears for visiting Chinese

Source: NYT (1/19/24)
Taiwan’s Democracy Draws Envy and Tears for Visiting Chinese
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
People with personal ties to China, on a tour to see Taiwan’s election up close, learned of the island’s path to democracy — messy, violent and, ultimately, inspiring.
By Li Yuan, Reporting from Taipei and Tainan, Taiwan

In an illustration, three faces peer skyward as campaign balloons float and streamers fly in front of a rally.

Credit…Xinmei Liu

At the Taipei train station, a Chinese human rights activist named Cuicui watched with envy as six young Taiwanese politicians campaigned for the city’s legislative seats. A decade ago, they had been involved in parallel democratic protest movements — she in China, and the politicians on the opposite side of the Taiwan Strait.

“We came of age as activists around the same time. Now they’re running as legislators while my peers and I are in exile,” said Cuicui, who fled China for Southeast Asia last year over security concerns.

Cuicui was one in a group of eight women I followed last week in Taiwan before the Jan. 13 election. Their tour was called “Details of a Democracy” and was put together by Annie Jieping Zhang, a mainland-born journalist who worked in Hong Kong for two decades before moving to Taiwan during the pandemic. Her goal is to help mainland Chinese see Taiwan’s election firsthand.

The women went to election rallies and talked to politicians and voters, as well as homeless people and other disadvantaged groups. They attended a stand-up comedy show by a man from China, now living in Taiwan, whose humor addressed topics that are taboo in his home country.

It was an emotional trip filled with envy, admiration, tears and revelations. Continue reading Taiwan’s democracy draws envy and tears for visiting Chinese

DPP battles to prove its staying power

Source: NYT (1/12/24)
Taiwan Party, Reviled by China, Battles to Prove Its Staying Power
The Democratic Progressive Party has transformed Taiwan into a bastion against Chinese power. Now it is promising a mix of change and continuity.
By Chris Buckley and 

The Grand Hotel Taipei in Taipei, Taiwan in December. The Democratic Progressive Party was formed in the ballroom of the hotel in 1986. Credit…

Nearly four decades ago, a group of lawyers, intellectuals and activists assembled in a hotel ballroom in Taipei to found an illegal political party dedicated to ending authoritarian rule in Taiwan.

No longer a scrappy upstart, the Democratic Progressive Party, born in that ballroom, is now seeking an unprecedented third consecutive term. It needs to persuade voters that after eight years in power, the party can renew itself while also protecting Taiwan from mounting pressures imposed by Beijing, which claims the island as its territory.

Led by Vice President Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate, the D.P.P. faces a stiff challenge in an election on Saturday from its chief rival, the Nationalist Party, which favors expanded ties with China. Polls have indicated that the Nationalists, led by Hou Yu-ih, a former policeman and the mayor of New Taipei City, may have a fighting chance of returning to power for the first time since 2016, an outcome that could reshape the region’s geopolitical landscape. Election results are expected by Saturday night.

For Su Chiao-hui, a lawmaker with the Democratic Progressive Party, the stakes of the vote are especially personal. Her father, Su Tseng-chang, helped found the party when Taiwan was under martial law and later served as a premier in both the party’s two phases in power, including under the current president, Tsai Ing-wen. Continue reading DPP battles to prove its staying power

Island in Between

Island in Between, directed by S. Leo Chiang, has been shortlisted for an Oscar in the “documentary short film” category. The film can be viewed on the New York Times Youtube site:

Here’s a synopsis:

The rural Taiwanese outer islands of Kinmen sit merely 2 miles off the coast of China. Kinmen attracts tourists for its remains from the 1949 Chinese Civil War. It also marks the frontline for Taiwan in its escalating tension with China. Filmmaker S. Leo Chiang weaves lyrical vignettes of tourist visits and local life with his own narrative as someone negotiating ambivalent personal bonds to Taiwan, China, and the US, ISLAND IN BETWEEN explores the uneasy peace in these islands, and contemplates Taiwan’s uncertain future.

Taiwan likes its democracy loud and proud

Source: NYT (1/11/24)
‘Frozen Garlic!’ Taiwan Likes Its Democracy Loud and Proud
At the island’s election rallies, warming up the crowd for candidates is crucial. “You have to light a fire in their hearts,” one host says.
By Chris Buckley and 

A large nighttime crowd stands facing a stage on which a man stands speaking, and three large screens show the same image.

Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party, at a campaign event in New Taipei City.

Huang Chen-yu strode onto an outdoor stage in a southern Taiwanese county, whooping and hollering as she roused the crowd of 20,000 into a joyous frenzy — to welcome a succession of politicians in matching jackets.

Taiwan is in the final days of its presidential election contest, and the big campaign rallies, with M.C.s like Ms. Huang, are boisterous, flashy spectacles — as if a variety show and a disco crashed into a candidate’s town hall meeting.

At the high point of the rally, the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te, was introduced to the crowd in Chiayi, a county in southern Taiwan. Ms. Huang roared in Taiwanese, “Frozen garlic!”

The phrase “dongsuan” sounds like “get elected” and, yes, also like “frozen garlic.” Ms. Huang and another M.C. led the crowd of supporters, now on their feet, in a rapid-fire, call-and-response chant: “Lai Ching-te! Frozen garlic! Lai Ching-te! Frozen garlic!” Then they sped up: “Lai Ching-te! Lai Ching-te! Lai Ching-te! Frozen garlic! Frozen garlic! Frozen garlic!”

For Ms. Huang, the event, days before Taiwan’s election on Saturday, was one of at least 15 rallies she would have led by the end of this campaign season. Continue reading Taiwan likes its democracy loud and proud

How Taiwanese identity has evolved

Source: NPR (1/8/24)
How Taiwanese identity has evolved on the island in recent generations
By , , , , Hugo Peng

What it means to be “Taiwanese” varies from one generation to the next, influenced by the island’s complicated history with China. NPR talks with members of one family across generations.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And I’m Ailsa Chang in Taipei, Taiwan, where I often visited as a kid because this is where my family is from, going back centuries. But, you know, all through my life, I never really thought of myself as Taiwanese, even though I grew up speaking Taiwanese. My parents always just said, you are Chinese, just like, well, someone such as Emily Feng is.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: NPR’s Emily Feng covers China and Taiwan from her base here in Taipei.

FENG: But to be clear, my parents emigrated to the U.S. from China.

CHANG: That’s right. And yet, Emily, a lot of people would clump you and me together as Chinese.

FENG: Yes. And identity is a hugely sensitive issue for this island of 23 million people. Because even though more than 90% of people living in Taiwan can trace their roots to mainland China, the majority of them now identify in polls as Taiwanese only. And that’s a huge shift from just 30 years ago.

CHANG: Exactly. And part of the reason that we’re here is because there’s a really consequential presidential election this week. And for many voters, at the heart of this election is the question, what does it mean to be Taiwanese? Continue reading How Taiwanese identity has evolved

Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies 2024-25

The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University is pleased to announce the 2024-25 competition for the Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies.

The Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies sponsors one Postdoctoral Fellow and one Pre-doctoral Fellow to join the Fairbank Center to pursue Taiwan-focused research in humanities and social sciences for six to twelve months between August 1, 2024, and July 31, 2025. Affiliation for the full academic year is encouraged. Fellows

Hou Family Fellows are expected to reside in the Greater Boston area for the duration of the fellowship. Fellows will have the opportunity to engage with the Fairbank Center’s interdisciplinary community of scholars and will have access to Harvard’s world-class libraries and other resources.

In addition to maintaining their own research agenda, the Hou Family Fellows will contribute to the Fairbank Center community in ways that could include the following:

  • Presenting research to the Center’s Taiwan Studies Workshop series, or to other Fairbank Center events and audiences,
  • Participating in professional development workshops and serving as a mentor for current graduate students,
  • Attending seminars and academic events and participating in community building activities.

For more information see  https://fairbank.fas.harvard.edu/programs/hou-family-fellows-in-taiwan-studies/ Continue reading Hou Family Fellowships in Taiwan Studies 2024-25