Written by Chee-Hann Wu. The world is filled with diverse cultures and histories, each with its unique narratives and connections. This special issue explores Taiwan and Canada’s fascinating cultural and historical ties. Despite their geographical distance, these two nations share surprising parallels that have shaped their identities and fostered mutual understanding. From immigration patterns to artistic influences, this special issue demonstrates how the cultural and historical connection between Taiwan and Canada is a testament to the power of shared experiences and the ability of diverse nations to forge meaningful bonds.
Author: Chee-Hann Wu
Wave Makers on Netflix: A Vision of Taiwanese Politics Not ‘Amid Tensions’
Written by Chieh-Ting Yeh. “Wave Makers” (2023; 人選之人-造浪者) is a new drama on Netflix about political staffers trying to win a presidential election in the last few months of the campaign. This may sound like the premise of many television shows in the political intrigue genre, but it is the first of its kind from Taiwan to be available to a worldwide audience. The drama addresses various political issues relevant to contemporary Taiwan, including environmental concerns, energy policies, and workplace sexual harassment, reflecting the ongoing public debates on these topics. But it is glaring in what it is missing: Taiwan-China relations.
The Limits of “Ecological Development”: Making Existing Lifeworlds Visible on Taipei’s Shezidao
Written by Aaron Su. In March 2023, yet another round of protests broke out in response to development plans on Taipei’s Shezidao, a flood-prone peninsula on the outer edges of the city home to over 11,000 residents. Spanning multiple mayoral regimes, the Taipei government’s plans to construct on the currently development-restricted Shezidao has been met with dissatisfaction time and again from its residents, who worry about how seemingly optimistic promises of uplift and revitalization spell evictions and other drastic changes to their existing economies, social networks, and modes of life.
Queering the Intergenerational Remembrance of the White Terror
Written by Linshan Jiang. In 2020 and 2021, the National Human Rights Museum and Spring Hill Publishing released two literary collections on the White Terror in Taiwan (1947–1987): a four-volume novel collection entitled Making the Past in the Moment (2020) and a five-volume essay collection, entitled Soul and Ash (2021), co-edited by two Taiwanese writers, Hu Shuwen (1970– ) and Tong Weiger (1977– ). “White Terror” refers to the 50-year oppressive rule by the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) in Taiwan after the Republic of China took over Taiwan from Japan in 1945. Then the KMT lost the Chinese Civil War (1945–1949) and was exiled to Taiwan in 1949. As a result, it is officially known as the martial law period. Although it should be admitted that the concept of “white terror” may not encompass every aspect of the martial law period, my focus is on the continuing oppression of the people due to KMT’s authoritarian rule, and I will mainly use White Terror to refer to this period in this article.
Understanding Taiwanese Literature Beyond Borders
Written by Jenna Tang. Literature from Taiwan is considerably underrepresented in the English-speaking world. Several literary themes are specific to the place, its languages, cultures, and history that haven’t been fully explored over time. As a Taiwanese writer and translator myself, I am often questioned: “How do these books from Taiwan travel across borders?”
Taiwanese Literature through the Lens of World Literature: Publications in 2022 and 2023
Written by Jessica Ssu-Chieh Fan. The past year, from 2022 to 2023, has witnessed some exciting achievements in Taiwanese literature. Malaysian-Chinese Taiwan-based novelist Chang Kuei-hsing won the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, one of the most prestigious literary prizes for contemporary prose and poetry written in Chinese. From the discourses surrounding this literary event, including Chang’s acceptance speech and the remarks by Chang’s nominator E.K. Tan, some evolving trends related to broader paradigm shifts in Taiwanese literary studies can be discerned. Both Chang and Tan referenced the hybrid transcultural aesthetic influences epitomised by Chang’s literary style, which Tan described as “a unique branch of Chinese literature as world literature.” Another Taiwanese writer who has garnered significant international attention is Kevin Chen. His novel Ghost Town, translated into English by Darryl Sterk, was featured on the Best Books of World Literature of 2022 by Library Journal and on the longlist of the PEN Translation Prize 2023.
Situating Taiwanese Literature in the Framework of World Literature
Written by Pei-yin Lin and Wen-chi Li. World literature, a term for which Goethe is usually credited as the first proponent, has generated discussions in the West since the second half of the 20th century, particularly since the late 1990s. Casanova’s sociological studies of the “world republic of letter,” Moretti’s call for a “distant reading” and attention to variations in the genre, and Damrosch’s shying away from the literary canon to the circulation of texts are oft-quoted examples. These discussions have left noticeable impacts on the discipline of comparative literature, encouraged us to step out of the usual aesthetics confined by “great tradition”, as Leavis notes, and expanded our understanding of a literary canon beyond Shakespeare and Flaubert to include Mahfouz and Cao Xueqin. Nevertheless, these narratives cannot escape their European and North American backgrounds. Examples proposed by scholars or readers, such as The Guardian’s “The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time,” are often coloured by the Euro-American centrism in which Western works emerge, receive canonisation, circulate within Europe and North America, and subsequently are distributed to the rest of the world.
Taiwanese Literature Beyond Taiwan
Written by Chee-Hann Wu. On 12 March 2023, Taiwan lost to Cuba in a World Baseball Classic qualifier, eliminating the former from the tournament. For most people, Taiwan and Cuba are like two parallel lines with almost nothing in common except their passion for baseball. If you use “Taiwan” and “Cuba” as keywords for a quick Google search, the first ten pages are all about baseball, with a few random advertisements from travel agencies. What if the relationship between the two is more than that? What if the fate of the two countries is intricately intertwined? Huang Chong Kai’s The Formosa Exchange begins with such a premise.
Graduation Trip: From Bland Bureaucrat to Madame Liberty
Written by Chieh-Ting Yeh. In 2011, a relatively unknown politician in Taiwan named Tsai Ing-wen became the presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party, which was at the time the opposition. She was a capable bureaucrat that was most notable for her blandness; she had close to zero personal charisma to speak of.
Ironically, this was also her strength. The last DPP president, Chen Shui-bian, was seen by American policymakers as an unpredictable populist. He used his charisma to play to his base’s anti-China stance. As a result, when the US was trying to engage China, Chen and the DPP were seen as “troublemakers”, raising “tensions.”
Chinese Military Drills After Tsai-McCarthy Meeting Will Be Used for Political Ammo by Both Camps
Written by Brian Hioe. One of the striking effects of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August was to what extent it highlighted the perception gap within Taiwan as compared to outside Taiwan.
At the time, much international discourse acted as though the Pelosi visit could be a prelude to World War III. Drama ensued from the visit’s onset, with the flight that Pelosi took to Taiwan followed by over 700,000 users on flight tracking website FlightRadar24–setting new records. Op-eds in international media outlets such as the New York Times framed Pelosi’s visit as unnecessarily provoking China.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s successful travels, in spite of a Chinese headwind: Solidifying Central American and US relations
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. From late March through early April 2023, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen made her seventh foreign trip since becoming President in May 2016. The destinations were the Central American countries Guatemala and Belize, with stopovers in New York (on the way out) and Los Angeles (on the way back). The 10-day trip was her first foreign travel after Covid-19 made it sheer impossible to make such trips during the period 2020 – 2022. This trip became headline news because the CCP government in Beijing voiced major objections, particularly against a planned meeting with US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles. The objections are a continuation of the protests by Beijing against the August 2022 visit to Taiwan by McCarthy’s Democratic predecessor, Nancy Pelosi.
Three Musketeers against Mis/disinformation: Assessing Citizen-led Fact-checking Practices in Taiwan
Written by Chiaoning Su and Wei-Ping Li. From sophisticated disinformation campaigns to patriotic trolling and clickbait, the flood of mis/disinformation has become a global phenomenon. Studies have shown that Taiwan’s young democracy ranks as one of the countries most exposed to misleading viewpoints or false information from foreign forces, especially China. These campaigns often seek to demonise high-profile Taiwanese politicians and divide Taiwanese society. They also aim to steer Taiwan away from anti-China policies or international alliances, notably with the United States.