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Taiwan: A Vibrant Tapestry of History, Identity, and Independence

A restaurant owner preparing food on a large hotplate in Taipei Taiwan.

I’m diving into a topic that holds immense personal significance – the weird question of Taiwan’s independence. Having lived in Taipei from 2002 to 2003 and Kaohsiung from 2003 to 2005, I was fortunate to witness the island’s vibrant culture, rich history, and distinct identity up close. I had a conversation with a twenty-something Australian recently, and it concerned me about his lack of awareness. Allow me to share my perspective on why Taiwan is undeniably an independent country and why I find myself disheartened by the misconceptions that persist.

A very young Andrew at the Dragon & Tiger Pagoda, Taiwan 2003.

From the outset, it’s important to acknowledge the incredible tapestry of Taiwanese history, one that is distinct from that of mainland China. Taiwan’s roots trace back to its Polynesian origins and its indigenous tribes, which numbered 20 and spoke 21 different languages. The island’s first major international interactions were with European explorers, especially the Dutch, adding a layer of cultural diversity that stands apart from traditional Chinese influence.

During my time in Taiwan, I experienced the first SARS outbreak and witnessed the remarkable efficiency with which the government managed the crisis. This experience offered a glimpse of Taiwan’s autonomy and its distinct ability to govern itself, setting it apart from the Chinese mainland.

Andrew Blyth at the Lin Family Mansion in Taipei Taiwan 2019.
Andrew Blyth at the Lin Family Mansion in Taipei Taiwan 2019.

Despite the waves of misinformation propagated by Beijing, it’s essential to recognise the truth – Taiwan’s identity is as unique and separate from China as Germany is from Poland or Australian Aboriginals are from Kiwi Maoris. To paint Taiwan with the same brush as China is to ignore the hundreds of years of development, self-governance, and the formation of a democratic society that cherishes freedom and individual rights.

In recent years, I’ve been disheartened by the perpetuation of Beijing’s propaganda in Australia and around the world. It’s disappointing to witness fellow Australians buy into these misrepresentations, failing to recognise the intricate tapestry that is Taiwan. As advocates of truth, we must support and openly acknowledge Taiwan’s sovereignty and contribute to the global discourse that honours its distinct identity.

Rainy night at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei

My time in Taiwan gifted me with insights into a culture that is autonomous, diverse, and proud of its unique heritage. Taiwan’s independence is not merely a matter of political debate; it is a testament to the resilience and history of a people who have shaped their destiny apart from mainland China. Let us, as seekers of truth, honour this independence and work towards dispelling the misconceptions that have clouded the world’s perception of this remarkable island.

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