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Monday, June 13, 2011

Welcome to Fantasyland: the Commonwealth of Taiwan

Map of T'ái​wān 台灣, circa 1896 (

To the long list of personal dreams and aspirations that will most likely never come to fruition (thanks to failed language exams and spouses who are incapable of empathy), you can sadly add the goal of an independent Republic of T'ái​wān 台灣共和國. Thanks to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (Mǎ​ Yīng-chiǔ) 馬英九 China-centric policies (not to mention his nationalistic glorification of mythical Middle Kingdom greatness) and the world’s increasing acceptance and use of the odious (and unnecessary) designation “T'ái​wān, Province of China”, the dream of a sovereign Taiwanese, as opposed to a “Chinese” (a la Republic of China 中華民國), state, seems as remote as ever since the end of martial law and the onset of democracy in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

When the real world turns ugly, the fantasy world beckons. And so let’s play the game called “What If?” What would have happened if, as a result of some twist of mid-20th century history, T'ái​wān was allowed to remain under Japanese jurisdiction, and not “returned” to the R.O.C., at the end of the Second World War? For starters, let’s presume that the post-war Japanese state in this scenario is the same as the one that actually exists today, a constitutional monarchy and political democracy, and not a continuation of the Imperial entity 大日本帝国 that brought so much death and destruction the peoples of Northeast and Southeast Asia.

The next step will be to assume T'ái​wān status in the modern Japanese polity. As this is my fantasy world and not yours, Taiwan 台湾 will be considered a commonwealth of Japan, or “コモンウェルス(政府の形態 / 政治的・国際的地位の呼称)“ in Japanese. As citizens of a Taiwanese commonwealth, the residents of this island will be considered Japanese nationals and carry Japanese passports, but Formosa will be largely self-governing, with Japan's primary responsibilies being foreign affairs and security.

As a commonwealth, Taiwan will not be considered the 48th prefecture 都道府県 of Japan, and as a result will not be represented in the Diet 国会, Japan’s parliament. Taiwanese voters, therefore, will not vote in Japanese national elections, and Taiwanese matters will be seen to on a national level by a Taiwan Affairs Office connected to the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office (and most likely led by an appointed official of Taiwanese descent). However, the voters of Taiwan will elect their own governor and legislature, as well as local officials and assemblies at the county, city, town and village levels. All officials will serve fixed-terms.

Political parties will be separate from those in Japan – there will be no local branches of the Liberal Democratic Party 自由民主党 or the Democratic Party of Japan 民主党 (the exceptions will be for the New Kōmeitō 公明党 and Japan Communist Party 日本共産党). In their place will be parties favoring the current commonwealth status, or arguing for an upgrade to a prefecture and full representation in the Diet. These two parties will dominate the local political scene, but there will be smaller parties advocating the establishment of a truly independent Taiwanese state, or calling for a return to Chinese jurisdiction. All parties will be allowed to freely operate and promote their ideas.

The commonwealth will be organized along the same lines as the present-day R.O.C. There will be 16 counties, and one metropolitan area, Taihoku 台北 (or two, if you wish to include Takao 高雄). The offshore islands of Chīn​mén 金門 and Mǎ​tsǔ 馬祖​ are missing here, as under the commonwealth scenario, these areas would have remained a part of China, regardless of what happened during the Chinese Civil War 國共內戰. As befitting its status an external Japanese territory, all place names will be officially rendered in Japanese:

Chāng​huà​ 彰化 → Shōka 彰化
Chiā​ì​ 嘉義 → Kagi 嘉義
Hsīn​chú​ 新竹 → Shinchiku 新竹
Huā​lién​ 花蓮 → Karen 花蓮
Ílán​ 宜蘭 → Giran 宜蘭
Kāo​hsiúng​ 高雄 → Takao 高雄
Miáo​lì​ 苗栗 → Byōritsu 苗栗
Nán​t’óu 南投 ​→ Nantō 南投
P'éng​hú 澎湖 ​→ Hōko 澎湖
P'íng​tūng 屏東 ​→ Heitō 屏東
T'ái​chūng 臺中 ​→ Taichū 台中
T'ái​nán​ 台南 ​→ Tainan 台南
T'ái​pěi 臺北 → Taihoku 台北
T'ái​tūng​ 台東 ​→ Taitō 台東
T'áo​yuán 桃園 ​​→ Tōen 桃園
Yún​lín​ 雲林 ​​→ Unrin 雲林

Speaking of language (more on that in future), Japanese will be the official language, used in schools and government offices, and Japanese visitors (as well as foreign ones who are proficient in 日本語) will have no trouble getting around the island. However, on a daily basis, most Taiwanese will use their local languages when speaking with each other, be it Taiwanese 臺灣話「台湾語」, Hakka 客家話「客家語」 or one of the aboriginal tongues 台灣南島語言「台湾諸語」.

(To be continued)

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