How close is Mandarin to Taiwanese

The "breakaway province" of Taiwan ahead of the presidential election

As a swarm they fly around the strict gentleman, seem to make fun of him. The biggest challenge for the once almighty, however, could be the huge photo walls in the hall. They document Taiwan's democracy movement. Pictures of protest marches, posters, banners. Chiang Kai-Shek is clearly on the defensive here.

"I saw pictures of the hall on TV and was skeptical. But now it affects me."

Lots of curious Taiwanese are here looking around. The building in Taipei only reopened at the beginning of January, with a new decoration and a new name. The glorifying Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall has become the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. A break with history.

In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island with around two million soldiers and civilians and took them hostage. Mao Zedong and the communists had prevailed in the civil war and conquered all of mainland China. Chiang ruled as dictator in the "Republic of China", as Taiwan officially calls itself to this day. The newly designed hall is a visible no to claims to power from mainland China, a commitment to a Taiwanese nation. It is an expression of the government policy of President Chen Shui-bian and his Democratic Progressive Party, the DPP.

"For the DPP, for the ruling party, Taiwan is a completely independent state. And the DPP is trying to cut off all contacts, including cultural contacts, with China. That is, Taiwanese are Taiwanese. Taiwanese are no longer Chinese Introducing the process of nation building. But the results are pathetic. On the other hand, the KMT is trying to maintain the status quo, because that includes our cultural identity, namely remaining Chinese, and the one-China principle . "

Tang Shaocheng is the director of the Taipei International Relations Institute. He is close to the opposition Kuomintang.

The Taiwanese should remain Chinese, says Tang Shaocheng. Many Taiwanese do not consider themselves Chinese at all. After all, a survey showed that 48 percent define themselves exclusively as Taiwanese and not as Chinese.

A walking tour of Taipei is a stroll through a Chinese-looking city. There are the characters in the street scene. There is the Chinese food culture, the neon signs for foot massages. There is the National Palace Museum, which exhibits the magnificent art collection of the Chinese imperial court. The people speak Chinese, either Beijing's standard Mandarin or the Taiwanese dialect. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is different than on the mainland. The social differences are much smaller. The women behave more confidently. Life seems more open, more liberal.

"You can tell from the Chinese that China is still a developing country. Taiwan has been developed for a long time. That's why Taiwan is culturally more advanced and more civilized, I think. I don't feel Chinese. The Chinese call us dogs. That's a very unfair one Behavior. We Taiwanese don't do that. "

"I'm Taiwanese. There is certainly a cultural Chinese influence. But I would still say: I am Taiwanese."

So two young employees. The Taiwanese feeling is strong among the population. And even stronger in government. President Chen Shui-bian had the history books rewritten. Chinese history is no longer interpreted as its own national history. He carried out a policy of desinization in many areas. The word China has disappeared from many areas. The island's postal service is no longer called China Post, but Taiwan Post. Official documents often have the name Taiwan on their letterhead. The Taiwanese dialect is becoming increasingly popular in the electronic media.

"I've been here in Taiwan for 60 years. But I was born a Chinese. It doesn't matter when someone came here. We Taiwanese are all born Chinese. I am against independence and for reunification. I feel like I am Chinese."

Chen Yi-kun, 78 years old, was born in Nanjing, China. Visiting where Taiwan is really still Chinese, in the veterans' home outside Taipei. Several old men have made themselves comfortable with green tea in the lounge. A photo of Chiang Kai-shek hangs on the wall above them. The cold smile is unmistakable. Many who live here came to Taiwan with Chiang as young civil war soldiers in 1949. Li Chun from Beijing, 77 years old:

"I've been in Taiwan for a long time, but I feel like a Chinese from the" Republic of China ". If someone calls me Taiwanese, that's okay too. After all, I've lived here for almost my entire life and will probably die here too . But to compare it historically with Germany: I feel like an all German, not an East German, for example. "

How a Taiwanese thinks about the independence issue depends very much on where he comes from. There are the Chinese who came to the island in 1949 and their children and grandchildren. They often still feel connected to the mainland. There is the population of Chinese descent, the majority, who have lived here for centuries. They have a greater urge for independence. With Chen Lung-Chu, for example. He heads the New Century Foundation, a think tank on the future of Taiwan. For a time he was an advisor to the DPP government.

"I acknowledge that our ancestors came from the Fujian region of China. But for me Taiwan is simply a country of immigrants. And immigrants develop their own perspectives over time. I never call myself Chinese. And when people ask me if." I'm Chinese, I feel offended. "

For years, Taiwan's independence question dominated politics. But while the island was discussing its own identity, the economy was creating facts. Booming China is now Taiwan's most important trading partner. An estimated one million Taiwanese live, work, and invest on the mainland. According to surveys, more pragmatism in China politics, less ideological arguments, that now seems to be the need of the Taiwanese, especially the younger generation.