Taiwan ready to mark ROC’s 100th birthday

By Lee Seok Hwai, The Straits Times

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan has unveiled year-long celebrations planned for next year to mark the Republic of China’s (R.O.C.) 100th birthday, with soft power as its focus.

The R.O.C., commonly known as Taiwan, was founded by the Kuomintang (KMT) on Jan 1, 1912, after party founder Sun Yat-sen orchestrated a series of revolts that overthrew the Qing dynasty in the winter of 1911. It has become synonymous with Taiwan since the KMT’s exodus to the island after losing a civil war on the Chinese mainland to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CCP replaced the R.O.C. with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Both the R.O.C. and PRC, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, claim to represent the whole of China.

“We would not plan something that would antagonize the mainland. But neither would we shy away from doing something just because we thought Beijing would not be happy,” Dr. Emile Sheng, minister of Taiwan’s Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) and chairman of the R.O.C. Centenary Foundation said.

At a press conference for international media, Dr. Sheng said that more than 100 cultural, sports and tourism activities would be lined up throughout next year. These range from shows of traditional Chinese and aboriginal folk art, international golf and baseball tournaments, and a home stay program for youths from 100 countries.

One of the highlights will be a large-scale memorial on Aug. 23 to mark the shelling of the offshore island of Kinmen by Chinese troops in 1958. There will be no military parades or other displays of hard power.

“China celebrated its 60th national day with a massive military display … but we value our cultural strength and free and liberal society,” Dr. Sheng said.

Even so, preparations for the centenary celebrations have been dogged by controversy since the beginning of last year — reflecting intractable political sensitivities between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, although relations have warmed markedly in the past two years.

For one thing, no fewer than four Chinese cities — Wuhan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Zhongshan — are planning their own centennial celebrations to mark the Xinhai Revolution and the other uprisings of 1911 that ushered in the republic.

Pro-reunification Taiwanese civil groups and scholars have suggested that Taiwan and China plan joint celebrations, but Taiwan says no.

“The mainland does not plan to celebrate the R.O.C. … of course we won’t go,” Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou had said earlier this year. Last week, the Academia Historica — which handles Taiwan’s archives — hastily scrapped an online poll of the top 100 influential figures of the R.O.C., after a KMT legislator questioned the inclusion of CCP patriarch Deng Xiaoping. Said Dr. Sheng: “We have gone through a very painful planning process to avoid such controversies, but they are still bound to happen. The government can deal with them only as they come.”