The other China

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Saturday, February 16, 2008

Here's a light speed crash course on Taiwan history. After WWII there was a fierce civil war in China. When the Pro-democracy Kuomintang party realized it was going to lose the war against Mao Tse Dong's communist faction they took everything they could, including the national treasures kept in the Forbidden City, and fled to neighboring Chinese province of Taiwan. They only meant to stay in Taiwan long enough to regroup and come back to China to finish off the Communists. But that never happened and the Kuomintang ended up ruling over Taiwan for more than half a century. Ironically the way it governed had more to do with a dictatorship than anything.

But throughout all this they managed to implement a very efficient open market economy that outperformed every one else's in that region of the world. And that's what made me want to come here. I was very curious to see how Taiwan had evolved and how different it was going to be from Mainland China. They both originate from the same Chinese culture but Taiwan opened itself to the world while mainland China remained closed under strict communist rule. And different they are indeed. Taiwan is much more modern and shall I dare to say more liberal than China. Taiwan is much better organized and efficient in everything it does than China. 

In Taiwan I could feel a strong sense of individualism. One can easily feel that individual rights matter in Taiwan. Taiwanese are very respectful people. They will wait in line and will not cut off a queue. Quite a contrast with their cousins across the China Sea !!! In Mainland China the nation's interest is always put first and individual rights are next to non existent. Even when discussing with the local people in China I could feel that they had no real conception of what individual rights are, especially in the country side.

The fact that Taiwan nowadays uses Mainland China as a factory, the same way western nations do, speaks a great deal about how far ahead they are in their economic development. It also tells a lot about the benefits of an open market economy.

It was interesting for me to find the same superstitions inherent to the Chinese culture. For instance buildings don't have a fourth floor. They go from three to five. For the number four is a bad luck number.

To finish on a history note, they are technically still at war. No peace agreement was ever signed between China and Taiwan. The communist party of China considers Taiwan to be a rogue province of China while Taiwanese want to remain independent in order to keep enjoying the freedom that allowed them to develop so fast. With all the Taiwanese investments in the factories of Mainland China they are more interdependent than ever. It will be very interesting to see how this develops over the next decades.
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