No, Double Ten is not “Taiwan’s independence day”.
Just bear with me here; I know it looks very much like Independence Day on July Fourth here in the United States. When I was growing up in Taiwan in the 1980s, it certainly felt like it.
It was something I looked forward to. The oppressive summer heat in Taiwan cools down, every house on the block hangs a big flag by the door, the flags gently swaying in the autumn breeze. School would be closed, my parents would have stayed home, and sometimes there would be rooftop barbecue with family and friends.
Just like July Fourth, it’s a holiday that’s really mostly about family and friends, an excuse to hang out and have a good time. But all of these are still held against the backdrop of national symbols, like the flag, the president’s speech, fireworks, and, in the case of 1980s martial law Taiwan, military parades.
Every nation has some kind of “national day” as a tangible marker of its national myth. The Republic of China’s national myth was created in China in the 1930s and 40s, without Taiwan in mind, and then was forced onto Taiwan for more than seventy years and counting. During the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)’s one-party rule of Taiwan, the ROC symbols came to represent violence, oppression and fear for many people.
But the strange geopolitical situation surrounding Taiwan has also led to Taiwan holding on to the legal entity of the ROC state and the accompanying national myth, as if it were its own–for now. As we celebrate this holiday year after year with our loved ones, we are also creating personal memories that are tied to this national myth, and the knowledge that other people in Taiwan also have similar memories further solidify the idea that they are “fellow Taiwanese” in our collective minds.
I gave a few remarks at the Double Ten reception in San Francisco. I said:
October 10, 1911 marks a revolution for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Those same values took hold and blossomed in Taiwan. They are the reasons we are proud to call ourselves Taiwanese and Taiwanese Americans.
The national myth of Taiwan is still being written; the Taiwanese people are still figuring out exactly how to tell the story of who they are. “Double Ten” will be a part of that story, not because it is definitively Taiwan’s national day, but because of the values it represents, and the shared memories of our family friends, our fellow Taiwanese.
To learn more about Double Ten Day:
100 Years of History Behind “Double Ten” Day of the R.O.C. | Ho Chie Tsai for TaiwaneseAmerican.org
Double Ten Day | Outreach for Taiwan
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chieh-Ting Yeh grew up in Taiwan and New York, and graduated with a BA in Chemistry and a JD from Harvard Law School. He was an ITASA National Board member and the co-president of the Harvard Asia Law Society. He has worked in strategy planning at the Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, London’s Demos think tank, and the Third Society Party. He is the co-founder of Ketagalan Media, a media platform creating a new global brand for contemporary Taiwan. He also co-founded the Global Taiwan Institute and serves as its vice chairman. His work has been featured in Foreign Policy, Apple Daily, Commonwealth Magazine, and British fashion magazine Glass. He is fluent in Taiwanese, Mandarin, Japanese, and English. He is based in Silicon Valley.