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Gil Asakawa

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Happy Birthday to the Republic of China (That's Taiwan to You)

Posted: 10/10/11 07:50 PM ET

2011-10-10-liondancedoubleten500px.jpg

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising in China, which occurred on October 10, 1911. The date is celebrated annually as Double Ten Day in the Republic of China as the event that marked the end of dynastic rule and the close of the Qing Dynasty.

That's the Republic of China, not the People's Republic of China, or "Mainland China." Double Ten Day is a national holiday for the government that is currently in exile in Taiwan.

Here's the history: the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 led to the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1912, but in 1927, the Nationalist Kuomintang Party (KMT) which governed the ROC began fighting the insurgent Communist Party of China for control of the country. After World War II, during which the two parties united to fight the Japanese, the Communists led by Mao Zedong won control, and the KMT, led by General Chiang Kai-shek, went into exile on the island of Formosa -- renamed Taiwan -- off the southeast coast of the now-Communist People's Republic of China.

The two Chinas have had a rocky relationship in the decades since, although economic ties have led to trade and some closing of the divide between them. But China likes to rattle its sword whenever (like recently) the U.S. offers military aid to Taiwan -- even if the military aid is more symbolic than threatening. It's part of the delicate diplomatic tightrope that every country walks if it has relationships with China and Taiwan. No one can ignore the relationship, because both countries have become global economic powerhouses. If you have an iPhone or an HTC phone, or an iPad or some other brand of tablet computer, you have products made completely or in large part in either China or Taiwan.

But today, to mark the centennial of the Wuchang Uprising, China seems to have extended an olive branch across the Taiwan Strait. In Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that China and Taiwan should end antagonisms, "heal wounds of the past and work together to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."

For his part, Taiwan's President Ma Yingjeou urged mainland China to embrace democracy and "face the existence" of Taiwan.

It doesn't look like the stalemate has been ended by this exchange, athough overall the freeze has been thawing.

Colorado has an interesting connection to the Double Ten Celebration:

Sun Yat-Sen, the founder of modern Nationalist China and the man who led the ROC through its rocky early days, was in Denver staying at the venerable Brown Palace Hotel seeking aid for his struggling revolution on Oct. 10, 1911, as the Wuchang Uprising was taking place in China.

This past weekend in Denver, the (Taiwanese) Chinese community marked Double Ten Day with a lavish luncheon that included the requisite Lion Dance opening (by Boulder-based
Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu Asociation), and speeches from local politicians as well as Jacqueline Liu, Director General of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, followed by cultural performances.

After her passionate speech thanking attendees for supporting the ROC, Liu personally visited every table in the Marriott DTC's Events Center to raise a toast with everyone: "Gambei!"

It was an apt way to celebrate, and to close the circle that began with Sun Yat-Sen's visit to Denver 100 years ago.

(Cross-posted from Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View blog.)

 

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