Taipei 101 - Bringing the World to Taipei

The slogan on the Taipei 101 website reads ‘Bringing Taipei to the World’. It should read the other way round.

Since Taiwan came into existence, it has fought an ongoing struggle for autonomy and global recognition.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present you with the world’s biggest erection.

For a second, or at least until someone builds a bigger building, the whole world turns to you Taipei. Whenever the question hits the lips: ‘which is the tallest building in the world?’ you Taipei, and you Taiwan, rejected by the world, are the object of the mind’s eye.

Taiwanese consciousness didn’t exist until the arrival of the Japanese in 1895. The totalitarian colonisers predated television as the first significant shared experience for the mix of Australasian and Chinese tribes that had previously ‘shared’ the island.

The mid twentieth century saw the island handed over to the republican Chinese government. What seemed like a small addition to the Chinese empire soon became a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of republican government officials and soldiers. The republican government fleeing from the hot stepping communists took lock, stock and barrel across the Taiwanese Straits and set up home in Taiwan.

When the Chinese army takes refuge on your island you can forgive them a little arrogance, but with the Communists in a strong position, the republican army wasn’t going anywhere.

Refuge became residence and the army turned this little island into the seat of the government for the Republic of China.

The Republic claimed ownership of what the Communists called the People’s Republic. The People’s Republic made an identical claim on Taiwan.

In the seventies, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China both pressed the United Nations to accept just one China. The United Nations looked studiously at the People’s Republic, turned to the Republic, laughed and looked to the door.

Strange fact: despite its proximity to the Chinese mainland, Taiwan was untouched by the Chinese until the seventeenth Century, actually coming under the provenance of the Dutch before the Chinese had anything to do with it.

Another strange fact: Of course, the idea of tiny little Republic of China laying claim to the People's Republic is so chokingly laughable, that is provokes a near death experience. However, thanks to the foresight of the Republican Army, Taiwan does boast China’s most important artifacts and national art treasure, which they took with them when they fled to the island during the forties. The booty is housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

James Johnson - December 2006

The Taiwanese - a people set adrift

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