A transnational outlook on cross-strait studies: case studies and new research approaches
During the last thirty years, relations between China and Taiwan have grown and intensified on a large scale. Flows of people, commodities, information, capital, technology, ideas, norms, and culture daily cross the Taiwan Strait. This engenders new challenges for scholars to understand the manifold dimensions of everyday contact between mainland Chinese and Taiwanese (Schubert et al. 2021). At the same time, considering the complexity of the cross-strait reality, it urges to identify the epistemological and methodological tools to apprehend it. The field of cross-strait studies has so far welcomed heterogeneous scholarship contributions in social sciences which looked at the social, economic, commercial, political, cultural, and emotional practices, norms and identities which derive from the interactions between China and Taiwan. However, the perimeter of this research field and its epistemological significance are difficult to conceptualize. Dominant approaches have so far produced an understanding of the empirical and epistemological space of interaction between China and Taiwan in terms of ‘cross-strait’ (liang’an 兩岸), neglecting to some extent the points of junction and of friction which mutually produce the field. Considering the ‘contact zone’ (Schubert et al. 2021: 167) between the two sides of the Taiwan strait, both in empirical and methodological terms, a ‘trans-strait’ (kua’an 跨岸) approach may represent a novel and helpful lens to capture the specific cross-strait reality engendered by the long-term and ramifying connections and exchange between the mainland Chinese and the Taiwanese. In this summer edition of the Taiwan Colloquium, we invite scholars to engage into this discussion. What is – or can be-a transnational approach to cross-strait studies? How can it help to understand the mutability and complexity of the social relationships between Taiwanese and mainland Chinese? By taking a kua-an perspective, through empirical case studies, we aim at collectively interpret the human dimension of the daily interactions and lived experiences produced and performed by heterogeneous actors and communities across the Taiwan Strait.
Examining the Green Party Taiwan (GPT) since its establishment through the aftermath of the most recent national elections in January 2020, this book focuses on Taiwan’s most important movement party over the last two and a half decades. Despite its limited electoral impact, its leaders have played a critical role in a range of social movements, including anti-nuclear and LGBT rights campaigns.
Plotting the party’s evolution in electoral politics as well as its engagement with the global green movement, this volume analyses key patterns of party change in electoral campaign appeals, organisation and its human face. The second half of the volume concentrates on explaining both the party’s electoral impact and why the party has adjusted ideologically and organisationally over time. Based on a wide range of material collected, including focus groups, interviews and political communication data, the research relies heavily on analysis of campaign material and the voices of party activists and also considers other Green Parties, such as the splinter Trees Party and GPT-Social Democratic Alliance.
Applying a wide range of theoretical frameworks to plot and explain small party development, this book will appeal both to students and scholars of Taiwan’s politics and civil society but also to readers with an interest in small parties and particularly environmental parties and movements.
As Taiwan lacks an external voting system, Taiwanese residing abroad who want to exercise their civic rights cannot vote from abroad but must travel back to cast their ballots in their registered domiciles in Taiwan. This institutional absence notwithstanding, Taiwanese politicians habitually solicit support from the overseas electorate, asking them to return home to vote. Further, despite considerably high voting costs, many Taiwanese residing abroad continue to levy substantial financial and time resources to participate in homeland elections. This phenomenon raises a series of unanswered—yet critical—questions regarding the reasons behind the continued institutional absence of an external voting system and the ways how Taiwanese emigrants and politicians deal with it. In this lecture I present preliminary findings of a new research project on what I refer to as the unresolved issue of equal suffrage in contemporary democratic Taiwan. I explain how Taiwan’s relationship with China affects debates on introducing a form of absentee voting system that still excludes emigrant voters. Further, by focusing on the 2020 Presidential Elections, I unpick the processes, actors, and tactics of transnational voter mobilization to solicit the support of this very electorate.
Julia Marinaccio is currently a postdoc fellow at the Department of Foreign Languages (Chinese Studies), University of Bergen. Her research lies at the intersection of comparative politics and political theory, focusing on environmental governance and political transnationalism in China and Taiwan. She lived in Taiwan between 2010 and 2013, worked at the University of Vienna and Freie Universität Berlin. In 2020 she was nominated for a postdoc fellowship at the Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica, from which she had to withdraw due to the ongoing pandemic. Between June and September 2021, she will stay as a guest researcher at the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica, working on her current project: “Voices from Taiwanese Emigrant Voters: The Unresolved Issue of Equal Suffrage in Contemporary Taiwan.”
Under what conditions do social movements transform into political parties? One fundamental argument that drives theories of party formation is that parties form when a political issue is not articulated by an existing party. Using the case of the New Power Party and the Social Democratic Party, I argue that this supposed necessary condition is incomplete. Sunflower activists' and movement-parties' decision to not support the DPP was more complex than a simple difference in ideology. This chapter of my dissertation will explore the role of the DPP and the effect it had on mobilizing Sunflower Movement activists to form and support the New Power Party and Social Democratic Party. I argue that along with differences in ideology, NPP and SDP founders and supporters were dissatisfied with their perceived quality of the DPP in 2014. Moderation, both in terms of ideology and quality, is a necessary condition for movement party formation.
Lev Nachman is the Hou Family Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard Fairbank Center and holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine.
While political relations between China and Taiwan have been tense, economic and social cooperation in many dimensions has intensified. In traditional cross-strait studies, from the analytical perspective of liang’an 两岸, the individual political viewpoints of each of these two sides of Taiwan straits have been highlighted. However, in recent years, many new channels of interaction between the mainland and Taiwan have emerged. Studying such cultural and social flows is the aim of the cross-strait studies from the perspective of kua’an 跨岸.
In the talk, the perception of one particular group will be brought into this transnational perspective – the changing experience of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. It is a Christian church established in Taiwan, and it is rather specific as, while being a religious entity, it has been extensively active in social and political fields. The church has promoted Taiwanese independence from mainland China. However, their political position is not the whole picture – the church also interacts within contact zones between mainland China and Taiwan.
In the talk, first, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan will be introduced with a focus on its political activism, which can be easily categorised under the cross-strait studies from the liang’an perspective. Then, a different observation from the kua’an perspective will be provided; and at the end, we will answer whether a small group as the Presbyterians can bring a new understanding of cross-strait studies.
Magdaléna Rychetská (b. Masláková) has received her Ph.D. from the Department of Study of Religion (2020) at Masaryk University. Furthermore, she graduated from the Department of Chinese Studies (2017) at the same university, and China Studies at Zhejiang University (2019). She is currently a staff member at the Department of Chinese studies at Masaryk University. In her research, she is dedicated to the study of Christianity in the Chinese and Taiwanese context. Her doctoral thesis titled Uneasy Encounters: Christian Churches in Authoritarian Regimes of China and Taiwan examines the dynamic processes of the various social, political and cultural negotiations that representatives of Christian groups engage in within authoritarian Chinese societies. She is interested in church-state relations within its complexity, rejecting the resistance-dominance approach.
This talk proposes the concept of quality-taste (mis)punctuation to explore how food quality can or cannot lead to the increase of food trade volume. The timing of food export mismatches with the taste of consumers will lead to the failure of food introduction despite national boundary reconfigurations. The Taiwan Strait is generally regarded as a geographical, but not cultural, boundary between China and Taiwan. However, taking the seafood cultures, maritime ecology, and the materiality of food into consideration, cultural boundary does exist so that cross-straits seafood trade is hardly smooth. Milkfish, a Pacific fish, is a specific example showing the need for understanding the materiality, time, and space issues in trade. This research is based on my ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Taiwan between 2014 and early 2015, and also my subsequent field revisits between 2017 and 2020. My three case studies will show how political, cultural, and social factors resulted in the quality-taste (mis)punctuation that led to business failure. I argue that Taiwan matters in political economy and food anthropology because of its geographical and cultural diversities. As an island where diverse food cultures thrive, Taiwan deserves more attention to its “bony” culinary history. As Taiwanese gastronomists say, eating a bony whole milkfish is an enjoyment to those who know the fish. To those understand little about the fish, its bones will make them hard to understand the delicacy of milkfish. The Chinese government and some Taiwanese traders experienced the “bony milkfish road” under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.
Eric Cheng is an anthropologist interested in research areas including but not limited to sustainability, human-environment relationship, food culture, and supply chain. His ethnographic work covers topics of seafood trade, aquaculture, materials, foodways, cultural heritage, and social innovation. He serves as different roles at North American Taiwan Studies Association and also as the executive secretary of Research Center for Humanity Innovation and Social Practice at National Taitung University. His new research project “Human-(Micro)Animal-Water Entanglement: Co-nurturing Aquaculture Value Chain” sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, explores how microorganism, aquatic animals, and water interact with human beings and so how such interactions affect seafood value.
Female migration from Vietnam to Taiwan is not a new topic, but the media representation of this migration route in the Vietnamese online news media and its consequences on the Vietnamese female migrants have not been explored intensively. Using the theoretical frameworks from media, migration and gender studies, I employed a quantitative content analysis approach to comprehend this topic. In this talk at ERCCT, I will present my preliminary findings and discuss if and can the changing representation present meaningful transformations for both the sending and the host society and for the Vietnamese female migrants in particular. Some suggestions for relevant stakeholders are offered and the conclusion will open space for further discussion on the media representation of Vietnamese female migrants and its connection to the New Southbound Policy.
Linh Le-Phuong (Institute for Media Studies, KU Leuven) studies the media representation of female migrants in the media and its effects in society. She is interested in how intersectional subjects continue to be marginalised in traditional and alternative communication channels; and the social stigmatisation stemming from the (re-)victimisation process that are in turn the results of such marginalisation. Her regional focuses are Vietnam and East Asia.
The concept of “relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait” (Taiwan haixia liang’an guanxi 台灣海峽兩岸關係) implies that the Taiwan Strait acts as a border area which articulates the relations between the two entities delimited by its shores, namely Mainland China and the island of Taiwan. However, political borders are not congruent with these geomorphological limits, since the Republic of China’s (Taiwan) sovereignty spans across the Taiwan Strait: its territory includes Kinmen [金門], a small archipelago (150 km²) located off the coast of PRC’s Fujian province, next to Xiamen city.
Bringing Kinmen back on the map of the Taiwan Strait is a two-fold process: it implies to identify (1) the reasons why it has become a blind spot in regional cartography beyond reasons of mere pragmatism or simplification, and (2) what renewed consideration towards it could bring to the study of cross-Strait relations as a whole. Ultimately, this process boils down to calling into question geographic determinism and favors an “eventialization” (Michel Foucault) of the Taiwan Strait.
Alexandre Gandil is a PhD candidate in political science in the Centre for International Studies (CERI) at Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po). His research aims at establishing a historical sociology of the political throughout the Taiwan Strait by reintroducing the place of Kinmen within the trajectory of ROC state since 1949 Chinese partition. Ultimately, his ambition lies in perfecting the deconstruction of so-called “natural borders” by demonstrating the primacy of the political over geography even in the case of island territories.
What is the role of food for Taiwanese who are living in the Netherlands? What are the relationships between everyday food practices and the perception of home? For some social science scholars, food can be seen as a capital for migrants after relocating to a new country (Parasecoli, 2014). In my research, I intend to explore the meaning of food and food related activities for Taiwanese migrants who are living in the Netherlands. I’ll conduct my research through participatory action and performative approach — as food has the characters of embodiment, time-based, sensorial and live events, all these make food legitimised as performative experiences (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1999; Raviv, 2010; Schmitt, 2012). In the talk, I would like to depart from sharing a few of my artistic food projects on the topics of migration, food, embodied experience and home-making and then discuss the possible contribution of performative artworks in researching these topics.
YiLing Hung 洪 宜伶 (1987), a performing artist, scenographer and researcher living in the Netherlands. She runs her own studio LABORATLIER, making performative and interactive projects. As a foreigner in the Netherlands, she finds sometimes it’s difficult to understand or be understood by others. But by presenting artistic work to the public, makes the start of a conversation easier. In the recent years, she has made and participated a few projects related to food and food practices. Food and topics related to food, such as food practices, are now becoming her focus in both her artistic practices and research career. She is now in her first year of PhD trajectory, the project is supported by Wageningen University and Research and Professorship Performative Creative Process of HKU Utrecht University of the Arts.