Opinion: Take heed of 'one-China' academic agreements and be armed with sense of danger

To be objective, if those academic agreements are intended to steer students away from the separatism ideology, their clauses should also have labeled discussion of “cross-strait unification” and “one China” issues as no-no.

The photo shows Chung Hua University (Image courtesy of ehu.edu.tw)

It can only be labeled as “unbelievable” the academic agreements several Taiwanese universities have entered with their Chinese counterparts not to touch controversial political issues regarding relations across the Taiwan Strait, especially the issue of Taiwan independence, during instruction when there are Chinese students present in any class.

Whether these domestic universities were conscious of the political ramification behind the so-called academic "one-China" agreements or not, the fact that the blatant mistakes were committed by universities, where freedom of learning and research should be regarded as the Holy Grail, was just mind-boggling.   

China asked the content of the agreements must include such wording as “course content must not involve any politically sensitive activities or any ‘one Taiwan, one China’, ‘two Chinas’ and ‘Taiwan independence’ activities” as well as “content of learning should not intentionally direct students to get involved in contentious cross-strait political issues.” The compulsory wording itself is objectionable and smacks of speech censorship.         

To be objective, if those academic agreements are intended to steer students away from the separatism ideology, their clauses should also have labeled discussion of “cross-strait unification” and “one China” issues as no-no.  Moreover, not one of non-Chinese foreign students in Taiwan, whether they are American, Japanese, Korean, or Indian, has asked to sign any such one-sided agreement with the school at which he or she will study.   

In the past years, the KMT-ruled Taiwan whether turned a blind eye to this kind of political hanky-pankies or even induced them to happen. If there had been no political interference, what was the need of them stressing that let politics be politics and academia be academia? From a psychological point of view, the more something is declared as off limit, the more it will incite speculation and challenges. And the fact that this incident of political interference was initiated by China, an enemy that had been clearly labeled by KMT’s Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo from the 40s, has outraged many Taiwanese people. As many scholars put it, “When these schools abide by Beijing’s rules of academic exchange, they are allowing China to manipulate Taiwan’s education from behind the scene and advance its political agenda.”      

In addition, China’s tricks also includes inviting Taiwanese college students and teachers to visit China’s first-tier cities and directing them to see the best of China with only half of the prices these kinds of trips usually cost.  

This kind of soft, disarming strategy taken by China calls for Taiwanese people to arm themselves with a sense of danger, comparable of building an immune system in the human body to fend off invasive pathogens and protect the body from being destroyed.   

 

(Cli Square is a professor teaching information technology at an university in northern Taiwan. Translated by Taiwan News staff writer George Liao)