1 December 2023

Photo taken from the documentary “We are Taiwan”, by Pierre Haski and Camille Le Pomellec.


In May 2022, in a documentary broadcast on Arte (Asia-Pacific, the new powder keg, by Anne Loussouarn), a former director of American intelligence summed up the tense situation between mainland China and Taiwan as follows: “When we look at Beijing’s actions over the past two years, we see that the noose is tightening around Taiwan’s neck. »

In the event of a Chinese invasion on the island located 130 kilometers from its coast and populated by twenty-four million inhabitants, what adversary would the powerful invader face who sees Taiwan only as a rebellious province? For Xi Jinping, “the march of history leads to the reunification of China”. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen warns: “Beijing authorities should not underestimate the strength of Taiwanese democracy. We will defend freedom and democracy. »

In this documentary, Pierre Haski, a specialist in geopolitics, does not deny the threats hanging over the island. With the help of rare film archives, some dating from the beginning of the XXe century, it retraces the long colonial history of Taiwan, which makes it possible to better understand how this society functions with diverse influences.

A disturbing neighbor

We learn that four hundred years ago, the only ones to live there were the aborigines, who today represent 2% of the population. Then the Portuguese arrived (who named the island Formosa), followed by the Dutch and the Manchus. In 1895, it was the turn of the Japanese to seize Taiwan. The tropical island becomes the garden of the Rising Sun Empire.

The Republic of China, founded in 1912, regained control and imposed the use of Mandarin in 1945. In 1949, the Communists of Mao Zedong upset the situation. On the way to winning the war against the Kuomintang nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), protected by the American army, they saw him flee in the company of two million soldiers. The generalissimo takes refuge in Taiwan, which will live for decades under his authoritarian regime.

Over time, Taiwanese society has opened up, liberated, developed at high speed. By interviewing personalities as diverse as the Minister of Digital Affairs, producer Sandra Oh or billionaire Robert Tsao, Pierre Haski sketches the portrait of a democracy living in the shadow of the Chinese threat. A worrying neighbor who benefits from the very dynamic Taiwanese economy by absorbing 40% of its exports.

In the 1990s, at the end of the dictatorship, only 20% of the population declared themselves to be Taiwanese, to the exclusion of any other identity. Today, 64% (including 83% of young people aged 19 to 29) feel “only Taiwanese”. It remains to be seen how the most democratic country in Asia (according to the weekly The Economist) will resist possible Chinese aggression.

We are Taiwan, by Pierre Haski and Camille Le Pomellec (Fr., 2022, 53 min).

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