I was compiling a literature review the other day and stumbled across this:

Excellent service quality and high customer satisfaction is the key issue and challenge for today’s service industry. Customer perception (satisfaction) and customer expectation (importance)

[snipped]

the Service Quality Performance Matrix to propose adequate service quality improvement plans and strategies.

Document Type: Research article

Affiliations: 1: National Chin-Yi Institute of Technology, People’s Republic of China

National Chinyi Institute of Technology is right down the road from me; I’ve taught courses there. The author of the article is a friend of a friend. Mistakes like this are so common as to be completely unremarkable — anyone who has spent time here has found themselves explaining to people at home the difference between ROC and PRC. But confusion between the two is so natural overseas….

Recently the news has been filled with the government’s decision to change the names of various entities in Taiwan that bear the name “China” (Mutantfrog with a great review; the BBC ) as well as dismiss the guards from Chiang Kai-shek’s mausoleum, and rename or even move the disgusting memorial to the dictator in the heart of Taipei. The pro-KMT China Post, speaking for social groups whose identities are bound up with whitewashing the dictator’s crimes, noted:

In line with a series of moves to rid the country of its worship for late Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the ruling party is calling on the government to stop having military guards protect the mausoleum of the “dictator.”

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is expected to put forth a proposal today asking the Cabinet to remove the guards at Chiang’s mausoleum in Taoyuan County, party officials said yesterday.

The officials said the government is not obliged to continue protecting the mausoleum of what they called a “dictator,” as it should be his descendants’ responsibility to maintain it.

The call comes at the heel of the government’s move to remove hundreds of Chiang’s statues from all military premises.

The removal of the statues yesterday sparked strong criticism from the opposition, which claimed it was part of the pro-independence government’s efforts to cut off Taiwan’s Chinese roots.

The article is quite forthright in its way — it labels reverence for Chiang “worship” and puts dictator in quotes — signaling where its pro-authoritarian political sympathies lie. The pro-democracy Taipei Times argued that the whole thing was good riddance, which happens to be my point of view. But what is really happening?

The “rectification of names” is an old phrase in Chinese, and the existence of this concept in local political discourse has obscured what is really going on. Confucian thinking argues that disorder results from failing to call things by their right names, and avoiding disorder is what Confucianism is all about. Certainly renaming in Taiwan has that function. But what is really going on here is that Taiwan is attempting to move into a post-colonial era, like that experienced by India in the 1950s or Kenya in the 1960s. Taiwan’s situation is quite remarkable, trapped in a moment between existence as a colonial entity under the rule of mainlander elites and their compradores, and an independence that is de facto but not de jure — with those selfsame elites still active and out to subvert the country’s independence. The rectification of names going on now may be viewed through a Confucian lens, but it is in fact thoroughly postcolonial.

Anish Chada, writing on colonial cemeteries in India in the postcolonial era, observes:

There are two terms in heritage studies that have attempted to classify monuments whose erection originates in a historical moment of conflict, contradiction, or deep contestation — ‘dissonant heritage’ and ‘negative heritage’. The dissonance in dissonant heritage ‘involves a discordance or lack of agreement and consistency’ (Tunbridge and Ashworth, 1996: 22) and is seen clearly in the heritage of atrocity, such as war memorials, holocaust memorials and other monuments or architecture with a subtext of violence. Similarly, ‘negative heritage’ is either appropriated for a ‘positive didactic purpose (e.g. Auschwitz, Hiroshima,District Six)’, or otherwise erased like Nazi and Soviet Statues and architectures (Meskell, 2002: 558). The Park Street cemetery is distinct from these types of heritage in its more ambivalent status. Although most of the colonial heritage in the postcolony can be subsumed under the taxonomic grasp of dissonant heritage or negative heritage — a site like the Park Street cemetery resists these classificatory boundaries and is located in a nebulous and undefined conceptual space. It can neither be culturally appropriated nor completely obliterated from the postcolonial landscape, and it occupies a space of conflicting emotions and indeterminate meaning. It is a heritage that is a clear reminder of an oppressive occupation, however, it is also a site of mourning and has come to have an ambivalent meaning for Calcutta’s population. The semiotic content of such ambivalence is produced in the tension between the dual symbolic position that the Park Street cemetery occupies — a monument to colonial ideology which is simultaneously a memorial to the dead.

That last sentence is precisely what the CKS Memorial in Taipei is: a monument to a colonial ideology that is simultaneously a memorial to a dead leader and a reminder of atrocity. In any normal postcolonial state these monuments to the previous power would be either rehabilitated or destroyed. That is the process that the DPP is attempting to carry out.

Many observers patronize the DPP or dismiss its moves as mere intraparty politics — though they are certainly part of that, with the legislative elections coming up at the end of the year — but everything the DPP is doing is normal in a postcolonial state. Even what the DPP is doing to the statues is utterly normal — India is littered with the remains of statues erected by the Raj and then mutilated and discarded (many are collected in a corner of the Bombay Zoo), and of course, images of Eastern Europeans desecrating statues of Communist heroes were a staple of the Cold War transition in Eastern Europe.

In that respect the Chiangs are lucky that the colonial elites in Taiwan still maintain a hold on political and social power and consider protecting the memory of the dictator a key part of their own social identity. In most postcolonial states nothing protects the memory of the colonizers, and their markers are banished from public life, as the KMT did when it colonized Taiwan and attempted to extirpate any links to Taiwan’s Japanese era. Coming to grips with the colonial past, and reclaiming it, is part of the normalizing process that Taiwan, like any other postcolonial state, needs to go through.