THE HISTORY OF TAIWAN: Diary of a Mad Expat, pt. 16

5 July, 2015 – Taichung, Taiwan

“Whose life is it? Get it? see it? feel it? eat it? spin it around
so I can spit in his face
I wanna leave without a trace
get out, I don’t want to die in this place”- Slipknot, “People = Shit”
Okay, so nothing in the above lyrics has anything to do with Taiwan, except for maybe the last line. Anyway, it’s the morning of July 5th here, but it’s the night of July 4th back in America, so Happy Birthday everyone back home. As you probably know, the Chinese invented fireworks, so without them, you’d be celebrating Independence Day with nothing but confetti. So, on behalf of my neighbors here in Taichung, you’re welcome.


Wait, was that sarcasm? Yes it was! I drank a Coke for breakfast, knowing I’d be writing this. It has temporarily brought back a manic sarcasm that will hopefully allow my snarkiness to come out in this article.


I figured I’d start out with an introduction to this country, then go from there. If you look on Google Maps or something, you’ll see that Taiwan is a small island nation, sitting about 110 miles off the coast of southeastern Mainland China. It’s formal name is the Republic of China. The current incarnation of this land was formed in the aftermath of World War Two. After Japan was defeated, China experienced a power vacuum. Chiang Kai-Shek’s so-called “democracy” faced off against Mao Tse-Tung’s communists. Obviously from what we see today in China, the communists prevailed, forcing Chiang Kai-Shek, and his like-minded followers, to abandon mainland China for the relative safety of Taiwan, where they established a separate nation there. Taiwan was not a democracy during most of the post-war years, but rather a somewhat benevolent military dictatorship.


Nevertheless, their economy grew thanks, in no small part, to the United States, who continued to support them in opposition to communist China, both militarily and economically, as part of the Cold War, in an attempt to prevent the expansion of communism. If you are anywhere near my age, you probably remember a time, when you were young, looking at the bottom of your Hot Wheels cars, or any other number of your toys, and seeing the phrase, “Made in Taiwan”. Well, that was one of our major trading partners during the 1970s, and Taiwan became an economic power in Asia during that time, rivaled only by Japan.


However, during the 1970s, America began reaching out to communist China, in attempt to develop a formal relationship with the massive country, and to further isolate the Soviet Union from the other major communist power in the world. Nixon established relations with them, followed by Jimmy Carter, who started the beginning of major trade with them. This signaled the end of formal relations between the United States and Taiwan, not to mention the United Nations, who shifted allegiances, and chose to recognize communist China as the legitimate government representing all the Chinese-speaking peoples (money talks).


China, in fact, considers Taiwan to be nothing more than another one of their provinces, though up until now, have chosen not to enforce that belief through occupation, out of fear that it would destroy relations with the rest of the world, which it would. Taiwan, for its part, refuses to acknowledge China’s view, vowing to remain an independent nation until ALL of China abandons communism and acknowledges the Republic of China (Taiwan, or ROC), as the legitimate nation of all China. This situation is likely to remain in stalemate for the foreseeable future, as China will not provoke the world (as mentioned before), and Taiwan does not have the military capability to seriously challenge China. Nevertheless, Taiwan has remained an economic power throughout east and southeast Asia, and has grown by leaps and bounds, economically, in the last 20 years. So there’s your fucking history lesson…you can wake up now, I’m done.


Taiwan itself is just under 14,000 square miles (almost 36,000 sq. km. for all non-American readers). For comparison, it’s about the size of the northwest part of Oregon, from Eugene, to the Columbia River, and from the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean. For everyone else, that’s about the size of Maryland and Delaware combined, or bigger than Belgium, but smaller than Holland, in terms of land. However, there are a LOT more people here, relative to its size, than any of the aforementioned locations; over 23 million to be exact, making this island the 17th most densely populated land on earth, with nearly 1700 people per square mile.


As for the city we live in, Taichung is a city of about 2.7 million, about the same size and population as Tampa, Florida, and a little higher in terms of population density. It has sister city agreements with numerous American cities, including New Haven, Connecticut, Tucson, Baton Rouge, Cheyenne, San Diego, Reno, Austin, and Tacoma. Taichung is broken up into numerous districts. The one we live in, Xitun District, is one of the largest and most populated districts in Taichung, and considered to be the shopping center of the city.

There are many aspects of my neighborhood, this district, and this city. I will start looking more deeply into those on my next blog. Hope I didn’t bore you too much.

– For images of our journey, please visit my wife’s Facebook page: Mischa Elaine Johnston