Taiwan through the eyes of exchange students


Taiwanese exchange student Miranda Chang with Upper School Chinese Teacher Mrs. Joanne Havemeyer.

Nearly 66 years after Taiwan’s split from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), current debate raises the question of whether Taiwan will reunite with mainland China or advocate independence. Through Convent of the Sacred Heart’s exchange program, students, including sophomores Erin Carroll and Anna-Luisa Brakman, who hosted Passion Liu and Miranda Chang from Taiwan, can view the political issues between the two regions from a different perspective.

Taiwanese exchange student Miranda Chang with Upper School Chinese Teacher Mrs. Joanne Havemeyer.
Taiwanese exchange student Miranda Chang with Upper School Chinese Teacher Mrs. Joanne Havemeyer. Anna-Luisa Brackman ’17

Taiwan has been politically separate from the PRC since 1949, according to bbc.com. Although Taiwan and the PRC share many cultural beliefs, they differ significantly in their forms of government. Taiwan fosters a democratic regime while the PRC is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Nonetheless, cross-strait relations, including political, military, economic, cultural, and social relationships, exist between the two. These relationships have developed under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the ruling political party in Taiwan. According to bbc.commany citizens think that because of this strengthening relationship, Taiwan will never gain independence.

Miranda and Passion, who stayed with Anna-Luisa and Erin January 31 to February 21, attend Sacred Heart Girls High School in New Taipei City. Both agree that Taiwanese independence is unrealistic.
“I think we will eventually merge because China is so big and has so much influence,” Miranda said.
Although Passion would like Taiwan to be independent, she believes that independence is not attainable due to the business relationships between Taiwan and the mainland.
“I prefer Taiwan to be separate but I think it’s impossible. It is difficult because we connect with China for a lot of things, like economics,” Passion said. “Also, a lot of Taiwanese go to China for business and a lot of Chinese visit Taiwan.”

Miranda and Passion visit a restaurant in New York City.
Miranda and Passion visit New York City. Erin Carroll ’17

According to economist.org, around 3 million mainlanders visited Taiwan in 2013, compared to around 300,000 in 2008.
Cross-strait trade has also greatly developed since President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan came to power in 2008. In 2013, trade rose by over 50 percent from 2008, according to economist.org.
There are times when the relationship between China and Taiwan has been strained, such as last October when President Ma Ying-jeou announced his support of the democratic protests in Hong Kong, according to The New York Times.
The student-led protests, which continued for over two months, began when Beijing announced that candidates for the 2017 chief executive election in Hong Kong would be pre-screened, according to reuters.comThis defeats the purpose of Hong Kong being an autonomous region of China with certain political freedoms, different from those that citizens exercise under China’s communist rule.
“We supported the protests and a lot of students from Taiwan went to Hong Kong to join the protests,” Passion said.
Head of Upper School Mrs. Jayne Collins led a discussion about the Hong Kong protests with her Advanced Placement Comparative Government students. They are currently studying the PRC and its relationship with regions like Taiwan.
“It is really interesting to learn about China’s relationship with other regions like Tibet or Taiwan, especially because their governments differ so greatly from our own,” senior and Comparative Government student AlexDiTursi said. “It is a great opportunity to welcome Passion and Miranda to our school because they can help to share their traditions and their opinions of events that we study, like the Hong Kong protests.”
In addition to the PRC’s shutdown of the Hong Kong protests, Miranda and Passion also refute the Chinese government’s use of censorship to suppress political criticism.
“I think it is very bad,” Miranda said. “In Taiwan, I feel completely free sharing anything on the Internet, even criticism of the Chinese government.”
According to rsf.orgTaiwan is ranked 5oth on the 2014 World Press Freedom Index. China is ranked 175th and the United States is 46th.
Sacred Heart’s exchange program works to offer students an immersive experience in another culture. It was Miranda and Passion’s first time to the east coast of the United States.
But whether they are from Australia, Ireland, Taiwan, or other destinations, the exchange students are not the only ones who benefit from their stays. The Sacred Heart Greenwich community also receives a glimpse into the personal and civic life of exchange students who contribute to the student and class discussions.
– Alice Millerchip, Content Editor