Thursday, September 23, 2010



This article is part of a series of articles on borders, border lands, divided states, divided cities and divided worlds.


By Kevin Stoda, on the Matsu Islands

During the Cold War, there were two Yemens, two Germanies, and two Berlins. Even after the Cold War, there have continued to be two Koreas and two Jerusalems. Likewise on the Pacific Coast of Asia, where I live, there exist still two Fujian provinces. Both Taiwan, known as the Republic of China, and mainland China—also known as the Peoples Republic of China (PRC)—continue to maintain the simultaneous existence of 2 Fujian provinces squaring off against each other at the edge of the Pacific.[1]
Just click on Wikopedia’s Fujian Province which warns the reader: “Not to be confused with Fujian Province, Republic of China” if you question the accuracy of my report in this article.

According to Wiki in English, “Most of Fujian is administered by the People's Republic of China. However, the archipelagos of Kinmen and Matsu are under the control of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Thus, there are two provinces (in the sense of government organizations; PRC's Fujian and ROC's Fujian).”
Interestingly, via adoption of the PRC’s vocabulary and interpretation of planet Earth, the German version of Wikopedia insinuates that the province of Fujian is “actually still only one big province” but “simply administrated by two different governments”. (That is one way of avoiding the fact that there are two countries and peoples of differing nationalities involved.)
Despite what the German propagandist might say (and considering the facts on the ground or in the Yellow Sea), please believe me when I state that Fujian Province is actually plural--and there are still certainly two separate countries with a common history and ancestry using the name in close proximity to one another. (I can see mainland China from Beigan Island where I live and work.)
I am pleased to say that the Taiwanese government, which controls the island regions of Kinmen and Matsu, has devolved greater autonomy to these local governments in recent years while at the same time building up new tourist and trading infrastructure. (Prior to the 1990s, infrastructure development had often been military-related.) Similarly, after the PRC had taken over the eastern part of the Asian continent during the mid-20th Century, most of the larger Fujian Province has grown enormously in terms of economic power on the mainland..
In short, prior to the second half of the 20th century, the undivided Fujian Province had been languishing economically for several millennia as the backwaters of China. [2] Exemplifying this isolation and underdevelopment was the fact that there were no train-lines built into Fujian’s major cities from the rest of China until the 1950s. In short, “[o]wing to the mountainous landscape, Fujian was the most secluded province of the PRC in eastern China due to the lack of rail and underdeveloped networks of paved roads. . . .”
The symbiotic trade relationship between mainland China and Taiwan took effect starting in the 1970s, i.e. after the deaths of Mao and Chiang Kai-Shek.
In short, “Since the late 1970s, the economy of [mailnand] Fujian [Province] along the coast has greatly benefited from its geographic and cultural proximity to Taiwan. In 2003, Xiamen ranked number eight GDP per capita among 659 Chinese cities, ahead of Shanghai and Beijing, while Fuzhou ranked no. 21.”


“[I]t should also be pointed out that the slow development of Fujian in its early days has proven a blessing for the province's ecology; today, the province has the highest forest coverage rate and the most diverse biosphere in China whereas central China suffers from severe overpopulation and displays severe signs of soil erosion accompanied by frequent droughts and floods due to lack of forest coverage.”
However, “the development [ on the mainland] has been accompanied by a large influx of population from the over-populated areas in the north and west, and much of the farmland and forest as well as cultural heritage sites such as the temples of king Wuzhu have given way to ubiquitous high-rise buildings, and the government faces a challenge at all levels to sustain development while, at the same time, preserving the unique and vital natural and cultural heritage of Fujian.”
Meanwhile across the strait, Taiwan’s Fujian Province underwent full militarization into the 1970s. Nightly curfews were ended only about 30 years ago on Matsu, for example. This had certainly contributed to the continuation of this part of Fujian remaining a backwater to the larger island of Taiwan proper. For decades. On the other hand, it has left many corners of Fujian under local control and in pristine condition or currently undergoing strong restoration. Fujian still remains the primary language of older folks in the area. (When formal Mandarin Chinese is spoken, locals here refer to it as “Taiwanese”.) Now, in 2010, the Matsu and Kineman Islands are important tourist attraction destinations for all of Taiwan. Whereas, most of the mainland and Taiwan Island had undergone massive industrial changes in the cold War period, the Taiwanese Fujian isles had been kept in a more traditional state of development.
Meanwhile, several islands in Taiwan’s Fujian Province carry out direct trade with China. Fishermen prefer to sell their catch in the capital city of Fujian rather than in Taiwan because the mainland Chinese pay better.
In short, the original air-lock nature of Cold War era intra-Fujian relations (from 1949 through the 1970s) eventually were transformed into a much more open trading area. This changed has created once again many bridges between the islands of Taiwanese Fujian and the PRC’s Fujian. These peoples are slowly being enabled two maintain separate Fujian Provinces. While also slowly once again learning to get along and trade with one another by the end of the last century both Fujian regions have been able to take-off on their different paths developmentally.
Will these Fujian provinces ever unify? Not in the near future, but perhaps in another millennia.
Meanwhile, the borders are somewhat porous and peaceful, especially from the Taiwanese side. To a great degree, societal exchanges can continue to be increased at the will of the local governments. On the other hand, perhaps some federal or cross-national federal relationship will be workable before the end of this next century. In any case, a go-slow, friendly, and relaxed attitude towards the future awaits the youth of the future Chinas.


for Taiwan’s position geographically in the world and region.

Perspectives of Taiwan

Much discussion of Taiwan is framed in the context of Taiwan as part of China versus Taiwan as an independent nation. However, Taiwan's geographical position is much more complex than this. In the map from Google Earth above showing the island of Taiwan the territories of three other countries are visible — China, Japan and The Philippines.

This map shows Taiwan and China separated by the waters of the Taiwan Strait. Fujian Province, from where most Taiwanese people trace their ancestry takes up much of the map. Chinese people have been migrating to Taiwan over the past four centuries.

The Ryukyu islands of Japan's Okinawa Prefecture stretch between Taiwan and the four main islands of Japan. In fact the southernmost islands of Japan are to the west of Taiwan. The island of Yonaguni is just 125 kilometres from Taiwan. The Japanese ruled Taiwan from 1895 to 1945.

Taiwan is also closely connected to Southeast Asia. The Batanes Islands in the Bashi Channel lie midway between Taiwan and Luzon. The Yami people of Orchid Island are actually culturally and linguistically related to the people of the Batanes. In the past slate and jade was exported from Taiwan to the Batanes where it was carved into jewellery.

Finally, Taiwan is part of the Pacific Ocean, a vast expanse of water dotted with islands stretching all the way to the Americas. Linguistic and archaeological evidence suggests that the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans where populated by people who began their migration from Taiwan.
Hence Taiwan is connected in multiple ways with the lands and seas around it and occupies a unique place in the Asia-Pacific region.
[2] “The name Fujian came from the combination of Fuzhou and Jian'ou, two cities in Fujian, during the Tang Dynasty. It is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse provinces in China with Han Chinese majority.” Part of the reason for this was the fact that it was located geographically at the fringe of two or three Chinese Kingdoms. So, refugees who were persecuted by one Dynasty or another often moved to Fujian to resettle and take up a new life. Similarly, millions of Chinese refugees moved from Fujian to the Matsu, Kineman and Taiwan islands during Chinese Communist take over of the continent in the 20th Century.
This constant movement of peoples in and through the mountains and cities or among the islands of Fujian led to the promotion of academics in the region—even during the many centuries when Fujian’s economy was dismal. Academic achievement was the only way out of the entrenched poverty.



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