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Point of View: Chinese, Taiwanese share same heritage

It sounds like the Taiwanese are not Chinese. The 23 million people, except the aborigines, on that island of 13,885 square miles are Chinese. Their language, tradition and customs are exactly the same as those in China.In fact, the Chinese from Taiwan are instrumental in popularizing the celebration of the Lunar New Year in the region. Thousands of them have come to advance their education in this country since the early 1960s. And many of them have chosen to stay here after their graduate studies.Toward the end of the Ming Dynasty about 350 years ago, the Chinese began to migrate to Taiwan from China's two coastal provinces, Fujien and Kuangdong. After World War II, hundreds of thousands of Chinese moved to that island from the mainland.The Portuguese first sighted Taiwan and called it Ilha Formosa, or beautiful island. But the Dutch were the first Westerners to set foot on the island. They later drove out the Spanish who briefly occupied the northern part of the island.Cheng Cheng-kung, a loyalist of the overthrown Ming Dynasty, went to Taiwan in 1661 and expelled the Dutch, who had ruled the island for 38 years.To our great regret, two different political systems have separated the Chinese in China and Taiwan for more than half a century.Despite their political differences, those from Taiwan and China have shown little disagreement in the annual Lunar New Year celebrations in Queens and other boroughs.It's not strange at all that Koreans joined the parade. Ours is a multi-ethnic and multi-culture society. Blacks and Hispanics also participated in the parade this year.Besides, Korea and China are neighbors. The two peoples have many things in common culturally, so do local immigrants from these two countries.Years ago, for example, some Korean newspapers used lots of Chinese characters in stories. It's more so in Japanese dailies, books and names. The meaning is the same but pronunciation is different.Nowhere is there any trace of such characters in Korean dailies published in Queens, however. It may signify a change for the better or a result of national pride.Japan, Vietnam and other southeastern Asian countries also observe the Lunar New Year but on different dates.After three decades, most of the civic and business leaders in Queens, particularly in Flushing, are Chinese from Taiwan. It was not until about a decade or so ago that immigrants from China found Flushing a fertile land for doing business. As I see it, those from Taiwan fare much better financially than the relatively new arrivals from China.Both City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and state Assemblyman Jimmy Meng (D-Flushing) are from Taiwan.Before the communists took over the mainland in 1949, the government of the Republic of China retreated to Taiwan, which under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's leadership was recovered from Japan after World War II. The Imperial Qing Dynasty ceded it to Japan in 1895 following its defeat in a war a year earlier.Fleeing to Taiwan with the nationalist government were about 3 million people from all walks of life. The same government has ruled Taiwan since 1945, when Japan surrendered to the allied forces. The island is about 90 miles from China's southeast coast.Since there is only one China, Beijing has long considered Taiwan an integral part of China and urged Taiwan to accept the principle of one country with two political systems. That principle, it seems, works well in Hong Kong and Macao, former British and Portuguese colonies respectively.On the other hand, Taiwan considers itself a sovereign state and vows to declare independence. That enrages Beijing. As a result, China has enacted an anti-secession law in the recently convened National People's Congress.Taiwan is apparently one of the freest societies in the world with a multiparty democratic system, according to what I have read, seen and heard over the years.In the meantime, China is increasingly more open, increasingly more democratic and more decentralized. By American standards, of course, there is still plenty of room for improvement.A lot of people here are perhaps unaware of the current tensions in Taiwan. The reunification versus independence issue has caused international concerns.It is my hope the two sides will reach reunification or any compromise through peaceful means, even though it will take generations to achieve that goal.

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