Taiwan and Ukraine: parallels, divergences and potential lessons

The following piece appeared in the June issue of Global Asia.

In the preface to her 2004 work Visible Ghosts, Li Ang explains how the spectral dreamscape that her characters inhabit symbolizes Taiwan. “Such a ghost island is borderless and not a country, and its voices are outside the center of the grand national body and can be taken as extraterritorial ghost talk and indiscernible ghost sounds.”​

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine on Feb. 24, the notion of a voiceless border, defined, marginalized and threatened by a hegemonic center was invoked at a march protesting the invasion in Taipei. Speaking at the March 12 event, which was organized by the non-profit organization Taiwan Stands with Ukraine, Wang Hsing-huan, secretary general of the pro-independence Taiwan Statebuilding Party, emphasized the “pan-Slavic chauvinism” underpinning Putin’s thinking.

“It ignores existing national borders,” said Wang. “It has a center, and every place on the periphery becomes part of the border. Operating on the ideology of pan-Slavism, Russia views Ukraine as part of its national identity, and it used this as an excuse to invade.” If this type of warped historicist reasoning sounded familiar, it was for good reason, said Wang. “It’s the exact same kind of rhetoric that China has been using against Taiwan. They consider Taiwan part of a pan-Han Chinese identity, and they have been using the same excuse as Russia does with Ukraine on Taiwan for years now.”

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