Finally! Here's the last third (42:01-1:02:42) of the English translation of Samuel Lee's interview with Su Beng. The first third appears here and the second third appears here. You can watch the entire interview on YouTube by clicking here.
*Special Thanks to Professor Ching Lee for his invaluable assistance with the translation of this interview.
SL: I see at home here you have [this saying]: “Working together as a group we’ll have power” As this Japanese person, Shi Dou wrote: United we have power.
SB: He was from one of the emperor’s noble families in Kyoto. He was famous for the articles he wrote. He was a humanitarian.
SL: It’s fitting that this quote captures O-ji-san’s philosophy. Being united is power.
SB: The author asked me, “What do you want me to write?” and I just said something about being united together [being united is power].
SL: This is a useful phrase. So for you looking at Taiwan’s situation, what is your perspective, what do you think?
SB: From a simple perspective Taiwan has met the criteria for independence. Now if you look back at the Japanese occupation era, in all of Asia it [Japan] was the most developed, capitalistic and modern country and after that it was either Korea, India, or Taiwan, in the 1930s, then you’d know Taiwan’s education and culture the standards were very high. To be a capitalistic society you need to raise the standards of education and culture. So Taiwan was more [advanced] than other places.
SL: What about after the Kuomintang came?
SB: The Kuomintang was even worse. You see Taiwan from 1895 to 1945 every year the outdated was fixed/taken care of and it kept on modernizing. Same with the government and law. In Taiwan, during the Japanese occupation period, if you wanted to arrest someone you couldn’t take them away without proper papers, but when the Kuomintang came if you weren’t the police, the secret police just dragged you away then you wouldn’t come back There was huge difference between the society [before and after the Kuomintang came].
Taiwan’s culture was more developed [than China’s], compared to Egypt and Asia it was more developed. In terms of economics, now Taiwan is within the top 20 of 200 or so countries. Taiwan has the necessary conditions to be a modernized society. So in short the Taiwanese the Taiwanese have everything, they are just lacking a “Taiwanese soul.”
SL: The Taiwanese people… what I find strange is, even though we had the da pu se jian (大埔事件), recently [in which the government went in a destroyed the rice fields of farmers in Da Pu in Taoyuan, Miaoli], and then the [government] spent 200 million New Taiwan dollars on a concert for Meng Xiang Jia ( 夢想家) [Dreamer- a musical play] in Taiwan. Recklessly spending money. And the Kuomintang still won the election. Where is the Taiwanese people’s political principles, I wonder?
SB: It’s like this, for 400 years we haven’t had the chance to rule for ourselves, we were always ruled/governed by others, thus we have this psychological complex [on the one hand we want to rule ourselves, but on the other seem to be fine with being ruled with others] and thinking which side will win/who should I side with to win. This is something we should reflect on, the historical facts. There’s a big difference between someone who has a “Taiwanese soul” and says “I’m Taiwanese” and someone who doesn’t. Those who have [a “Taiwanese soul”] will insist on their principle and the others would work with the enemy.
SL: For the Taiwanese to become a modernized country, political awareness and ideas have to make further advancement.
SB: The first thing is the time period, after World War II not only has there been material development, but people’s awareness also has developed. People have to realize the existence of others [---] During the imperialist period there was no give and take between people, but after World War II. In the west people went through World War I and World War II, they were fighting each other and they have paid this price and have gradually developed this sense of mutual respect with other. Compared to the ideal there is still a big gap, but for now there has been some advancement. In the past if a stronger power took over a colony, that was considered a good thing, but now it is a bad thing. So the worldwide trend is advantageous to us [Taiwan]. No one in the world thinks that the Kuomintang is our rightful ruling government. Furthermore China’s dictatorship government is a problem [for the Taiwanese], but the world trend the movement towards mutual respect and this is a good thing for Taiwan. That Taiwan has been ruled by outside regimes, this is wrong. The status of the country used to be dubious but now the Taiwanese people are welcome to discuss and speak their minds [on this topic].
SL: That Taiwanese people were ruled by foreign regimes creates a problem between the people who try to work within or outside of the system. The people who work outside of the system want to correct/change the current situation. The people who work within the system want to correct/change the current situation. The people who work within the system tend to lose their soul and because of the elections they lose their political claim to make changes. Those that work outside of the system comparatively can insist on their ideas better than those that work within the system. So in your opinion, how will these two groups of people be able to work together?
SB: Let me tell you, first Taiwan has been ruled by the Kuomintang for 60-70 years, with secret police, which was basically like a dictatorship, like Stalin. People could take you away in the middle of the night and then [you’d] never come home. This wasn’t just one or two instances. Under these circumstances most Taiwanese are against the Kuomintang. The problem is that some have been employed by the Kuomintang, some have “gotten money from the Kuomintang” and so they vote for them [Kuomintang]. If you turn it around and talk about the Taiwan independence movement working on it for 60 something years, but there haven’t been any results.
The weakness of Taiwanese originates, you were saying with the soul [lack of soul] but it is not that easy to change it. The DDP is not thinking about this, they are just thinking about their own special interests. So they think how can I become a legislator so that I can get some special rights [personal benefit].
Up to now Taiwan independence movement has only dealt with branches an leaves, but hasn’t paid attention to the roots or soul. So it’s dragging along. Truthfully speaking, Peng Min-Ming and my family were friends. His brother and I were classmates. I’ve met him only 2-3 times, he has been working within the Kuomintang framework, but he didn’t talk about the root of the problem. He was amongst the most elite intellectuals of Taiwan, what really needs to be talked about is the most basic things, like branches and leaves. He talked about the problems with the Kuomintang, from a legal perspective.
To solve the problem you need to talk about your principles, ideas, position, and strategy.
SL: Now you are talking about the system.
SB: The system… the society, the society’s present system.
SL: This time you were really busy with your motorcade going around Taiwan and with the election results… not as good as expected… O-ji-san were you disappointed?
SB: I was disappointed for about an hour or so. Of course I felt disappointed, but then after about an hour I thought, what’s next? The failure was because of colonialism and strategy and tactics. We have to insist on our roots, that the Taiwanese and Chinese are not the same.
These past last few days I haven’t been out much. I’m going to write this: the Taiwanese people should protect Taiwan and oppose to the Kuomintang bringing China over.
And then this [banner] is going to go out every day. With regards to the independence issue if we don’t get ideology right, then it’ll be like this [with the same recent election results]. From now on there will be hardship, but we must persist/insist.
Regarding what you mentioned about working within or outside of the system, in these last 60 years those who work within have money, those working outside don’t have money. So the people working within the system monopolize the political resources. Those working on the outside don’t have access to the media to attack the others.
The DPP is the same [as the Kuomintang], there are people working inside the system and outside the system, fighting against each other. But I am not like that, the Taiwan Independence Association wasn’t like that, in general those working on the outside cannot tell the people working within the system what to do nor can those working on the inside can’t tell with those working outside of the system what to do. In that way you work together. But they don’t. At least, I don’t criticize the DPP. For example when Peng Ming-min and Lee Teng hui or Chen Shui-bian were running for election. Although I work outside the system, I got involved. Cooperation is very important. The Taiwanese people working together is what’s most important. Working together is not to say what is right or wrong with the Kuomintang it is what the Taiwanese people’s roots are [as a basis for cooperation].
SL: This time as your motorcade made round all over Taiwan, O-ji-san you were there traveling around with the motorcade. At your age, running around must be so exhausting.
SB: Yes, it was exhausting, I was tired but whatever I can do within my means… this has to do with one’s outlook on life. I have chosen this path… If you know what nationalism is, the Kuomintang, the history of Taiwan, once you know this, you cannot escape it.
What is most important now in all of Taiwan [is that] most people do not read [are not well read]. Part of the problem is the media is controlled/monopolized [and] the educational system is still the Kuomintang’s. Under these circumstances, the things we want to do are deep and very difficult. But if this path is not cleared, then Taiwanese people won’t [have a future]. So the circumstances are calling for independence but we are not independent and it’s bad.
SL: For Taiwan’s future O-ji-san, take good care of your health. We still need you.
SB: This is a natural phenomena. I’m getting near the end. Now it’s your turn to work hard [for the cause]. I’m very happy to talk to you today. Everyone who’s talked to me hasn’t discussed our roots, you are one of the few to talk to me about our roots.
My [ideology of] Taiwan nationalism people haven’t studied it. Your look at the island, this is a good thing […] The most important thing is that as society develops, the more important education and part of that is the media, and Taiwan’s media, look at it …
SL: One last question about media’s worldview. In Taiwan, the media rarely deals with world issues. How do you see the media?
SB: Media is a public instrument. It is not the Kuomintang’s or Democratic Progressive Party’s or anyone’s. The media can be proud of themselves by looking at issues with a sense of ethics. Taiwan does not have this, so what comes out is the Kuomintang on the surface and underneath it’s the Chinese Communist party controlling things. In this situation the US will not just let things go. In Taiwan no one is speaking the truth. If you talk about independence, you get cancelled. See what this does to Taiwan’s society? The average person doesn’t know this. They are being pushed from one end/side to another
SL: People within the Democratic Progressive Party have said that the DDP need to reexamine the cross strait relations policy and a lot of strange theories have surfaced.
SB: The Democratic Progressive Party’s principles are not firm so then their strategies and tactics end up changing their principles. So the latter [strategies and tactics] changes the former [the principles]. It’s not right, like a grandchild changing his grandparent. The eras are different and so the principles are different [it’s out of order]. Taiwan is now facing this problem.
SL: It is a mess.
SB: So I think if you could work on this it would be very good.
With the media it’s the same the basis [focus] should be on Taiwan [for Taiwan’s interests]. We do not do things for our self-interest but for Taiwan. If you don’t work for Taiwan but your own interests, then you’ll be like today’s politicians.
SL: Thank you O-ji-san today. After the election you were so busy and not feeling very well. So for today, excuse me, thank you.
SB: You have the enthusiasm. Now we will take it step by step and develop Taiwan.
SL: Oji-san please give us some more advice. Thank you, thank you O-ji-san.
SB: It’s mutual and we learn from each other.
SL: Dear viewers and friends, thank you everyone for watching
I want to thank Su Beng and his two assistants. Thanks for their help to make this interview happen and run smoothly. [This interview] lets everyone understand Su Beng’s view points. I believe “United we have power,” the phrase written by the very famous Japanese writer, that we saw on the wall before and it gives us a lot of encouragement, insight and power.
Today, thank you everyone for watching and see you next time.