SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

CHIANG Yung Po “’Academic Independence’ and Myself”

Recently, China has made remarkable economic progress. In the academic world, however, we are unable to see similar progress. Among the scholars whom I have been indebted to, there have been some who have been communicating with scholars in China. Their essays, which were scheduled to be published in China, were sometimes prohibited from publication because of censorship. However, owing to the persistent endeavors of their friends in China, these essays were published with certain parts blacked out.


When I talked with a professor about this phenomenon, he pointed out that if an essay has been partially censored, we cannot say that it is the same essay. He then explained about the spirit of “academic independence” in Waseda University. As a graduate of Waseda University, and from the standpoint of “academic independence”, I do find some agreement with his uncompromising spirit. However, I did feel some conflict over it. If not for censored publication, there might be a possibility that they cannot dispatch any information at all or that they have to give up on contributing their essays under the threat of censorship. Dispatching information under any difficult circumstances would be a different form of “academic independence”.    


In Taiwan, my native country, there is no such censorship. However, “academic independence” is being challenged in a different way. When we talk about Taiwan overseas, we are asked if we support independence or unification. Actually, there are considerable supporters for both independence and unification in Taiwan. If we are allowed to have our own thoughts, siding with either independence or unification would be a form of “personal freedom”. It is in a “democratic country” that we can respect each other although we may have different opinions.


However, confrontation in political ideology in Taiwanese society has taken a serious turn. Some researchers “work-out” their research in order to create a logical backing to assert their thoughts. One typical example is the “Taiwanese heritage dispute” which was based on the doctrine that “85% of Taiwanese have the heritage of Taiwanese aborigines”, which was published by Professor Lim M, National Taiwan University College of Medicine. Such a doctrine was hard for me to understand given that I am a researcher of modern history. A famous jurist, Santaro Okamatu, who crafted the Taiwanese Private Law in the colonial period of Taiwan, gave a statement which said that “all people in Taiwan have Chinese ethnicity, and do not belong to the primitive race. People have their own special cultures and characteristics.” There are some discriminatory terms in this statement, but we get the impression that Taiwan, in the colonial period under Imperial Japan before the war, consisted of Chinese (Han) people who had a specific culture and characteristics. There were some who had marital relations between such Chinese race and aborigines. But, such relations were very few. Moreover, they were not hostile against each other, but rather were not interested in the other and lived in “different worlds”. We can find this account in many historical documents.


Before the war, we used the term “Go-yo (御用)” to preface words which related to the Office of the Government of Formosa, like “Go-yo newspapers”, “Go-yo merchants” or “Go-yo scholars”. However, according to recent studies, even newspapers which were known as “Go-yo newspapers” carried many articles which criticize government policies.  According to my research, professors of Taiwan Imperial University, who have been labelled “Go-yo scholars” were engaged in working for the government and practiced their “academic independence” despite the harsh environment, keeping their dignity and fulfilling their responsibilities.  Another example is the “Preservation of Historical and Scenic Spots and Natural Monuments” which was initiated by the Office of the Government -General in the 1930s.  There were many “new” historical spots possessed by Taiwan under Imperial Japan which implied their political intentions. On the other hand, there are also other spots which were designated variously while under the Netherlands, the time of Koxinga or the Qing dynasty. These spots which were designated before Imperial Japan are precious and valuable for Taiwan today and are linked to Taiwanese identity.


The three cases mentioned above differ in time and the place. Yet, from them we can realize the importance of “academic independence”. In recent years, historical revisionism has become an issue. I, as a researcher of history, think it is my mission to convey historical facts to people without any bias. And, as a graduate of Waseda University, I will conduct my research with “academic independence” in mind.

However, I do not think that “academic independence” only belongs to graduates of Waseda.  Rather, “academic independence” should be shared with researchers of all fields and from different countries and universities.


That is why I decided to write this column.    



SGRA Kawaraban 597 in Japanese (Original)



(Chiang Yung_Po / 2018 Raccoon, Research Assistant, Research Institute of Law in East Asia, Waseda University)



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sonja Dale