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Discrepant Cosmopolitanisms: Bandung, Formosa, and the Asian 1950s

Discrepant Cosmopolitanisms: Bandung, Formosa, and the Asian 1950s
— Yen-Ling Tsai, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Chiao Tung University


The year of 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia, witnessed the happening of the Bandung Conference (aka the Asian-African conference), the first large-scale international convention hosted by Asian and African countries to discuss their own affairs in world history.  The Bandung Conference, as well as the renowned “Bandung spirit,” emphasizes on the one hand a nationalist stance of anti-racism, decolonization, and de-imperialism; on the other, it is imbued with a strong internationalist ethos that transcends the interests of a single nation.  The “Bandung” therefore has been an intellectual resource integral to a variety of Third-Worldism.  Although Taiwan was not a participant of the convention, a series of political negotiation about the sovereignty and status of Taiwan was enacted behind the scene of the Bandung Conference.  Between 1954 and 1955, the United Kingdom, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, and the Democratic Party of the United States, all announced their opinions about Taiwan, advocating the respect for the will of the Taiwanese people and the neutrality of Taiwan.  The People’s Republic of China, nevertheless, refuted Sri Lanka’s proposition at the Bandung Conference, while endorsing both the PRC-U.S. negotiation and the Sino-Indonesian Dual Nationality Treaty.  At the same juncture, the Taiwan Democratic Independence Party led by Thomas (Wenyi) Liao devoted itself to advocating the independence of Taiwan.  Some related archive even shows that Liao joined in the Bandung Conference, whether in person or in writing, so did he at the Federation of Malaya’s Independence Day ceremony in 1957.  This research will take the political “absent presence” of Taiwan in the 1950s Indonesia as a vantage point, trying to understand the tension caused by the dynamic relationships between nationalism, internationalism, and the Third-Worldism in the Cold War structure of the 1950s Asia.  Consequently speaking, the mission of the Republic of Taiwan Provisional Government to establish an inter-Asian solidarity failed; yet, it is precisely such an effort and failure that, with the “spirit” of the Bandung Conference, leads us to entering in the Cold War political reality at that moment, and hence instigates a unique angle to rethink the Bandung spirit, Third-Worldism, and Asian cosmopolitanism.  The ways that the Taiwanese independence movement ran into a brick wall both inside and outside the Bandung Conference, indeed, reveal the irony of Third World nationalism that highlights tenets such as non-alignment movement, the lesser nations’ self-determination, and the South-South cooperation.  Such an irony, nevertheless, enables us to scrutinize the real tension behind the “Bandung spirit,” and provides with us a valuable reference to ponder the inter-Asian associations as of now.  In the first half of this five-year project, I will focus on a key figure: Chen Chih-hsiung (aka Chen Chih-hsiung with a different Chinese character of “Chih,” Chen Cheng-long, Chen Chih-yong, S. L. Tan, Tan Masamoto, and Masamoto Tetsuji), tracing his life and political trajectory from the Second World War to the Cold War, from the colonized Taiwan to Japan, in which he moved among Taiwan, Japan, the Southeast Asia, and Europe.  Chen was sent to Sumatra with the Japanese Twenty-Fifth Army as a translator during the Second World War; later on, he participated in the Indonesia National Revolution.  At the peak of the Cold War, he, in the political interstices of the U.S., Japan, the PRC, and the ROC, advocated for the Taiwanese independence movement in Indonesia under the banner of nationalism and Third-Worldism.  Eventually, he was kidnapped back to Taiwan because of his advocacy of Taiwanese independence, and died in the hands of the Nationalist (Kuomintang) regime in Taiwan.  In the latter part of this project, I will conduct multilateral interview and archival study in Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, and the U.S., if the forthcoming budget allows overseas research.  I aim to investigate the Taiwanese nationalist discourse and the inter-Asian outline developed by the Republic of Taiwan Provisional Government and related persons around the happening of the Bandung Conference in Southeast Asia and South Asia.  Today, Chen’s story is attentively looked at by the Taiwanese independence movement; his offspring in Indonesia have paid a number of visits to Taiwan.  Such a legacy of Chen further allows us to observe and consider the politics of memory about the Second World War, the Cold War, and the Third-Worldism in present Taiwan.