On October 10, 1911 in Wuchang, one of the three cities of the conurbation of Wuhan, revolutionaries started a revolt that later led to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, and China’s two thousand years of imperial rule with it. The Republic of China (ROC), the régime founded afterwards, set this date as the national day, popularly known as the Double Tenth Day. As most national days in the world, the Double Tenth Day became an important event employed by politicians to make political gestures in Taiwan, the island that formally embodies the régime of ROC. So, what is to be observed?
Different from other places in the world, national day in Taiwan is put under a microscope in order not to let any information pass through without being noticed. Taiwan’s, or ROC’s, president, Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party (DDP), held a grand ceremony to celebrate the 109th anniversary of the Republic of China in front of the Presidential office. However, the logo designed for this year’s ceremony does not include any of the three colors on ROC’s national flag: red, blue, and white. The Chinese Nationalists Party, or Kuomintang, accused DDP of using logos that bore little resemblance to the national flag for the five celebrations since Tsai came to power, which implies to the KMT that Tsai is implicitly promoting Taiwan Independence by not pledging allegiance to national symbols.
Observations from the outside do not stop here. Every year the celebration ceremony is minutely examined, starting from how the national anthem is sung. Leaders from the DDP usually do not sing the first line of the anthem because it is read as “Three Principles of the People, the faith of our Party”, which is closely tied with the Nationalist Party. This year, the media caught the President of the Executive Yuan, Su Tseng-chang, not singing this line even with the mask on , because Su’s mask barely moved during this line. Tsai also used to skip this part when singing the national anthem, but she was seen singing in her re-inauguration ceremony, and last year’s celebration , interpreted by many as a sign of distancing from the die-hard Pro-Independence Camp’s stance
The speech by the president is, of course, a climax in which every word must be chosen carefully in order to avoid any possible misinterpretation. Tsai used to be condemned by the Blue Camp (pro-KMT) because she eluded calling “the Republic of China” and used “this country” in her speech instead. Last year, Tsai was still heavily criticized by the KMT because she referred to the country as “The Republic of China Taiwan”, a sign of broadening her support base, but unfortunately not really in accordance with the constitution. She mentioned less of this weird mixture of names this year but mentioned “Taiwan” 35 times-the most in history. In contrast, the Republic of China, whose birthday was being celebrated, was mentioned only 4 times.
The celebration ceremony is also a perfect occasion to make the president’s voice heard. Tsai used the 2019 speech to loudly denounce the “One Country Two Systems” proposal from mainland China and restate her resolve to democracy, a gesture largely for the reelection campaign. She used this year to soften her attitude towards China by saying that peace in the Taiwan strait is the responsibility of both sides, and that she is willing to conduct meaningful dialogues with Beijing on the basis of equality of dignity. Beijing seemed not to care much about what was being said, however, as a PLA airplane still intruded into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone on the morning of the Double Tenth Day.
Taiwan, with its complicated history and relationship with China, turned the Double Tenth Day into an unusual event for outsiders to observe political dynamics. Who is shaking hands with whom? Who is neglecting whose greetings? Everything could be interpreted in numerous ways. What can we conclude from our observations? Just like everything related to Taiwan, it’s complicated.