The fact that Chiang Ching-kuo’s legacy has gripped Taiwanese society for the past thirty years shows how we haven’t, or has refused to, address our past. The mainstream in Taiwan’s society has been the very boomer generation that came of age during Chiang’s era. They are overly confident in their accomplishments, to the point where they lose the ability to think critically about their own history, aesthetics or even the idea of “freedom and equality.”
Why did “Han Fans” come out of the woodwork in 2018? Because as Taiwan moved on from its authoritarian past, some people are nostalgic for that bygone era. Han was their connection to the past.
These people believe that education reforms have “screwed up” Taiwan’s kids because kids now have “too much freedom,” and “not enough harsh punishment.” These people refuse to acknowledge how much socio-economic prejudice and bullying went on back then. They still think it’s totally fine to make fun of gender stereotypes, which is repulsive to young people today.
Even right now, our entire society is still bearing the intangible traumas of our authoritarian past. People who are still living in the past have deep anxieties towards today’s Taiwan. They worry that democratization, education reforms, marriage equality and other changes will break apart the society. Yet, Taiwan has only gotten more stable and more progressive; the only thing that broke is their conservative patriarchy.
They want to restore the comfort of the authoritarian 1980s, and Han Kuo-yu was their front man (Of course, understandably Han’s supporters also include those who identify with his mainlander cultural identity).
After the turmoils of 2019, now that Tsai is reelected and the DPP maintained its majority in parliament, perhaps 2020 is a turning point for Taiwan to finally rid itself of Chiang Ching-kuo’s legacy.
Goodbye Ko Wen-je, goodbye Han Kuo-yu
Ko Wen-je is not shy about his disdain for women, and he doesn’t realize why that’s bad. Han Kuo-yu also casually shows off his chauvinism, like telling indigenous people “looking at you guys partying just makes me want to sing and dance,” or saying “you can just learn your mother language at home.” This is exactly the attitude from people whose “Chinese culture” makes them feel superior. This was the mainstream from the 1980s, but not anymore.
Ko and Han’s words are often the butt of jokes within young people. This says that their values and attitudes are outdated and conflicts with what young people think today. And the more defensive Ko and Han’s supporters get, the more they alienate everyone else.
As the younger generation witness the tragic consequences of One Country Two Systems in Hong Kong, they grow more skeptical of Han’s “Get Rich” slogan. The election results show that the public in general rejects the Chiang Ching-kuo legacy as represented by these two men.