Living in China, watching Taiwan: coming of age in Xiamen
- My days of watching Taiwan TV may have been a long time ago, but the effects last forever. I still feel close to Taiwan, maybe also because I am a little nostalgic
Though I have never been to Taiwan, and I grew up in a communist country whose political system and ideology are totally different, I have always felt a strong connection to the island. This consistent and deep-rooted feeling was nurtured by watching Taiwan TV.
My home city, Xiamen in China’s Fujian province, lies just across the Taiwan Strait. It was within Taiwan TV’s coverage and, since childhood, I immersed myself in watching their shows many hours a day. The deeply held cultural perspectives and thinking I nurtured were not the result of a one-shot message blast, but a strong emotional connection stemming from the world view as perceived on Taiwan TV.
Xiamen is special in that it shares the same language with Taiwan (the Minnan dialect) which helps us understand their programmes better. Exposure to those messages over time should mean something, we tended to perceive the world through Taiwan TV’s angle. Predisposition formed by TV before we attended formal politics classes in Chinese schools was difficult to subvert. “Counter-attack the mainland” was a phrase I learned from Taiwan TV, although with the current disparity in military power it sounds more like a joke.
Many studies have shown TV mostly appeals to people for entertainment. Taiwan TV was especially good at this. They talked about everything on their programmes; they cracked off-colour jokes and made fun of political figures. They discussed LGBT issues and critiqued the government, all of which are still taboo in China’s government-owned media.
The entry of Chinese official TV channels and the later blocking of Taiwan TV signals left me very disappointed. Had my grandfather, who didn’t understand Mandarin, still been alive at that time, he would not have ever turned on the TV again. He would have been trapped in a situation where he understood nothing from the TV programmes.
Fortunately, the internet era arrived, providing another way to access Taiwan broadcasts. Kangsi Coming, a famous variety talk show, is a good example of the phenomenon of people changing from watching programmes on TV sets to choosing the internet instead.
My days of watching Taiwan TV may have been a long time ago, but the effects last forever. I still feel close to Taiwan, maybe also because I am a little nostalgic.
Dale Wang, Malaysia