Colonial Project, National Game: A History of Baseball in Taiwan

Colonial Project, National Game: A History of Baseball in Taiwan

Colonial Project, National Game: A History of Baseball in Taiwan

Colonial Project, National Game: A History of Baseball in Taiwan

Synopsis

In this engrossing cultural history of baseball in Taiwan, Andrew D. Morris traces the game's social, ethnic, political, and cultural significance since its introduction on the island more than one hundred years ago. Introduced by the Japanese colonial government at the turn of the century, baseball was expected to "civilize" and modernize Taiwan's Han Chinese and Austronesian Aborigine populations. After World War II, the game was tolerated as a remnant of Japanese culture and then strategically employed by the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Even as it was also enthroned by Taiwanese politicians, cultural producers, and citizens as their national game. In considering baseball's cultural and historical implications, Morris deftly addresses a number of societal themes crucial to understanding modern Taiwan, the question of Chinese "reunification," and East Asia as a whole.

Excerpt

In March 2009, Taiwan’s national baseball team faced its bitter rival, the Chinese national team, in the Asia Round of the World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome. Baseball, an integral part of Taiwanese culture for more than a century, is still relatively unpopular and unknown in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But that did not stop the prc team, managed by American Terry Collins, from defeating Taiwan (the Republic of China, or ROC) by a decisive score of 4–1, the second straight Chinese upset of Taiwan.

Coach Ye Zhixian made a public apology to the people of Taiwan upon his team’s return home, but that was hardly sufficient, considering the tremendous national humiliation the loss to China represented. Reporters and television commentators commiserated that “the national game’s honor is no more” and that “baseball in this country is dead!” Others pondered, “Where has Taiwan baseball’s dignity gone?” “Can baseball be saved?” One miserable fan wrote, “Taiwan has nothing left anymore. We might as well disband the Taiwanese team and let China be our national team. They’re going to unify us anyways.” Another newspaper editorialist asked simply, “What is there now that Taiwan could still beat China at?”

This event, and the palpable anguish that surrounded it in Taiwan, summoned several trends and relationships from the complicated twentieth century, which saw baseball become the all-but-official national game of the island. a Meiji-era import to Japan, baseball was quickly, strategically, and thoroughly distributed throughout the growing empire. For a short time, baseball was the exclusive province of Japanese bankers, engineers, other colonists and their sons, but before long the game became part of the national culture propagated by the Japanese government, media, corporations, educational apparatus, and military. Baseball was the sport of the . . .

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