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Dr Fang-Long Shih
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Westminster and Taipei: 'Foreign Office personality' and the Taiwanese

With Michael Rand Hoare (Independent Scholar)

Seminar on Taiwan in Global Comparative Perspective

Series:  Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective

Date:  Monday 2 November 2015, 6pm-8pm

Venue:  Seligman Library (Old Building)

Chair:  Dr Fang-Long Shih (LSE Taiwan Research Programme)

Discussant: Mr Stuart Thompson (LSE Taiwan Research Programme)

Abstract

Although Britain had sporadic trade contacts with Taiwan from the late seventeenth century, formal relations date from 1862 and the opening of the first Consulate under Robert Swinhoe. With the exception of the Pacific War, 1941-1945, consular relations were maintained until 1972, albeit in highly anomalous form after the British recognition of the PRC in 1951. During these periods a robust diplomatic correspondence was kept up between Taipei (Tamsui) and Westminster which went far beyond everyday matters and, especially during the KMT years and the Cold War, gave Tamsui a profile well beyond its lowly status on the diplomatic scene.

What interests me especially is the way the 'personality' of the FO developed over the century as Whitehall reacted to unfolding events in the island, in coming to terms with the Taiwanese people, their culture, and the suffering they experienced at crucial times. A number of impressions emerge from the archives, some of the most revealing from the 'minutes' appearing as hand-written notes upon drafts and position-papers circulated around the 'China desk' in Whitehall.

Not surprisingly, 'Old Colonial attitudes' are prominent in the earlier papers, the aborigines being routinely referred to as 'the savages' and, shockingly, even being at one point being recommended for 'extermination': this in the earlier Japanese period when Whitehall rather approved of the way Tokyo was 'taking the restless natives in hand'.

Moving to the post-WWII era, there is further evidence from attitudes to the '228' events, Taiwanese political exiles, and the ROC diplomatic presence in third countries. I shall expose the intrigues of the KMT in London to have the recognition of the PRC reversed __ in particular the the mischief of Richard Scott , effectively KMT's man at the 'China Desk', with his off-hand dismissal of the '228' atrocities and the sympathy for the victims expressed by both Tamsui Consuls and the Nanking Ambassador at the time.

About the speaker

Michael (Rand) Hoare ( B.Sc.London. Ph.D. Cantab.) has been active on the Taiwan Studies scene since the 1980s when he gave supposedly the first ever lecture on the subject at the London China Seminar at SOAS. Since then he has spoken many times in the University , the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Conferences of the EATS and the recent World Congresses, an exceptional event being was his invitation to speak at the 50th '228' Anniversary Conference in Taipei. After a scientific career in Cambridge and London, a voluntary early retirement led to Chinese language study at the University of Westminster (then PCL) and at Shi Da in Taipei, with an increasing involvement with Taiwan history, especially that of Taiwan-UK relations. In other fields he has worked on the Cultural History of Science, Lexicography, publishing on the History of Geodesy (The Quest for the True Figure of the Earth, Ashgate, 1995) and contributed to the Oxford History of English Lexicography, OUP, 2009 Ch. Technical dictionaries). Closer to present matters is his Intimate Chinese: From Grammar to Fluency, A Companion to Chinese Studies, Lone Wolf, Taipei, 2012. He is presently an Honorary Research Associate at SOAS , Reader Emeritus in Theoretical Physics in London University and a Non-resident member of King's College Cambridge.

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