Baseball and national identity of the republic of china

Por: Chien-yu Lin.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

This study offers a socio-historical dimension in analysing how the previous Kuomintang (KMT) government in Chinese Taipei utilised baseball as a nationalistic means to rouse ‘patriotism’ and create and then strengthen ‘national identity of the Republic of China’ in order to come to the aid of its political legitimacy problem and more specifically, to demonstrate how the government manipulated the ‘dream of world champion’ and ‘heroism’ as strategies to assist the promotion of nationalist ideology in order to achieve its political aims.

Methods

The research method of documentary analysis and interview are utilised in this study. A range of secondary source materials (such as official histories published by the Baseball Association) is used here to ‘set the scene’ of the historical development and the context of baseball and national identity in Chinese Taipei during the period of the KMT rule. This initial developmental analysis is then followed by the exploration of more substantive documentary evidence drawn from newspapers, the official archives of the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association, and the Physical Education Department of the Education Ministry. In combination, this range of evidence is designed to represent a valid interpretation of the development of the inter-linkage between baseball and politics.

Results

The late 1960s saw Chinese Taipei starting to face a serious diplomatic predicament in the international arena culminating during this period with its expulsion from the United Nations (UN) and the severing of diplomatic relations with the United States (US) and Japan. The consequences of these problems led to the legitimacy of the KMT government being challenged internationally. In order to maintain its political legitimacy and hegemony in Chinese Taipei, the KMT government started to directly intervene in baseball affairs and further utilised the accomplishments (‘champions’) of baseball in the International Little League Championship to persuade its people and society to believe that the achievement in baseball competitions represented the honour and victory of the whole nation and at the same time, manipulating ‘heroism’ and ‘Republic of China (ROC) nationalism’ to bridge the linkage of baseball and the ROC nation of Chinese Taipei.

Discussion / Conclusions

This study notes two significant areas within the context of sport and the political power struggle. Firstly, the KMT realised that the potential of the game of baseball as a means of maintaining its power lay within the history of the game in Chinese Taipei and its links with the social transformations which had taken place and which currently taking place. Secondly, the maximum benefit to be gained by reinforcing meaning upon the game of baseball was to lead the people subconsciously to agree with the meaning given by the dominant group such that they responded with consent to the wishes of the dominant group without any conscious knowledge or thought.

 

References

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