Taiwan recently celebrated National Day, which falls on October 10 every year. The second observance of the holiday since President Tsai Ing-wen rose to the presidency last May, the 2017 edition featured a flag-raising ceremony and televised performances, as well as presidential speech and a parade.

Instead of tanks and marching soldiers as was done in previous years during the martial law era of the Republic of China rule on Taiwan, the parade this year highlighted key priorities for Taiwan today. Colorful floats showcased themes such as public transit and renewable energy projects, the protection of endangered species, and Indigenous communities. Triumphant athletes from the Universiade, the Olympics for college-aged athletes hosted in Taipei last month, led the caravan.

Other memorable scenes included a giant globe promoting a “circular economy” that recycles resources, smiling battalions of police and firefighters, an oversize “Formosat” satellite—a space-based science platform successfully placed in orbit this year—and a playfully over-sized octopus hoisting a “Better Taiwan” medallion. Numerous temple associations also sponsored floats, reveling in Taiwan’s vibrant and syncretic religious scene.

The overall atmosphere was festive rather than martial. Some spectators donned red, white and blue wigs, while others waved flags or painted their faces. In the true spirit of Taiwanese democracy, rival protesters squared off near the Presidential Palace on Ketagalan Boulevard. One crowd, raucous and noticeably larger, hoisted flags calling for Taiwan independence. A smaller cluster of citizens argued that people in Taiwan shouldn’t forget that their ancestral roots originally derived from China.

Around the capital, the national flag of the Republic of China decorated many public buildings and thoroughfares. In a fashionable update this year, the large gates bearing the Double Ten symbol (十十) featured interwoven green, red and blue lines to mark Taiwan’s diverse society. October 10 marks a revolutionary uprising in 1911, which led to the founding of the ROC, the government that later relocated to, and presently administers, the island democracy.

A noticeably harried Tsai delivered remarks, where she enumerated her administration’s efforts to accelerate social reforms and pledged to defend “democracy and freedom” while seeking to maintain “peace and stability both in the Taiwan Strait and across the region.” She highlighted efforts to define “Taiwan’s place in the international order” by encouraging new investment in South and Southeast Asia, and lauded the completion of a review of how the nation would voluntarily meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

(Feature photo by Kevin Hsu)


Kevin Hsu

Kevin Fan Hsu is Lecturer in Urban Studies at Stanford University and co-founder of the Human Cities Initiative. He crafts open online courses and designs other educational experiences with a social mission at Skyship Design (www.skyshipdesign.net)