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New Left Review 12, November-December 2001

On one side of the Pacific the Cold War is not yet quite over. So long as decolonization of minds remains deferred, strange dreams persist—foreign longing as post-national belonging. America in the looking-glass of Taiwan’s ‘Club 51’.



The Club 51 Syndrome

In the middle of 1996, during a period of cross-straits tension, ‘An Open Letter to the Social Elite of Taiwan’ was distributed. The letter was signed by Chou Wei-lin, for a group named Club 51. The Club was unknown at the time. But whenever there was a chance to disseminate its ideas thereafter, the Club would be on the street. In early 1999, when the controversy over relations between Taiwan and the PRC broke out again, Club 51 could be found protesting in front of the American Institute—the equivalent of the US embassy on the island—against Washington’s ambiguous stance. It might have been thought that the Club was there to demand American intervention in the Taiwan Straits to counter the threat of an attack from the mainland. But no, it was more radical than that. The captions at the top of the first page of its Open Letter called for Taiwan to join the United States of America as its 51st State, so as to ‘Guarantee Taiwan’s Security, Stability, Prosperity, Liberty and Democracy’.

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Kuan-Hsing Chen, ‘America in East Asia’, NLR 12: £3

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