When this photo was taken in 1991, China was officially 80 years free from dynastic rule. But people on the mainland don’t pay much attention to October 10th. That’s become a big holiday in Taiwan. Folks in China instead celebrate October 1st, the founding of the People’s Republic.
I found myself caught between the two some 17-18 years ago. I spent a summer in China, including a couple weeks in Shanghai, where I conducted research for my master’s thesis.
At the Shanghai Institute of Social Sciences, I befriended a researcher who was around my age. We started writing each other after I returned to Hong Kong. And when Liu Hua mentioned that she and a team of colleagues were planning a trip to Hong Kong, I offered to show them around my political science department.
What could be the harm in that?
Well, more than I could know, that’s what!
My professors in Hong Kong mainly hailed from Taiwan. Only one was from the mainland. A few from Hong Kong. In any case, when the Taiwanese chair of the department learned that I had offered to show this Chinese delegation around, he summoned me to his office.
I entered thinking he would praise me for taking a leadership role in the department. But that was NOT on his mind at all.
Instead, he reprimanded me for representing the department and the university without asking for permission. I was speechless, felt terrible, and slunk out of his office in shame. I was embarrassed to even see him in the hall after that.
As for the delegation, I met them for dim sum on campus, but made some excuse about not being able to take them up to the department.
It was a lesson well-learned and something that was obviously way over my head at the time.