Taipei 2121; the Austronesian Capital of the World

The Ecotopia 2121 project sets out to design the futures of 100 cities worldwide. This month, we investigate the future of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

The vast majority of Taiwan’s twenty-five million people are of Chinese descent, having arrived in successive waves of colonization from the seventeenth century on. Although Taiwan has been effectively independent since 1945, the Communist Party of China wants it to be brought within Chinese domain. The only thing halting a full-scale invasion, it seems, is the presence in the Pacific Ocean of Taiwan’s ally, the United States. This stalemate is bound to continue far into the future, but Taiwan will likely not sit idly by.

It will need to develop new strategies of self-protection. One such strategy is depicted here as Taipei 2121, where legal action is taken at the United Nations. In a striking announcement to the UN General Assembly, Taiwan’s government declares that all land rights in Taiwan will revert to their original “pre Chinese” colonization status. Under this new legal regime, the land of Taiwan doesn’t belong to Taiwanese of Chinese descent and certainly not to China, but instead it is the patrimony of the original inhabitants of Taiwan, indigenous tribes such as the Atayal and Amis, who occupied the island for eight thousand years before the first Han Chinese ever set foot there.

Of course, the Taiwan government doesn’t just hand the land over to the indigenous people—that would be political suicide—but it does sign a treaty stating that rent in arrears and into the future must forever be paid to the native communities by the Taiwanese state. All in all, this tactic increases the taxes per head by a tiny percent, but the legal barriers to Chinese invasion are greatly bolstered.

This stance has multiple effects. First, it strengthens the international conviction that Taiwan must forever be defended from China. Second, the indigenes of Taiwan, neglected for so long, suddenly have power over their own future, and they set about advocating traditional kinds of land management for Taiwan’s capital city, in effect fashioning it as an ecocultural utopia. The success props up Taipei as an exemplar of First Nations around the world, and since Taiwan is said by anthropologists to be the origin of many Asian and Pacific peoples in the Southern hemisphere, it is granted honorary status as the Austronesian capital of the world.

Taipei 2121 by Alan Marshall

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