The 2022 Guest Lecture Series on Taiwan Studies marked a step forward in the development of Taiwan Studies at the Faculty of Humanities Universitas Indonesia. The two lectures that were delivered no longer took the form of in introductory overview of Taiwanese culture and society; rather, they were more advanced in terms of the topics and depth of discussion. These lectures were based on research and fieldwork done by the guest lecturers and primarily intended for specific groups of audience with specialized interests in Taiwan.
The first guest lecture invited Dr. Bonny Ling, Executive Director of Work Better Innovations (a research consultancy with a community-service mission) and a Research Fellow at the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), on the topic “Realizing a People-centric New Southbound Policy for Taiwan through Reforms in Migration”, held on August 18, 2022. Dr Ling is currently also a Senior Non-Resident Fellow with the University of Nottingham’s Taiwan Studies Program, and previously spent some time working at the University of Zurich.
Dr. Bonny Ling’s lecture was a critical reflection and evaluation of the implementation of the New Southbound Policy (NSP) during the President Tsai Ing-Wen’s administration, which emphasized the role of people-to-people relations between Taiwan and Southeast Asia. The new policy that aimed at serving as a core strategy for Taiwan’s soft power diplomacy and engagement with Southeast Asia turned out to be beset by reports of abuse of migrant workers coming from Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and working in the domestic care sector.
Dr Link urged Taiwan to undertake urgent reforms in the implementation of the policy, particularly in terms of migrant’s rights. She encouraged Taiwan’s government to embark on reforms in this area for the sake of its own economic development, as well as for realizing its vision of a people-centric policy engagement with Southeast Asia. In addition, Dr. Link was also critical to the existing migrant policies in Southeast Asian countries, which she believed to be inadequate in providing protection to their own migrant workers.
The lecture was attended by 38 committed participants who stayed until the end. Many of them were familiar with migrant issues and seemed to have done research in this particular area before or were actively involved in migrant worker’s advocacy in Indonesia.
The second guest lecture took the theme “The Revival and Modernization of Traditional Chinese Thought: Taiwanese Modern Confucianism and Li Zehou through the Lens of Transcultural Studies”, delivered by Prof. Jana S. Rošker, from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, on August 25, 2022. Prof. Rošker is the first Slovene sinologist and co-founder of the Department of Asian Studies in Ljubljana. She has spent more than 10 years in China and Taiwan working with several universities and research institutes in both countries. Prof. Rošker is currently also the Vice-President of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy ((ISCP).
Her lecture discussed the ways in which Confucian philosophy form the Classical period was interpreted from modern perspective by different thinkers in Taiwan and Mainland China, and in particular by Li Zehou, a Chinese scholar of philosophy and intellectual history who lived in the United States. The lecture contained highly specialized issues concerning the modernization of Confucianism in Taiwan and China but, surprisingly, almost 60 people attended the lecture and most stayed until the end. They clearly had some knowledge about Confucianism or came from philosophy background.
The questions raised by the participants were very complex and quite challenging to respond, which include a comparison between Chinese philosophical system and Western epistemology, whether Confucianism itself could be considered as ‘philosophy’, and to what extent Li Zehou was considered important by his contemporaries who resided in Taiwan or Mainland China. Prof. Rošker’s scope of discussion was not limited only to Li Zehou, as she also talked about some other Chinese thinkers who also dedicated their learning to the studies of Confucianism in the context of the modern era.
There are hope and suggestions from the participants of both lectures that, if the situation permits, Universitas Indonesia invites both Dr Bonny Ling and Prof. Jana Rošker to come to Indonesia and work together with Indonesian activists and scholars to organize a series of workshop on the respective topics of their expertise. Therefore, for the 2023 program, we need to work on the best option of whether we plan a follow-up program with the two guest lecturers as visiting scholars or find some other Taiwan Studies scholars that have never been contacted or invited before.