Frank Hsieh first talked about the notion of a ‘New Culture’ in 1986. He published a book, collating all the relevant discussions on his ‘new culture theory’, in 1995. In this book, he offers in depth analyses on the most common social issues in Taiwan and the reasons behind them. He also outlines how Taiwan can move from the stagnant old culture to a new culture. The book has four sections, as follows:
- The old culture and the new culture
The book first dissects the negative aspects of the society. With empathy and psychological insight, Hsieh highlights that a lot of pathological behaviours are a result of having experienced political oppression and living in a distorted and unhealthy culture. Those behaviours appear to be maladaptive but are necessary for survival in an unhealthy environment. Hsieh highlights reasonable justifications for some unethical behaviours as well as the irrationality of some seemingly ethical behaviours. Therefore, he suggests a dynamic view of what constitute ‘ethics’ in this society. He took references from philosophy and sociology but his views are also in line with theories and evidence from developmental psychology. He proposes that the core value of the new culture theory is ‘cooperation and mutualism’.
- Political observations
In this section, Hsieh applies the theoretical framework outlined in the previous section to the political domain. He talks about the cultural and societal damage martial law has caused, the shadow cast by that part of history (i.e. the psychological trauma induced by the violence during the White Terror era) and how people struggle in their attempt to self-help. Hsieh suggests that reform has to start with re-defining issues and proposes that Taiwanese should stand firm against destructive behaviours and the oppressive regime but reduce unethical behaviours out of perceived necessity by creating good governance and service provisions (i.e. a mutualistic system and a new culture).
- Community of common destiny
Hsieh explains why he proposes to build Taiwan as a ‘community of common destiny’ (1987) and how to rebuild trust in the society through strengthening local communities.
- Major political parties in Taiwan
Hsieh discusses how party politics may develop in Taiwan from that point and predicts the future development of the three major parties at that time: the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Democratic Progressive Party and the New Party. A lot of the predictions he made in the 1990s came true later.
- Taiwan politics in the 21st century
Finally, Hsieh discusses the global trend, Taiwan’s development, cross-strait relations and the role Taiwan may play internationally.
In the appendices, there are six relevant articles already published prior to the publication of this book. Many of Hsieh’s observations and analyses still apply to Taiwan at the current time. It is definitely worth a read for anyone who is interested in Taiwanese history or politics.