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This paper examines the debate on character reform in 1950s Taiwan and the role of its major advocate, Luo Jia-lun. Because the government of Republic of China lost the civil war against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and resettled in Taiwan, a large number of elites from mainland China also moved to Taiwan along with the government, which structured and influenced the socio-cultural environment of the 1950s Taiwan. The role of these elites, who inherited the spirit of New Culture Movement from mainland, coupled with Taiwan's peculiar historical context played a significant role in the rise and development of cultural issues during the period such as character reform.
Luo Jia-lun of Kuomintang (KMT) actively advocated and took the initiative in Taiwan to restart KMT’s “unrealized character reform” in Mainland China. But immediately after the organization of the Ministry of Education Research Committee on Simplified Character, Luo’s attempt faced harsh resistance from conservative mainlander elites, and the controversy over character reform became one of the largest cultural debates in postwar Taiwan. However, while the controversy was reaching its peak, the Chinese Communist Party regime in the mainland successfully launched their character reform in advance by the implementation of the Chinese Character Simplification Scheme in 1956. This move by the Chinese Communist Party inevitably granted political authenticity to the opposition elites who were against the character reform in Taiwan.
To compete against the CCP, the KMT claimed it had no choice except taking a conservative standpoint, and it thereafter adhered to the conservative and dogmatic cultural policy. Progressive elites from mainland China who traveled across the Taiwan Strait had indeed attempted to continue with the unfinished cultural reform by implanting the seeds of New Culture Movement in Taiwan; however, as wars over culture continued across the Straits, their attempts were unsuccessful and the seeds they planted were never able to blossom in the cultural ground of Taiwan.