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Battlefield Cultural Landscape Preservation Is Essential

In the mid-21st century, Kinmen was one of the important regions in world history. The international geopolitics and diplomacy during the Cold War brought Kinmen, in the 1950s, to the focus of world attention during the first two Taiwan Strait crises after the Korean War in 1950-53. Prolonged military governance and battleground administration had changed the course of social development and affected the spatial landscape.

On November 7th, 1992, the battleground administration in Kinmen was terminated five years after Taiwan's lifting of martial law. Welcoming democracy and freedom, Kinmen had to deal with new crises, and think over political, economic, social and cultural transformation, including the economic recession caused by demilitarization, the restructuring of social order, as well as the pressure of local development, the needs of the tourism industry, rebuilding of cultural confidence, and the idling of military camps. Therefore, how to preserve and reuse a large number of tangible and intangible battlefield cultural landscapes have become a thorny issue of regional revitalization.

In fact, the value of Kinmen's battlefield cultural landscape may be more accurately understood for its importance using objective SWOT analysis. Its advantages are that: (1) the battlefield history of Kinmen is part of world history and an irreplaceable historical scene for the Cold War in the Taiwan Strait; (2) the cultural landscape of the battleground reflects protracted military confrontation, and exhibits the interactions between humans and the environment; (3) large-scale and high-density underground military installations are rare heritage as compared to other Cold War scenes in East Asia, and the low-density battlefield cultural landscape has contributed to the island environment with ecological diversity; and (4) the transformation in the post-war era and the pursuit of peace demonstrate the historical cost of upholding freedom and peace, which are among universal values.

Of course, if it is to be protected for being one of the potential World Heritage Sites, its disadvantages may be that: (1) it is a site of great political sensitivity. China may disapprove strongly due to differing interpretations of the war; (2) our country is not a state party to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and (3) in the past, the Ministry of Culture (MOC) tended to adopt a bottom-up approach, selecting potential world heritage sites throughout Taiwan, but no integration was done across counties and cities, especially Kinmen’s competition and cooperation with Matsu.

But here are our chances: (1) concerning cultural landscapes in Kinmen and Matsu, the MOC Bureau of Cultural Heritage has initiated value discussion and action strategies for investigation, research, and planning. For the specific process of world heritage application, this master plan can provide guidance for future conservation and development; (2) most of the Cold War archives and documents about Kinmen and Matsu housed in the Archives II of the National Archives in Maryland, U.S. have been declassified, which can be further compared with domestic historical documents to reveal historical facts and understand the status of the two islands under international geopolitics; (3) cultural workers’ and academics’ research has met with some success from the dual perspectives of world history and regional history; (4) under the demand for cultural heritage preservation and tourism planning and development, local governments have gradually initiated the preservation, maintenance, and activation and utilization of battlefield cultural landscapes; (5) civil society has gradually attached importance to the establishment of relevant non-profit groups, such as the Kinmen Battlefield History Society.

In addition, with the change of national policies and the acceleration of the development of Kinmen in recent years, the preservation of the cultural landscape of the battlefield is increasingly being threatened. The threats include: (1) the demilitarization of outlying islands has left a considerable number of military facilities idle, generally in poor condition, and some of which have even been damaged. Without any countermeasures, it will affect its heritage value; (2) as military installations were located on private land, after the withdrawal of troops, the demand for returning the land to the people was very strong, and some of the facilities had thus been dismantled, making it difficult to preserve them; (3) basic research still needs to be further undertaken, and relevant domestic archives still need to be systematically declassified, so as to provide the information on the formation and development context of battlefield cultural landscapes at the time; (4) the collection and collation of Cold War historical materials should continue and be compared with other regions in East Asia, such as Okinawa, Japan; Korea; and Malaysia; and (5) the work of oral history needs to be speeded up as then-officers, soldiers and war-weary civilians are aging.

In short, Kinmen is already well known around the world. The purpose of actively preserving the battlefield cultural landscape is not to return to the past, but to hold a positive historical view of future peace. If it can be seriously promoted, Kinmen will once again become the world's focus as a peaceful island.

In the mid-21st century, Kinmen was one of the important regions in world history. The international geopolitics and diplomacy during the Cold War brought Kinmen, in the 1950s, to the focus of world attention during the first two Taiwan Strait crises after the Korean War in 1950-53. Prolonged military governance and battleground administration had changed the course of social development and affected the spatial landscape.

On November 7th, 1992, the battleground administration in Kinmen was terminated five years after Taiwan's lifting of martial law. Welcoming democracy and freedom, Kinmen had to deal with new crises, and think over political, economic, social and cultural transformation, including the economic recession caused by demilitarization, the restructuring of social order, as well as the pressure of local development, the needs of the tourism industry, rebuilding of cultural confidence, and the idling of military camps. Therefore, how to preserve and reuse a large number of tangible and intangible battlefield cultural landscapes have become a thorny issue of regional revitalization.

In fact, the value of Kinmen's battlefield cultural landscape may be more accurately understood for its importance using objective SWOT analysis. Its advantages are that: (1) the battlefield history of Kinmen is part of world history and an irreplaceable historical scene for the Cold War in the Taiwan Strait; (2) the cultural landscape of the battleground reflects protracted military confrontation, and exhibits the interactions between humans and the environment; (3) large-scale and high-density underground military installations are rare heritage as compared to other Cold War scenes in East Asia, and the low-density battlefield cultural landscape has contributed to the island environment with ecological diversity; and (4) the transformation in the post-war era and the pursuit of peace demonstrate the historical cost of upholding freedom and peace, which are among universal values.

Of course, if it is to be protected for being one of the potential World Heritage Sites, its disadvantages may be that: (1) it is a site of great political sensitivity. China may disapprove strongly due to differing interpretations of the war; (2) our country is not a state party to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and (3) in the past, the Ministry of Culture (MOC) tended to adopt a bottom-up approach, selecting potential world heritage sites throughout Taiwan, but no integration was done across counties and cities, especially Kinmen’s competition and cooperation with Matsu.

But here are our chances: (1) concerning cultural landscapes in Kinmen and Matsu, the MOC Bureau of Cultural Heritage has initiated value discussion and action strategies for investigation, research, and planning. For the specific process of world heritage application, this master plan can provide guidance for future conservation and development; (2) most of the Cold War archives and documents about Kinmen and Matsu housed in the Archives II of the National Archives in Maryland, U.S. have been declassified, which can be further compared with domestic historical documents to reveal historical facts and understand the status of the two islands under international geopolitics; (3) cultural workers’ and academics’ research has met with some success from the dual perspectives of world history and regional history; (4) under the demand for cultural heritage preservation and tourism planning and development, local governments have gradually initiated the preservation, maintenance, and activation and utilization of battlefield cultural landscapes; (5) civil society has gradually attached importance to the establishment of relevant non-profit groups, such as the Kinmen Battlefield History Society.

In addition, with the change of national policies and the acceleration of the development of Kinmen in recent years, the preservation of the cultural landscape of the battlefield is increasingly being threatened. The threats include: (1) the demilitarization of outlying islands has left a considerable number of military facilities idle, generally in poor condition, and some of which have even been damaged. Without any countermeasures, it will affect its heritage value; (2) as military installations were located on private land, after the withdrawal of troops, the demand for returning the land to the people was very strong, and some of the facilities had thus been dismantled, making it difficult to preserve them; (3) basic research still needs to be further undertaken, and relevant domestic archives still need to be systematically declassified, so as to provide the information on the formation and development context of battlefield cultural landscapes at the time; (4) the collection and collation of Cold War historical materials should continue and be compared with other regions in East Asia, such as Okinawa, Japan; Korea; and Malaysia; and (5) the work of oral history needs to be speeded up as then-officers, soldiers and war-weary civilians are aging.

In short, Kinmen is already well known around the world. The purpose of actively preserving the battlefield cultural landscape is not to return to the past, but to hold a positive historical view of future peace. If it can be seriously promoted, Kinmen will once again become the world's focus as a peaceful island.

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