I saw the first Captain America movie in Taiwan, with a Taiwanese friend who joked that when he started his mandatory military service, he was going to train to be Captain Taiwan. Which of course made me think about what Captain Taiwan might be like, and that led me to wondering about all the East Asian captains, and since I am a scholar of East Asian history, law, and politics, and also a total nerd, I eventually dreamed up a complete set of East Asian Captains, with background and some brief speculation about their role in international relations. Today I mentioned this to my friend Sushu (of potofsoup), and she challenged me to create a fancast for all of these, with a promise that if I did, she would draw pictures of them. Since I love Sushu’s art, this was hard to resist. So, uh, sorry everyone, for this.
Captain China 中国队长 or 中国上尉: Peng Linlin 彭琳琳
The PRC government first expressed interest in producing supersoldiers in the late 1950s, with help from scientists from the USSR. The loss of these experts in the Sino-Soviet Split slowed the project down, and the Cultural Revolution derailed it entirely. Work resumed in the late 90s under Chairman Jiang Zemin, but it wasn’t until this decade that the formula was ready. Followers of international politics generally agree that the selection of a young woman, PLA recruit Peng Linlin, is part of China’s “soft power” approach, and cynics say that she was chosen primarily because she was pretty and expendable— the daughter of migrant workers, Peng has no powerful family members to be upset if the experiment failed. Then again, it could just be that Peng was the perfect candidate— she tested into Peking University from rural Anhui, graduated at the top of the biology department class, and then turned down a lucrative biotech job in favor of joining the PLA. She volunteered to be the test subject for the Captain China serum to provide a role model for rural Chinese, and because the government promised to provide for her parents should anything go wrong.
Captain China’s two subordinates, Lt. Hong Kong and Lt. Macau, are not super soldiers. Their positions are purely for publicity.
Lt. Hong Kong 香港少尉 — Katie Lau 劉自宜
Lt. Hong Kong was chosen via a televised talent contest. The clear winner was Katie Lau, who received nearly perfect scores in all three portions of the contest: singing, foreign language, and martial arts. The daughter of two university professors, Lau was classically educated at an elite Catholic girls’ school, but always wanted to be an actress. She dislikes mainlanders, but is usually willing to hide her resentment for a shot at stardom, so long as no one brings up touchy issues like Tiananmen Square, the real estate market, or Shitgate.
Lt. Macau 澳門少衛 — Raymond Cheung 鄭冰瑜
Officially, Macau selected their representative via a lottery drawing. Unofficially, everyone knew the position was for sale. The “winner” was Raymond Cheung, son of casino magnate Jupiter Cheung, whose business interests include… well, maybe we should move on. Raymond is mostly doing this to meet girls.
Captain Republic of China 中華民國隊長 — Lee Chien-kai 李建凱
Captain ROC is usually called Captain Taiwan in Taiwan and abroad. Mainland China insists on referring to him as Lt. Chinese Taipei (中華台北少尉). Lee is actually the second Captain ROC— the first (Chu Chung-hsuan) was created in the 1960s to be a super-bodyguard for Chiang Kai-shek. No one knows why he disappeared in the early 1980s; some say he was killed by mainland assassins, some say Chiang Ching-kuo had him eliminated to help consolidate power after his father died, others insist he’s still alive and list sightings in Japan, Singapore, and the mountains of Taiwan. The position stayed vacant until 2013, when President Ma Ying-jeoh announced that a new Captain ROC had been created and trained. At first this was dismissed as a preposterous stunt by a president desperate to boost his single-digit popularity, but Lee quickly won respect from both the Green and Blue parties for his tireless dedication rescuing typhoon and landslide victims.
Lee Chien-kai was born in Keelung, but his parents divorced when he was young, and he and his mom moved to Taoyuan to be near her family. He applied to defer his mandatory military service to get an MA in computer science, but felt so guilty for doing so that he retracted the deferral and enlisted. Lee was chosen partly for his hard work, but also because he is from an old Taiwanese family, but still supports the KMT party.
Lee is not the only Captain Taiwan.
Captain Taiwan 台灣隊長 — Koeh Him-chhia 郭欣倩
After President Chen Shui-bian was nearly assassinated (or was he?), he decided to take a page from his hated predecessor’s book and create a superhero bodyguard. Unfortunately, by the time the project was completed, Chen’s party had lost the 2008 election and the new president was on his way. Newly-trained supersoldier Koeh Him-chhia had no interest in working for the party she saw as the fascist invaders of her homeland, and President Ma Ying-jeoh was worried that the existence of a Taiwanese superhero would threaten his outreach to mainland China. In exchange for a government pension paid to her grandparents, Koeh agreed to quietly move back to Tainan. Not long after, a masked superhero dressed in green and white, and calling herself “Captain Taiwan” began appearing around southern Taiwan, doing everything from finding lost pets to rescuing elderly people in the middle of the worst typhoons. In the last two years, Captain Taiwan has become increasingly politically active, attending the sunflower protests in March 2014, and publicly criticizing Captain ROC for meeting with Captain China during high-level cross-strait talks. She only speaks Taiwanese in public.
Koeh Him-chhia was born in Kaohsiung in 1978. She never knew her parents— both were anti-KMT activists imprisoned during the White Terror. Before Koeh was even born, her father died from an “accident” in prison. Her mother was allowed house arrest while pregnant, but refused to give up her activism. Soon after Him-chhia was born, her mother snuck out of the house to attend a meeting and never returned. Baby Him-chhia was sent to Tainan to be raised by her father’s parents. Neither spoke Mandarin well, so Him-chhia grew up speaking Taiwanese at home, and was punished nearly every weekday for speaking it in school. Although her public persona can be aggressive and prickly, Him-chhia is warm and kind in person, and will rapidly thaw towards anyone who wants to discuss the joys of Taiwanese food.
I was going to do this for Korea and Japan, but it’s late and I am sleepy, so maybe later.