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Yazhong Zhang : How to explain and resolve Taiwan's "opposing everything associated with the mainland of China"
By Yazhong Zhang
May 1, 2014

Source: www.chinareviewnews.com, 2014-03-26 15:26:18


Taiwan's democracy has not grown in a healthy soil; therefore it is bound to have a catastrophe on its path.

Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國)abolished the martial law, lifted the ban on political parties and allowed the people of Taiwan to visit relatives on the mainland, so that Taiwan's democracy seedlings emerged. Democracy then not only broke the political monopoly of the Kuomintang (KMT, 國民黨or the Chinese Nationalist Party), but also provided more space for the development of cross-strait exchanges. Unfortunately, after Lee Teng-hui (李登輝1923-) took office, and after he removed the threat to his authority from the KMT non-mainstream faction and gradually consolidated his authority, he first expressed his "sorrow as a born Taiwanese" to the Japanese writer Ryotaro Shiba (司馬遼太郎), and then vowed to lead the people of Taiwan just as “the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” in the Exodus. Lee vowed to be Moses, to make the Taiwanese independent from China. His Canaan (translator’s note: a fertile land which was rich in milk and honey; God created this place for people to have a better world) is an independent nation; like the Israelites, the people of Taiwan should also become their own masters. Since then, Taiwan fell into a dilemma regarding its identity and future prospects, namely whether to unify with the mainland of China or to become independent. Are they Chinese or Taiwanese? Taiwan's democracy grew in an abnormal fashion amid the struggle of this identity.

In Taiwan, no one is willing to give up the autonomy of Taiwan. Lee Teng-hui led Taiwan’s subjective consciousness of separation from the mainland. To achieve this aim, in 1994, Lee began to seek United Nations (UN) membership. In 1996 Beijing’s interference in Taiwan's presidential election gave Lee the excuse to stay away from the mainland of China which threatened Taiwan.

In order to create the legitimacy of “we as a group" or "Taiwan subjectivity", Lee took advantage of Beijing’s political ideology against "Taiwan independence”. He implemented policies to continuously provoke the Communist Party of China (CPC) so that the CPC would continue to impose restrictions on Taiwan. But these policies also made the Taiwanese people feel more and more distant from the mainland. Opinion polls in Taiwan show that, from 1994, the fraction of people in Taiwan who support unification vs. independence has gradually declined. Until today, the topic remains in dispute.

Taiwan's democratization has also given Lee Teng-hui the opportunity of manipulation. In order to win the election, Lee Teng-hui did not hesitate to sacrifice the Taiwan ethnic identity and use a unification or independence stance as an election tool. From that point on, every election has become a battle of identity recognition. Taiwan began to enter a period of democratic civil war, in which every election result could not completely convince the other party. This remains so until today. The reason is very simple. On such issues as identity or ideological beliefs, it is not possible to make “the minority follows the majority". Taiwan's democratization has grown in this soil and atmosphere of suspicion, distrust and even regarding the "mainlanders as not our race".

In addition, during the Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) era, the history education started with the view of "a history on each side". Taiwan's history was not included in the Chinese history, but was written in the textbooks from the perspective of being colonized for four centuries. Now young people in their 30s had accepted the historical perspective of "a history on each side" and they perceived the two sides as having an "alien relationship."

Taiwan's largest contradiction and weakness is her economic dependence on the mainland, which disables her from political independence from the Chinese mainland. But in education, or in the sayings of some politicians, there is constant encouragement to view the two sides as "one country on each side, and each side is a sovereign independent country". Beijing also implements a policy of political and economic separation toward Taipei by giving as much as possible economic benefits to Taiwan, while strictly abiding by the principle of not compromising Taiwan's international space, with the "one country two systems" principle as the ultimate cross-strait political relations. Beijing’s policy has led the people of Taiwan to feel that behind the economic benefits or trade agreements, there must be a political aim. And that is to trap Taiwan economically, and then finally induce Taiwan to become entirely dependent on the mainland, so that finally Taiwan has to yield politically.

After Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, the two sides entered the era of big exchanges. However, Ma did not try to handle the cross-strait political positions, but only strengthened economic and trade exchanges. At the same time, unfortunately, Ma Ying-jeou, in order to win over the Green Camp (translator’s not: an informal political alliance in Taiwan, consisting of the Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan Solidarity Union, Taiwan Independence Party, and Taiwan Constitution Association), appointed Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛)as the Minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, who was from the Taiwan Solidarity Union supported by Lee Teng-hui. Ms. Lai lacked good faith in the understanding of cross-strait relations. She rarely positively refuted Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP’s) criticisms, so that the achievement of peaceful cross-strait exchanges in Taiwan did not receive a positive and well-intended interpretation. With the rapid economic development of the Chinese mainland, some people in Taiwan felt increasing fear and anxiety toward the mainland.

Recently, the students in Taiwan occupied the Legislative Yuan (translator’s note: it has become more common in Taiwanese newspapers to refer to the Legislative Yuan as the "parliament") in the name of "anti-black-box operation for the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement". The underlying reason was the distrust and fear towards the mainland. Among the young people who participated in the protest, few really understood the specific content of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement. After the students occupied the Legislative Yuan, their demands changed constantly, which included the "anti-black-box operation", the "procedural justice", the "anti-Cross-Strait-Service-Trade-Agreement",  the demand for Ma Ying-jeou to apologize, and the demand for Premier Jiang Yihua(江宜樺)to step down. Protest supporters arrived from all directions, including lawyers, professors and the DPP members (translators’ note: almost all the student protest leaders are DPP members). Some hung the national flags upside down, while some advocated Taiwan independence. In essence, this social movement is anti-KMT, anti-Ma and anti-China. Some student protesters naively thought they were defending democracy in Taiwan, but they might not understand that a group of social elites who "oppose everything associated with the mainland of China" are using them in creating political interests.

Taiwan is in a self-inflicted mess. The DPP cannot afford to pursue Taiwan independence, but continues to spread the Taiwan independence seed and the hostility toward the mainland. Ma Ying-jeou’s liability is that during his tenure he has been reluctant to negotiate with the mainland on the cross-strait political stance. Economic and trade exchanges inevitably would have mixed pros and cons. However, the uncertain political stance has given the DPP the opportunity to exaggerate the potential threat of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement to the maximum and deliberately distort and stigmatize the opportunity brought to Taiwan.

Taiwan has experienced nearly two decades of desinicization education and has not come out of the democratic civil war on national identity and direction. If the cross-strait political stance is not resolved, there will never be peace within Taiwan. The ECFA has already created chaos that hurt Taiwan badly. Now the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan were occupied due to the Cross-Strait Service Agreement. How will the two sides deal with each other in the future? 

In order to eliminate the bad karmic seed sowed in the Lee Teng-hui era and remove the bad fate created in the Chen Shui-bian era, the only path for Taiwan is to face the cross-strait core political issues. Only when the issue of the cross-strait political stance finds a mutually satisfying solution, can the cross-strait relations truly have a peaceful development and can Taiwan remove the shadow of "opposing everything associated with the mainland of China". There is a Western proverb: "Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”. It is worthwhile for Ma Ying-jeou and Taiwan to ponder this.

Source: British Financial Times

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Dr. Yazhong Zhang (Ya-chung Chang) is the Chairman of the Chinese Integration Association and Professor in Political Science at the National Taiwan University. He has published more than ten books including Theory of the Cross-Strait Sovereignty, Theory of the Cross-Strait Integration, European Integration: Interactions of Intergovernmental Doctrine and Ultra-Nationalism, U.S.-China Policy: Containment, Engagement, and Strategic Partners. They are all important writings in the relevant academic fields. Open the Political Market (Linking Publishing Company, Taipei, Taiwan) is the book on his new political thinking. Recent interview on Phoenix TV: http://v.ifeng.com/opinion/taiwan/
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