Friday, July 6, 2007

High School Students and the Future of the Nation

High School Students and the Future of the Nation
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
July 5, 2007

Comment: The following editorial from the United Daily News is pretty damned feeble. Reading it you would hardly realize how strong the case it makes actually is. In short, less than inspiring, but at least it's not on the wrong side of the issue.

High School Students and the Future of the Nation
United Daily News editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
July 5, 2007

Republic of Taiwan/Republic of China/People's Republic of China

The latest edition of the high school textbook "The Citizen and Society," includes additional material relating to practical politics. It also includes considerable commentary on cross-Straits issues. For example, the textbook directs high school students to discuss the so-called "three options for the nation's future": unification, Taiwan independence, and maintaining the status quo.

Such a curriculum is worth anticipating. After all, discussing these three options in the classroom, where it is easier to keep a cool head and engage in rational thought, should be easier than debating them during election season. But turning a political topic such as the "three options" into an educational topic will be no easy matter. The first problem is the "reunification/Taiwan independence/maintaining the status quo" formulation.

From a realpolitik perspective, the terms "reunification/Taiwan independence/maintaining the status quo" have never been properly defined. Because the definition of these three options remain unclear, controversies arising from them remain difficult to resolve. Before introducing such a political topic into the classroom, one must first define one's terms.

Taiwan independence is a term whose definition is extremely unclear. For example, the Democratic Progressive Party's Taiwan Independence Constitution calls for "the founding of a Republic of Taiwan." The Taiwan Independence Constitution requires the "rectification of names and authoring of a new constitution." But the Democratic Progressive Party's "Resolution on Taiwan's Future" asserts that "Taiwan is a sovereign and independent nation, whose current name is the Republic of China." This is also considered a form of Taiwan independence, one that doesn't require the "rectification of names and authoring of a new constitution." Furthermore, Taiwan independence rhetoric usually avoids taboo terms such as "Taiwan independence." Instead it resorts to code words such as the "primacy of Taiwan," "nativization," "rectification of names and authoring of a new constitution," "deSinicization," "purging of Chiang Kai-shek influences," and the "normalization of Taiwan."

If one asks a high school student, "Do you support Taiwan independence?" what is one actually asking him? Is one asking him whether he advocates "the primacy of Taiwan?" Is one asking him whether he feels that "Taiwan is already independent, and its current name is the Republic of China?" Or is one asking him if he demands the "overthrow of the Republic of China and the founding of a Republic of Taiwan?" In short, unless "Taiwan independence" is accurately defined, how can it become an educational topic? How can "options for the nation's future" become an academic subject?

What does "reunification" mean? Even Frank Hsieh has advocated a "constitutionally defined One China," only to be pigeonholed as a "reunificationist." But if "reunification" means "advocating Taiwan's annexation by the People's Republic of China," then how many people on Taiwan hold this position? Does advocating cross-Straits exchange make one a "reunificationist?" Ten years ago, Taiwan businessmen on the mainland were denounced as "traitors to Taiwan." Today they have been rehabilitated, and are referred to as "Taiwan's economic advance guard." Obviously the label "reunificationist" has no fixed definition.

At its core, "maintaining the status quo" means to "maintain the Republic of China." But does that refer to the Republic of China as defined by the constitution? Or does it refer to the Republic of China in "One China, Two Interpretations?" Does it refer to the Democratic Progressive Party's definition of the Republic of China, in its "Resolution on Taiwan's Future?" Everyone has his own view. No one is able to agree. Is the Republic of China an "alien regime?" Is the Republic of China merely a shell company for creeping independence? Until these terms have been defined, "maintaining the status quo" may also be hard to define.

High school textbooks will include "maintaining the status quo" as an option. This reflects reality, transcends the "reunification vs. independence dichotomy," and is worth affirming. Otherwise one will see only the "Republic of Taiwan" and the "People's Republic of China" as options for the nation's future, and no mention of the Republic of China.

If one wishes to teach the "three options for the nation's future" in the high school classroom, one should first attempt to define "reunification/Taiwan independence/maintaining the status quo." Students should be advised that this is a subject about which everyone has different views, and opinions are sharply divided. This is the best way to introduce such a curriculum to the students. If one can make students understand the distinction between populist demagoguery and scholarly debate, when students are confronted by such a curriculum, they will find it far easier to keep a cool head and engage in rational thought.

The "three options for the nation's future" should be more precisely defined, not merely in the high school classroom, but also in the real world. Some have suggested that "reunification vs. independence is a phony issue," that it is a remote topic that can only be settled decades from now. But if Taiwan independence advocates the overthrow of the Republic of China and the establishment of a Republic of Taiwan, then how much room is there to demagogue the issue of Taiwan independence? By the same token, if reunification is defined as advocating the annexation of Taiwan by the People's Republic of China, then how many reunificationists are there on Taiwan?

Actually, if one wants high school textbooks to transcend the poorly defined options of "unification/independence/maintaining the status quo," one might as well rename these three "three options for the nation's future."

Taiwan's "three options for the nation's future" should not be the poorly defined choices "reunification/independence/maintaining the status quo." They should be: "annexation by the People's Republic of China/establishing a Republic of Taiwan/preserving the Republic of China"

Only when the issue is defined this way, will high school students and the public understand.

Original Chinese below:

2007.07.05 03:45 am















No comments: