Democracy arrives in Waves
Chen Shui-bian rose to Power on the Second Wave and is falling from Grace on the Third Wave
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 2, 2008
The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall has reopened. Its new decor can't even compare with the decor of a night market souvenir shop. Nothing suggests the solemn dignity of a memorial to democracy. Nothing suggests a memorial to a great nation's artistic and cultural achievements. The hall is a chaotic mess, and reflects nothing but the obsessions of a barbaric political regime filled with hatred and consumed by a desire for revenge.
The instigators of the changes originally wanted to demolish Chiang Kai-shek's bronze statue. Failing that they wanted to "imprison him in effigy" by installing iron bars around his statue, but the DPP was afraid to alienate moderate voters. They wanted to exploit the victims of the 228 Incident by surrounding Chiang's statue with their photographs. But family members publicly opposed this political gesture. They wanted to exploit the victims of the White Terror by surrounding Chiang's statue with their photographs. But they were reluctant to inadvertently elevate real, live Communist agents into "martyrs of democracy." This is how they wound up the current result, which resembles nothing so much as a five and ten cent store or a magazine stand. The result is a disorderly hodge-podge utterly incapable of evoking the solemn mood of a hall "commemorating democracy." All it can do is reveal the ruling regime's barbarism and superficiality. All it can do is make the ruling regime appear ridiculous. The physical chaos reflects the ruling regime's intellectual confusion as it attempts to apply its own spin control to the Republic of China's democracy.
Since the ruling regime wants to "commemorate Taiwan's democracy," we may as well recapitulate the evolution of democracy on Taiwan over the past 60 years. Due to space constraints, we can only examine the broad outlines and cannot go into detail.
If we review the progress of the democratic opposition movement over the past 60 years, the process can be divided into three waves. In chronological order, they are: The First Wave. No denial of Chinese identity. The Second Wave. The rise of "Taiwanese nativism." The Third Wave. Opposition to Chen Shui-bian/DPP kleptocracy.
The first wave of the democratic tide protested the KMT's authoritarianism and martial law. It did not involve the denial of one's Chinese identity. Between the 228 Incident in 1947 and the ROC's expulsion from the UN in the 70s, except for a handful of exiles, society had almost no "Taiwanese consciousness." The Chinese Civil War was raging at the time. Some people on Taiwan endorsed law and order and harsh punishments against agents provocateurs and supported the KMT government. Other people, such as Hsieh Hsueh-kung, hoped that the Chinese Communists would win the civil war and govern Taiwan. In short, people were either Nationalist or Communist. All were Chinese. Almost no one advocated "Taiwan independence." In 1949, after the central government relocated to Taiwan, the political opposition movement split in two. One branch, including Lei Chen and Yin Hai-kuang, perceived the struggle over democracy as an "internal conflict." Another branch perceived the struggle between the CCP and the KMT as an "us vs. them struggle," and saw Communist agents everywhere. These two opposition movements had two things in common. One. Both advocated or at least did not deny that they were Chinese. It was rare to encounter anyone who advocated "Taiwan independence." Two. Participants were mainly mainlanders. The so-called "White Terror" was a wave of repression against these advocates of democracy. Many of these "Communist agents" were of course "pro-unification." Others, such as Lei Chen, who argued 50 years ago that "reclaiming the mainland was hopeless," weren't necessarily "pro-unification." Of course some were victims of injustice. During the late 60s people returned from overseas and began to identify with the island. The Defend Diaoyutai Movement, the revival of liberalism in the late 70s, and the "China Tide" movement remained within the framework of a Chinese identity. Although "Taiwan independence" was beginning to develop both overseas and on the island, it remained a non-mainstream movement. Today a "Chinese identity" and "Taiwan's democracy movement" are presumed to be in opposition. So-called "mainlanders" are vilified as "anti-democratic," in a ludicrous manner totally at odds with the facts. In fact, Taiwan underwent a long period during which the "democracy movement" could not be equated with either denial of one's Chinese identity or with being "pro-unification." This was the situation during the "White Terror" and prior to the lifting of martial law.
The second wave of democratic opposition was "Nativist" oriented. It began in the 70s as part of a domino effect resulting from the ROC's expulsion from the UN in 1971, and a "broken window effect" resulting from the Chungli Incident in 1977. Long-suppressed "Nativism" and "Taiwan independence" soon become the dominant force within the political opposition. Actually, under martial law in the 70s, "Nativist" opposition took the form of demands to "Return to the Constitution" and to lift martial law. Only after the DPP promulgated its "Taiwan Independence Party Constitution" did the opposition democratic movement demand "Taiwan independence" and "Nativism." Even then, "Nativism" and "Taiwan independence" did not call for enmity between Taiwan and mainland China, but suggested that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait could become "fraternal nations." Nor did it vilify "mainlanders." It defined them as "residents of Taiwan." In 2000, Lee Teng-hui lost power as a result of his "black gold" politics and repeated attempts to subvert the constitution. The "Resolution on Taiwan's Future" moderated the DPP's demands from "Taiwan independence," to "an independent Taiwan," and from a "Nativist path" to "clean government" and a "New Centrist Path." The DPP's lip service to moderation, combined with a political schism within the KMT, enabled the DPP to seize power. This amounted to a major victory for "Nativist" oriented elements within the democratic opposition movement.
The Third Wave of the democratic tide began with Chen Shui-bian's "Two Bullets" political dirty tricks, which enabled him to refuse to vacate the Presidential Palace. It reached its climax when the million strong Red Shirt Army filled the city streets like a lava flow, protesting rampant "Green Government" corruption. A vote of non-confidence in Chen Shui-bian and the DPP has become the theme of this year's legislative and presidential elections. In other words, the theme of the third wave of the democratic tide is "anti-corruption," "anti-Chen Shui-bian," and "anti-DPP." The Republic of China's democracy movement has arrived in waves. The Wild Lily student protests against KMT authoritarianism were a democratic opposition movement. The Red Shirt Army protests against DPP kleptocracy were a democratic opposition movement. Chen Shui-bian and the DPP have reneged on their promise to establish "fraternal relations" with mainland China. They have gone back to referring to "mainlanders" as "Chinese pigs." They are referring to democratic dissidents such as Shih Ming-teh and Tsao Hsing-chen as "Chi-Com fellow travelers." They know their demands for the "rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution" are cynical "self-deception." Yet they persist in promulgating their "Resolution for a Normal Nation," obstinate to the bitter end. The foul stench of corruption permeates the air, facilitating violations of the constitution and the law. The DPP and Chen Shui-bian rode to power on the crest of a wave of "Taiwanese values." Now it is being questioned for trampling over those same values. The theme of the third wave of Taiwan's opposition movement is the rebuilding of those "Taiwanese values." Chen Shui-bian and the Democratic Progressive Party have lost the respect and trust of the community, and now face severe challenges.
Three waves of democracy. Each wave had its own theme. Each wave addressed issues raised by the previous wave. Chen Shui-bian and the Democratic Progressive Party continue to gnaw on the corpses washed ashore by the first wave on February 28, 1947, and the second wave of "Taiwanese nativism." They ignore the massive surge of the third wave that is protesting Chen Shui-bian and the DPP's moral bankruptcy and is demanding the restoration of moral values Chen Shui-bian and the DPP have forsaken. The "Memorial" mentions only the 228 Incident. It makes no mention of "Charlie" and "Pearl," who dared to speak truth to power. The "Memorial" mentions only the Wild Lily student protests against the KMT. It ignores the one million strong Red Shirt Army protests against Chen Shui-bian's brazen corruption. If the "Memorial" ignores this third wave, how can we talk about "Taiwan's democracy?" If the memorial refuses to display the awe-inspiring spectacle of the hundreds of thousands of "A-bian step down!" banners held high by one million Red Shirt Army protestors, how can we talk about "Taiwan's democracy?"
Three waves of democracy, one after another. As Chen Shui-bian gnaws on the corpses washed up by the first wave, while riding the crest of the second wave, he may well find himself inundated by the third wave. When posterity "commemorates Taiwan's democracy," no one will be left untouched by the surging waters of the third wave.
2008.01.02 02:55 am