Taiwan's Renaissance Depends on the Rebirth of the Republic of China
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, China)
May 21, 2008
The title of Ma Ying-jeou's inaugural address is "Taiwan's Renaissance." But within the text you see only phrases such as "the Republic of China's Renaissance on Taiwan."
Democracy is blessing. Yesterday, The skies over Taiwan remained unchanged. Life on the island remained unchanged. Apart from a few sections of road in Taipei being closed to traffic for the duration of the inaugural ceremony, traffic remained unchanged. Inside the Presidential Palace however, Chen Shui-bian handed the Great Seal of the Republic of China, the symbol of our nation's sovereignty, over to Ma Ying-jeou. Within minutes, they completed a peaceful transfer of political power. At that moment the entire nation changed. The head of state changed. The nation's course changed. The nation's prospects changed. Everything changed. Democracy is a blessing, a strange and wondrous blessing.
In his inaugural address Ma Ying-jeou said Taiwan is the only region of the world ruled by ethnic Chinese that has undergone a "second change of ruling parties." What is particularly astonishing about this "second change of ruling parties" is that Chen Shui-bian, who asserted that the "Republic of China is dead," will be handing over the reins of the Republic of China government to Ma Ying-jeou, whom champions of Taiwan independence consider an "alien regime." This, in effect, is the "Renaissance of the Republic of China on Taiwan."
One could say that yesterday's democratic transfer of political power nullified Chen Shui-bian's imprecation that the "Republic of China is dead." The people of Taiwan used their ballots to rescue the Republic of China. This aspect of democracy, this "second change of ruling parties" is even more astonishing, and has left people incredulous.
The principle theme of President Ma's inaugural address was the rehabilitation of the Republic of China. First he told his domestic audience "the Republic of China has gained a new lease on life on Taiwan" and that he intends to restore public identification with the Republic of China. Second, he told listeners on both sides of the Taiwan Strait the vital role of the 1992 Consensus and One China, Different Interpretations. He proposed maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, under the framework of the Republic of China Constitution.
This is how President Ma is positioning himself relative to his two major internal and external problems. With regards Taiwan, to borrow Frank Hsieh's phrase, he seeks "Reconciliation and Coexistence," to establish a consensus concerning the Republic of China. With regards cross-strait relations, he seeks Beijing's respect for the Republic of China's status quo, and "peace and mutual prosperity." These problems have vital internal and external implications. If Beijing allows the Republic of China greater breathing room, the public on Taiwan will identify more closely with the Republic of China. If on the other hand, pro independence sentiment on Taiwan increases, Beijing will surely reduce Taiwan's room to maneuver.
Let's take a closer look at his inaugural address, which he entitled "Taiwan's Renaissance." The only place where the word "renaissance" appears is "the Republic of China has received a new lease on life on Taiwan." President Ma pointed out that during his term of office the Republic of China will celebrate its centennial. He underscored the fact that the Republic of China ruled the mainland region for only 38 years, but the Taiwan region for over 60 years. He underscored the fact that "the fate of the Republic of China is now inextricably intertwined with the fate of Taiwan." In fact, the notion that "the Republic of China has received a new lease on life on Taiwan" is inextricably intertwined with the notion of a "second change of ruling parties." After all, If President Ma cannot persuade the public on Taiwan to identify with "the Republic of China's renaissance," how can he talk of "One China, Different Interpretations?"
In his speech President Ma referred to his own status as a "post war immigrant." He said Taiwan was his home, and that his loved ones were buried here. He said he was grateful to Taiwan society for accepting, cultivating, and embracing this "post war immigrant." His words may have reflected Ma Ying-jeou's deeply ingrained sense of Original Sin. His words may have paid obeisance to "earlier immigrants'" sense of entitlement. They did demonstrate that Ma Ying-jeou lacks confidence in his own appeals for "Reconciliation and Coexistence." This may be a tough nut for Ma Ying-jeou to crack.
As expected, President Ma's cross-strait relations will be built on the 1992 Consensus and One China, Different Interpretations. He called for "no unification, no independence, and no war." In his speech, President Ma specifically mentioned "Mr. Hu Jintao's last three most recent remarks on cross-strait relations," He endorsed Hu Jintao's 1992 Consensus and his Four Constants, i.e., building of mutual trust, shelving of disputes, seeking of commonalities, and creation of win/win. Usually inaugural addresses mention only abstract principles. For Ma Ying-jeou to specifically address and dialogue with Hu Jintao in his inaugural address is rather extraordinary. This is because even though the 1992 Consensus has now become the new point of reference for cross-strait interaction, it still takes two to Tango. This is not a solo performance for either side. If Ma and Hu truly believe this is a rare, historic opportunity, they must work together and on the basis of the 1992 Consensus gradually improve cross-strait relations. In which case Beijing will not perceive the 1992 Consensus as a means of indefinitely postponing cross-strait talks, and will be more inclined to allow Taiwan more international space.
President Ma said that the President of the Republic of China's most sacred duty is to defend the Constitution. This is the President of the Republic of China's greatest challenge. On Taiwan, defending the Constitution means two things. One is maintaining public identification with the Republic of China. The other is complying with provisions of the Republic of China Constitution regarding one's powers and responsibilities. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian failed because they had no desire or intention to defend the Republic of China and its Constitution. That is why they promoted their "Two States Theory," their "Rectification of Names" campaigns, and their "Authoring of a New Constitution" campaigns. They were unable to defend the ROC Constitution because Beijing knew Lee and Chen were merely using the ROC Constitution as cover while they promoted "creeping independence." Ma Ying-jeou by contrast, is someone willing to defend the ROC Constitution. If Ma Ying-jeou is unable to defend the ROC Constitution, then nobody can defend it. Then nobody will be willing to defend it. Then nobody will dare to defend it. Beijing cannot treat the Republic of China the same way it treated Taiwan independence. Beijing cannot treat Ma Ying-jeou the same way it treated Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian.
President Ma Ying-jeou and Chairman Hu Jintao have an historic opportunity to break the current cross-strait deadlock. Both are aware that the recent presidential election rescued the Republic of China from Chen Shui-bian's imprecation that the "Republic of China is dead." Therefore Ma Ying-jeou must midwife the rebirth of the Republic of China. Hu Jintao must respect the 1992 Consensus and One China, Different Interpretations premise. Only this will enable ROC voters on Taiwan to support and identify politically with the Republic of China and with ROC cross-strait policy. If the Republic of China can not be kept alive, it will be difficult to maintain cross-strait relations. The two sides need such an understanding. Ma Ying-jeou's speech concluded with two rallying cries: Long live Taiwan's democracy! Long live the Republic of China! Normal relations across the Taiwan Strait must be built on Taiwan's democracy and the Republic of China. If the Republic of China loses the support of Taiwan's democracy, cross-strait relations are bound to degenerate. This is Ma Ying-jeou's problem. It is something Hu surely can appreciate.
Taiwan's Renaissance depends on the rebirth of the Republic of China. The rebirth of cross-strait relations depends on Beijing's understanding and implementation of the 1992 Consensus and One China, Different Interpretations.
2008.05.21 02:12 am