A Century Long Karmic Cycle: Back to Sun Yat-sen and the Xinhai Revolution
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 5, 2010
The Republic of China has announced its intention to celebrate its National Day centennial in grand fashion. The People's Republic of China has announced plans to expand its commemoration of the centennial of the Wuchang Uprising and 1911 Revolution. All of a sudden, the clock has been turned back one hundred years.
Turning the clock back one hundred years is mere metaphor. It contains considerable truth. One hundred years ago, the Opium War led to a movement to "save the nation and the people." This led in turn to the 1911 Revolution and the creation of Asia's first democratic republic -- the Republic of China. This dynastic change was different from previous dynastic changes in China's history. The Republic of China was founded on the promise of ensuring "national unity, human rights, and the people's livelihood."
Over the past century, the Republic of China has endured both civil wars and foreign invasions. To make a long story short, on Taiwan it finally achieved its ideal of political democracy and a reasonably equitable distribution of economic wealth. The ROC underwent a Civil War, a struggle to determine "Whither China?" This led to sixty years of divided rule across the Taiwan Strait. Since then, the People's Republic of China endured People's Communes, the Cultural Revolution, and other "trial and error" processes. Today its successful efforts at "reform and liberalization" have attracted worldwide attention. As the first article in this series noted, this closely approximates the ideals of the 1911 Revolution 100 years ago, and parts company with the proletarian revolution 60 years ago and the Cultural Revolution 40 years ago.
The People's Republic of China has undergone a "peaceful rise." It has confronted certain issues, and must deal with them. Sixty years ago, the PRC had a set of ideologies. But it marched down the wrong path. Its future path appears correct. But it must reconcile its path with a discredited ideology. During last year's 60th annual PRC National Day celebration, Hu Jintao reaffirmed Marxism and Mao Zedong Thought. This is nothing less than stuffing feet which have been restored to their natural, liberated state, back into their shoes made for bound feet. Can it really be done? Can it actually work?
By the same token, cross-Strait relations can no longer return to a state of "armed civil war." Instead, we must confront the question of what political and economic system China (Taiwan plus the Mainland) should adopt, and what lifestyle the Chinese people (on both Taiwan on the Mainland) should adopt. This was the question asked on the eve of the 1911 Revolution, one hundred years ago. Sixty years of cross-Strait competition have cost both sides dearly. Does it not appear as if we have returned to the starting point? To the 1911 Revolution, one hundred years ago? Isn't the challenge confronting both sides, how to realize Sun Yat-sen's dream of "national unity, human rights, and the people's livelihood?"
The People's Republic of China authorities may be secretly delighted. In recent years the success of its "reform and liberalization" campaign have earned it universal acclaim. Even Francis Fukuyama, author of "The End of History and the Last Man," has reportedly been shaken by China's accomplishments. Fukuyama believes that political democracy and a free market are the end point of mankind's historical evolution. Reform and liberalization may include variations. But basically they are erected on a foundation of democracy. They are based on people and the liberation of human potential, not to mention human invention. The success of reforms and peaceful emergence must be chalked up to the outstanding leadership of Deng Xiaoping and Hu Jintao. Such achievements are mainly the result of enlightened despotism. They are hardly the achievements of "socialism with Chinese characteristics." If circumstances change, if an unscrupulous individual assumes control, such political and economic successes could be overturned within a few short years. Therefore the People's Republic of China may need to return to the beginning, to the 1911 Revolution. Perhaps there is where it will find the destiny of the nation and the people.
Twenty years ago, Mainland leaders often spoke of "feeling the stones to cross the river." Today it should have a commanding view of the bigger picture. It no longer needs to feel the stones to determine where to go. Today the People's Republic of China is akin to three concentric circles. The inner circle is Mainland China's "peaceful evolution." Those in power guide democratic evolution, the way Chiang Ching-kuo did on Taiwan. The next circle is "peaceful development" in cross-Strait relations. The outer circle is "peaceful rise" on the international stage. The three complement each other. They must not contradict each other. For example, if cross-Straits relations are handled by "non-peaceful means," it will influence the Mainland's "peaceful rise" on the international stage. If internally the Mainland is unable to undergo "peaceful evolution," its "peaceful rise" will be a tower erected on a foundation of quicksand.
The Republic of China centennial is approaching. The People's Republic of China stands at the center of these three concentric circles, contemplating cross-Strait relations. Peaceful development in cross-Strait relations, peaceful evolution in domestic politics, and peaceful rise on the international stage are mutually complementary. One can no longer think in terms of "Who will gobble up whom?" Can one really use military force to exterminate a democratic form of government such as the Republic of China? We no longer need to consider "one country, two systems." Can we not find a definition of "China" that people on both sides of the Strait can recognize, both politically and economically? Following the 1911 Revolution, The KMT and CCP attempted to use military force to compel each other to adopt their own political and economic concepts. That sort of tragic folly must not be replayed. The future must be decided on the basis of concrete political and economic achievements. The two sides must simultaneously compete and cooperate. They must attempt to persuade each other. Only such process orientation can provide both sides with the necessary forward impetus. Only such a rational process can clarify our goals, and harmonize with the ways of heaven and earth.
If we view cross-Strait relations from this vantage point, we can be benevolent and sincere. We can be more constructive, and less destructive. We have urged Beijing not to lure Taipei into a trap, but instead to invite Taipei to a dance. The two sides should forgo trickery, intrigues, and power struggles. They should make an effort to act in good faith, establishing a political and economic system acceptable for people on both sides. This generation of leaders must go beyond Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. They must even go beyond Chiang Ching-kuo and Deng Xiaoping. Today people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are no longer the poor and ignorant masses of the late Qing and early republic. They are no longer the masses of the martial law era, unable to choose their own actions, or the masses during the Cultural Revolution, unable to assert their own identities. The two sides have no reason not to reaffirm the values of the 1911 Revolution and to work together to realize the unfulfilled political and economic potential of the 1911 Revolution.
Let us view things from this perspective. Within the aforementioned three concentric circles, cross-Strait relations play a key role. The inner circle reveals that Beijing will not strangle a democratic system. The outer concentric circle reveals that Mainland China rise peacefully on a basis of universal human rights and the people's livelihood. This is a reasonable and practicable basis for cross-Strait relations. It is also a return to the century old vision of the 1911 Revolution.
The Republic of China is nearly one hundred years old. If the People's Republic of China considers this celebration one held by "a part of China," it should offer its sincere blessing. It may not be able to make such a blessing explicit. But the 1911 Revolution and the legacy of Sun Yat-sen is our common heritage. It is enough that the Mainaland acknowledges this in its heart.
2010.01.05 03:57 am