Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tsai Ing-wen, Why All the Hemming and Hawing?

Tsai Ing-wen, Why All the Hemming and Hawing?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
March 27, 2009

Tsai Ing-wen has proposed championing Taiwan by adopting a "New Nativism." In her view, the DPP's "Old Nativism" has become too narrowly exclusive. That narrow understanding of nativism lacks the tolerance that an "immigrant society" needs the most.

[Translator's Note: Referring to the Taiwan region as an "immigrant society" or "society of immigrants" is politically misleading. The term "immigrant" denotes movement from one nation to another. Taiwan is a region of the Republic of China. ROC citizens who migrate from the Mainland to Taiwan are migrants, not "immigrants."]

Why is tolerance necessary? Tsai Ing-wen says the Democratic Progressive Party must adhere to its ideals, and that the difference between the DPP and the KMT is in their ideals. To achieve its ideals the DPP must expand its political base by becoming more tolerant. Tsai Ing-wen effectively conceded that the DPP's "ideals" were not inclusive enough. She spoke repeatedly about "ideals," but she never made clear what those "ideals" were. All that hemming and hawing. She obviously had something to say, but just couldn't spit it out.

In fact, amidst all of Tsai Ing-wen's rhetoric, her so-called "ideals" was merely a euphemism for Taiwan independence. The Democratic Progressive Party has used many euphemisms for Taiwan independence. Tsai Ing-wen can hardly deny that the Democratic Progressive Party's ideal is Taiwan independence. But she apparently hopes to lead the Democratic Progressive Party away from the constraints of "narrowly defined Taiwan independence." Hence her euphemistic invocation of "ideals." As for her affirmation that "what an immigrant society most needs is tolerance," she was unwilling to openly state that "an immigrant society must not divide people according to tribes." She wanted to avoid criticism from members of her own party. Her rhetoric was sufficiently convoluted to resembled a pretzel.

Put simply, Tsai Ing-wen's "New Nativism" can be understood as no further resort to dividing people by provinicial origin, i.e., "tolerance," in the pursuit of independence, which will remain the DPP's "ideal," but which will no longer be spelled out.

This kind of thinking was intended to be a kind of breakthrough. But frankly, it offered nothing new. The DPP's "Resolution on the Nation's Future" and "Resolution on Ethnic Groups" covered these issues long ago. The problem is the DPP's past actions have already made Taiwan independence and a "Taiwanese ethnic identity" two sides of the same coin. One can no longer advocate Taiwan independence without dividing Republic of China citizens into "Native Taiwanese" and "Mainlanders." Perhaps Taiwan independence is a phony issue. Perhaps the DPP's real forte is dividing people into tribes.

Tsai Ing-wen deserves affirmation for being sensitive to the problem. But she has not offered much of a solution. If Taiwan independence is still the DPP's ideal, it will remain mired in a double dilemma. It will remain incapable of achieving Taiwan independence in the global arena, even as it continues to divide Republic of China citizens into "Taiwanese" and "Chinese" in the domestic arena. Taiwan independence, by its very nature, divides people. A "Taiwan independence ideology that tolerates diversity" is a logical impossibility. Why else would Tsai Ing-wen avoid the term "Taiwan independence" and substitute the euphemism "ideal?"

The fact that "Nativism" is considered compatible with tolerance is due to the DPP's past efforts. But Taiwan independence is, on the face of it, anything but tolerant. After all, its goal is to overthrow the Republic of China. It is tolerant neither in name nor in substance. And since it is not even tolerant in name, how can it possibly be tolerant in substance? Yet Tsai Ing-wen would make a conceptual leap from "Tolerant Nativism" to "Tolerant Taiwan independence." That is akin to expecting a strawberry patch to yield apples.

The DPP's problem is its adherence to Taiwan independence. Its increasingly narrow definition of "Old Nativism" was the inevitable result of its stubborn adherence to Taiwan independence. But for the majority of people on Taiwan, if the DPP refrains from advocating Taiwan independence, "Nativism" is not an issue. Apart from the DPP, most people assume that "new and old immigrants, regardless of provincial origin, are all Natives." The above is a quote from Tsai Ing-wen. But it is something that Tsai Ing-wen knows the DPP cannot possibly either endorse or achieve.

Take Fan Lanqin for example. Fan's remarks can be characterized as an isolated extreme. Criticism from within the Pan Blue attests to that. By contrast, for the DPP ethnic demagoguery is second nature. Ethnic demagoguery is the DPP's defining characteristic. Fan Lanqin referred to himself, in self-mockery, as a "high class mainlander." Overnight the DPP twisted his meaning and transformed it into a politcal codeword. They even mocked Ma Ying-jeou and Liu Chao-hsuan as "high class mainlanders," attempting to equate them with Fan Lanqin. Meanwhile Tsai Ing-wen was trying to use euphemisms such as "Tolerant Nativism" to clean up the Democratic Progressive Party's image. She appears to be a slow learner.

The Democratic Progressive Party has long equated Taiwan independence with Nativism. Taiwan independence is Nativism. Nativism is Taiwan independence. The DPP uses Nativism to dress up Taiwan independence. The DPP uses Taiwan independence to distort the meaning of Nativism. Now Tsai Ing-wen wants to distinguish between the two. She wants to use "Tolerant Nativism" to achieve their "ideal," i.e., Taiwan independence. She can talk about "Tolerant Nativism." She can avoid talking about Taiwan independence, by referring to it euphemistically as their "ideal." But this is akin to "covering one's ears while stealing a bell."

If the DPP does not resolve the issue of Taiwan independence, it will never resolve the issue of Nativism. As mentioned before, the main reason "Nativism" has been so narrowly defined is Taiwan independence. Without Taiwan independence, Nativism need no longer be so narrowly defined. A "Tolerant Taiwan independence" is a contradiction in terms. That is why the Democratic Progressive Party has never been able to emancipate liberate itself from narrowly defined Nativism. If one is determined to overthrow the nation, how can one possibly avoid tearing society apart?

Has Chairman Tsai thought this through?

2009.03.27 04:37 am













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