Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1949: Shattering the Myth of Winner Takes All

1949: Shattering the Myth of Winner Takes All
United Daily News editorial
A Translation
September 30, 2009

Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. In two years, it will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China.
1949 was the beginning of divided rule across the Taiwan Strait. The 1949 Civil War marked fact the conclusion of the domestic and foreign troubles that have plagued China since the Opium War of 1840. Among these was the 1912 showdown between the monarchy and the republic. The republic won, only to be plagued by more domestic and foreign troubles. It won a costly victory over Japan. In 1949, capitalism had a showdown iwth communism. The Communist regime occupied the mainland, and the Kuomintang regime retreated to Taiwan.

In essence, 1949 was about military victory and defeat. The KMT's "Three People's Principles" and the CCP of the "Communism" were basically window dressing for a military struggle. The KMT's yet to be implemented "democracy" and the CCP's "Communism" were merely superficial features of the student movement, the labor movement, and demands for the "killing of landlords, and the division of their land." The victory or defeat of the KMT and CCP had little to do with the right and wrong of their "isms." At the time these "isms" were mere slogans. The main reason for the KMT's military defeat was that it was the ruling government of a nation in ruins from endless war, beginning with the Opium War and ending with the Second Sino-Japanese War. The sole task of the CCP, on the other hand, was rebellion.

The struggle between the KMT and the CCP did involve "isms." Their respective battle cries had to do with the question, "Whither China?" The military struggle determined victory and defeat. But it did not determine right and wrong between rival "isms." Ironically, the issue of right and wrong can be seen far more clearly 60 years later.

In fact, the Communists of Mao Zedong's generation never really understood what communism was. They had only a crude understanding of communism, or else deliberately distorted its meaning. The founding of the People's Republic of China government was followed by the Three Antis, Five Antis Campaigns, the Anti-Rightist Rectification Campaign, the Three Red Flags Movement (The General Line, the Great Leap Forward, and the People's Communes), and finally by the decade long debacle known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Was this really the meaning of Communism? Was this really how the Communist Party won the war against the KMT in 1949?

Winning does not make one a hero. Winning does not make one right. The Kuomintang lost the mainland for many reasons. For that it must take responsibility. It cannot shift all the blame onto the chaos that began with the Opium War and ended with the Second Sino-Japanese War. Besides, the Kuomintang made more mistakes on Taiwan, including the 2/28 Incident and the White Terror. But it also racked up an impressive record of achievements. These include democracy and the rule of law, direct presidential elections, changes in the ruling party, the criminal prosecution of a former president, and 60 years of free markets. This was the political and economic realm several generations of Chinese sought to achieve since the Opium War, the Self-Strengthening Movement, the Kang Youwei/Liang Qichao Reform Movement of 1898, the 1911 Revolution, the June 4th Movement, and the Chinese Civil War. The Taiwan region achieved free markets at least 30 years before the mainland. The Taiwan region lifted martial law and established democracy at least 20 years before the mainland. Moreover, during the past 60 years the Taiwan region has been on the track towards "progressive democracy." The mainland on the other hand, still has no timetable for the popular election of city mayors and county executives.

Some may say that the Taiwan region is too small. Its achievements count for little. But Singapore is small. Switzerland is small. Moreover, Taiwan's plight for the past 60 years has been difficult. Yet it was able to achieve freedom and democracy. Winning does not make one a hero. Being small does not make one wrong.

Sixty years ago, we decided between military victory and defeat. Sixty years later, we are deciding between political and economic right and wrong. The Beijing regime is now known in the Western world as an "enlightened despotism." For the CCP this is real progress. Homemade blast furnaces do not equal "Mr. Science," and the "Dictatorship of the Proletariate" does not equal "Mr. Democracy." Today those most able to help the Chinese people stand on their own two feet are not Mao Tse-tung's "class struggle" Communists. They are not the Communists who defeated the Kuomintang in 1949 by means of military force. They are Deng Xiaoping and the two generations of Communists who succeeded him. They are the Communists whose political and economic path more and more resembles that of the Taiwan region. In 1949 the KMT and CCP engaged in a life and death struggle over "isms." Today they are moving along the same track towards political democracy and economic freedom. The only difference is that the Taiwan region is a few steps ahead of the mainland. Furthermore, one can safely assert that Beijing must move increasingly toward democracy and freedom. It must increasingly relax its "Four Cardinal Principles." Only then can it truly undergo a "peaceful rise."

1949 was a long time ago. Today cross-Strait issues can no longer be resolved militarily. Internal and cross-Strait issues must be resolved in accordance with the principles of democracy and freedom. If Beijing believes cross-Straits issues are Chinese issues, then it can no longer use military force to determine victory or defeat. It must invoke democracy and freedom to determine right and wrong. By the same token, the public on Taiwan must be realize that when the Taiwan region implements democracy and freedom, its political and economic achievements provide a frame of reference for the whole of China. Taiwan can relate to the mainland on the basis of "neither reunification nor independence / both reunification and independence." It can relate to the mainland on the basis of an "ism," rather than the use of force. Taiwan independence, paradoxically, is the worst possible political strategy.

Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The aspect most worth celebrating is the metamorphosis of "Mao Zedong's Communist Party" into "Deng Xiaoping's Communist Party." Democracy and freedom have replaced Communist dogma in cross-Strait relations. The time has come to determine right and wrong, and renounce the use of force.

2009.09.30 04:26 am











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