Thursday, November 5, 2009

Taiwan Independence "Castles in the Air," Revisited

Taiwan Independence "Castles in the Air," Revisited
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 5, 2009

Yesterday Lin Cho-shui responded to our October 31 editorial, "Is There any Form of Taiwan independence that doesn't erect Castles in the Air?" He said "The paradox is that Taiwan independence has protected the Republic of China. It would be unwise to eliminate it."
Lin Cho-shui said that "As long as the Taiwan independence movement remains in existence, it will be the common enemy of both the Republic of China and the Peoples Republic of China. But once the Taiwan independence movement has been eliminated, the Republic of China will become the Peoples Republic of China's number one enemy." This is the logic behind his argument that "Taiwan independence has protected the Republic of China."

Unfortunately, Lin Cho-shui misunderstood the meaning of our editorial. We did not advocate "eliminating the Taiwan independence movement." Within the larger framework of cross-Strait relations, Taiwan independence cannot be eliminated. Taiwan independence has long played a role in cross-Strait interaction. One reason Taiwan has become more and more cohesive, is the Taiwan independence movement. Furthermore, Taiwan independence rhetoric has long played the role of "bad cop" in a game of "good cop/bad cop." It has also been an important factor in guiding Taipei and Beijng toward the middle path. Cross-Strait reconciliation and coexistence can be considered a reaction to Taiwan independence moves by Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. Therefore when Lin Cho-shui says that "Taiwan independence has protected the Republic of China," he has a point. But our question was whether the DPP, as a major political party on Taiwan, intends to wave the banner of Taiwan independence in perpetuity? Either "impulsive Taiwan independence" or "measured Taiwan independence" makes no difference.

The Democratic Progressive Party's advocacy of Taiwan independence can indeed play a "good cop/bad cop" role. Taiwan independence can to some extent protect the Republic of China. But it has also thrown party politics on Taiwan out of balance, preventing it from functioning normally. It has ripped society apart along the lines of national and ethnic identity. It has left society incapable of extricating itself from this trap. Can the Democratic Progressive Party rule the nation on such a basis? What sort of future will this sort of Taiwan have?

Our editorial did not advocate "the elimination of Taiwan independence." On the contrary, it acknowledged that Taiwan independence has protected the Republic of China. But the primary force responsible for protecting the Republic of China for the past sixty years has been the Republic of China. Even "measured Taiwan independence" does not forsake the rectification of names, and the authoring of a new constitution, or de jure Taiwan independence. So-called "measured Taiwan independence" is merely Taiwan independence, Postponed. In other words "measured Taiwan independence," still calls for the eradication of the Republic of China. Otherwise, it is not Taiwan independence. Or is Lin Cho-shui advocating Taiwan independence merely to protect the Republic of China in perpetuity?

The Taiwan independence movement cannot be eliminated on Taiwan. The issue is whether the Democratic Progressive Party's continued advocacy of Taiwan independence will perpetuate an imbalance in party politics on Taiwan, and contribute to the degeneration of its democracy? In recent years, elements within the DPP, including Lin Cho-shui, have been contemplating these issues, searching for a way out for Taiwan independence. But "measured Taiwan independence" and other disguised forms of Taiwan independence were the cause of today's dilemma. They were responsible for our current plight, under which "Taiwan independence cannot be achieved, but the Republic of China cannot be reaffirmed?" Besides, "measured Taiwan independence" is not prevailing orthodoxy within the DPP. Nor is it representive of Taiwan independence at the grass roots. We do not deny the creativity behind "measured Taiwan independence." But we don't think it constitutes a feasible policy for a Democratic Progressive Party that aspires to rule.

In his letter, Lin Cho-shui apparently confuse the roots of Taiwan independence with the issue of whether Taiwan independence could resolve cross-Strait issues. Lin revisited our withdrawal from the United Nations. But at the time mainland China was still mired in the Cultural Revolution. The Cold War between the East and the West was still going on. Lin also revisited the martial law era. But the Republic of China has undergone four presidential elections and a second change in ruling parties since then. The Taiwan independence movement insists on dredging up our withdrawal from the United Nations and the lack of democracy during the martial law era as justifications for Taiwan independence. But is that any different than dredging up the "Taiwan's Undetermined Status Theory" or the 2-28 Incident as justifications for Taiwan independence? After all, six decades have passed. The world has changed. Significant changes have occurred throughout the world, on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and on Taiwan. The Taiwan independence movement rejects the notion that "both Taipei and Beijing claim to be the sole legitimate government of China." It rejects the notion that the "1992 Consensus / One China, Different Interpretations" constitutes a breakthrough. Can it really argue that these are instances in which "Taiwan independence has protected the Republic of China?" The tragedy of history was responsible for the rise of the Taiwan independence movement. But the Taiwan independence movement refuses to recognize new opportunities that have emerged as a result of historic changes. This is why the Taiwan independence movement remains incapable of providing leadership for democracy on Taiwan, or for relations across the Taiwan Strait. This may be the inevitable fate of the Taiwan independence movement. But is it to the benefit of the DPP to assume this role? Does it meet with the aspirations of the public on Taiwan?

As we see it, we cannot "eliminate Taiwan independence." But the DPP must unburden itself of the albatross of Taiwan independence. It must not continue advocating Taiwan independence under different guises. Otherwise, democracy on Taiwan and relations across the Taiwan Strait can never be normalized.

Our editorial and Lin Cho-shui's reply share a common vision. No cross-Strait policy, including "maintaining the status quo," "One China, Different Interpretations," or "Taiwan independence" is going to be easy. But our position differs from Lin Cho-shui's. Lin believes that "measured Taiwan independence" is the better alternative. We believe that "using the Republic of China to defend the Republic of China" is the better alternative. The Taiwan independence movement still has a role to play as "bad cop." The question is whether this is a role the DPP still wishes to play.

2009.11.05 04:11 am










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