Is the Republic of China rooted in the 1911 Revolution or the 2/28 Incident?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 31, 2009
The Republic of China, on its Ninety-ninth New Years Day. 1 of 6
Tomorrow is New Years Day. It will be the 99th New Years Day since the founding of the Republic of China, We are now headed toward the Republic of China's centennial year.
The Republic of China is unique among nations, ancient and modern, east and west. Following its defeat during the Sino-Japanese War, the Qing Court ceded Taiwan to Japan. Following the Republic of China's pyrrhic victory in World War II, Japan returned Taiwan to China. Alas, the romantic dreams of retrocession were shattered by the 2/28 Incident. In the blink of an eye, the central government was routed during the Chinese Civil War and retreated to Taiwan. During the 60 years since, neither Kuningtou nor the August 23 Artillery Battle were able to defeat the Republic of China government on Taiwan. It survived attempts to strangle it diplomatically. Its economy evolved from an economy reliant on rice and camphor exports, to the developed economy it is today. The political system evolved from martial law and the white terror, to a democracy with direct presidential elections and changes in ruling parties. Most importantly, despite the disparity in size between the two sides, divided rule across the Taiwan Strait evolved from Beijing's calls for the "liberation of Taiwan" and Taipei's calls to "counterattack the mainland," to today's calls to "maintain the status quo," and "peaceful development." The Republic of China is entering its ninety-ninth year. The Republic of China government on Taiwan is a paradigm for economic development and democratic politics among emerging nations. The People's Republic of China government on the Mainland emerged from thirty years of blood-soaked hell, to become the envy of the world for its "peaceful rise." As we can see, the Republic of China is unique in all the world, ancient and modern, east and west. The People's Republic of China is similar. Such is the nature of bilateral rivalry in the Taiwan Strait.
The Republic of China is moving towards its centennial. Yet its national consciousness is still that of a weak and divided nation. States need not fear because they are small. States need not fear because they face hardship. As long as they consolidate their national consciousness, they will experience a sense of solidarity, a sense of mission, and a sense of honor. But today the collective feeling is one of internal division and hostility far more harmful to the nation than foreign invasions. The Republic of China was founded ninety-nine years ago. It has been on Taiwan for one "jia zi" (60 year cycle in the Chinese calendar). Must we remain a nation with divided intentity?
As we see it, the great divide in the Republic of China's national identity is rooted in the divide between the "1911 Revolution premise" and the "2/28 premise." The 1911 Revolution premise sees the Republic of China as China's historical legacy. Its Three People's Principles sees "national solidarity, human rights, and social welfare" as China's political and economic vision. Taiwan's destiny is to guide the development of China as a whole. Put simply, it hopes to use Taiwan as a lever to move the rest of China. Taiwan as a lever can help maintain cross-Strait peace. The 2/28 premise on the other hand, sees the Republic of China as a political liability. The thirty years of catastrophe precipitated by the People's Republic of China government on the Mainland, has turned "China" into a synonym for political disaster. Taiwan does not want the Republic of China. It wants the People's Republic of China even less. Put simply, this is the Taiwan independence movement's "Taiwan on one side, China on the other" framework.
Over the past 60 years, the 1911 Revolution premise has been impacted by the 2/28 premise. The 1911 Revolution premise has taken what can only be described as an "N-turn." During the early years, due to internal and external crises, coupled with martial law, the 1911 Revolution premise maintained an ideological monopoly on Taiwan. This was the left side of the letter N, moving from bottom to top. Later on, the Republic of China government was forced to withdraw from the United Nations. Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Taipei. The Republic of China could no longer hold the line on the diplomatic front, leading to a Domino Effect. Internal challenges mounted, beginning with the Chungli Incident, leading to a Broken Window Effect. Add to this the evils perpetrated by the Gang of Four, exposed in the wake of Mao Zedong's death. The public on Taiwan was shocked, leading to a Bad Neighbor Effect. This enabled the 2/28 premise to become the guiding premise for the Taiwan independence movement. The Republic of China premise suffered a setback. This was the downward, diagonal stroke in the letter N. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian spent the next decade inciting Taiwan independence, only to see Taiwan independence thoroughly discredited, both in theory and in practice. The Republic of China premise and the 1911 Revolution premise began to show signs of recovery. Over the past year and a half, the "1992 Consensus" and "One China, Different Interpretations" have become the basis of cross-Strait interaction. This is the right side of the letter N, moving from bottom to top.
The 2/28 premise addresses two issues. One, it attempts to "nativize" democracy on Taiwan. This goal has been reached. Two, it attempts to resolve cross-Strait issues by promoting Taiwan independence and severing links with Mainland China. But this is something the 2/28 premise cannot possibly achieve. Despite decades of agitation, the Republic of China premise has already co-opted the 2/28 premise of "nativized" democracy. Meanwhile, the 2/28 premise is unable to negate the role and status of the Republic of China in cross-Strait negotiations.
Consider current trends. As we move toward the future, the Taiwan independence premise and 2/28 premise will command less and less influence on Taiwan. The Republic of China premise will become more and more dominant. The importance of the Republic of China in bilateral rivalry is rooted in the 1911 Revolution premise. This sort of statement may sound foolish at this point in time. But sooner or later, the public on Taiwan will realize that this is its trump card in cross-Strait relations. We are already into the right hand side of the aforementioned "N-turn," and there is simply no going back.
The 1911 Revolution was one of the most heroic revolutions in human history. The American Revolution, or Revolutionary War, was a revolution against the mother country by one of its colonies. The French Revolution was a revolution against monarchy and aristocracy. The 1911 Revolution by contrast, was primarily a revolution against foreign powers attempting to gobble up China. It was a tragic, heroic and forthright cause. It established Asia's first democratic republic. Symbols such as the Mayflower or the Bastille simply do not compare. Alas, in 1949, the People's Republic of China usurped the 1911 Revolution. The Republic of China retreated to Taiwan. As a result, the glory of the 1911 Revolution was tarnished by the Republic of China government defeat in the Chinese Civil War.
Today however, we are traveling upwards along the right hand side of the letter N. Sun Yat-sen and the 1911 Revolution have become the nexus of political thinking in the Taiwan Strait. Both Beijing and Taipei are moving upward along the right hand side of the letter N. Giant statues of Sun Yat-sen were inspirational symbols for the People's Republic of China during its sixtieth anniversary National Day ceremonies. It was the theme of its National Day documentary, "The Founding of a Republic." Mao Zedong's opening line is, "Chiang Kai-shek and I are both disciples of Sun Yat-sen." Beijing has already announced that it will expand its commemoration of the centennial of the 1911 Revolution. It is clearly invoking the 1911 Revolution to enhance the legitimacy of its rule. Today, as both sides of the Taiwan Strait recall the humiliations endured since the Opium War, and reflect on six decades of divided rule, and their successes and failures, they still think of Sun Yat-sen. They still think of the 1911 Revolution and the Wuchang Uprising. In fact, Beijing appears to take Sun Yat-sen and the 1911 Revolution even more seriously than Taipei. On Taiwan, confrontations between the 1911 Revolution premise and the 2/28 premise have led to a divided sense of national identity. Isn't it time to begin the healing?
When the 1911 Revolution premise was on the left hand side of the letter N, the Republic of China was a monopoly maintained by means of martial law. The People's Republic of China meanwhile, denied the legitimacy of the Republic of China altogether. But now the 1911 Revolution premise is on the right hand side of the letter N. The two sides have already found common ground regarding "full democracy" and "reform and opening." Tiananmen Square boasts an important symbol, a giant statue of Sun Yat-sen. The Republic of China will soon celebrate its centennial. If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can find more points of agreement in the spirit of the 1911 Revolution and Sun Yat-sen, they can increase mutual goodwill. They can develop a shared vision in which both sides can win.
Allow us to wish the Republic of China a happy centennial, in advance. As the public debates the merits and demerits of the 2/28 premise and the 1911 Revolution premise, let us establish a nation founded on wisdom and strength. Let us share the sense of purpose, the same sense of pride, and the same sense of mission.
2009.12.31 03:08 am