Mainland China's Decade Long Disaster, America's Decade in Hell, and Taiwan's Decade of Division
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 2, 2009
Mainland China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution lasted from 1966 to 1976. Beijing refers to it as a "Decade Long Disaster." A few days ago Time Magazine referred to the period between 2000 and 2009, during which America made no progress, but instead regressed, as its "Decade in Hell." During the latter part of his regime, former president Lee Teng-hui imposed his "Have Patience, Avoid Haste Policy." The corrupt Chen Shui-bian regime demagogued its "Rectification of Names and Authoring of a New Constitution" campaign. These two presidents' misrule might well be termed a "Decade of Division."
These three tragedies of history were of different scales and different degrees. But they had many of the same causes and many of the same effects. The biggest difference between them was the political systems. America's "Decade in Hell" took place in a democratic system that is a model for the rest of the world. Mainland China's "Decade Long Disaster" took place in a highly authoritarian political and economic system. Taiwan's "Decade of Division" took place after the lifting of martial law in an emerging democracy. As we can see, any system can make mistakes.
Why did political and economic systems so very different in nature all make the same mistakes? One reason is that they all had something in common. All were dominated by messianic political leaders who precipitated the entire tragedy. These political stars led their nations astray because they were concerned more about clinging to personal power than about ensuring the welfare of the nation. Mao Zedong failed completely as a result of his Three Red Banners, i.e., the Socialist Path, the Great Leap Forward, and the People's Communes. He attempted to use the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to ensure his own political survival. He provoked an unprecedented frenzy of populist idol worship. The result was that "Chairman Mao's Red Sun" may have shone brightly in the sky, but the land below was plunged into darkness. Bush vowed revenge for 9/11. The public supported him enthusiastically. As a result the United States successfully crushed Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, but it subsequently fell prey to "unilateralism." Since then the United States' image as a champion of justice has taken a serious hit. The global financial tsunami that struck Wall Street in 2008 merely underscored the Bush regime's disastrous administrative record. It made the world question the legitimacy of the free market, and the efficacy of democracy. Taiwan's "Decade of Division" was a microcosmic version of the same pattern. Its tragedy was the result of the efforts of Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian to retain power by inciting mob sentiment. Lee Teng-hui established his "National Unification Guidelines," which indicated that the two sides had different views. But then he began acting out the role of "a party chairman and a half." He was no longer merely the chairman of the Kuomintang. He was also "half a chairman" of the Democratic Progressive Party. This eventually led to policy schizophrenia and social schisms. Chen Shui-bian initially maintained a "Five Noes Policy." Later, under fire for political corruption, and taken hostage by Lee Teng-hui and the Taiwan independence movement, he engaged in self-deceit and championing the "rectification of names and the authoring of a new constitution." Both Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian championed Taiwan independence as a means of addressing cross-Strait problems. But the Taiwan independence movement succeeded only in creating divisions on Taiwan. This led to a decade of wheel-spinning. Lee Teng-hui was touted as "Mr. Democracy." Ah-Bian was touted as the "Son of Taiwan." They were public idols. But their regimes led merely to a "Decade of Division," and potentially fatal wounds to Taiwan's political and economic development that may never heal.
In the wake of a debacle, the first order of business should be to restore order. In the wake of a tragedy, the most most urgent task is to heal wounds. As such, Mainland China has already put its "Decade Long Disaster" behind it. The United States is also engaging in self-examination and self-rectification in the wake of its "Decade in Hell." By contrast, Taiwan is the least likely of the three to put its tragic past behind it. Mainland China nearly suffocated during the Cultural Revolution. It has now turned over a new leaf, and is undergoing a "peaceful rise." Its society is imbued with self-confidence, self-respect, and a sense of pride. America has elected its first African-American president, Barack Obama, suggesting that there are no limits to democracy. The United States, after all, is still a super power. As long as it makes the right moves, it will always be able to turn itself around. Compare Mainland China with the US. Different political and economic systems are likely to lead to different kinds of tragedies. But different political and economic systems can both produce political leaders able to lead their countrymen out of tragedy. Different political and economic systems can also have populations able to distinguish between right and wrong, between and good and bad, and who know how to engage in self-introspection and self-correction. Taiwan's political leaders however, can't even lead their compatriots out of the political morass of the Chen Shui-bian corruption case. They remain trapped in an endless tug of war over "support ECFA vs. oppose ECFA," and "agricultural counties vs. non-agricultural counties and cities." No political leader in today's ruling or opposition parties on Taiwan has the ability to lift society out of its pessimism and confusion. Society on Taiwan continues to be manipulated and divided by its politicians. It continues to spin its wheels.
Over the past two decades, the public has looked to its political stars to lead Taiwan out of confusion. But instead, Taiwan has remained stalled. Over the past decade, the public has looked to democracy to lead Taiwan into the light. But instead, Taiwan has been torn apart. In the absence of political leaders with the vision needed to lead, Taiwan's democracy will remain permanently divided, and its outlook deeply worrisome. Mainland China has risen. The United States has awoken. Now how about Taiwan?
2009.12.02 04:35 am