Cross-Strait Coopetition Must Not Recapitulate the Koxinga Era
United Daily News editorial editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 7, 2010
The Tainan City Government is sponsoring the building of an ancient Koxinga era merchantman warship, to be named the "Taiwan Koxinga." Next year it will travel north to Koxinga's birthplace -- Nagasaki, Japan.
Tainan City can be described as the "City of Koxinga." The ongoing ship construction project and scheduled ocean voyage trumpets this "political trade mark." But it also exposes an embarrassing reality behind Pan Green political rhetoric. The ship is a "junk," the Portuguese term for a Chinese sailing vessel. Yet it is being referred to by organizers as a "Taiwanese sailing vessel." Instead of traveling first to Koxinga's homeland in nearby Quanzhou, Fujian, just across the Taiwan Strait, it is traveling to Nagasaki, Japan. Organizers stressed that their motive for building the Koxinga Memorial Ship was to "strengthen native identity and heighten consciousness regarding [Taiwan's] primacy." But if they play up Taiwan's relationship to Japan, and play down Taiwan's relationship to Mainland China, what kind of face are they putting on Koxinga? The Tainan City fathers hoped to market Koxinga. Instead they merely highlighted the inadequacies of evasive Pan Green political rhetoric.
Koxinga's life work was "fan Qin fu Ming" i.e., "toppling the Qing, restoring the Ming." Nanming Long Wu Emperor gave him his surname. Yongli Emperor bestowed upon him the title of Yanping King. When he failed to fulfill his mission of recovering the Chinese Mainland, he lamented, "I cannot face my emperor in the underworld." He then tore at his own face and died. [ 四方赤良 ] , a Japanese, wrote a eulogy to Koxinga. He said "Koxinga's loyalty and integrity were in vain. In the end, the Tartars conquered China." As we can see from Koxinga's own proclamations and the consensus of historians the world over, Koxinga considered himself a champion of China, in fact, a hardcore champion of China. After Qing Emperor Kangxi took Taiwan, he said "Koxinga was a last ditch defender of the Ming Court. He was not a traitor or a brigand." He also wrote a couplet. "[Koxinga] dared to fight for the South East. A solitary patriot held out overseas." Later the Qing Court built a Koxinga Temple in Tainan. The couplets authored by Shen Baozhen are still on display in the main hall. "Never has antiquity witnessed a comparable achievement. The wilderness bequeathed to us mountains and streams, providing a realm for immigrants. During his life, he was not the master of his own fate. He regretted being unable to recover heaven and earth. But the life he lived was exemplary." As we can see, even Koxinga's political enemies considered him as a man of destiny, and a paragon for the Chinese people.
This is Koxinga's historical background. Yet Pan Green spin doctors could relabel Chinese sailing vessels "Taiwanese sailing vessels." They could boast that they were "strengthening native identity and heightening consciousness of [Taiwan's] primacy." They could ignore the historical consensus that "Koxinga's loyalty and integrity were in vain. In the end, the Tartars conquered China." Pan Green spin doctors have clearly added way too much green pigment to the mix. They have tampered with historical facts. They have distorted Koxinga completely beyond recognition.
The "Taiwan Koxinga" will put to sea. This will force people to rethink the meaning of Taiwan independence rhetoric. Do they want "de-Sinicization?" Do they want to "purge all traces of the Republic of China from Taiwan?" Do they want to sever all relations with Mainland China? Or do they want to establish a more advantageous status for Taiwan and the Republic of China under the umbrella term "China?" Where is cross-Strait relations headed? Towards a repetition of the mistakes committed by Koxinga? Or, in contrast with Koxinga, towards opportunities for "peaceful development?"
In fact, CCP authorities have long attached great importance to political rhetoric about Koxinga. They have long affirmed Koxinga's recovery of Taiwan. When Jiang Zemin vacated his position as General Secretary of the PRC, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, he presented leaders of the State Council and the Central Military Commission with a statue of Koxinga. The theme was "Koxinga recovers Taiwan." The intention was self-evident. Also, people from Taiwan have made tens of millions of visits to Xiamen. They have seen with their own eyes the great statue of Koxinga, wielding a sword and gazing eastward in silence. Tainan City officials are attempting to make political hay out of Koxinga. But have they ever considered co-hosting an essay contest with Beijing?
Pan Green spin doctors are attempting to "de-Sinicize" Koxinga, and to "Taiwanize" him. But they are merely exposing their own shortcomings. During Koxinga's own lifetime, Koxinga "was not the master of his own fate." As we contemplate this fact, should we be attempting to draw a line between Taiwan and Mainland China? Should we be attempting to avoid Mainland China? Or, as mentioned previously, shouldn't we be endeavoring to establish a more advantageous status for Taiwan and the Republic of China, under the umbrella of "China?" Shouldn't we be thinking about how to avoid Koxinga's plight.
Koxinga's situation 300 years ago was different from our situation today. For example, as a result of economic factors, Koxinga could not draw a line between Taiwan and Mainland China. Instead, the Qing Court issued a "border shift edict." It ordered everyone along China's eastern seaboard, from Shandong to Guangdong, to relocate 20 miles inland. It declared that "not one solitary sampan may take to the sea." It severed all trade between the Ming Koxinga government and the inland regions. This was one reason the Ming Koxinga government endured repeated defeats. Our situation today is just the opposite of the cross-Strait standoff between the Qing Court and the Ming Koxinga government. The Mainland has not declared that "not one solitary sampan may take to the sea." Just the opposite. Mainland China has become the main source of Taiwan's economic prosperity. Today, the two sides are economically inseparable. So too are cultural, social and political connections, including diplomatic breathing space. Koxinga longed for cross-Strait exchanges, but they were denied to him. Our situation is entirely different. Therefore we must manage cross-Strait relations today and tomorrow differently than Koxinga did in his era. We must not repeat the mistakes Koxinga made back then.
Political rhetoric regarding Taiwan's future has long been mired in Blue vs. Green political opposition. Suppose the Blue Camp ruled Tainan City, and attempted to exploit Koxinga. The Green Camp would scoff at the Blue Camp as "losers who failed to retake the Mainland." It would mock them as people who "would rather be Chinese ghosts than living Taiwanese." But the Green Camp is the one exploiting Koxinga. The Green Camp is distorting history, trumpeting a "nativized identity" and "Taiwan's primacy." The Green Camp is parroting "de-Sinicization." The Green Camp is attempting to "purge all vestiges of the Republic of China from Taiwan." The "Koxinga Taiwan" may resemble an ancient junk on the outside. But on the inside it includes modern engines and navigational instruments. Consider the ship a metaphor for cross-Strait relations. How can the Green Camp not view the ship from a contemporary perspective? How can the Green Camp not realize the need to create a new Green cross-Strait framework?
The dispute between the Qing Court and the Ming Koxinga government was a showdown between absolute monarchies. But today's cross-Strait dispute is a dispute between democracy and authoritarianism. It is a dispute consistent with humanitarianism and the will of the people. Taiwan's economy lacks the wherewithal to de-Sinicize. The Ming Koxinga government was de-Sinicized against its will. Taiwan under Green rule has reenacted that experience. Meanwhile, under the umbrella of "China," Taiwan has achieved the conditions necessary for civilization, culture, humanity, nationalism, people's livelihood, and democracy. De-Sinicization, or forced de-Sinicization was the main reason for Ming Koxinga government failure. The way out for Taiwan is to seek advantages under the umbrella of "China."
Rebranding Koxinga as "Taiwanese" will not validate Pan Green political spin. By the same token, it will not turn Matsu into a "Taiwanese." To honor Koxinga we must ask ourselves whether de-Sinicization and purging all vestiges of the Republic of China from Taiwan are possible. We must ask ourselves whether we wouldn't be better off seeking opportunities to thrive under the umbrella of "China."
When the Taiwan Koxinga visits Xiamen or Quanzhou, the two sides must think about how they can transcend the Koxinga era, and avoid retracing a 300 year old path.
2010.12.07 02:14 am