How Should Beijing View the Five Cities Elections?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 3, 2010
The day before yesterday this newspaper published an editorial. It said that during the recent elections, the Blues voted for a government, the Greens voted for a nation. That is why major elections often have a direct impact on issues of national identity and cross-Strait policy. During the recent five cities elections, the KMT experienced something of a fright. Fortunately cross-Strait relations will not undergo any sudden changes. Beijing has probably breathed a sigh of relief.
The DPP vehemently denounced ECFA -- at first. But during the current election it fell silent. It was afraid to even mention the subject. Clearly the Ma administration's implementation of direct flights, visits by Mainland tourists to Taiwan, ECFA, and a long list of similar policies, is basically correct. Otherwise, why would the DPP, which never passes up an opportunity to pounce on its political opponents, give the Ma administration a free pass? Instead, it avoided the subject out of fear.
The public has been generally satisfied with the Ma administration's cross-Strait policy over the past two and a half years. Nevertheless support for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which disagrees about national identity and cross-Strait policy, has increased. This shows that those in office on Taiwan will not necessarily be able to remain in office merely because they advocate correct and effective cross-Strait policies. If the political climate changes, and leads to a change in ruling parties, national identity and cross-Strait relations may be subjected to further shocks.
Domestic politics may remain stable. Even cross-Strait relations may remain stable. But elections on Taiwan invariably revert to "voting for a government" or "voting for a nation." In other words, if elections were not mired in struggles over national and constitutional identity, but were merely about choosing a ruling party, cross-Strait policy debates would be mere policy debates. In that case, the Republic of China's democracy could undergo a process of normalization. Cross-Strait relations would no longer remain under a dark cloud.
The key lies in our definition of the Republic of China. Our editorial the day before yesterday addressed the issue of Taiwan independence. The Kuomintang and some segments of society on Taiwan have historical grievances, mainly because the Republic of China was unable to resist threats from Beijing, and because the Republic of China was forced to endure international humiliation. The more Beijing suppressed the Republic of China, the more Taiwan independence sentiment intensified. The Ma administration's new policies improved the Republic of China's cross-Strait situation, on and off Taiwan. But many cling to the belief that the DPP's Taiwan independence rhetoric provides them with an escape clause.
Beijing once spoke of "decapitation," meaning it would destroy the Republic of China, This encouraged the Taiwan independence movement to speak of "changing heads," meaning it would found a Nation of Taiwan. We have repeatedly pointed out that Beijing's cross-Strait policy must be changed. It must be changed from "destroying the Republic of China" to "safeguarding the Republic of China." In fact, this is happening as we speak. But greater efforts are needed. For example, during the recent elections, the KMT was still running television ads asking "Where is our national flag?" Think about it. The arrival of Mainland visitors provokes controversies over whether we can fly our national flag. Under these circumstances, how can anyone experience a sense of national identity or national pride? This humiliation and indignation enourages people to sympathize with Taiwan independence, even when they disagree with it.
During the recent elections, the Chiang Ping incident and the Yang Shu-chun incident impacted peoples' hearts and minds. Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office said that the Chiang Ping incident was something "We do not want to see happen." It said that the Yang Shu-chun incident "was not a case of friction between officials on the two sides." Its reaction was swift. As we can see, the Mainland was unwilling to allow cross-Strait factors to affect the elections. Furthermore, when the EU approved visa-free treatment for Republic of China passport holders, "without objection," its attitude was also friendly. When news that El Salvador was establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing emerged, the immediate response of the Taiwan Affairs Office was, "There is absolutely no such thing. We have never heard of it. It is absolutely impossible." Its tone was urgent, as if it feared a conflagration. This was unprecedented, and revealed how closely attuned officials in Beijing were to the elections on Taiwan.
Elections on Taiwan should be about "voting for a government" rather than "voting for a nation." If so, then the ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan have much work to do. What Beijing can do is work harder on "defending the Republic of China." Only by defending the "one China Constitution" and "one China, different interpretations," can it help the public on Taiwan identify with the Republic of China, and experience civic pride and a sense of mission. Only then can it dilute Taiwan independence consciousness. Only then can the public on Taiwan feel that "The Republic of China is part of China," i.e., that "Taiwan and the Mainland are both part of one China." Only then can the public on Taiwan begin to think of themselves as "People of China."
During the recent elections, Beijing reacted appropriately to the Chiang Ping incident, the Yang Shu-chun incident, EU visa-free entry approval, and rumors concerning diplomatic relations with El Salvador. Its efforts should have a cumulative effect. Hopefully President Ma Ying-jeou and General Secretary Hu Jintao can soon meet officially.
Elections on Taiwan must not be permitted to undermine the nation and provoke cross-Strait hostilities. Therefore this newspaper offers its "glass theory" for you consideration. Taiwan is the water. The ROC is the glass. As long as the glass remains intact, the water remains inside. Once the glass is shattered, the water is released, and who knows where it will end up.
2010.12.03 01:44 am