Blue vs. Green Electioneering:
Eschew "Taiwanese" Identity Politics
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 12, 2011
It may be hard to believe, but the Republic of China is now holding its fifth direct presidential election. Yet the issue of "who is Taiwanese" has become the main election issue. Even now, questions about "who is Taiwanese" and "who loves Taiwan" remain bones of contention. During the past decade or so, four presidential terms have elapsed, during which three presidents were directly elected. Does that count for nothing?
Recently Tsai Ing-wen ran a campaign commercial. In it she stressed that "I am Taiwanese," inciting social frictions. She later engaged in damage control, saying that "Anyone living on Taiwan whose allegiance is to Taiwan, is Taiwanese. To loudly proclaim that I am Taiwanese, is an affirmation of our democratic society and its progressive values. This represents new heights that the Democratic Progressive Party seeks to attain in 2012. Economics, politics, democracy, and human rights protection, will all experience a rebirth." She said the suspicions voiced about her declaration were the result of "misinterpretations."
Responding to Tsai Ing-wen, President Ma Ying-jeou said that he and others drew no such distinctions. He expressed solidarity with everyone who dedicates himself to Taiwan. We loudly proclaim in the international arena that "We are Taiwanese. We are also Republic of China citizens."
Given Ma and Tsai's remarks, do their definitions of "Taiwanese" really differ? Frankly, both Ma and Tsai are talking nonsense. Whether one is born here or grows up here, who has not sacrificed for Taiwan? Who is not Taiwanese?
Tsai Ing-wen said that "To loudly proclaim that I am Taiwanese, is an affirmation of our democratic society and its progressive values." Must we remind Tsai Ing-wen that Chiang Ching-kuo long ago affirmed that "I am also Taiwanese?" President Lee Teng-hui seized Ma Ying-jeou's wrist, raised Ma's hand, and announced that "He is a New Taiwanese." Distinctions between those born on Taiwan and those born in other provinces no longer have any meaning. To cast aspersions on an opponent's provincial origins, at this late date, or to insinuate that he is "afraid to proclaim that he is Taiwanese," is not progress. On the contrary, such campaign tactics represent a backward step.
Ma Ying-jeou added "I am also a Republic of China citizen." Tsai Ing-wen may consider his addendum superfluous. Tsai Ing-wen, who is running for Republic of China president, refuses to recognize the Republic of China. Was Ma's addendum a reference to Tsai's hypocrisy? If so, Ma Ying-jeou is also guilty of electioneering.
Given Ma and Tsai's political rhetoric, can we still consider democracy on Taiwan mature? The president is elected by the people as a whole. The Blue and Green camps seem incapable of offering any concrete policy proposals. Instead they engage in meaningless shouting matches. The Green Camp questions the Blue Camp's "love of Taiwan." The Blue Camp questions the Green Camp's allegiance to the Republic of China. Both the Blue and Green camps are competing for high office, But does either care a whit for the public? in their pursuit of votes, they stoop to meaningless and outrageous political rhetoric. What are they doing, but treating 23 million Republic of China citizens as idiots?
Tsai Ing-wen argues that if we wish to connect with the international community, we must loudly proclaim "I am Taiwanese." We must make sure that the international community is aware of Taiwan's economic prosperity and progressive democracy. She argues that this will enhance Taiwan's visibility. Tsai's argument is nonsense. When people from Taiwan go abroad, they refer to themselves as Taiwanese. They even refer to themselves as Taiwanese when they visit the Chinese mainland. This is not the way to differentiate us from our rivals.
Taiwan needs international visibility. But that international visibility was not achieved by politicians engaging in shouting matches. It was achieved by Wang Yung-ching of Formosa Plastics, of Morris Chang of TSMC, of Cher Wang of HTC, of golf champion Tseng Ya-ni, of baseball champion Wang Chien-ming, of chess champion Chang Hsu, of Ultra Marathoner Kevin Lin, of fashion mogul Johan Ku, who built his own brand. It was achieved by a wide variety of young people who have excelled in the international arena. When American singer Lady Gaga met with fans on Taiwan, she generated greater international visibility for Taiwan than any politician shouting "I am Taiwanese!" The impact was far greater. What right do Tsai Ing-wen and other Green Camp leaders have to doubt whether other people are "Taiwanese?" Does their behavior increase "Taiwan's international visibility?" Perhaps. Perhaps it makes Taiwan a laughing stock. Perhaps it shows the international community just how primitive electoral politics on Taiwan is.
Two ruling party changes have already taken place. Soon it will be three, four, even five. Every political party seeks to rule. With every ruling party change, every political party seeks to scale new heights in politics, economics, democracy, and human rights. But reactionary conservative political rhetoric cannot bring about a new political order. It can only undermine the quality of democracy. It can only lead to endless bickering between communal groups.
Hsu Cho-yun of the Academia Sinica is concerned about the vicious struggles between the two major parties. In particular he is concerned about 2012. He says the two major parties need a framework which will allow heated debate but ensure a united front against Beijing. He feels the two major parties must work together for the future of Taiwan, and arrive at the best solutions in cross-Strait policy.
The Blue and Green camps remain at loggerheads on cross-Strait policy. For the Green camp, a person's stance on cross-Strait policy determines whether he is a bona fide "Taiwanese." This is absurd. The Democratic Progressive Party has opposed every cross-Strait policy measure ever proposed, from allowing tourists from the Chinese mainland on to Taiwan, to the signing of ECFA. Chiang Ching-kuo allowed veterans to visit the Chinese mainland. Lee Teng-hui allowed cross-Strait trade and investment. Even Chen Shui-bian's eight years in office did not halt cross-Strait exchanges. Ma Ying-jeou allowed tourists from the Chinese mainland to visit Taiwan, and students from the Chinese mainland to study on Taiwan. He has repeatedly stressed his policy of "no [immediate] reunification, no independence, and no use of force." Who doesn't put Taiwan first? Who dares to accuse others of not being Taiwanese?