The 25th Anniversary of the Lifting of Martial Law:
Constitutional Democracy and Cross-Strait Relations
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 15, 2012
Summary: On July 15, 1987, the Chiang Ching-kuo administration officially lifted 38 years and 56 days of martial law. Chiang Ching-kuo had an uncanny sense of history. He knew cross-Strait relations were inextricably intertwined with the Taiwan Region's constitutional democracy. For 25 years, Taiwan has remained on this road paved by Chiang Ching-kuo. When it comes to cross-Strait relations, even Beijing must walk this road
Full Text below:
Today is the 25th anniversary of the lifting of martial law. Let us relive this storm-tossed quarter century.
On July 15, 1987, the Chiang Ching-kuo administration officially lifted 38 years and 56 days of martial law. It declared constitutional democracy. It lifted the ban on political parties and the publication of new newspapers. It allowed cross-Strait exchanges. It allowed people to visit relatives in the Mainland Region of the nation. Chiang Ching-kuo had an uncanny sense of history. He knew cross-Strait relations were inextricably intertwined with the Taiwan Region's constitutional democracy. On the one hand, the public demanded cross-Strait exchanges. On the other hand, it demanded separation between the two sides. For 25 years, Taiwan has remained on this road paved by Chiang Ching-kuo. When it comes to cross-Strait relations, even Beijing must walk this road.
Taiwan's greatest challenge is cross-Strait relations. During martial law, cross-Strait relations were dealt with using martial law methods. Upon the lifting of martial law, cross-Strait relations were dealt with using constitutional and democratic methods. The methods may be different, but cross-Strait relations remain Taiwan's greatest challenge.
History is full of ironies. Chiang Ching-kuo's cross-Strait path could be implemented only because Lee Teng-hui sabotaged the KMT from within, leading to its defeat in 2000. It was replaced by Chen Shui-bian's DPP government, which clung to power for the next eight years. Had Lee Teng-hui not engineered the Kuomintang's defeat, Lien Chan would not have visited the Mainland in 2005 as KMT Chairman. He would not have had the opportunity to open the doors to cross-Strait exchanges. Had Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian not demagogued Taiwan independence, Beijing would never have reconsidered its stance on cross-Strait policy. It would never have gone from saber rattling to peaceful development. This tortuous history was in part a consequence of the Lee and Chen dynasties' Taiwan independence demagoguery. This demagoguery provoked a public backlash which expressed itself at the ballot box. Beijing also learned a lesson from its mistaken strategies for dealing with Lee and Chen. It learned the Taiwan public's bottom line.
The lesson to be learned from this is that constitutional democracy and cross-Strait relations are inextricably intertwined. If cross-Strait relations meet with public approval, they are considered rational cross-Strait relations. Conversely, rational cross-Strait relations require the support of constitutional democracy. Taiwan's rulers and the authorities in Beijing cannot deviate from this principle. These are the cross-Strait rules of the game established by Chiang Ching-kuo 25 years ago.
As mentioned above, Chiang Ching-kuo's lifting of martial law involved two strands. One strand was the promotion of constitutional democracy. The other strand was the opening of cross-Strait exchanges. These two are intertwined like the strands of a rope. For 25 years democratic constitutionalism has been evolving. Lee Teng-hui is a clear example. He enacted the "National Unification Guidelines." He said "I have said 300 times that I am opposed to Taiwan independence." Later he denounced the KMT government as a "foreign regime." He argued that the Mainland Region and the Taiwan Region were "two states." He claimed that "The Republic of China perished long ago." More recently he reversed himself again. He said "Shouting Taiwan independence is pointless." He even said "I never advocated Taiwan independence." These are Lee Teng-hui's flip-flops on the ROC Constitution. They are a microcosm of 25 years of constitutional crises.
Now look at cross-Strait relations. For 25 years, Lee Teng-hui trumpeted his "Coming Collapse of [Mainland] China Theory." For 25 years, his prophecy failed to materialize. Just the opposite. The world now talks about the "Rise of a Great Nation." Lee Teng-hui's "be patient, avoid haste" policy turned out to be unsustainable. Under the Chen Shui-bian regime, the Mainland market accounted for 40% of Taiwan's exports. ECFA has become Taiwan's most successful economic and trade agreement. Mainland tourists visiting Taiwan increased annual pineapple cake production from 1 billion to 25 billion units.
As we can see, constitutional democracy and cross-Strait relations are inextricably intertwined. Those who argue that "The Republic of China is a foreign regime" will advocate the "Coming Collapse of [Mainland] China Theory." They will advocate "be patient, and avoid haste." They will advocate the "rectification of names." Those who champion and defend the Republic of China on the other hand, will advocate "three links." They will advocate ECFA. They will advocate a peace agreement. They will advocate "one China, different interpretations." They will advocate "no [immediate] reunification, no Taiwan independence, and no use of force." This is why the Republic of China's constitutional democracy is rooted in cross-Strait relations. This is why cross-Strait relations constrains the Republic of China's democracy and constitutional government. Constitutional democracy and cross-Strait relations are inextricably intertwined. This has remained true since martial law was lifted 25 years ago.
For 25 years, constitutional democracy and cross-Strait relations have undergone one crisis after another. But even major derailments contributed to inextricably intertwined relations. For example, had Lee Teng-hui not sabotaged the Kuomintang, and caused it to lose power, Lien Chan would never have visited the Mainland. Had Chen Shui-bian not thoroughly discredited Taiwan independence, the public would never have appreciated the hollowness of its demands for the "rectification of names." Had Beijing's actions during the 1996 missile crisis not backfired, Beijing's cross-Strait policy would not have evolved into today's "peaceful development." The past 25 years have taught the Blue, Green, and Red camps that constitutional democracy and cross-Strait relations are inextricably interwoven.
Over the past 25 years, some people on both sides of the Strait have attempted to deviate from the rules of the game established by Chiang Ching-kuo. But those who tried, failed. In the future, perhaps someone on one side or the other will make another such attempt. But they too will have a difficult time overcoming Chiang Ching-kuo's rules of the game.
2012.07.15 03:22 am