Thursday, May 12, 2016

Riding the Tiger of Cultural Taiwan Independence

Riding the Tiger of Cultural Taiwan Independence 
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation 
May 13, 2016

Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen has flip-flopped repeatedly. It is hard to judge the effectiveness of this tactic. But for cross-Strait relations, a more serious question presents itself. If Tsai fails in her attempt to make a U turn, the result will be disaster for Taiwan. Can Tsai prevent the cultural Taiwan independence tiger from snatching her up and running amok?

Full Text Below:

Tsai Ing-wen's remarks on cross-Strait relations since her election victory have been muted and controlled. She knows that fiery rhetoric is good only during election season. If used while governing, it will only precipitate disaster. She has even endured mockery for making a complete about face. Tsai Ing-wen appears pragmatic. That means one less worry for Taiwan. That also constitutes a reason to remain hopeful about cross-Strait relations.

Tsai Ing-wen is exercising control. She is unlikely to cross the red line by declaring de jure independence. Nevertheless Beijing demands adherence to the 1992 Consensus. It is pressuring Tsai Ing-wen on Mainland tourism, WHA attendance, and other issues. Cross-Strait tensions continue to rise. Why?

Saying one thing but meaning another is not limited to de jure Taiwan independence and the 1992 Consensus. Beijing's red line is not limited to de jure Taiwan independence. It also includes "cultural Taiwan independence". In other words, Taiwan may not have declared de jure Taiwan independence. But that does not mean it can engage in wholesale cultural Taiwan independence. Beijing has turned its attention from de jure Taiwan independence to cultural Taiwan independence.

Cultural Taiwan independence has a history. Lee Teng-hui introduced "de-Sinicization", and laid the groundwork for cultural Taiwan independence. Two to three decades of indoctrination has resulted in substantial gains. Cultural Taiwan independence provides support for anti-China elements. It burned brightly during the Sunflower Student movement. The results are visible from recent media polls. The number of people who consider themselves Taiwanese has risen from 44% 20 years ago, to 73% today. The number of people who consider themselves both Taiwanese and Chinese, has fallen to a mere 10%.

Cultural Taiwan independence has led to changes in cultural identity. The result was apparent during the 2014 nine in one elections, and the 2016 general election. The DPP swept the board, from the central government level to the local level, from the presidency to the legislature. It now enjoys “total government”. Even worse, the terms "Taiwan" and "China" have become antonyms, resulting in confrontation and hostility. Hatred of the Mainland on Taiwan has in turned provoked hatred of Taiwan on the Mainland. Live votes show fully 85% of the Mainland public in favor of reunifying Taiwan by means of military force.

Tsai Ing-wen and Xi Jinping may remain rational, pragmatic, and restrained. But if public opposition intensifies without end, it could overwhelm the two leaders' resolve. An atmosphere of distrust could lead to unintended conflict. The result would be catastrophic. Both sides have a responsibility to prevent such a crisis.

Tsai Ing-wen must realize that Chen Shui-bian's "five noes" from 2000 are no longer an adequate response to the current situation. Back then Chen Shui-bian proclaimed a pro forma “new centrist path”. He explicitly renounced de jure Taiwan independence. One might say he switched from hard Taiwan independence to soft Taiwan independence. Instead he used the “rectification of names” and the de-Sinicization of education and culture, to strengthen Taiwan independence ideology. He switched to a strategy of vigorously promoting soft Taiwan independence. This combination of soft and hard, covert and overt Taiwan independence has forced Mainland authorities to draw a line in the sand. De jure Taiwan independence is no longer the sole criterion for continued cross-Strait peace.

As a result, Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly stressed that she is "maintaining the status quo", abides by the “Republic of China Constitution", and has revised her position to “recognizing the historical fact of the 1992 talks", in order to promote cross-Strait relations. She has even retained department heads cultivated by the KMT for foreign and cross-Strait affairs. She is easing up on de jure Taiwan independence.

On the other hand, the DPP is pushing hard for an "Ordinance for the Promotion of Transitional Justice" in the legislature. It is using its majority to suspend changes to the school curriculum. It is seeking to eliminate portraits of Sun Yat-sen. It is appointing deep green ideologues as Minister of Culture and Minister of Education. It is accelerating de-Sinicization. It is intensifying cultural Taiwan independence. It is covertly promoting "soft Taiwan independence". If Tsai Ing-wen refuses to correct this combined soft and hard, overt and covert strategy, she can hardly expect Beijing to believe that her superficial pragmatism and restraint constitute genuine good will.

Another, even more serious problem, is that the situation may no longer be under Tsai Ing-wen's control. Has cultural Taiwan independence become a tiger that Tsai Ing-wen can neither continue to ride, nor dismount safely? Is Tsai Ing-wen determining the direction of the tiger? Or is the tiger determining the direction for Tsai Ing-wen? Tsai Ing-wen is unwilling or afraid to advance toward de jure Taiwan independence. Cultural Taiwan independence is a tiger that has Tsai Ing-wen in its mouth.

Tsai Ing-wen has flip-flopped repeatedly. It is hard to judge the effectiveness of this tactic. But for cross-Strait relations, a more serious question presents itself. If Tsai fails in her attempt to make a U turn, the result will be disaster for Taiwan. Can Tsai prevent the cultural Taiwan independence tiger from snatching her up and running amok? The tiger requires four leashes. One. Tsai Ing-wen's individual will. Two. Taiwan independence oriented DPP legislators must achieve a consensus within the party. Three. People on Taiwan must possess sufficient wisdom. They must be willing to cease hating Mainland Chinese. Four. The Mainland must be patient. It must allow Tsai Ing-wen time to adjust. Do not corner her. Do not force her to embrace cultural Taiwan independence. The public on the Mainland must also refrain from exaggeration, and hurting peoples' feelings.

20160513 中國時報












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