China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 2, 2016
Executive Summary: The government has announced the appointment of a new SEF chairman. We hope President Tsai will make a genuine effort to improve cross-Strait relations, and enable the two sides to coexist. She must not keep Taiwan mired in hostility and self-pity. She must seize the opportunity to expand onto the Mainland. Unless Taiwan finds its own path toward prosperity, it can only continue its current decline.
Full Text Below:
Taiwan Independence sentiment is on the rise. President Tsai has characterized the younger generation as "naturally inclined towards Taiwan independence". But a closer look at Taiwan independence history reveals that it is an entirely artificial development. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have bee separated from each other for over half a century. Economic growth and institutional differences have inevitably distanced the two sides psychologically. But lest we forget, the differences in economic development and culture between the northern and southern regions of the Mainland, or between the eastern and western regions of the Mainland, far exceed the differences between Xiamen and central and southern Taiwan, or Shanghai and northern Taiwan.
In other words, cross-Strait cultural and economic differences, along with psychological barriers, do not constitute a sufficient condition for separation, nor do they support the legitimacy of Taiwan independence. Those who trumpet “natural Taiwan independence” deliberately ignore far greater differences on the Mainland. They cherry pick the most prominent cross-Strait differences. What they term “natural”, is entirely artificial.
As for the conflict between the two sides, it is much ado about nothing. Cross-Strait conflict was never the result of hostility between the people on Taiwan and the people on the Mainland. It was the result of the Chinese Civil War. Even Taiwan independence advocates admit that when Japan was defeated in 1945, people on Taiwan eagerly looked forward to Taiwan's return to the motherland.
Unfortunately, the 2/28 Incident and the White Terror on Taiwan provoked hatred against the Kuomintang. But even then, the conflict was merely a clash between the people and an authoritarian regime. It was not an “ethnic conflict” between Taiwanese and Mainlanders. Still less was it a conflict with the Mainland, or people on the Mainland. The hostility and hatred is totally misdirected.
In 1949, the Republic of China central government retreated to Taiwan. It hoped to retake the Mainland by force. Taiwan became its anti-Communist base of operations in a continuation of the Chinese Civil War. It was not a conflict between the Mainland and Taiwan. During this period, the Mainland and Taiwan may have clashed militarily. But the military action was not directed against the people of Taiwan. It was directed against the Kuomintang regime.
If history were reenacted on another playing field, such as Hainan Island, the confrontation between the KMT and the CCP would still have played out. But the conflict between the Mainland and Taiwan would not have materialized. That is indisputable fact.
More importantly, during the authoritarian era, the KMT relentlessly blasted the CCP, and turned the CCP into an object of hatred on Taiwan. Following democratization, this artificially incited hostility should have died down, as the KMT progressively reconciled with the Mainland. Unfortunately some people on Taiwan intensified this hatred of the CCP. They even expanded it to include the entire Mainland and everyone living on the Mainland. This is a cruel historical irony. But it was clearly created artificially.
This historical irony began with Lee Teng-hui, who drove out the old Kuomintang forces in an attempt to reshape the KMT and Taiwan. He began a campaign of "de-Sinicization". He drove out the old KMT and Mainland forces to consolidate his own power. The Qiandaohu Incident provided a perfect opportunity for him to incite hatred on Taiwan against the Mainland. People who once identified with the Mainland and the CCP, now began to feel alienated. Chen Shui-bian added fuel to the fire, and Ma Ying-jeou passively allowed the trend to continue. This allowed the spark of Taiwan independence to develop into a prairie fire.
Over the long term, the two sides must reconcile. Taiwan must find a way to coexist with the Mainland. Anything else will merely accelerate capital flight and the brain drain, and Taiwan's future will be grim. As Frank Hsieh noted, the DPP has no historical grievances with the CCP. If anything, they should be better able to establish a new cross-Strait relationship. Unfortunately DPP leaders lack historical vision. They lack the capacity to right wrongs. They remain mired in old hostilities. They are unable to break free from their distorted and outdated view of Taiwan independence history. They dare not share their views with their supporters. Instead they allow themselves to be hijacked by lies, and remain the biggest obstacle to progress.
Since the Tsai government took office, differences between the CCP and the DPP over the nature of cross-Strait relations have led to new Cold War style confrontation. In fact, the gap between the two sides is not unbridgeable. The controversy between the two sides is not unresolvable. President Tsai pledged publicly that she would deal with cross-Strait issues on the basis of the historical fact of the 1992 talks, the Republic of China Constitution, and the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. She should be free from the conflict between the KMT and the CCP, free from the conflict between people from different provinces, and should be able to settle cross-Strait issues based on constitutional logic.
The Mainland adheres to One China the 1992 Consensus. It expects the DPP government to recognize the 1992 Consensus. Only then can the two sides resume official exchanges. Recently however, Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun spoke to young people from Taiwan. He said the Taiwan side tends to stress the “different interpretations” part of the 1992 Consensus. He said this is something the two sides can talk about. He later clarified, so we cannot read too much into an offhand remark. But as long as the DPP is willing to speak clearly, the Mainland is willing to keep an open mind, and preserve cross-Strait peace.
The government has announced the appointment of a new SEF chairman. We hope President Tsai will make a genuine effort to improve cross-Strait relations, and enable the two sides to coexist. She must not keep Taiwan mired in hostility and self-pity. She must seize the opportunity to expand onto the Mainland. Unless Taiwan finds its own path toward prosperity, it can only continue its current decline.