United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 10, 2015
Executive Summary: Happy Birthday Republic of China! Today, during a ceremony held before the presidential palace, military personnel, civilians, and students took part and rejoiced amidst the festive atmosphere of Double Ten. In a rare exception, ruling and opposition party leaders were in full attendance.
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Happy Birthday Republic of China! Today, during a ceremony held before the presidential palace, military personnel, civilians, and students took part and rejoiced amidst the festive atmosphere of Double Ten. In a rare exception, ruling and opposition party leaders were in full attendance.
But as the history of Double Ten ceremonies shows, whether ruling and opposition leaders attend makes little difference. Political calculations will be difficult to eliminate. The presidential election is less than 100 days away. The campaign process compelled both ruling and opposition party leaders to attend the ceremonies. For this reason many see the ceremonies as pro form lip service to "one ROC, same interpretation" by parties that have different agendas. These parties actually subscribe to "one ROC, different interpretations". Imagine how loyal citizens of the Republic of China must feel? They yearn for a ceremony that bridges the chasm between blue and green.
Double Ten National Day ceremonies held since the ROC government moved to Taiwan, can be divided into two phases. During the first decade, "Oppose Chinese Communism, and resist the Soviet Union" was the watchword. A single party dominated. No real opposition existed. The nation's direction however, was crystal clear. Double Ten was celebrated universally, with jubilation. A consensus prevailed among the ruling and opposition parties. Everyone watched the National Day parade. Every house displayed the national flag. Everyone remembered those days with fond memories.
In 1991, when President Lee Teng-hui assumed power, organizers of the National Day ceremonies issued an unprecedented invitation to Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Huang Hsin-chieh. Huang was happy to attend. But alas, he was seated outside the VIP area. This and other factors angered Huang, who refused to attend a second time. This year, Tsai Ing-wen attended the National Day ceremonies. The last time an opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson participated in a National Day ceremony was 24 years ago.
When the DPP came to power during Chen Shui-bian's first term, blue camp party chairpersons boycotted all four National Day ceremonies. The blue camp had difficulty accepting a minority president. Its doubts about green camp "backdoor listing" of the ROC have persisted. The divide between blue and green remains insurmountable. In 2005, Ma Ying-jeou became the first KMT Chairperson to attend the National Day ceremony since the change in ruling parties. In 2006, however, the full extent of Chen Shui-bian's corruption came known. That year the National Day ceremony turned into an arena for political conflict. People First Party legislators made a huge row. Blue and green camp legislators engaged in physical scuffles, and created an international embarrassment. The following year, during the last National Day ceremony of his term, President Chen actually refused to make mention the "Republic of China". He refused to display the "Celebrate the Republic of China National Day" slogan on the presidential palace tower. He replaced it with a sign that read, "Taiwan must join the United Nations".
When the Kuomintang returned to power, the DPP chairperson also refused to attend the National Day ceremony. This year, Tsai Ing-wen eventually decided to attend. With the presidential election approaching, "maintaining the status quo" became an unexpected consensus shared by ruling and opposition parties. Front-runner Tsai Ing-wen once alleged that "The Republic of China is a government in exile". She now postures as a "champion of the ROC constitutional framework". How can she be absent on National Day? Therefore, Tsai Ing-wen has "revised her agenda" and participated in the National Day ceremony. Her attendance was facetiously characterized as "an inauguration ceremony in advance".
Imagine the National Day ceremonies next year. in the event Tsai Ing-wen becomes the star of the show. As New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming said, when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power, Republic of China flags were piled up like garbage following New Year's Day flag-raising and National Day ceremonies. Will such scenes be reenacted? The Kuomintang is undergoing intraparty strife. No one is asking Tsai Ing-wen how she intends to "maintain the status quo", or even what she means by "maintaining the status quo". Tsai Ing-wen and her fellow Taiwan independence supporters are already see Taiwan independence as "innate" and "natural". Their "defense" of the ROC is mere backdoor listing and expedience. How can they possibly be expected to treat the Republic of China with sincerity? Tsai Ing-wen claims that she attended the National Day ceremonies in order to end blue vs. green opposition, to work toward tolerance, reconciliation, and social unity.
The KMT probably cannot imagine what next year's National Day ceremony will look like. President Ma Ying-jeou could not conceal his embarrassment at the last Double Ten ceremony held during his administration. The impass over "removing Hung and replacing her with Chu" persists. The prospect of a head-on collision remains. Ma has no solution for internal party disunity. Ma has no power to conduct foreign policy. All Ma can do is watch power change hands, while the nation undergoes a changing of the guard. Where will the blue camp party princes who attended this year's National Day ceremonies find themselves next year? Can Eric Chu and Hung Hsiu-chu reach an understanding? Can they bury the hatchet, fight shoulder to shoulder, share responsibility, and prevent the structure from collapsing? Does the KMT really intend to wait until it loses public support, then create a scene at the National Day ceremony?
The Double Ten National Day ceremony should be an event that does not distinguish between ruling or opposition party affiliation. But for the past twenty years, it has been subject to the rise and fall of ruling vs. opposition party political status, not to mention public support for sundry political stars. They have never allowed the birthday party of the ROC to be a true ceremony that the people as a whole may enjoy.
The theme of this year's National Day ceremony is "Unite in love for Taiwan. Create a new future together". It is inscribed on a gateway straddling Ketagalan Boulevard. A reviewing stand for ruling and opposition leaders has been erected in front of the Presidential Palace. This will be the last National Day ceremony held while Ma Ying-jeou is president. Both ruling and opposition parties will participate. Ruling and opposition party leaders each have their own calculations. But as we watch military personnel, civilians, and students put on their show, remember to wish the nation well.
Happy birthday, Republic of China. Long may it live!