China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 28, 2016
Executive Summary: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je spoke to this newspaper on cross-Strait relations. He emphasized mutual understanding. Only then will cross-Strait relations be stable. Since the Tsai regime took office, official cross-Strait relations have become a constant source of anxiety, all due to the 1992 Consensus. People to people relations are threatened by the rise of populism. Ko Wen-je transcended blue, green and red political loyalties, and demonstrated a refreshingly high tolerance for political differences.
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Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je spoke to this newspaper on cross-Strait relations. He emphasized mutual understanding. Only then will cross-Strait relations be stable. Since the Tsai regime took office, official cross-Strait relations have become a constant source of anxiety, all due to the 1992 Consensus. People to people relations are threatened by the rise of populism. Ko Wen-je transcended blue, green and red political loyalties, and demonstrated a refreshingly high tolerance for political differences.
The green camp has long nursed a hostile attitude towards the Mainland. It has poo-pooed the Mainland's growth and rise. Ko Wen-je however, differed. He reminded the people of Taiwan that seldom in China's history has everyone had enough to eat. The 1.3 billion people on the other side of the Strait are now reasonably well-off. That such a large economy has not gone off the rails is no easy feat. From an historical perspective, it can be considered a "Golden Age". Taiwan should not continue to deny the Mainland's achievements. It should offer encouragement. This evaluation of Mainland history, is both reasonable and fair.
Emotionally speaking, it was a highly compassionate evaluation. For some time, thinking on Taiwan regarding cross-Strait issues has been highly ego-centric. People see things only from Taiwan's perspective. They refuse to see things from the Mainland's perspective. This has led to bias and paranoia. Ko Wen-je's evaluation of the other side's circumstances, came from the heart. It is an important step towards gaining the other side's understanding.
Rationally speaking, Ko Wen-je's analysis was entirely accurate. If one ignores the historical context, the Mainland is lacking in many ways. It has much room for improvement. It faces many challenges. It has much that can be criticized. But view Mainland evolution from a larger historical perspective, and one realizes it has made tremendous progress. This cannot be denied. Ko Wen-je referred to objective reality. He also appealed to reason.
Ko Wen-je was being fair. He spoke the truth. This is something DPP officials cannot bring themselves to do. This is something President Tsai Ing-wen cannot bring herself to do. This is something that KMT officials, deathly afraid of being labeled “Communist sympathizers”, cannot bring themselves to do. Paradoxically deep green Ko Wen-je, had the courage to say something that risked charges of “Communist sympathies”. In part, this was because Ko Wen-je is fearless, In part, this was because he cannot be easily accused of "pandering to China and selling out Taiwan". As a result, he could get away with being fair and speaking the truth.
In fact, President Tsai Ing-wen has the same political credentials as Ko Wen-je. She could be fair and speak the truth, just as Ko Wen-je did. Just imagine, suppose Tsai Ing-wen had said this. She could have displayed a transcendent rationality unprecedented in history. She could have revealed deep empathy toward the Mainland. If only she were capable of demonstrating such “sense and sensibility”, who knows how many problems bedeviling the two sides could be resolved? How sad that she lacks Ko Wen-je's tolerance and wisdom.
Ko Wen-je has provided Tsai Ing-wen with the necessary inspiration. Such empathy and flexibility opens the door to another political realm. In other words, our empathy towards the Mainland, can win us Mainland empathy towards Taiwan.
Ko Wen-je invoked history. He was fair to the Mainland. As a result, Ko Wen-je earned the right to speak the truth to the Mainland on behalf of Taiwan. Ko Wen-je noted how Taiwan has been occupied by the Dutch, ruled by the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and occupied by the Japanese. Taiwan experienced KMT rule, democracy, citizens' movements, and immigration. Four hundred chaotic years of history shaped Taiwan's pluralistic, open, often clamorous political culture. People are often “passionate but irresponsible”. They often betray a “surfeit of enthusiasm, but a deficit of patience”. Ko hoped the Mainland would be a little more understanding and forgiving.
Without Ko's preface, Ko's remarks would have remained nothing more than parochialism. He would have made demands of others, without making demands of himself. The impact of his words would have been greatly reduced.
Some may find the motives behind Ko Wen-je's high-minded speech suspect. Ko Wen-je's administration in Taipei City is troubled. That may be why he thew open the doors on cross-Strait issues. He could be making a last ditch attempt to salvage his political career. Given Ko Wen-je's flip-flops in the past, such suspicions are not unfounded. We hope Ko Wen-je is not making these calculations. We warn Ko Wen-je against harboring such motives. Voters are not blind. One cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Ko Wen-je's poll numbers continue to plummet. His governance lacks essential consistency. This is a lesson that Ko Wen-je has learned.
Leave aside Ko's motives for the moment. Consider only the results. Ko Wen-je's remarks were highly constructive. For now, he deserves affirmation. Politicians and government heads should be given incentives to say the right thing and do the right thing.
"As long as the two sides can reduce conflict, I am willing to try. As long as the two sides are willing to act in good faith, I am willing to work hard". Ko Wen-je's concluding remark is exactly how Taiwan should be dealing with cross-Strait relations.