Thu, May 25, 2000 - Page 8 News List

The Taiwan Strait has become the great divide

By Paul Lin

Comparing the inaugural ceremony for Taiwan's 10th president with similar ceremonies in the PRC is interesting. The ceremony in Taiwan was full of pomp and circumstance, both in the formal exchange of power and the speeches by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and others. The speeches emphasized the rule of law and the idea that sovereignty rests with the people. It was very different from China, where such ceremonies resemble royal coronations and are used by the Chinese Communist Party as symbols of its power.

The Taipei celebration and Chen's speech both had a Taiwanese feel. Chen may have mentioned the ROC many times in his speech, but the ROC has been "localized." Chen also refer-red to Taiwan as "forever the mother" and called himself "Taiwan's son," remarks that could not have come from the KMT. Having the national anthem sung by Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹) -- a popular aboriginal singer better known as A-mei -- and a choral symphony piece sung in Hokkien infused the ceremony with a rustic Taiwanese atmosphere, yet it still incorporated elements of both Western and Chinese culture.

Chen's address mentioned all the issues of concern to the public, including political, economic, community and environmental topics. His comments about a small government were surprising, since former opposition parties often abuse their newfound powers out of excitement. The DPP, which started out as a grassroots movement and has a socialist tinge to it, has long advocated the realization of social equality through administrative measures. A small government run by the DPP would reduce corruption.

But the pressure of recent Chinese threats meant the focus of attention was Chen's remarks about cross-strait policy.

Ahead of the inauguration, China's state media launched new attacks against Chen in a bid to influence his speech. On May 15, a People's Daily editorial stated that Chen could not avoid the "one China" principle and on the 17th, the Xinhua News Agency editorial claimed that the path of Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) is a dead end. These articles prove that the "state-to-state" model (特殊兩國論) was Beijing's real target, since Lee's path was the source of the PRC's headaches.

Just hours after Chen's speech, Beijing claimed he had avoided the "one China" principle and lacked both sincerity and good-will. Clearly Beijing was not satisfied with Chen's principled, yet "soft" approach, but it seemed to harbor hope for him. China's fiercest criticism was reserved for "some of those in power in Taiwan, who are guilty of being "resolutely in favor of independence for Taiwan." Who "they" are, no one knows.

This stubborn and unrealistic response will only continue to drive a wedge between China and Taiwan. There is no hope for the two countries merging. One must engulf the other. In his speech Chen may have said that the people across the Taiwan Strait share the same ancestral, cultural and historical background, but differences are mounting due to the prolonged separation. There are cultural commonalities between Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau, but there are also salient differences.

Taiwan has undoubtedly created an economic and political miracle and will continue to manufacture miracles. China,however, refuses to give up one-party rule, insists its government structure is the best in the world and refuses to reform. How could Taiwan unify with a country that retains such an outdated system of government? Unification with China would send the miracles Taiwan has achieved over the past five decades into the grave.

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