Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Four fundamentals for the future

By Frank Wu 吳豐山

Taiwan's geographical position was instrumental in putting it on the world stage during the great ocean-going age of the 16th century. It was because of this that the island became home to many different ethnic groups, and this ethnic diversity naturally led to the multicultural society we now have in Taiwan.

Ethnic and cultural diversity can easily cause ethnic and cultural conflict. If such differences are dealt with skillfully on a political level, however, this very diversity can be turned into a valuable asset for Taiwan.

In other words, if one does everything to avoid discord, remains broad-minded and designs a model in which all groups can be governed together, then this ethnic diversity will guarantee a wealth of talent. If one avoids discrimination and elitism and promotes a multicultural system, cultural diversity will ensure a blossoming culture. This is the first fundamental principle in planning for the future of Taiwan.

Complex historical factors have forced minority rule, colonialism and dictatorship on Taiwan throughout the past 400 years. This ended in 1996 when the Taiwanese people elected their president, ushering in a new era. This did not mean that Tai-wan was free of its pre-1996 historical baggage, and even now it is yet to break free of a triangle including the US and China.

The political reverberations left over from the end of World War II and the civil war fought between the Nationalists and Communists in China are still being felt today. The fallout has made Taiwan captive to the US and a renegade province that China stakes its claim to liberate.

Although Taiwan now meets all the criteria of a nation, it has yet to secure international recognition of its legitimate and full nationhood.

The US is a powerful nation quite capable of protecting its interests in Taiwan. That is not to say, however, that Taiwan has nothing bargain with. China is calling for unification, and if the Taiwanese want China to understand and respect their desire for autonomy, then they will also have to understand and respect why China has no alternative but to call for unification. Only then can the two sides move together in the same direction. It is far wiser to be positive than negative, and this would be a very important principle to follow.

American interests are not absolutely identical to those of China, and it would not be too difficult for Taiwan to secure benefit from both sides. What's more, globalization of the economy is inevitable, and this will significantly change international relations; even the concepts of national boundaries and arms need to be redefined. If we can deal with these changes well, we can reverse our current isolation. This is the second fundamental principle for planning for the future.

Taiwan's importance has always been the economic value of its productive output; this economic value has consistently assured its survival. Taiwan consequently needs to produce new ways of making money.

Taiwan has relied on different products at different times. In the past it has produced deer skins, camphor, tea, sugar, rice, clothes, jewelry, plastics and electronics. In the short term we can expect this role to be taken by bio-tech, but in the longer term the nation is likely to rely on its cultural and tourist industries. Why has no one in government sought to consolidate the various European, Chi-nese, Japanese, American and Aboriginal cultural resources that we have here? Could it be that no one up there has realized that the Pacific coast along Taitung is the nearest stretch of tropical coastline for the several hundred million tourists north of the Pashi Channel?

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