Sat, May 22, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Ten ways to tweak Beijing

By Bei Dawei

In order to focus international attention on the cross-strait situation, Taiwan needs to find ways of challenging China without seeming to "step over the line," ie, giving China a casus belli. Here are some suggestions for building a Taiwanese identity and improving its diplomatic situation. Any of these would get attention; several at once would give Beijing a fit.

One, abandon the Minguo (Republican) calendar. Besides Taiwan, only North Korea thinks that this is the year 93, and not 2004. And China can't very well complain about the switch, because they already use the Western calendar.

Two, change the name of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to the "Chiang Kai-Shek Victims Memorial Hall." A minimum of renovation would be needed, such as replacing quotes from the generalissimo with the names of those murdered, imprisoned and/or tortured by his agents.

Three, promise unification talks as soon as Hong Kong has full democracy, and Tibet and Xinjiang are made into a Special Autonomous Regions. This would serve to deflect political pressure from Taiwan, onto hardline factions within China.

Four, invite China to submit any resolution it likes to a popular referendum in Taiwan. If they refuse, it will be something of an embarrassment for them, since it will constitute a tacit admission that the ordinary people of Taiwan do not support them.

Five, allow the Chinese Communist Party full freedom to operate in Taiwan -- running for elections and so on -- in return for granting similar privileges to Taiwan-based political parties desiring to contest Chinese elections.

Six, promote an alphabetic (not character-based) script for Taiwanese. If the Zhiyin Fuhao ("bo po mo fo") system could somehow be adapted to this purpose, this would be ideal, as it is both widely-recognized and distinctive from other scripts. (Such a writing system need not displace any others, but might be used in a ceremonial way, as is Maori in New Zealand.)

Seven, promote a multicultural identity for Taiwan in which the Chinese component is seen as merely the largest among many. The model for this would be Singapore. To this end, Taiwan should take steps to encourage non-Chinese to seek citizenship here (for example by eliminating the requirement that foreigners renounce their previous citizenships before seeking ROC citizenship).

Eight, establish a "National Guard" system in which ROC civilians -- particularly those with previous military experience -- are encouraged to keep rifles and participate in weekend military exercises.

Nine, adopt a Taiwanese flag to be used in addition to the ROC flag. Later the ROC flag could be gradually abandoned, as circumstances permit. For this purpose I recommend the 1895 "Republic of Taiwan" or "Yellow Tiger" flag, which has the important vexillological virtues of being beautiful, historic and an excellent symbol for Taiwan (an "Asian tiger").

Ten, even the name issue could perhaps be finessed, with something like Taiwan Chunghwa Mingguo ("Chinese Republic of Taiwan"), which could be argued isn't that much of a change.

Bei Dawei


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