Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 8 News List

History sheds light on ethnic interaction

By Paul Lin 林保華

Exaggerations by politicians and the media have distorted the issue of Taiwan's national consciousness, now considered an ethnicity issue. Members of the public painting themselves as part of the "center" are making loud noises, while people within the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) believe Taiwan is ethnically divided.

We cannot deny that Taiwan has an ethnic problem, but it is not a matter of ethnic division. Even the most civilized democratic countries experience ethnic problems. The key lies in whether the government is stirring up, encouraging or preventing ethnic opposition.

Ethnic problems existed under the Chiang family, too, only the media weren't allowed to report them. These problems have become less intense following democratization and the passing of time. However, people with ulterior motives, followed by more muddle-headed people, create the misperception that ethnic division is real.

In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) led a defeated military and bureaucracy to Taiwan. They constituted a new ethnic group in Taiwan's migrant society, and their coercive rule implemented policies meeting their own interests.

The democratization process weakened Mainlander privileges and negatively influenced their interests. The political remnants of the old system then used the ethnicity issue to oppose the developing democracy movement, labelling democracy "populism." Because army, government, economy and bureaucracy were in the hands of the authoritarian system for several decades, this framing of the ethnic issue -- whether in the media or in education -- entered deep into the minds of the public, and with time it became the accepted truth. The deeper the democracy movement's roots, the more ethnic opposition was exaggerated against it.

The unification-independence issue has always been a matter of national identification, but it also has been misperceived as an ethnicity issue, making a domestic consensus more difficult.

We have also seen 90 percent of Mainlanders vote for Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), and then interpret the defeat of these candidates as a crisis that could mean the demise of nation, party and family.

Radicals came out for "a final struggle," while Lien and Soong relied on rumor and exaggeration to create social disorder and destroy Taiwan's international image. They did not even stop at violence, and should be condemned by all Taiwan.

As a result of the KMT's past authoritarian rule and the White Terror, some actions resulting from the DPP's "tragic" mobilization and unification of the public may have brought harm to some Mainlanders, but only in an extreme minority of cases. As the remnants of the old authoritarian system bring daily accusations of ethnic division and "green terror," they should bring out the names of the victims or remain quiet.

The fact that the representatives of the 12 percent of Taiwan's population made up of Mainlanders can receive almost 50 percent of the vote is proof that localization activists do not look down on Mainlanders.

Following Taiwan's democratization, it is only natural that the interests of those privileged Mainlanders who relied on the Chiang family have been weakened. This doesn't mean there is a policy to exterminate them.

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