Mon, Jul 12, 2004 - Page 8 News List

What does 'one China' truly mean?

By Zhang Jia-lin章嘉琳

The recent cancellation of a concert by Taiwanese pop-star A-mei (張惠妹) in Hangzhou caused a strong reaction in Taiwan. Taiwanese Internet users are now trying to initiate boycotts of Chinese and Hong Kong artists to stop them from performing in Taiwan. Given the tense cross-strait situation, people on either side of the Taiwan Strait trying to intensify the antagonistic mood does not help China's anti-independence, pro-unification efforts.

Although the incident may have been the result of an independent action by some people in China, and although it was described as an "isolated incident" by China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), it reflected the fact that both officials and the general public in China still do not understand Taiwan and take a simplistic and rigid approach to cross-strait issues. It also showed that the relevant Chinese authorities have neglected to direct the general public's understanding of the complexity of the Taiwan issue and to inform them of the correct ways to treat the people of Taiwan.

This has led a minority of people in China to confuse populism with patriotism. We all know that A-mei is a very popular singer in Taiwan. Her recent experience will undoubtedly deepen suspicion and dislike of China among the people in Taiwan in general and the younger generation in particular. It seems it is not a mere "isolated incident."

Beijing recently declared that it does not welcome "green" businesspeople coming to China to make money only to bring it back to Taiwan to support Taiwan's independence. But the Taiwanese public at large should not be labelled "green" for every little action.

There is still no evidence that A-mei is as staunch a proponent of Taiwan's independence as Hsu Wen-lung (許文龍). The only indication of her green leanings is the fact that she sang the national anthem at Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) 2000 inauguration.

A-mei is only an Aboriginal girl who likes to sing -- she has probably not formed any fixed political beliefs. Even if she is guilty of some small impropriety, is could be treated as a matter of increasing mutual understanding within the framework for cross-strait cultural exchanges. After all, she is still very young.

In fact, when handling things for other people, we must consider the other party's situation and feelings instead of labelling anyone who doesn't meet the PRC's description as an enemy. Consider A-mei's situation -- when the Taiwanese authorities asked her to sing her national anthem, how could she refuse?

Although some people in Taiwan support independence, the people of China should understand and forgive them. A Taiwanese friend once told me that "China must understand and forgive the people of Taiwan, treat them with tolerance and magnanimity, and understand the hardship of being the orphan of Asia.

"Apart from a few politicians with ulterior motives, China must show tolerance towards those who may have shouted slogans in support of Taiwan independence in the past and not further investigate them. This, and only this, is the behavior of a great nation with concern for its own people," he said.

The song A-mei sang four years ago was the National Anthem of the Republic of China (ROC). She was punished for doing so, and could not perform in China for a few years. This is related to the way China deals with the so-called Taiwan issue. The majority of the Taiwanese people to this day still identify with the ROC, Beijing has to handle this sensitive and complex issue satisfactorily if it is to win the hearts and minds of the people in Taiwan.

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