Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Democracy needs both diversity and unity

By Chen Lung-chu陳隆志

Taiwan is a society made up of many immigrant groups. To build a sustainable, democratic and peaceful society, we must create equality among ethnic groups, foster mutual respect and tolerance and understand the disparities between different histories and cultural backgrounds.

Based on the idea that this country is a single community, we should seek to construct a multicultural environment where all ethnic groups are able to prosper and develop together.

"Ethnically diverse, but one as a nation," is how President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), during his inauguration speech on May 20, described the beautiful make-up of this country.

The nation's 23 million people should share the same destiny and bear honor and shame together. During the the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) authoritarian rule, driven by the ideology of "Greater China," the government distorted the distribution of social resources, caused an imbalance in ethnic dignity and clamped down on linguistic and cultural diversity.

Progress in democratization and social reform, bearing in mind respect for ethnic differences and diversity, has become a central value in national development.

Following the current trend, the government should adhere to the principle of mutual respect among ethnic groups, taking account of both the national interest as well as the special interests of those groups.

Establishing national identity is a major part of the development of an integrated community.

If a country has a divided national identity, this will affect its democratic system. If disagreements over national identity are not reconciled, it will blur the focus of government and the discussion of policy. Moreover, this makes it difficult to form a consensus that is such a necessary part of modern government and the lack of which causes considerable damage to national unity and development.

Therefore, the government and the people must join together to discard historical baggage and create a society that does not differentiate between indigenous people and outsiders.

This nation's ethnic groups include Aborigines, Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), Hakka and Mainlanders. Everyone should have equal status and opportunities to participate, develop, contribute and share in the fruits of the nation. This country is represented by a population with a shared memory and, aware of its own identity, it becomes more clearly defined.

In order for Taiwan to develop in a stable and unified fashion, we must incorporate a wide array of views from different ethnic groups. With confidence and patience, everyone should continue to solidify this identity in order to achieve the goal of becoming a "normal" country.

Chen Lung-chu is the chairman of the Taiwan New Century Foundation.


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