Sun, Jan 09, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Beijing is living in the past, as law tells us

By William Stimson

The central standing committee of the People's Republic of China's National Congress on Dec. 26 approved a draft bill for what has come to be known as the "anti-secession law." This is a big step for China.

Unfortunately, it's in the wrong direction.

Evolutionary biologists have long known that the fastest evolution, the quickest development in a line of organisms, doesn't occur on continents but in archipelagos of many close but separate islands, where it's possible for populations to make local experiments. The successes spread like lightning through the region. The failures remain local or fizzle out.

Not China, but Europe, with its many separate and distinct nations, cultures and languages, spawned modern civilization. It's no accident. We think of China as a country, but it's not. China isn't analogous to, say, Germany, Italy or England.

It's the Asian equivalent of Europe and, like Europe, China is, in fact, composed of many separate regions, each having its own individual history, language and nationality. This truth has been obscured by China's historical fixation on empire. If this "anti-secession law" is intended to pave the way for a move against Taiwan, it only shows how firmly China is still stuck in its dysfunctional past.?

For China to gobble up Taiwan would, admittedly, not be good for Taiwan, which is much better off as it is. But the point I would like to make here is that neither would it be good for China. The "one China" policy never benefited China. It has all but defeated everything that's splendidly and vibrantly Chinese. Consider this one fact: it's the little specks of vast China, those tiny particles of territory historically unconnected to the corrupt power center, that have moved forward with such singular verve into the modern world -- Taiwan, Singapore, and, until recently, Hong Kong.

What China needs is to follow the example of its success stories, not strangle them one by one. The "archipelago effect" works, the "continental scenario" doesn't. This is the message that should be getting through to China's leaders. What China needs isn't an "anti-secession law" but a program for the orderly secession of its different constituent nationalities so that, one by one, each may set out like Taiwan on its own amazing adventure, forging its own unique way of being Chinese. Only in this way can China, so long stymied, break out and finally achieve its proper place of leadership in the civilized world.

China should forget about competing with the US. It can do better than displacing the world's dinosaur. The European example is clearly the one China needs to follow. Living here in Taiwan as I do, I see on a daily basis the miracle that can happen in a place that is small and free. The young people that Taiwan is now producing are amazing. I only wish all the other regions of China could gain their independence, too, and experience the same miracle.

William Stimson is a writer living in Taiwan.

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