Pessimists and optimists live in different worlds. Pessimists wake up every morning expecting something bad to happen which, quite naturally, depresses them. Optimists wake up with joy in their heart, as if they see new hope and new opportunities.
Strangely, intelligent people are almost always pessimists. In particular, intellectuals with a sense of mission are rarely happy and optimistic. For them, optimism is superficial and happiness shows a lack of brains.
Taiwan's future does not lie in the hands of the people of Taiwan alone, making it difficult to be an optimist. Looking at Taiwan from an international perspective, one sees saber rattling across the Taiwan Strait. The government in Beijing has begun preparations to adopt an anti-secession law to deal with Taiwan, leaving us with a feeling that the situation in the Strait is becoming increasingly dangerous, and this is causing a lot of pessimism.
But on a closer look, we see fundamental changes in the cross-strait relationship, and also major changes in the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) methods and policies for dealing with Taiwan. Qualitative changes have also taken place in both the Taiwanese and Chinese societies. Taiwan consciousness has developed a lot, and there has been a great increase in China's confidence in its future.
From China's point of view, there are three fundamental trends in the way the Taiwan issue develops.
First, the difference in economic strength of the two sides is continuing to grow, and China has clearly overtaken Taiwan. Second, cross-strait trade and cultural exchanges are developing rapidly, and dependence is increasing. Third, the international situation is advantageous to Beijing's "one China" principle. All these developments are to China's benefit.
From the CCP's point of view, formal Taiwanese independence requires all of the following three conditions. First, China must experience a long period of weakness. Second, Taiwanese independence forces must be in power for a long period, directing public opinion. Third, the US and Japan must publicly support Taiwanese independence.
Crucial among these three factors is China experiencing a long period of weakness. Furthermore, there is already consensus in the US, Japan and the rest of the international community in support of the "one China" principle. Taiwan's mainstream public opinion and Democratic Progressive Party rule are, however, beyond China's control.
The proposition of the anti-secession law is of course meant as a response to Taiwan's Referendum Law (公民投票法). The Referendum Law is an anti-unification law, and the anti-secession law is an anti-Taiwanese independence law. The anti-unification legislation, however, is substantive, because the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are separated, while the anti-secession law is empty, since it supposes that the current status quo is one of unity.
The cross-strait relationship is a virtual world. This state of uncertainty and the diverging political recognition are in fact not unique to Taiwan. The same situation exists among many ethnic minorities and formerly occupied countries. It is depressive and frustrating, but does not necessarily lead to hardship, nor does it necessarily stop people from striving for happiness.
Taiwan's geographic position decides various formal, substantive and spiritual unification-independence relationships, where unification encompasses independence and independence encompasses unification. Sometimes unification holds the upper hand, and sometimes independence does. This is the realistic world where we must learn to coexist peacefully with China.