Thu, Aug 18, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Deciding what Taiwan stands for

By Ku Er-teh 顧爾德

In a conference to mark the establishment of the Democratic Pacific Union (DPU), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said that China's rise must go hand-in-hand with a peaceful awakening and democratic development, and it was the DPU's mission to ensure that this happened.

He spoke of the traditional concerns of regional security from a global perspective, saying that nobody wanted to see the collapse of China, as the international community would have to pay a heavy price if this happened.

Amid the flood of loud contention over the issue of independence versus unification, the writer of Chen's speech managed to take a global and integrated perspective of regional security that encompassed the issues of China's rapid economic growth, the stability of its society and beneficial development in considering the future of the Asia-Pacific region.

With economic and strategic conflicts in the Western Pacific between China, the US and Japan increasing, if Chen actually means what he said in this speech, then he may actually be suggesting a viable way out of the cross-strait impasse.

Chen's speech combined both realism and idealism. We heard no more cliches about the need for the collapse of China. He broached the idea of political and social stabilizing mechanisms, as well military expansionism, as major variables that will influence China's peaceful rise.

If we follow the logic of the speech, we can see how the need to cope with China's military expansionism can be addressed simultaneously with the need for more flexibility on the question of direct links. After all, the military threat from China and the lure of its economy are objective realities in Taiwan today.

In terms of idealism, the speech regarded China's attitude toward a peaceful awakening and democratic development as being the key to solving the problem. These are not merely universal ideals, but must also be actualized through action.

The day before this speech, Chen gave another address for the World Taiwanese Congress (WTC), in which he quoted the final two lines of the Chinese poet Li Bai's (李白) Through the Yangtze Gorges ("Yet monkeys are still calling on both banks behind me, to my boat these 10,000 mountains away") to describe Taiwan's road to democracy and self-autonomy.

Not everyone would agree that the "boat" had really passed through the 10,000 mountains, but the Taiwanese people have indeed all experienced the dangerous journey "through the Yangtze gorges." The question is how to make the Chinese also understand that this "road to democracy and autonomy," with all the dangers it entails, is necessary?

If making them believe this is the immutable mission of the DPU, how is Taiwan, one of the union's founders, going to fulfill this responsibility?

Around the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, Taiwan's government and people were keeping a watchful eye on the development of democracy in China, but its support has waned in the intervening time. Supporting democracy in China brings repercussions in the form of pressure from Beijing, but Taiwan has never shirked paying the price for advancing democracy. The presence in Taiwan of Yan Peng (燕鵬) and Chen Rongli (陳榮利), members of China's democracy movement, is a testament to this.

Two common democratic movement activists last year escaped from China to Taiwan to seek political asylum. At the beginning, they were treated the same as other illegal immigrants and taken to the Chinglu Detention Center in Ilan. An appeal by the Taiwan Association for Human Rights' (TAHR) was rejected after the court ruled that determining whether the two qualified for refugee status, and whether they could be granted political asylum, was a decision for the Cabinet.

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