Tue, Aug 30, 2005 - Page 8 News List

'Taiwan discourse' is misdirected

By Ku Er-teh 顧爾德

After being elected chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has suggested quite a few novel reforms that have won the approval of KMT members. When he proposed a Taiwan discourse for the KMT, however, it was met with mixed reactions from KMT supporters.

The major difference between Ma's Taiwan discourse and former KMT chairman and president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) localization discourse is that the latter recognized the KMT as being a foreign ruler and also took concrete measures to speed up the localization of that foreign ruler.

The measures included promoting local Taiwanese to leading positions in both the party and government, defining the nation as the Republic of China on Taiwan, and amending the Constitution to define the nation's scope and sovereignty. Ma, on the other hand, wants to return to the source to try to find a connection between the KMT and Taiwan, an approach which includes mentioning Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) -- a Taiwanese social activist during the Japanese era -- who was a member of the KMT's precursor, the Kuomingtang or Revolutionary Party (革命黨), as well as Sun Yat-sen's (孫逸仙) visit to Taiwan.

This may seem a thorough approach, but there is a risk that it may blur the focus and lead to too much talking. Sun started his revolution from abroad. He studied abroad and overseas Chinese associations were important early supporters of the revolution. If the participation in, or support for, Sun's revolution by individual Taiwanese is used to prove that there is a historical foundation for the relationship between the KMT and Taiwan, then the KMT has an even closer relationship with overseas associations in Hawaii or Japan. That does not mean, however, that we should call the KMT a local Hawaiian or Japanese party.

Another historical fact that cannot be denied is that the early 20th century was an era of revolution, in particular following the success of the Russian revolution, which resulted in an international revolutionary network. China's leftist revolutionary parties, Japan's leftist parties and even Taiwan's communist party were connected through this network. The KMT's close relationship with the Soviet Communist Party following the success of the KMT's revolution does not mean that the KMT was an appendix to the Soviet Communist Party or that the Soviet Communist Party was a localized Chinese party.

Private and commercial exchanges across the Taiwan Strait were not interrupted during the Japanese era. Such exchanges, however, are not sufficient to claim a political relationship across the Strait. The factors that really affected the cross-strait political relationship during the latter part of the 20th century were instead the outcome of World War II and the Chinese civil war.

The ethnic, cultural and geopolitical situation led to the natural development of cross-strait interactions that were destroyed only after the KMT arrived in Taiwan. For Taiwan at that time, the KMT was indeed a foreign government whose leadership included only a few Taiwanese. It was only later that it slowly absorbed the local elite and formed a network to control local politics.

A more reasonable explanation would be to say that after the KMT came to Taiwan and ended cross-strait exchanges it was as a foreign ruler that was forced to begin a localization process. The Cold War not only severed interaction between Taiwan and China, it also severed interaction between Taiwan's rulers and their mother country. Although the government continued to claim that the central plains of China were the center of the nation, the concrete foundation of its existence was Taiwan, and that was where it had to set root and localize.

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