Fri, Oct 28, 2005 - Page 8 News List

The path of Taiwan's democracy

By Lee Teng-Hui (李登輝)

China, across the Taiwan Strait, has never wavered from its ambitions to annex Taiwan, although its tactics may have changed. For example, in the past they launched missiles to threaten Taiwan, but the Taiwanese people stood tall.

Now they adopt softer tactics such as economic profits to attract Taiwanese, however the substance is still the same. As long as Taiwan is not subsumed into China, Chinese tyranny will never cease offering incentives and applying coercions. The anti-democratic forces, with their ideological wrappings inside Taiwan, quickly became good friends with the authoritarian Chinese. With the support of the Chinese, their anti-democratic actions become less restrained and less hampered. The interplay of these internal and external factors has led to complexity and confusion in Taiwan's national identity. This is the most significant threat to Taiwan's democracy.

Some Asian leaders advocate so-called "Asian values." Asian traditions are not irreplaceable, yet the political process of some countries shows that "Asian values" ultimately are used as an excuse to deprive the people of human rights, and so become a major stumbling block in their path to full democracy. Fortunately for Taiwan, the influence of Confucian traditions is not entrenched enough to create this problem.

Currently, the major issue for Taiwan to resolve in its path toward full democracy is the confusion in its national identity. Various surveys show that more and more Taiwanese people see themselves as being Taiwanese or do not deny that they are Taiwanese. This is proof of the assimilation of different ethnic groups in Taiwanese society under democracy.

Regrettably, those political groups that have been rejected by the voters use political maneuvers to fracture social harmony and stir dissent over national identity. They want to adopt the "Greater China" ideology -- used in the authoritarian period to amass power -- to subvert modern, democratic Taiwan. Today, their support comes not from domestic voters, but from the hegemonic arguments, military threats and economic tactics of China across the Taiwan Strait.

Undeniably, Chinese national power is growing, and "bringing Qing soldiers through the gate," or using a Trojan horse, which refers to those political groups' cooperation with the communists in order to control Taiwan, worsens the nation's predicament.

For Taiwanese people to overcome these challenges, they must first strengthen national identity. If we look closely at Taiwan, we find that the Taiwanese people of over 50 years ago and the Taiwanese people of 50 years hence have undergone a qualitative change.

In the past, after being brainwashed by outside regimes, Taiwanese had no choice but to deem themselves Chinese. Today, more and more people have come to realize that this was both a fabrication of fact and history.

In reality, during the process of democratic reform in the last decade of the 20th century, we frequently asked ourselves, "Who am I? Who are we?"

Professor Huntington also mentions in his new book, Who are We?, that many countries face various national identity issues, albeit in varying form and substance, adding that in Taiwan, the national identity of the people is in the midst of dissolution and reconstruction.

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