Fri, Feb 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Pragmatic path is the best solution

By Chen I-chung 陳宜中

The newspapers report that factional infighting is rife in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) over the question of whether or not independence should be an option for Taiwan. When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) passed its "Anti-Secession" Law last March, some people in academic and cultural circles used respect for the free choice of the people of Taiwan as a reason to promote the idea that "independence is also an option."

In other words, the question of whether or not Taiwan should become independent must be freely decided by the people of Taiwan, without any military threats from China. Because this idea leads easily to misunderstandings, it must be analyzed in a multi-layered manner.

First, from the perspective of political freedom and the freedom of speech, promoting Taiwan's independence is the same thing as promoting independence for Taichung. It is a fundamental right and freedom protected in the Constitution of the Republic of China. Put more succinctly, each citizen has the right to express their political beliefs because the expression of individual beliefs is part of political freedom and the freedom of speech. I believe that there is a high degree of consensus on this point throughout all sectors of Taiwanese society.

Once "free choice" has been used to legitimize a political party's or even a government's separatist line, however, some more serious issues come to the fore. The issue then is no longer political freedom and the freedom of speech of citizens, but rather the cost of separatism as a collective political choice, and the moral responsibility that parties and politicians must fulfill by taking that cost into serious consideration.

Historically speaking, the separatist movement that didn't claim "free choice" has never existed, but that catchphrase does nothing to help explain the cost of separatism. The calls in recent years to write a new constitution and change the country's national title, or even the recent talk about abolishing the National Unification Council and the unification guidelines are all basically a matter of "unilateral separatism," or a separatist movement that utterly ignores the mother country's unwillingness to accept a peaceful parting of ways. In history, this kind of separatist movement has always been steeped in blood and has met with very little success.

One often mentioned example is the US Civil War, which led to the deaths of 600,000 people. During the period between the end of World War II and the break-up of the Soviet Union, such unilateral separatism has only succeeded on one occasion, in 1971, when East Pakistan separated from West Pakistan to form the People's Republic of Bangladesh. But Bangladesh's independence was helped by the full military support of India and was paid for with more than three million lives. One reason for this "success" was that West Pakistan was thoroughly defeated; another that it was almost impossible for Pakistan to re-occupy the distant Bangladesh.

If a region that still is not independent wants to achieve independence, the best option for it is to obtain the approval of the mother country. Norway in 1905, Singapore in 1965, and Slovakia in 1993 are all successful examples of countries that have gained independence peacefully thanks to the approval of the mother country.

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