Prior to the commemoration of the 228 Incident, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) announced that the the National Unification Guidelines will cease to apply and that the National Unification Council (NUC) would cease to function. However, some alarmist pro-unification media outlets, politicians and other people in Taiwan launched a series of attacks on Chen and against independence without consideration for the positive results of Chen's decision.
First, the most important result of doing away with the NUC and its guidelines is that it has forced the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to acknowledge that independence can be an option for Taiwan's future. Over the decades, the KMT has vilified independence to the point where it has become tantamount to war, leaving no room for rational debate.
The KMT, which has been violating the principle of self-determination, has also been forced to respond to the pressure brought by the debate over the council and its guidelines to acknowledge for the first time that the people of Taiwan have the right to choose independence.
This is a triumph for Taiwanese democracy.
Second, Chen has created an opportunity to make the US fully understand Taiwan's situation and needs. Although the US openly opposed the passage of China's "Anti-Secession" Law last year, it has not taken any substantive action to prevent the cross-strait "status quo" from tilting in China's favor, but has sat idly by as Beijing has developed its carrot-and-stick approach in dealing with Taiwan.
At least Chen's decision to scrap the NUC and its guidelines has made the US begin to look at Taiwan's difficulties in maintaining the "status quo."
Although the US was not very understanding of Chen's intentions at first, statements by the State Department indicate that Washington is finally beginning to understand Chen's decision.
Third, the incident has made Taiwanese understand the difference between the green and blue camps' cross-strait and diplomatic policies. The pan-blues' statements about the abolition of the NUC and its guidelines have all along been built on the premise that, so long as Taipei acts like a good boy, Beijing and Washington will reciprocate with a lollipop.
The pan-green camp, on the contrary, believes that absolute obedience will continue to blur one's own viewpoint and damage one's own interests. In the case of the NUC and its guidelines, reality shows that if we dare fight for our interests and engage in pragmatic negotiations, we will be able to achieve a lot more. There is no need to restrict or confine ourselves.
If China and the US feel they can take advantage of Taiwan, will it be possible for the nation to protect its own interests?
We certainly should not feel complacent due to the abolition of the NUC, for there are indications that before the matter was finalized, Washington had put tremendous pressure on Taipei.
Domestically, we have to look forward to the opposition parties initiating a recall of Chen, obstructing the operation of the legislature and mobilizing supporters to demonstrate in the streets against Chen.
How to intelligently resolve repeated domestic and international problems and protect national interests requires cautious action by the government and timely support from the public.
Leou Chia-feng is a doctoral candidate in the department of politics and international studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.