Sun, Mar 05, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Taiwanese will decide for themselves

Just what exactly was the action taken by the Taiwan government toward the National Unification Guidelines and National Unification Council (NUC)? There has been some confusion and debate over the past week. Without question, the official wording used by the government and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was that the guidelines had "ceased to be applied" and that the NUC had "ceased to operate." However, in the media and even among the general public, whether deliberate or unintentional, the action taken has often been simply referred to as "abolished." That this seemingly innocent discrepancy in reference was sufficient to invite the concern of the US government goes to show how the unification-independence issue strikes a raw nerve in many.

Whatever differences may exist between "abolished" and "ceased to operate and apply," they are at most conceptual. Some say that if the guidelines and NUC have been abolished, they no longer exist, and therefore unification is no longer an option for Taiwan. It should be pointed out that neither the NUC nor the guidelines are tangible. Until recently, their existence has supposedly not been in doubt. However, has this existence helped Taiwan to move any closer to unification? The answer is of course not.

Regardless of whether Taiwan has moved further away from or closer to unification over the past years, that movement had nothing to do with the guidelines or the NUC. Instead, the popular will of the people of Taiwan remains almost the sole determinant. As for what decides the direction of movement of the popular will, many other factors play a part. These range from cultural and political identification, to the rapid economic exodus of Taiwanese businesses to China, and from the economic development of China, to ethnic rivalry between Taiwanese and Mainlanders in Taiwan, among others.

Even if the guidelines and NUC have genuinely been "abolished," unification will remain an option -- so long as the Taiwanese want to keep it an option. Now that the NUC and guidelines have been confirmed as continuing to exist -- except that they now cease to apply and cease to operate (since when have they ever operated or applied anyway, some may ask) -- does that make unification any more plausible than before when they were erroneously considered to have been "abolished?" Better still, before and after they ceased to apply and operate, was there any difference in terms of the likelihood of Taiwan unifying with China? The answers to these questions are only too obvious.

Some commentators have reasoned that the US government adamantly insists that the latter is the case because it wishes to preserve the "status quo". The exact nature of the precious "status quo" being safeguarded is also the subject of multiple interpretations and debates. Those with enough common sense would say Taiwan meets the requirements for independent statehood, so it is an independent sovereign country. Others insist that Taiwan is and has always been part of China. Still, if Taiwan is currently neither independent nor part of China, then is it moving closer to independence or unification? It would appear that even reaching a consensus on what the "status quo" is seems impossible, never mind unanimous answers to these questions.

At the end of the day, whoever is elected to the presidency in 2008 will have to be a lot more decisive regarding unification or independence. The way things look at the moment, as soon as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is elected to president (if that ever happens), the first thing he will do is reactivate the NUC and guidelines.

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