Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Transcending our ethnic cleavages

By Huang Luo-feei 黃洛斐

Following the transition of power from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000, the DPP administration has been faced with increasingly fierce competition in the globalized economy, as well as China's rapid rise.

On the domestic front, the government has been facing bitter partisan strife and many irrational campaigns and challenges. When the DPP, which was insufficiently prepared for its role as governing party, cannot find simple solutions to overcoming external challenges, it tends to put the blame on domestic political confrontation and restraints.

The problem was originally only one of party confrontation, but some politicians and reporters have chosen to use combative and emotionally divisive language, reopening historical wounds and thereby extending party confrontation into a conflict between ethnic groups. This has created a society in which one ethnic group is constantly hurting and attacking the other, while the other refuses to apologize and acknowledge its mistakes, thus setting a vicious circle in motion.

This vicious circle is deepening and cementing the rift between different ethnic groups that had begun to disappear, and this is giving disproportionate influence and prestige to those who attempt to manipulate the situation with their ethnic rhetoric.

The DPP uses the excuse that the media is biased to encourage staunch DPP supporters, who have long claimed to be the driving force behind Taiwan's democratization, to support the party unconditionally.

However, these pan-green diehards ignore the fact that the DPP has grown, irrespective of the biased media environment. Pan-blue politicians gloat over and criticize the corrupt practices of the DPP, but have forgotten that many of their own people would fail to pass the kind of standards that are being applied to members of the governing party. The use of provocative language will only result in each side trying to outdo the other in an effort to lock in its own supporter base, which creates confrontation.

When political parties are confrontational and people are divided, whichever party holds the reins of government is bound to commit the same mistakes. To bring an end to this vicious circle, I believe that the politicians concerned must reflect on their behavior in a more candid manner, and rebuild the broken consensus with tolerance.

This is the only way for Taiwan to thoroughly break the vicious circle. If, however, we are hoping that the political commentators, parties and politicians that benefit from the confrontation will transcend this vicious circle, we could just as well be looking for roses in December.

Therefore, as voting citizens, regardless of which party we support or what news station we prefer to watch, we should not give up our right to choose and insist on certain values. When we are faced with combative and confrontational calls to action, we still have the final right to make a decision, and we can also use various inventive ways to force ourselves and the party we support to stop using combative language.

This is also where the July 15 call by pan-green academics for President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down differed most from the language used in past political commentary or activities -- by reflecting and carefully avoiding being trapped in confrontational language

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