Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Pan-green nationalism is restrictive

By Ning Yin-bin 甯應斌

The pan-green camp's current view of the anti-corruption campaign against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is that the "reds" are synonymous with the pan-blue camp, which, in turn, is made up of Mainlanders who are unhappy with the fact that Chen is president. Therefore, the so-called anti-corruption campaign is in fact based on ethnic mobilization.

I believe that the ethnic issue is part of the campaign, but Mainlanders are not the only ethnic group driving the protests. A group deserving of greater attention is the growing and increasingly complex amalgam of "fake Taiwanese." Ignoring this trend will cause the pan-green camp's ethnic policy to gradually depart from reality.

We need to clarify that even if the anti-Chen campaign also includes pan-blue supporters, this does not diminish the possibility that the campaign might have a positive effect on political integrity in Taiwan. The values represented by the campaign may also affect ethnic politics, adding more "red" into the "blue."

If the color red represents nationality, then the pan-green camp had also been red in the past, since it made its ethnic identification part of Taiwan's democracy movement, accomplishing its democratic goals under the slogan "the Taiwanese stand up." After the process of democratization was near completion, however, the pan-green camp continued to rely on ethnic identification, leading to the confrontation between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.

Because the pan-green's nationalism fed on the energy arising from ethnic conflict, the attempt to resolve this conflict by establishing a pan-Taiwanese nationalism based on "a shared community of the main four ethnic groups" or the "new Taiwanese" concept failed.

Some pro-green academics then considered the possibility that civic democracy -- the practice of democracy at the municipal level where an active and engaged citizenry is the primary source of political power -- could be used to consolidate national identification.

However, a civic identity grows out of unselfish participation in public affairs, whereas Taiwan is still in the initial stages of developing a public culture and a civil society. A civic identity based solely on the universal value of democracy lacks the passion and energy that stems from national identification. Relying on democracy is not enough to build nationalism.

Similarly, I believe that civic values and identification solely based on the call for anti-corruption is insufficient to provide the passion and energy the red camp needs to sustain long-term opposition.

The red camp also has its own brand of ethnic identification, but the question of whether the red and pan-blue camps are the same does not matter anymore, since the pan-blue camp no longer consists of only Mainlanders, and since cities and counties in northern Taiwan have started leaning toward the pan-blues. These changes show that ethnicity has taken on a new meaning.

On the surface, the blue-green confrontation over the past few years has been a conflict between identification with a Republic of Taiwan and the Republic of China. But the formation of the pan-blue camp and its recent transformation, as well as the reds' intense efforts to transcend the green and blue camps, are an attempt to resist the exclusiveness of pan-green ethnic nationalism rather than a push for ROC nationalism.

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