Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Time for a new song for Taiwan

By Ruan Ming 阮銘

Ten years ago, even in the face of Chinese missiles, the people of Taiwan directly elected a president for the first time. The New York Times commented that -- largely unnoticed by the rest of the world -- Taiwan had quietly grown from an international orphan into a strong and powerful youth. That same year, Freedom House elevated Taiwan to its list of free countries.

Everyone hopes that this strong youth and newly free country can find a new voice with which to speak to the rest of the world. But that new voice hasn't emerged yet, or it is too weak and has been drowned out by the clamor of the old guard.

Taiwan's historical development has hit a snag, prompting Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) to say in 2000 that the next five years would be the key for Taiwan to overcome its problems and take control of its future.

It has now been six years, but the country is still stuck. Politicians, the media and academics are still singing the same old tune, stirring up problems over non-issues.

First is the debate over opposing versus moving toward Taiwan independence. This discussion is another remnant of former dictator Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) era, when he advocated unification by invading China and destroying the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Because of Chiang's policy to destroy the CCP and unify China, encouraging direct contact with the Chinese "bandits" and advocating Taiwanese independence were capital crimes. In order to rid Taiwan of one-party rule, reformers chose to move the country toward liberty, democracy and independence.

Today, the one-party state is gone and Taiwan is an independent constitutional democracy. Independent countries are not necessarily free countries, but free countries are always independent; this is simply the nature of things.

Taiwan has also given up its policy of recapturing China, though some people still presume to carry on the decades-old idea of opposing Taiwan independence.

Who in his right mind would say that this isn't stirring up a problem over a non-issue?

By the same token, Taiwan is already an independent, modern and free country, so it is a moot point to talk about "moving toward" those things. Doing so is nothing but a wish to turn back the clock.

Second, there is the question of amending Taiwan's territorial claims.

What is Taiwan's territory? Isn't it the 36,000km2 of land on which 23 million people live -- Taiwan, the Penghu Islands, Kinmen and Matsu? During Chiang's rule, the US worried that his drive to retake China would drag the US into a war.

The Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Republic of China clearly says that national territory encompasses Taiwan and the Penghu Islands. Some of Taiwan's younger generation may not know that the US signed this agreement with Chiang to prevent former Chinese president Mao Zedong (毛澤東) from "liberating" the territory controlled by Chiang, and blocking Chiang from "restoring" Mao's territory in China to Chiang's government, thereby creating the "special state-to-state relationship" that now exists.

Regardeless of the territorial definitions, nothing will change this fact.

Third is the issue of changing Taiwan's official name. Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China. Taiwan is a free country and China is not. The "first republic" -- the Republic of China -- was established in 1911. It was replaced by the "second republic" -- the People's Republic of China -- in 1949.

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