Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Forgetting Taiwan is forgetting our ideals

By Jonathan Hwang

Politics and propaganda often have the effect of obscuring why we care about things. Often we forget or cannot see what really matters to us.

Whether the Taiwanese know it or not, their defiance of China's ambition to "liberate" the island symbolizes the general struggle for a world where people are free from oppression.

At the most fundamental level, the conflict between China and Taiwan is just a conflict between two groups of people.

Forget the convoluted history and political parties for a minute. Forget the tautological cultural and ethnic theories for and against unification or independence just for a second. The story of China and Taiwan is a story about what humans value in a society and how humans resolve their differences.

From this untangled perspective, people should ask themselves, what do we as humans -- not Taiwanese or Chinese, just humans -- value? Do we particularly value joining another's society or forming our own independent society? Both of these choices are neutral absent qualifications on what these societies are like.

Here, we realize what we truly value as humans: freedom.

That is the freedom to choose how we live and attain happiness in peace with fellow humans.

The struggle for freedom is being played out between China and Taiwan.

In the end, it doesn't matter if Taiwan is independent or unified with China. What matters is how the outcome is reached. Is unification imposed on the people of Taiwan through threats of violence? Or is unification decided by the freewill of the Taiwanese?

In humanity's shared appreciation for individual freedom, we must respect each other's exercise and enjoyment of it.

This means the people of China must respect the idea of a politically independent Taiwan, if an independent country is what the people of Taiwan desire.

The Chinese are free to disagree with such an outcome, but they must respect it or risk violating the freedom of the Taiwanese to choose their destiny.

At the heart of it all, Taiwan should matter because freedom matters -- not because unification or independence per se matters. Humanity has seen enough of authoritarianism, where oppressive governments choke the free spirit of humanity.

Let's not forget just how much we value freedom. This is why Taiwan matters and why free countries and free peoples should not turn a blind eye towards China's aggression.

Jonathan Hwang is a juris doctor candidate at Harvard Law School.

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