Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: State of a hemmed-in nation

Another Double Ten national celebration has rolled around, and so it is appropriate to reflect on the circumstances Taiwan finds itself in on this symbolically confusing day.

The unusually aggressive display of military technology planned for today's parade is notable, but the lack of unity between the government and the opposition parties on even fundamental matters such as the need to strengthen the nation's defenses undercuts all the pomp.

We noted last year that beyond the hardware, these nationalist displays have a hollow core and that nationalism is ill-served by symbols and rhetoric that simply serve as face-saving mechanisms for organs of state. Meanwhile, the alternative -- that Taiwan is part of China and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is the natural party to rule all of China -- is so discredited now that even chunks of the KMT cannot bring themselves to spout it in public.

By and large, however, Taiwan is chugging along nicely, with solid economic credentials and growth, even if inflationary pressures are building. Shunting aside media hyperbole, Taiwan remains one of the safest countries in the world, with encouraging standards of education, growing (if erratically distributed) income and a good international reputation in various sectors.

In recent years the picture of Taiwan in the international eye has bounced back and forth between the predatory neuroses of China and the political mandates of competing foreign-affairs factions in the US -- the balance of which has not helped Taiwan to expand its global space.

Politically, the public has grown to more or less accept the ramifications of the executive-legislative gridlock, so much so that the prospect of another four years of this state of affairs seems not to disturb too many people.

Because the next legislative race will almost certainly end in a KMT-controlled floor, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) must concentrate its rhetorical and financial resources in retaining the executive. For the DPP, this "gridlock" scenario is something that it will have to accept indefinitely, short of a KMT schism or a revolution in grassroots politics -- a responsibility that the DPP seems unable and unwilling to embrace.

In the meantime, Taiwanese will look on the national day with a degree of skepticism. But it is also true that the things that unite Taiwanese of all backgrounds are growing more numerous, even if they are not always so spectacular. Unified and large-scale displays of nationalism will have to wait.

The more subtle displays of nationalism are encouraging, but intriguingly place excessive stock in expatriates: the travails of baseballer Wang Chien-ming (王建民) or the latest success of filmmaker Ang Lee (李安), for example.

This suggests that many Taiwanese feel they and their activities can only be successful and credible as "Taiwanese" if judged against a global standard. We welcome the day when this residue of colonial-era abuse can finally be erased and Taiwanese can derive pride and inspiration from simply being themselves.

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