Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Cross-strait debate needs balance

By Chien Hsi-chieh

Robert Tsao (曹興誠) and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) have recently been engaged in a debate over the cross-strait issue, causing much public discussion. I believe that the values of democracy and peace should be placed before independence or unification. Both Tsao and Chen's opinions are lacking in certain respects.

Tsao has run repeated advertisements promoting the drafting of a "peaceful coexistence law" and holding a unification referendum so that the general public can display its feelings on the issue of unification or independence. The advertisements also said that a more open attitude should be adopted so that the democratic referendum process can be applied toward obtaining public opinion on any given issue.

Any views originating from diverse, autonomous public opinion should be respected. Still, suggesting a referendum on unification can only be considered half correct. Rejecting the option of independence in the referendum fails to consider the feelings of much of Taiwan's public; moreover, it complies with the false premise of peace in China's "Anti-Secession" Law, actively giving up bargaining space while only managing to maintain the status quo.

The cross-strait team of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan presented a "democratic unification, peaceful independence" proposal in June, placing values of democracy and peace before the issues of independence and unity. The point of departure of this proposal is the same as that of Tsao's, and it expresses the same concern regarding the malicious battle between Taiwanese political parties that is concerned exclusively with pan-blue or pan-green rather than right or wrong. At the same time, both Tsao and the proposal hope that the election can be liberated from the standoff between independence versus unification and tension between Taiwanese ethnic groups.

We believe that through establishing democracy and peace as fundamental principles, and through dialogue and respect of differences, which facilitates the rational integration of means of consensus, society can rediscover a common foundation. Tsao's opinion is similar to our belief that if unification is sought, it must be achieved democratically. But this denies the other half of the whole, which is that if independence is sought, it must be achieved peacefully, causing the ensuing debate to sink again into the antithetical pan-blue/pan-green quagmire.

Tsao believes that peaceful independence is not possible. However, there are many successful examples of the weak achieving independence from the strong: the tanks of the Red Army resisted by the peoples of the Baltic States and the recognition of Kosovo's election by the US and the EU, where different candidates uniformly advocated independence from Serbia. Hence independence does not necessarily entail war. The point is not the choice between independence and unification, or whether the powers that be agree with that choice. Instead, the point is whether we can persuade one another democratically and peacefully, and whether domestic consensus rather than the rejection of dialogue can be achieved by the same means, so that a unified entity can be formed with respect to the outside world.

Chen was also only half correct: Peace isn't surrender. Disrespecting differences of opinion and diversity of public expression to the point of blaming them on a pan-blue conspiracy does not accord with the true essence of peace. When only a unification referendum is proposed to the chagrin of pro-independence supporters, the situation must be considered in reverse. For, by the same token, only proposing an independence referendum likewise causes discontent amongst pro-unification supporters. If one is confident that Taiwanese independence is the mainstream public opinion, then the suggestion of a unification referendum should be met with respect.

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