Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been the target of criticism from the pan-blue camp following her comment that “the Republic of China [ROC] is a government-in-exile.”
Critics have said Tsai is moving toward the dark green side of the political field, that she doesn’t identify with the government and that she is inciting ethnic division. They also taunted her for serving as the deputy premier of a “government-in-exile” and for running for election in Sinbei City, a city administered by that same “government-in-exile.”
The fact is that in her foreword to the book 100 Years Since the Nation’s Founding, 60 Years as a Government-in-Exile: The Republic of China’s 60 Years as a Government in Exile on Taiwan and Taiwan’s International Status After the War, Tsai says that under the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) postwar rule of Taiwan, Taiwan was understood in terms of its relationship with China and that Taiwan could not define itself because the Taiwanese identity had been suppressed and the public’s self-identification was distorted.
As a result, Taiwan and China became two polar opposites, experiencing long-term tension and clashes. Democratization has led to the consolidation of a Taiwanese identity, and a relaxation of the polarized relationship with China.
Tsai has also said that understanding the relationship between what it means to be Taiwanese and what it means to be Chinese is a necessary task in the development of a Taiwanese identity. She says this is the internal foundation necessary to establish and safeguard a Taiwanese identity.
Returning to the meaning of what Tsai said, she believes that in the future we must go beyond deSinicization by taking a new look at the Chinese component of what it means to be Taiwanese, and in particular at the pro-localization experience, including the Mainlanders’ feeling of being part of a diaspora.
Not only does Tsai not want to incite ethnic division, she is the first DPP leader to suggest that we accept the Chinese component of what it means to be Taiwanese. She also feels that following Taiwan’s democratization, there is no longer any reason for Taiwan to continue to be polarized.
She uses cultural theory and post-colonial concepts to explain Taiwan’s historical experience and future vision in a rational analysis of the development of Taiwanese politics and ethnic diversity and integration.
Tsai neither avoids nor rejects the view that being Taiwanese includes a measure of being Chinese, and she argues that without broadly accepting the different cultural components Taiwanese have, Taiwan will not be able to build its own identity and multiple modernities.
Tsai is a different kind of DPP chairperson. She looks at Taiwan’s identity with the eyes of an academic in the hope that she will be able to get the DPP to stop playing the ethnicity card.
The problem in this ongoing conflict is that the pan-blue camp are staring themselves blind, stuck on the surface meaning of the words without trying to understand what they really mean. By making such a big deal about the words “government-in-exile,” the KMT is instead highlighting the concerns of its own Mainlander minority as well as its own belligerence.
It seems every time there is an election, Taiwan must live through another round of ethnic conflict, and it also seems that every election is a choice between Taiwan and China. After each election is over, the divide runs a little deeper than it did before.