Fri, Sep 24, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Six decades of made-up politics

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

One by-product of China’s closed political system and state control of the media is that the sense of Taiwanese nationhood that always existed remained largely unknown to ordinary Chinese, who were fed propaganda that defined Taiwan as a lethal enemy seeking to undermine all that was good in the PRC.

By failing to look at the nuances of history and politics, foreign media coverage of Taiwan commits the same sin — a worse one, given their access is better than that of even the most well-intentioned Chinese. That is why some outlets find it easy to portray the Democratic Progressive Party as “anti-China,” which it isn’t. It is pro-Taiwan, as are the great majority of Taiwanese.

“Anti-China” would imply the negation of China as a political entity, which, but for a few “extremists,” is an altogether discredited idea in Taiwan. It is no small irony that Westerners who have lived in China for a while also believe that Taiwan and Taiwanese do not recognize the PRC and the CCP.

Sadly, under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) the KMT has resurrected the idea that there is only one China — the ROC — and that its sole legitimate ruler is the KMT. Such comments, which receive far more airtime in China and abroad than do those who disagree with them, are an attempt to turn back the clock and could reinforce the view in China that Taiwan is, indeed, “anti-China.”

However, this could not be further from the truth. Not only does Ma’s contention highlight that the faction within the KMT that had localized and adapted to modern realities under CCK and Lee has been sidelined, but it further contrasts the views of ordinary Taiwanese with the increasingly small minority of people in Taiwan who identify as Chinese rather than Taiwanese.

Unless the KMT manages to socially re-engineer Taiwanese society — and there are signs it is trying to do so via reforms in education — those increasingly diverging views can only spell trouble for the KMT in future elections. It could save itself if the faction that is more grounded in Taiwanese reality gets the upper hand within the party.

Despite the political rhetoric of the Ma administration, Taiwanese have absolutely no claim over China, nor do they seek to threaten it, militarily or politically. Simultaneously, ordinary Chinese and the CCP should acknowledge that people in Taiwan increasingly identify as Taiwanese and that support for immediate unification continues to drop (now as low as 5 percent, from 9 percent in 2000, by some accounts) while that for the “status quo” and/or immediate Taiwanese independence (now at 16 percent, from 12 percent a decade ago) is steadily rising.

With their political blinders still on, it is no wonder that Chinese and international media are failing to see the trouble that lies ahead in the Taiwan Strait, when Ma’s “peace” and Beijing’s ambitions of unification collide with the very different (and conveniently ignored) realities of domestic politics in Taiwan.

The so-called “warming ties” are party-to-party, not state-to-state or between two peoples, and should be characterized as such. These are realities that every responsible international media outlet should seek to reflect in its reporting, both for sake of accuracy and out of respect for the 23 million people who, to this day, remain misunderstood.

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