At the opening ceremony of the Tokyo International Film Festival on Oct. 23, the head of the Chinese delegation, Jiang Ping (江平), demanded that the organizers change the official title of the Taiwanese delegation to “Chinese Taipei” or “Taiwan, China” and have the Taiwanese delegation walk the green carpet together with the Chinese group.
As if that were not enough, Jiang had a row with Chen Chih-kuan (陳志寬), head of the Government Information Office’s Department of Motion Pictures, at the hotel where festival guests were staying, asking rhetorically whether Chen was Chinese or not. When these scenes were shown on TV in Taiwan, they provoked a public outcry.
Chen’s reply to Jiang’s question — “I am Taiwanese” — won him praise for his firm and uncompromising attitude and, for the time being at least, stopped the flames of public anger from spreading in the direction of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government.
Be that as it may, Ma and other top government officials would be ill advised to echo Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and dismiss the incident as an isolated occurrence.
Ever since Ma took office in 2008, his government’s performance has failed to live up to expectations and the public has grown increasingly dissatisfied. An effort has been made to win back public support by deregulating cross-strait trade, cooperating with China, handling cross-strait problems in a low-key way and not resisting Beijing’s demands.
China, realizing the predicament the Ma administration faces has made several goodwill gestures. Communication between Beijing’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and the Straits Exchange Foundation, are back on track, while the commencement of direct cross-strait transport links, the arrival of Chinese tour groups and the signing of an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement indicate that relations between Taiwan and China have been improving.
However, although Beijing’s favors have helped Ma’s government notch up what it claims to be political achievements, they have also lured Taiwan deeper into a trap.
At this point it does not really matter whether Jiang’s outburst was an isolated incident or part of a systematic two-handed approach by the Chinese government. The real question is what we are to do about such incidents.
At the Tokyo film festival, Taiwan’s top movie mandarin stood firm in the face of provocation, calmly yet determinedly defending his position, but it’s hard to know whether Taiwan’s bureaucrats will show the same mettle in 10 years’ time.
Faced with the reality that the China recognized around the world is the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Ma administration must firmly oppose any claim or argument that Taiwan is part of China and comes under its authority or the use of any title for Taiwan that implies the same thing. On this there can be no compromise.
Now back to the matter of what to do about what the Tokyo film festival flare-up. Based on the above principle, the government should clearly express its displeasure and protest in no uncertain terms to China. One press conference by the Mainland Affairs Council is not enough.
If this government means to handle cross-strait relations in a firm and straightforward manner so as to win the trust of the public, the attention of other countries and dignity in its relations with China, then when challenges to its authority are encountered it should make clear its bottom line and insist that we will retreat no further.