Former premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) suggestion on Jan. 11 of replacing “one China, two interpretations” with “two interpretations of the Constitution” has caused much debate, mostly hysterical and rarely considered. A former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman and presidential candidate, Hsieh is an experienced politician, so why did he risk angering his supporters with such a contentious suggestion? I found the answer in comments he made at a seminar on Dec. 26.
Hsieh was seeking to clarify the DPP’s stance, believing that in the past, the party’s ideals and plans to implement them were unclear. He said he has consistently held that Taiwan should be an inclusive welfare state and not simply a Taiwanese state. However, with the rise of pro-China elements, the country faces the risk of losing its autonomy and in the short term the priority is therefore to preserve this autonomy. This is why he suggested pro-independence factions unite with pro-Republic of China (ROC) factions against pro-unification elements.
Ideals are one thing, but one must also be pragmatic.
Hsieh borrowed the concept of -overlapping consensus from the late US philosopher John Rawls to bridge the divide between the pan-blue and pan-green camps and reduce conflict between the countries on either side of the Taiwan Strait. How? Domestically with the ROC Constitution (appealing to the pro-ROC factions), and with China by replacing the idea of “one China, two interpretations” with “two interpretations of the Constitution.”
Hsieh said he recognizes the ROC Constitution, but rejects the “one China” principle. It is unfair of his critics to bring up the “constitutional one China” idea — with its implicit acceptance of “one China” — that he has spoken of before.
The ROC Constitution is no longer that of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), having been amended six times by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and once by Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). These amendments, collectively known as the Additional Articles (增修條文), ended the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款) and gave “electors of the free area of the Republic of China” — consisting of Taiwan proper, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu — the right to vote on constitutional amendments.
It is only when one understands this constitutional revolution that one can fully grasp the special state-to-state principle proposed by Lee in 1999.
The DPP’s platform underwent several changes during the 1990s. The original and dominant position was that Taiwan was already an independent nation. Then, in 1999, the Resolution on Taiwan’s Future addressed issues in the party’s Taiwan Independence Platform of 1991, bringing it into line with all factions, and making it the largest common denominator uniting them.
The party believed Taiwan had already become a democratic country, after the Additional Articles enabled direct presidential elections and the election of the entire legislature. The Additional Articles, then, were integral to Taiwan’s status as a democracy. This being the case, it automatically implies the existence of at least two Chinas — the “free area” and the “mainland area” — simply by invoking the ROC Constitution.
At the moment, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) propaganda about the ROC centenary is everywhere you look. If the pan-greens wanted to pull down the ROC, they could simply invoke historical fact, such as the Xinhai Revolution, the role of General Yuan Shikai (袁世凱), or the claims that it was a state consisting exclusively of Han Chinese. Or they could point to the many evils perpetuated by the ROC government on Taiwan, such as the 228 Incident or the White Terror era.
Hsieh is not talking about independence per se, he is talking of a mindset, of methodology and strategy. We might not agree with these, but his sincerity and loyalty are beyond reproach. While the pan-blue camp enjoys more support than the pan-green camp, no amount of anti-KMT or ROC rhetoric, no matter how valid, will give the pan-green camp the stable majority it needs to win a referendum on a new constitution and changing the name of the country.
Chen Yi-shen is an associate researcher in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.
TRANSLATED BY PAUL COOPER
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With