New constitution needed
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent embracing of the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution effectively etches in stone eventual unification with China, but also highlights the fact that there is no formal underpinning for Taiwanese democracy.
In essence, the absence of a Taiwanese constitution threatens the very existence of the nation, an assessment that is shared by perhaps a majority of Taiwanese and exposes a deep national divide — something greatly exploited by Beijing.
At the same time, if Beijing’s intentions were “peaceful unification,” it would not object to Taiwan’s formal sovereignty given that any attempt at absorbing a contentiously defined Taiwan is bound to result in conflict.
However, regional stability necessitates some form of friendly bonding rather than unification. Taiwan achieving formal sovereignty would facilitate this kind of arrangement. Moreover, any political negotiations between Taipei and Beijing would be a non-starter if the Taiwanese government did not represent the whole nation — including a formally identified Taiwan and its people.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would also benefit from Taiwan’s further democratization.
For instance, Ma’s attempt to use the antiquated ROC Constitution as camouflage to fulfill his personal dream ignores reality and endangers the stability of both the nation and the wider region.
Suspicions of this sort could make it impossible for the KMT to take the reins of government after next year, unless a Taiwanese constitution is drafted to institutionalize the nation’s democracy.
Only when people can bring pressure to bear on their -government through of referendums can mistrust in the political inclinations or loyalty of individual leaders be minimized.
A Taiwanese constitution should be designed to shift the responsibility for making decisions on peacetime cross-strait issues of consequence from the president to the voters. The accompanying transparency would mitigate voter alienation.
This would in turn diminish the importance of cross-strait relations in presidential campaign politics.
What can also be expected is the disappearance of Beijing’s desire to influence Taiwan’s presidential politics, because support from Beijing could doom a candidate’s presidential aspirations. Conversely, China’s difficulty in finding a target for its ire would only confirm democracy as the nation’s most effective weapon.
Furthermore, presidential candidates might also be less inclined to make unrealistic promises to voters in the belief that hardcore supporters will support them no matter what.
Responsible democracy and a more consistent long-term foreign and domestic policy would follow.
The list of benefits also includes the enhancement of economic competitiveness, because fewer resources would be wasted by the unnecessary struggle surrounding Taiwan’s relations with China.
In other words, a Taiwanese constitution would consolidate internal strengths and make Taiwanese more confident in dealing with China. In the long run, that can only enhance the possibility of a peaceful and prosperous cross-strait relationship.
Washington and the rest of the West should be pleased with such an outcome.
Los Angeles, California