Sun, May 22, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan stuck in ‘Red Queen race’

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

As a result, Beijing has had little compunction in using every opportunity to quarantine the word Taiwan on the international stage. We have now reached a point where, three years to the day into the Ma presidency, Taiwan finds itself stuck in Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen race in his novel Through the Looking Glass, forced to run just to stay in place. While not so long ago the battle was waged on the beaches of “Taiwan” versus “Chinese Taipei,” Taiwanese have now been forced to retreat to defensive battles of “Chinese Taipei” versus “Taiwan, province of China.” How this constitutes progress, or a sign that Ma’s strategy has succeeded in ensuring that Taiwan negotiates with Beijing from a position of strength, is beyond comprehension.

This journey of de--recognition demonstrates that sacrificing national identity and the language that buttresses it at the altar of better relations with China can have but one outcome: the ultimate disappearance of Taiwan as a recognizable brand.

For the sake of fairness, we can give the Ma administration the benefit of the doubt and assume that its policy of yielding territory in return for Beijing’s “goodwill” was well intentioned. However, now that this gambit has proven itself an undeniable failure (the WHO incident is but the latest in a long list of setbacks in the past three years), it is incumbent upon Ma to propose a new course of action for engaging Beijing, lest he become a modern Asian iteration of Marshal Philippe Petain and turn Taiwan into Vichy France.

Absent policy alternatives on his part, Taiwanese could very well turn to his main opponent, Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who while amenable to engaging China, can also be counted on to ensure that in the process, Taiwan, both as word and nation, remains alive and well.

J. Michael Cole is deputy news editor at the Taipei Times.

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