Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The limits of exclusion

Election fever is slowly descending upon Taiwan, promising excitement as contrasts and divisions become more salient between and within parties. The birth of a new political party over the weekend, whose main objective is the creation of a new country, will add to that febrility.

Although the arrival of a new party is a welcome development in a pluralistic democracy like Taiwan, it is important that we closely scrutinize its ideology to ensure that it does not deviate too much from the ideals that buttress our society.

Announcing its formation on Sunday, the Taiwanese National Party (TNP) left no doubt that its raison d’etre centered on a hardened nationalistic stance vis-a-vis China. Given Beijing’s unyielding claims to Taiwan, added to fears that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is being too “soft” on China, it is not surprising that, with elections looming, we would see the emergence of more hard-line rhetoric.

To a certain extent, that is a welcome development, as it will add a new angle to the soul-searching that ought to precede important elections such as those in January.

However, some elements of the TNP platform give us reason to pause.

One ultimate goal of the party in safeguarding Taiwan is to “expel the Chinese,” whom Ted Lau (劉重義), identified as the “mastermind” behind the party’s ideology, defined as “people who were born in or have lived in Taiwan for an extended period, but who identify [themselves] as Chinese.”

Such rhetoric is dangerous, not only because it borders on a racial definition of identity, but also because it is far too vague. Unless the TNP provides clear parameters on what it means by identity, it will expose itself (not unjustly so) to accusations of inciting “ethnic conflict.”

How one defines his or her identity is a very complex matter, so much so that people are frequently at a loss when asked to define what it means to be Australian or American. Canadians, for example, often define themselves by telling you what they are not — in other words, through contrast with the cultural giant next door.

Multi-ethnic societies like Canada and the US must look elsewhere, beyond mere genetics, to delineate their identity. For such nation-states, it matters little whether one is of Mexican or Chinese stock; as long as descendants of immigrants or recently naturalized citizens agree to be participants in the national experiment and are willing to work toward its betterment, they are entitled to the same status, rights and protections as those who are, along purely ethnic lines, considered “original” citizens.

In fact, ethnic minorities need not even abandon their identity as, say, Colombian first and Canadian second, or Cuban-American: What matters is their sense of belonging to and responsibility toward the melting pot that constitutes the nation-state.

The same rule should apply to Taiwan, which has a long tradition of multiculturalism that can only intensify as the birthrate remains low. What matters is not so much whether one identifies as Taiwanese or Chinese, or Aborigine or immigrant, but rather whether a person is willing to define, abide by, shape and ultimately protect the system of values, culture, laws, mores and languages that make Taiwan unique, and worth keeping unique. If this is the preferred definition of identity of the TNP, then it is one worth supporting. If it isn’t, we had well not go down the road it proposes.

This story has been viewed 4417 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top