Thu, Dec 15, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Daring to look beneath the surface

By Thomas Weishing Huang 黃維幸

In the past few days, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) reiterated her stance that dealings with China should not be based on the so-called “1992 consensus,” but rather on what she calls a “Taiwan consensus.” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has also said he wants to eliminate the differences that exist between pan-blue and pan-green politicians, and forge a consensus.

Even former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said a “Taiwan consensus” should be based upon “special state-to-state relations,” a statement that caused a public outcry at the time. Everyone is saying what a consensus should and should not be, but nobody has yet come up with any ideas about how to forge one, nor have they identified the root cause of why a consensus cannot be reached.

Is it really the case, as director of the “red shirt” protests Shih Ming-te (施明德) once said, that the reason there is no consensus between the pan-green and pan-blue camps is because no great leader capable of bringing about a political “grand reconciliation” has appeared? Instead of discussing idealistic theories about the way things ought to be, we would be better off looking underneath the surface of things.

Cross-strait relations are one form of relationship. Communication between pan-blue and pan-green political factions are also a form of relations, internal to Taiwan. “Objective” observations — essentially the acceptance of pre-existing opposing or contradictory superficial appearances — are useless in correctly framing discussions about the aforementioned relations or in understanding their true nature.

Instead, we need to reduce these relations to their most basic form so we can see the mistaken preconditions and assumptions these impressions are based upon and then further examine the real reasons that lie behind the formation of these superficial observations. This is the only way we can be free of preconceived theoretical frameworks and superficial appearances that we would otherwise leave unquestioned. Until then, we will keep coming to the same conclusions, no matter how differently they might be expressed.

This is a phenomenological approach — one that has been developed for 100 years — and not an extreme stance advocated by any one thinker. Devoid of political or ideological baggage, it enables us to see things as they really are, not some kind of reality that has been constructed and manipulated to fit specific principles.

Utilizing this approach, ideas such as “one China,” “one Taiwan,” “two nations” and “two governments” are all based on fabricated and fantastical ideas about de jure sovereignty: They are far from the inevitable or logical conclusions regarding the nature of relations between Taiwan and China. In terms of cross-strait and domestic relations, many theorists insist that because de jure sovereignty is a prerequisite of nationhood, it is also a necessary and inevitable part of the structure of cross-strait relations and relations between the pan-blue and pan-green camps. This is a half-baked, vacuous supposition.

Some might say I am being naive and that I am guilty of being the pot that calls the kettle black. They might be right.

However, the fact of the matter is that the ideas we are constantly discussing are clearly little more than fatuous constructs proposed by bureaucratic bullies — whether individuals or groups — who never listen to reason, who think nothing of suppressing dissent, who love to engage in clever rhetorical arguments, such as the “one China, with each side having its own interpretation” principle and who insist on repeating things that are theoretically correct, such as that international law prohibits the use of military force. It is at times like these that we have to look to what is actually happening and let the reality of the situation inform our approach.

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