Thousands of years of Chinese history have taught us that one of the preferred strategies adopted by Chinese leaders is to divide their opponents to weaken resistance and conquer them when a large enough opening has been created.
The one country that is most threatened by Chinese expansionism — Taiwan — should be acutely aware of the grave risks that division poses to its future, and that consequently its people should do everything they can to maintain unity.
However, it is clear that unity is exactly what has long been lacking in Taiwan’s boisterous political environment. A deep ideological split between the pan-green and pan-blue camps makes a lasting consensus all but impossible.
Ironically, consensus was on everyone’s mind during the presidential elections last month, as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) promoted the so-called “1992 consensus,” while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) proposed an alternative, if somewhat ill-defined, “Taiwan consensus.”
After Tsai’s loss on Jan. 14, many on the pan-green side saw the outcome as proof that the pan-blue camp had rejected Tsai’s call for unity and seemed to validate the claim that the KMT was on a ruthless quest — echoes of its authoritarian past, perhaps — to undermine Taiwan’s democratic way of life.
Although it would be hard to dispute the fact that Ma and his party gave a less than enthusiastic response to Tsai’s “Taiwan consensus,” one can hardly fault them for doing so. After all, the DPP had not exactly chosen the best timing to put forward its idea of a consensus, doing so when the electoral campaign was heating up. No politician in his right mind seeking re-election would, in the middle of a campaign, embrace a policy proposed by his opponent. That is the nature of democratic electoral campaigns, which are inherently divisive and feed on confrontation rather than shared goals.
That said, we could take comfort in the possibility that such intransigence was only temporary. With the elections behind us, and with the DPP and its ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, making gains in the legislature, now is the time to reach across the political divide to find common ground, especially on the subject of Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.
There is no lack of people on the pan-blue side — KMT members, government officials and people who voted for Ma — who, like the DPP, identify themselves as Taiwanese and regard being ruled by the Chinese Communist Party as unconscionable.
While political differences will always remain and will come into sharp contrast the next time there are elections, the sense of a shared identity, a firm belief in the value of democracy and identification with the land, is a bond, oftentimes ignored, that can help people of various political persuasions work toward a common goal.
Taking that extra step and reaching out is the responsibility of both camps, who among their members still count some laggards who might not be able to find it within themselves to transcend the rigidity of winner-take-all politics. For the sake of the nation, political parties should find the strength and courage to cast out the political dinosaurs who would rather live in the past than look to the future.
It can only be imagined how confident Taiwan could be when it signs agreements with China, welcomes investment from across the Taiwan Strait and receives Chinese dignitaries, students and tourists, if, rather than being torn apart by division, its people present a united front.
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