Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung’s (吳伯雄) statement that Taiwan and China are two areas of one country has provoked a lot of controversy.
One would expect President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to have a good understanding of Chinese culture, judging by how often he urges everyone to read the classics. Yet Ma must take most of the blame for the current mess, because he dispatched Wu to propose this “one country, two areas (一國兩區)” to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). While Taiwan’s pan-blue and pan-green political camps have their own opinions about what Wu was supposed to say, the leaders in Beijing probably do not like it either.
Why would the KMT think it could get the Communist Party (CCP) to deal with it on an area-to-area basis? In the Chinese Civil War, the CCP defeated the KMT, seized control of China’s Central Plain — the cradle of the Chinese nation — and established its capital in Beijing. This signified that the CCP had become the legitimate political power in China.
The victorious party had a certain respect for the KMT, which had also enjoyed the support of the Comintern in the past, so they recruited Soong Ching-ling (宋慶齡), widow of KMT and Republic of China (ROC) founder Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), to be honored as the mother of the nation. Every year, on important national holidays, such as National Day on Oct. 1 and International Workers’ Day on May 1, Sun’s portrait is prominently displayed in Tiananmen Square to show the world that the legacy of the 1911 Xinhai Revolution is now in the hands of the CCP. The CCP claims to be the successor to the Xinhai Revolution, even though it had not been founded when the revolution started.
Last year was the ROC’s centennial and it was celebrated by the CCP as the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. Eventually, the KMT decided against joint commemorative activities with the CCP because they were afraid it would take the opportunity to further assume status as the legitimate successor of the revolution. On this point, Ma made a wise decision.
What is incomprehensible is why the KMT has lost its senses over the “one country, two areas” incident. If the KMT ponders upon its place in Chinese history it has to face up to the result of the Chinese Civil War, which is that the CCP regime became the legitimate government of China, while the KMT government ended up as a remnant state. As such, the ROC today is just like the Eastern Jin, Southern Song, Southern Ming and other remnant Chinese dynasties.
Former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) says that the ROC can be viewed as including the whole of China, or as being so small that all it has left is Taiwan. Su says that this gives the country a lot of room to maneuver when handling cross-strait relations, but that is mere wishful thinking.
The tradition of legitimacy is deeply embedded in Chinese culture. For the CCP, “one country, two areas” means the legitimate government’s area on one hand and a remnant area on the other, and history tells us that the legitimate regime always ends up annexing the other. Unlike what Su imagines, there is no room to maneuver.
Chinese culture forms one part of Taiwanese culture, but Taiwan is certainly doomed if its national identity is absorbed into the Chinese historical framework. Besides, Taiwan today is a democracy, so the only source of legitimacy for a state authority comes from periodic democratic elections. It has nothing to do with China, but only with Taiwanese — on this point we must remain adamant.