Sun, Dec 30, 2012 - Page 8 News List

A question of dignity: Interpreting Koo’s views

By Chen Yi-shen 陳儀深

On June 15, 2006, then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) praised former presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming’s (辜寬敏) proposal of a “Second Republic” (第二共和) at Koo’s 80th birthday party, saying that writing a new constitution could uphold our principles in a pragmatic way.

On Oct. 29 this year, the Liberty Times, the Taipei Times’ sister publication, published an exclusive interview with Koo, entitled “Nations of brotherhood: A discussion on China policy and the cross-strait issue” (兄弟之邦:中國政策與兩岸問題芻議). This shows that he remains true to his ideals.

In 1936, a Chinese political scientist, Zhang Foquan (張佛泉), published an article entitled Nationalism needs a new interpretation (「民族主義」需要重新解釋). He wrote that translating the English word “nationalism” into any of the Chinese terms generally used for nationalism — minzuzhuyi (民族主義), guozuzhuyi (國族主義) or zuguozhuyi (族國主義) — was confusing because all three Chinese terms carry ethnic or cultural connotations.

He suggested instead that it should be termed bangguozhuyi (邦國主義) — which could be translated as “the doctrine of a country state” as both bang and guo mean country.

At the core, such nationalism would mean that people would be willing and determined to work together within an independent polity. Based on this interpretation, Koo’s concept of “nations of brotherhood” is not a departure from the traditional pro-independence camp in Taiwan.

How could “nations of brotherhood” be made possible? This is the issue that concerns people.

It all depends on the content of the proposal. As Koo suggested, if China recognizes Taiwan’s status as an independent and sovereign state and helps it gain entry to the UN, then Taiwan should not participate in any international organization or military alliance hostile to China.

In international organizations, even if Taiwan disagrees with China’s policies, it should not vote against such policies, but should merely express its stance as a “nation of brotherhood” by abstaining to vote.

More specifically, Koo even suggests that Taiwan launch a 10-year project, spending US$5 billion per year, to boost economic development in China’s hinterland.

Among the suggestions made by Koo, Taiwan would hardly be seen as an independent and sovereign country if it adopted preconditions and never said no to China’s policies.

As for the decade-long development project that would cost Taiwan US$5 billion, would that be tantamount to Taipei paying a tribute to Beijing for its protection?

This is not a question of whether Taiwan can afford it, but rather a matter of dignity.

It is thus evident that the measures in Koo’s proposal were quite traditional and filled with a Chinese ideology. The advantage of such an ideology is that the Chinese might easily understand and perhaps consider it. The disadvantage is that it could cause a backlash from the pro-independence camp and therefore blur the focus.

Finally, Koo claimed that one of the reasons for the DPP’s defeat in the this year’s presidential election was the economic threat from China, because voters still had their doubts about the party’s ability to deal with China. To a degree, his claim was actually supported by opinion polls.

Perhaps those who disagree with this claim should come up with scientific evidence to refute it instead of just blurring the issue by passing the buck and accusing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of practicing vote buying or cheating.

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