Fri, Aug 14, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Taiwanese is the new ‘status quo’

By Michael Hsiao 蕭新煌

During his visit to Japan last month, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) gave a speech to Japanese lawmakers in Tokyo. The main thrust of Lee’s speech, entitled “The Paradigm Shift of Taiwan,” was to inform Japanese lawmakers that Taiwanese identity has undergone a significant transformation following the nation’s democratic reform. National identity has changed from a vaguely China-centric, ethnically Chinese concept to a localized, Taiwanese identity, Lee said.

The current phase of cross-strait relations is centered on the practical reality that “Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China,” the former president said. However, to ensure the long-term peace and stability of Taiwan, Lee believes Taiwan must fully clarify its more than half-a-

century-long ambiguous relationship with China. Naturally, Lee opposes President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) continuing obsession with his “one China, each side with its own interpretation” exercise in creative confusion.

Lee deserves praise for recognizing that the formation of a new Taiwanese identity represents a paradigm shift in public opinion. For example, the Taiwan Braintrust think tank released a poll on July 17 which showed that as many as 76 percent of Taiwanese recognize Taiwan as a “sovereign and independent nation.” This is a significant increase of 15 percent within the past year. It seems that last year’s Sunflower movement has raised public awareness of Taiwanese sovereignty and independence. The movement also directly contributed to a growing sense among Taiwanese that they have a duty to uphold the will of the country.

Since mainstream public opinion holds Taiwan to be a sovereign and independent nation, concepts such as Ma’s “one China, each side with its own interpretation” and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential nominee Hung Hsiu-chu‘s (洪秀柱) “one China, same interpretation” are, of course, unacceptable to Taiwanese.

The vast majority of Taiwanese could not care less what form of so-called “one China” description is used by the KMT to orientate the country politically, since all of these “one China” labels are incompatible with the profound realization borne out of the Sunflower movement that “The only country I belong to is Taiwan.” When the Sunflower movement called upon Taiwanese to “save your own nation,” the country being referred to was certainly not any country external to Taiwan.

Since Taiwan is our country, we obviously cannot be citizens of another nation.

As such, within the past year, the proportion of the public who identify themselves as Chinese has floated around the 7 percent mark, while almost 90 percent view themselves as Taiwanese. Among young Taiwanese aged 20 to 39, the number who identify themselves as Taiwanese is as high as 95 percent. Furthermore, within this new generation of Taiwanese, only 1 percent, on average, identify themselves as Chinese; and to drive the point home, among those aged 20 to 29, the number who are willing to accept unification with China fell to a new low of 7.5 percent.

The young generation of Taiwanese are to be admired: They organized the Sunflower movement in opposition to the cross-strait service trade pact, which prevented Taiwan from further falling into the “one China” abyss. Young Taiwanese forced the nation’s democratic representatives to take action at the 11th hour to prevent Taiwan from being lost forever.

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