Mon, Nov 16, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Ma and Xi’s sinister understanding

By Yen Chueh-an 顏厥安

The Nov. 7 meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took many by surprise, owing to its suddenness. What did not surprise a soul was how it ended up being carried out entirely according to China’s wishes.

First of all, a reflection on differing perspectives. When looking at either the Ma-Xi meeting or cross-strait relations, one should take care to avoid over-use of the words “China” or “Chineseness.” This is not a deliberate anti-China stance or “China bashing” simply for the sake of it; rather it is a reaction to more than 100 years of conflict and autocratic rule that has caused Chineseness to become bogged down by the rigid and closed logic of Chinese national identity.

The military parade held in Beijing earlier this year and the related dispute between Taiwan and China over the interpretation of the Second Sino-Japanese War are just two examples of this mindset. In addition, not only has the concept of Chineseness lost its original flexibility, but China seems to have lost the ability to accommodate the diversity and pluralism it had when it burst onto the world stage in the 21st century. No wonder the South China Sea dispute revolves around the so-called “nine-dash line” and the passage of warships.

Similarly, the public should refrain from marveling at the Ma-Xi meeting as a defining historical moment between the leaders of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Chinese Communist Party, since Taiwanese long ago broke free from the cruel cocoon of the “Chinese family” and bravely forged a new identity based on dignity and democracy. If Mr Ma is feeling secretly pleased with himself over the new cocoon that he has spun — and cannot see the true value of Taiwanese democracy — then the place in the history books he has just been bequeathed is set to be swiftly erased.

In this context, phrases used by Ma such as “cross-strait cooperation” and “Chinese revival,” and Xi’s “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” perfectly illustrate the gap between the autocratic and the democratic directions the societies have branched off into. From the point of view of Taiwanese, even the Constitution — the ROC Constitution brought over from China — clearly stipulates that all ethnic groups within the ROC are equal; and subsequent amendments to the Constitution provide for a multicultural society. However, in China, Chinese culture and Chinese ethnicity have become synonymous with the oppression and assimilation of the country’s ethnic minorities.

A good way of looking at Chinese is to do so through the concept of “overlapping consensus,” as put forward by John Rawls in his book Political Liberalism, which perhaps has the potential to solve the problem of what constitutes Taiwanese or Chinese identities.

Perhaps the key is that civil society, which of course includes respect for human rights, is the underlying foundation of a democracy. The entire body politic must work toward its formation and continued stability. Without such a foundation, any so-called “consensus” is nothing more than the powerful forcing the powerless to bow down before them and obey their edicts. Mr Ma and Mr Xi both clearly understand this key point, which is why they chose to talk of “consolidating peace,” referred to politics only in terms of principles, hinted at the possibility that war could break out at any time, while uttering the threatening phrase that “blood is thicker than water” through their saccharine smiles and telling Taiwanese to make the “correct choice.”

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