Sat, Jul 09, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan and the canards of China

By Jerome Keating

Although Taiwan continues to enjoy the benefits of its hard-won democracy, that freedom does not exempt it from continued spurious claims, fabrications and sometimes outright lies from both within and without. Certainly, one such fabrication or outright lie depending on one’s perspective, is the recently deceased canard of the so-called “1992 consensus.”

Most would remember how this claim had been constantly promoted for eight years by former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as the true basis of cross strait relations, despite former Mainland Affairs Council minister Su Chi (蘇起) having admitted that he invented it in 2000, and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) flatly denying any consensus was reached during his term in office.

However, the final nail in the coffin eventually came from American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt, who recently confirmed Lee’s claim that the term never existed in the 1990s.

This final denial of course does not mean that Ma or others have altogether given up trying to find a way to resurrect the term “1992 consensus” from the dead; in support of Ma is China, which has now realized that it that it can be used to support some of its own national canards, particularly that of its “one China” principle.

Such conflicting claims and canards are the reality that Taiwanese face on a daily basis. Even though they strongly rejected Ma’s ideas in last January’s presidential and legislative elections, that does not mean that Taiwan will now be canard-free. The opposite is the case and as a result, Taiwanese must be alert and constantly deconstruct the discourse that comes from China.

For example, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently celebrated the party’s 95th birthday, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took advantage of the occasion to trot out many traditional memes. He started with the admirable, but distracting message of his efforts to root out corruption in China.

To root out corruption is a task that has always proved to be near impossible in any one-party state, especially when it does not allow transparency or a free media to examine, question or challenge the natural sense of hierarchical privilege embedded in such states.

Xi’s enticing anti-corruption message was of course quickly followed by more serious and dangerous messages for Taiwan. Those messages included the canard that there is only one China and that the 1.3 billion Chinese would never let Taiwanese “splittists” be free, even though the People’s Republic of China flag has, ironically, never flown over Taiwan.

Fortunately for Taiwanese, they have the benefit of a free media and many know their history, thus they can immediately begin to deconstruct Xi’s words.

When Xi started to lay claim to what China’s 1.3 billion people were thinking, Taiwanese were already conscious of how Hong Kongers not only envy Taiwan’s independence and freedom, but have continued protesting over the CCP’s broken promises encompassed in “one country-two systems,” as well as their own lost freedoms. Some Hong Kongers even put salt in the PRC’s wounded ego by saying they would rather return to Britain.

Taiwanese were further conscious of how, while the Chinese media black out such news, they could read of the dissent in Tibet, the dissent among the Uighurs, the persecution of the Falun Gong and others, all of which added up to a people who are struggling for their own lost rights and not a people who wanted Taiwan to join them in their bondage.

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