Earlier this year, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won both the presidency and a legislative majority for the first time in the nation’s history. On Monday last week, the DPP government hosted the 105th birthday of the Republic of China (ROC) at a ceremony in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, as did its predecessors.
In her address, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged China to “acknowledge the ROC’s existence,” reminding the entire nation of 23 million people that Taiwan must not be overly pleased just because it has taken the first step in its decolonization endeavor. There is obviously more to be done and that requires a great effort from all.
Defining the government’s performance on Monday last week as a transition to the nation’s decolonization process would be a rational interpretation of the current situation, and it should be followed by formulating a road map for the implementation of the process. All political symbols associated with the ROC, Double Ten National Day, the national flag and even the national anthem are foreign products that were brought here by a colonialist military regime in 1945 which later associated them with Taiwan. During this time, at least three stages of transformation have taken place.
The first transformation occurred in 1996, when Taiwan’s independence was confirmed as voters from every corner of the nation elected a president in a direct presidential election thanks to constitutional amendments pushed through by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
The second transformation happened in 1999, when the DPP drafted the Resolution on Taiwan’s Future, which said that even though Taiwan is called the ROC according to the Constitution, neither the ROC nor the People’s Republic of China (PRC) holds jurisdiction over the other. That was the position the DPP took when it was an opposition party.
The third transformation occurred in July 1999, when Lee declared as president that the relationship between the ROC and the PRC was that of a “special state-to state” model of cross-strait relations.
These three transformations, along with consolidation efforts made by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during his eight years in office from 2000 to 2008 — whether that period is looked upon as a “second republic” as proposed by Lee or as “entering through the back door” as some senior DPP members said — the ROC and the whole set of concepts and ideas associated with it have been “localized” by the political elites from the two major political parties.
The ROC has become the nation’s nominal title and its commonly used name is Taiwan — both terms refer to the same thing. This marked the beginning of decolonization.
Although former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government spent a great deal of effort during his eight-year presidency to bring the ROC back to the fantasyland where the “old China” still exists, they could not change that only Taiwanese can vote.
Therefore, when the Tsai administration hosted the Double Ten National Day celebration as the government of the ROC, it held a different meaning from when the DPP was an opposition party. That the DPP controls both the executive and legislative branches is the biggest practical development so far. It signifies that the Taiwan-centric ideology has, after many years of cultivation and development, entered the social mainstream. In other words, in present-day Taiwan, what the political elite says is secondary; what the public wants is what matters.
Oct. 10 is a national holiday since the ROC is the same thing as Taiwan. Perhaps Taiwanese should look at the issue the way they look at historic relics, such as Fort Zeelandia (Anping Fort) built by the Dutch in present-day Tainan; Fort San Domingo built by the Spanish in 1629 in present-day Tamsui District (淡水) in New Taipei City; the North Gate built in Taipei by the Qing Dynasty; and the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan built by the Japanese in Taipei, as well as the bits and pieces of what took place during the Martial Law era imposed by the KMT.
Generations of Taiwanese have tried to coexist peacefully with the colonists, but that does not mean that they should forget about what has transpired. Moreover, traces of those colonial rules should be used to inspire democratic Taiwan to conjure up an image for its future.
Since 1624, Taiwan’s history has been one of colonization. Despite the democratization process and three transitions of power, the residue of colonization is still rearing its ugly head and influencing what Taiwanese think and say.
The never-ending debate over the terminology used to argue for Taiwan’s independence or unification with China is a typical example. Only after a majority of people can recognize that Taiwan’s problems have to do with invasion, and consolidate the public’s power and will to formulate strategies and policies to defend Taiwan as a whole from foreign invasion can the nation be truly unchained from its colonial past.
Therefore, as the KMT, the biggest opposition party with its 35 seats in the legislature, continues to advocate unification with China in its party mission statement and even includes the so-called “1992 consensus” in its party platform, it should be redefined as a colonial party that should be rejected by the public.
As for the Tsai administration, the public should pay close attention to its policies and actions, urging it to fulfill Taiwan’s decolonization and uphold democracy in its dealings with China. This is a critical mission that will affect Taiwan in the long term.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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