Mon, Jun 19, 2017 - Page 6 News List

The anaconda in the chandelier

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

Since the middle of last month, there has been a trend for Taiwanese politicians to fawn on China.

Not only did Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) advocate befriending China, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) also described their own political position as China-friendly.

Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) said that while he loves Taiwan, he also feels “affinity toward China,” and shortly afterward the Presidential Office stated that it holds a similar view.

According to those proposing that Taiwan develop more friendly relations with China, the approach is based on love for Taiwan, as it will help protect the nation.

However, the fact that this should happen three months after the arrest of Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) is more than upsetting. One cannot help but wonder what they really mean.

Columnist Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰) last week wrote an article in which he tried to rationalize the government’s new position. Lee Hsiao-feng, like them, is apparently holding out an olive branch to Beijing.

“We have made a gesture of goodwill, but whether this will lead to anything is not up to us, but requires China’s willingness to cooperate,” he wrote.

By making clear that things are not up to Taiwan, Lee Hsiao-feng has left a possible way out. It is as though Taiwan has offered China a gift, and now all it can do is wait for Beijing to decide whether to return the favor.

Here it would be helpful to mention a theory by the German-American political philosopher Leo Strauss, who stressed the historic contribution of Machiavelli. According to Strauss, Machiavelli was not interested in imagined truth, but only factual, practical truth. He valued “what is” over “what ought to be.”

The problem between Taiwan and China is by no means an imagined one: It is a reality that must be accepted as it is. What one thinks ought to happen has no bearing on whether it will actually happen.

Can Taiwan and China be like the US and the UK, as Lee Hsiao-feng suggested in his article?

First, the UK had no choice but to recognize the US as an independent country after the American War of Independence.

Second, the two countries are democracies and can therefore settle disputes through peaceful means.

Third, both are Protestant countries and there is no religious feud between them.

Most importantly, the UK benefited greatly from the US as the latter replaced it as a great power. From World War I — in which the US fought against Germany alongside the UK and France — to World War II and even afterward, the US has remained a close ally and offered great support to the UK.

Finally, Lee Hsiao-feng said that the idea behind befriending China is that Taiwan is the subject and China is the object. These are mere grammatical points that are not very useful if we try to apply them to resolving China’s stress on the “one China” principle.

In reality, the standoff between Taiwan and China is the result of a clash between two sets of beliefs — two views of “what ought to be.”

At the moment, it looks like the Democratic Progressive Party and pan-green mayors are backing off from their original position on cross-strait relations in the hope of seeking reconciliation with China, but will it work?

To tacitly conform with the “one China” principle, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) advocated “one China, with each side having its own interpretation,” but did that ever satisfy China?

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