The drama surrounding the China-friendly remarks by Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) and several other pan-green camp politicians all began — and ended — with a careless remark.
A relatively unknown Tainan City councilor mocked Lai as being “anti-China.” In response, he said that while he loves Taiwan, he also feels an affinity toward China.
It should be safe to assume that at the time, Lai was not announcing a new political stance, but rather impulsively reacting to an accusation. His remark that he loves Taiwan was meant to prevent the impression of one-sidedness.
His response is similar to how someone might sarcastically claim to be a robber and killer when accused of being a petty thief.
Regardless of his intent, that a pro-independence mayor would openly admit to feeling an affinity toward China immediately grabbed media attention.
Media outlets looking for a sensational headline tried to exaggerate the incident by asking other pan-green camp mayors to comment. The more naive ones followed Lai like dogs that howl after hearing their pack leader.
This provoked a chain reaction: while some urged “befriending China” and “developing a friendlier relationship with China,” some preached “understanding China.”
Even the Presidential Office felt the need to say it shares Lai’s view.
When Lai visited the US to give a speech, he did not mention his affinity toward China. When the audience asked him about it, his response was poorly formulated and made little sense.
Following his return to Taiwan, Lai said that his remarks were merely a reaction, which proved that he only said it because he had been provoked.
The drama surrounding the pan-green camp’s perceived shift in attitude toward China therefore ended and Lai was busy fixing his mistake.
Many love describing Taiwan and China as “one big family” or being like brothers, while in reality, international relations should be understood according to agreements and defined by legal terms.
Many of the expressions used to describe cross-strait relations are purely emotional and therefore legally meaningless. Only substantial proposals for a formal agreement between the two nations can help define their actual relationship.
While China has made its approach to Taiwan clear by pointing its missiles at it, Taiwanese politicians advocating “befriending China” have no concrete plans for achieving that.
“Befriending China” was just another government slogan after “recovering the mainland.”
Former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) said the plan of “recovering the mainland” was to be realized through one year of preparation, one year of war and two years of cracking down on the remaining rebels in China.
The slogans by the pan-green camp and Chiang are equally as bewildering.
Relationships between individuals can be objectively defined by law, such as in-laws, married couples, sisters and brothers. Even the idea of “intimacy” consists of standards for which behaviors can be considered intimate, such as giving gifts, inviting people to a banquet, shaking hands, embracing or kissing.
For states, standards for intimacy also exist and there are rules for how to define intimate international relationships. For example, two nations can merge into one, form a federation or become allies.
People who say Taiwan and China have an intimate relationship or are like brothers or one big family should explain what they mean. Simply talking about it and not proposing any plan is not only useless, but utterly pointless.
Peng Ming-min is a former presidential adviser.
Translated by Tu Yu-an
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