Thu, Nov 09, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan independence: It’s in the air

By David Pendery 潘大為

Michael Goldfarb asked: “What is a nation in the 21st century?” in the New York Times on Oct. 27 and that is a question relevant to Taiwanese.

Whether we are talking solely about the here and now, or the idea of nationality in an even larger, universal sense, can be considered, but for sure this question, whether local or global, exclusive or all-embracing, lingers in the Taiwanese mind.

Goldfarb considered the Kurdish, Catalan, Scottish, and British sense of nationality in his article.

All of these identities have been subject to fluctuating, changing dynamics over the years. He did not mention Taiwan, an oversight.

The independence movements in the first three nations are particularly pertinent for Taiwan, and for that matter we could look at Britain and the EU, as related to Taiwan and China, which are considered below.

Goldfarb considers that there is a “new” sort of national identity in the 21st century, largely based on the end of the 20th century when “the challenge to the existing idea of nationhood began with the end of communism” and the breakup of Yugoslavia, but he does not explain this any further.

This opinion seems somewhat mistaken.

When the Soviet Union yielded 15 new nations, and Yugoslavia seven, they became independent nations in ways that were not dramatically different from other claims to independence seen in the past. In other words, they announced their own independence, created the legal agenda and then became sovereign states.

Just like that, they were liberated and self-governing — there was not some other factor that intervened.

The same thing is brewing with the nationalities previously mentioned, and possibly, in Taiwan.

So where does Taiwan stand and what is its status? Is it “really” a nation or not?

If you asked a Kurd, Catalan or even a Scot about their nationality, they would say: “Of course. We are a proud sovereign people, with a unique culture, history and identity, and an independence in world affairs.”

No doubt any Taiwanese would say the same, but the doubters would nevertheless intrude: Fine, but are you really independent in the world?

Then things begin to cloud — the Kurds, Catalans, Scots and Taiwanese would be forced to say: “Well, not in the customary sense in terms of international affairs and world law.”

East Timor, Palau and the Czech Republic on the other hand, can all say: “Yes, it’s positively true. We are independent nations in the world,” and indeed they are.

In this respect a declaration of independence is the key to achieving this goal and such a declaration is legally binding in a strong sense.

Whether Catalonia, Kurdistan or even Scotland go this far remains to be seen. (Catalonia has taken a dramatic turn, although its apparent declaration of independence has not yielded fruit and remains unsettled.)

This of course is not an easy question for Taiwan, for the threat of war with China stands in the way, as is true for both Catalonia and Kurdistan, but to cut to the chase, a declaration of independence is exactly what Taiwan needs.

This is the only route to freedom, to liberation.

Claims that a referendum on Taiwan independence could yield a final result are not accurate. Such a referendum would not do the job — a fact that has been shown in Catalonia and Kurdistan, where referendums have made no true difference, and even in Scotland, which rejected independence.

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