Sat, Aug 25, 2018 - Page 8 News List

KMT must choose where it stands

By Jerome Keating

Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC), is a mid-sized nation. In population it is larger than 70 percent of the nations in the UN; in GDP it exceeds about 85 percent of those same nations. However, more importantly, it can take pride in being a newly established democracy.

Since 1996, the people of Taiwan freely elect both their president and their legislators. However, the successful achievement of this democracy did not come easy. Through sacrifice, suffering and death, the people overcame half a century of martial law, White Terror and one-party rule imposed on them by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

The achievement of this democracy is a salient victory of the people and what significantly defines the nation of Taiwan as Taiwan.

However, while Taiwanese might be tempted to bask in the achievement of this democracy, it is all the more important that they revisit the thoughts expressed by political theorist Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political.

In that work, Schmitt presented an important distinction in how the basis of state sovereignty and autonomy is its ability to define clearly who your friend is and who your enemy is. This entails what is most valuable to Taiwanese and it lays open what they must examine.

There are many historical, development and locational factors that make Taiwan what it is, but the deepest and most distinct factor, and that which gives Taiwan its unique sovereignty, is its newly established democracy. This democracy becomes then, in Schmitt’s words, a defining characteristic of what people will fight for most to maintain. It also serves as a means to mark who is and who is not the enemy of Taiwan.

While many are not used to visualizing state-to-state relations according to Schmitt’s friend/enemy dichotomy, it quickly becomes evident that in this view, the greatest threat to Taiwan’s democracy is the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

China’s basic claim to Taiwan is territorial. It maintains this claim to sovereignty over democratic Taiwan by stating that Taiwan is a “breakaway province.” This position is filled with inconsistencies, ambiguities and anomalies.

Before Taiwan achieved its democracy, it had many colonizers: the Dutch, the Spanish, the fleeing Ming, the pursuing Qing and the Japanese, who took it as the spoils of war and became the first to control the whole island.

In “Taiwan’s imagined community,” (Aug. 8, page 8), I said that in the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan gave up Taiwan without designating a recipient and this enabled the KMT to become a unique “colonizing diaspora” on Taiwan.

However, China also has its own unique, “amoebic” way of interpreting and classifying history in its favor, and western writers too often accept it.

When the Mongolians conquered all the land from Asia to present day Hungary, the Khanate ruled by the Yuan Dynasty (including then China, Tibet and Manchuria) became “China” and not Mongolia.

When the Ming broke free, but did not conquer the areas of Mongolia, Manchuria and Tibet, their kingdom became a more limited and realistic China. However, when the Manchus later overran Ming China, Mongolia and Tibet, all that territory again “magically” became China and not Manchuria, even though the Manchus ruled and all males had to wear their hair in a Manchu queue.

In 1887, the Manchus declared Taiwan a province, even though they did not control the whole island. This eight-year period, from 1887 to the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, when the Manchus surrendered “in perpetuity” what they did not control to Japan, became the basis for the PRC’s “amoebic” claim that Taiwan is a breakaway province.

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