Fri, Oct 19, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Building consensuses old and new

By DavidPendery 潘大為

The “so-called 1992 consensus” (as it is often called) has a prominent place in Taiwan’s politics, although it is subject to lots of doubt and debate. I take my place among the disbelievers and think that the “1992 consensus” is little more than a popular myth, in which the idea of “different interpretations” of what a country embraces is a mistake.

Rather than this fluctuating approach, we must view nations as singular entities, with their own histories, identities, constitutions, ethics and philosophies, and not subject to any other varying interpretations.

I conclude that what Taiwan really needs is a “new consensus” that encompasses its own view on nationhood, stemming from the Taiwanese. This consensual understanding, in other words, should be based on Taiwan’s own views, its own disposition, its own past and its own chronicle and identity.

At its heart, we are looking at what Taiwanese think of themselves — although the idea of a “consensus” suggests that others will be involved, which I think will be true in various ways.

One study of Taiwanese character by Liao Li-wei (廖立偉) in 2008 found that Taiwanese are utilitarian, superstitious, practical and enjoy conflict.

Let us focus on the utilitarian and practical, although we will find that Taiwanese will get their share of conflict in the issues we are inspecting — and some would refer to the “1992 consensus” as little more than superstition.

The heart of the issue I am looking at is complicated by other factors, and the extent to which this includes a sense of “Chinese-ness,” or identification with China as a people and a nation, but let us focus on the central idea: What Taiwanese think of their own country, nation and populace.

I have lived in Taiwan for many years and I should probably have an inkling of what exactly is involved here, but to aid me, I asked a Canadian-Taiwanese student at the National Taipei University of Business for his views.

To be sure, consulting young people has grown in importance in Taiwan, and they are no longer seen as the static receptacles they were once thought to be. (Think of the Sunflower movement.)

The young person I spoke to expressed strong, coherent views on these subjects.

“My heart has always been with Taiwan, but I feel we are shifting. It does not matter that we do not have this [national] title if we come together and have passion, creativeness. I really think that the people of Taiwan are so strong, we can stand together,” he told me.

This student summed up views onto what the concord we are considering might add up to.

Taiwanese certainly seem to be troubled by the questions that have arisen here. I suspect this is one reason that they have embraced a series of canards like “de facto independence,” “one country on each side,” the “status quo” and “special state-to-state” model of relations, none of which go far in actually determining Taiwan’s position and role in world affairs.

In a word, Taiwanese are not always sure what they constitute as a people and a nation. This is troubling.

To step back, evidence has shown that “Pacific populations originated in Taiwan around 5,200 years ago,” and migration from Taiwan “played a major role in the spread of people throughout the world” (Science Daily, Jan. 27, 2009).

In other words, the great Pacific migrations of yesteryear might have originated in Taiwan, and Taiwan might be the source of the great Austronesian exodus, with its many peoples and languages, to say nothing of the important technological and social developments that originated here.

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