Thu, Nov 22, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan must face what’s in a name

By Jerome Keating

As the nation prepares to vote on Saturday, one referendum stands out from the others: It is No. 13, on the name change for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It reads: “Do you agree that Taiwan should apply to participate in all international sporting events, including the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, using the name ‘Taiwan?’”

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but for Taiwan, this issue is far deeper than simple nomenclature. The current name, the Republic of China (ROC), is not only dated and inaccurate, but an albatross that prevents Taiwan’s participation in international affairs.

Historically, Taiwan has been dealt a bad hand and, without a name change, it will never be able to take its proper place in the world.

The 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty left Taiwan in a limbo. By it, Japan surrendered Taiwan, but it never stated a recipient. By UN practice, Taiwanese should have been granted the right of self-determination. They were not. Instead an unwanted government in exile occupied the island.

Step back to 1945-1947 when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) drew up the ROC Constitution in China. By 1949, the KMT lost the Chinese Civil War to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the CCP drew up a replacement constitution for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). At that point the ROC technically ended.

Unfortunately, the KMT — along with its failed ROC Constitution — fled to Taiwan and like beggars occupying an empty temple set up shop there. Thus, while the San Francisco Peace Treaty was still being worked out, Taiwan never got a chance to have its voice heard.

In that interim, the Cold War began in 1946. The Korean War followed in 1950 and China sent troops there in 1951. With the threat of another world war, the Taiwan question was forced to a back burner.

An Asian trilogy on competing paradigms of democracy and control cries to be written here explaining how Taiwan’s fate for so long became intertwined with the ROC’s and the PRC’s conflicting claims until Taiwanese finally broke free and achieved full democracy in 1996.

For the KMT, its part in that trilogy would mimic British 17th-century poet John Milton’s Paradise Lost. It would illustrate how it betrayed Sun Yat-sen’s (孫逸仙) principles of democracy as it managed to lose China and the hearts of the Chinese people.

For the CCP, its part would similarly raise the question of whether its reverence of Sun’s principles has been a convenient sham.

For Taiwan, its part would be Paradise Regained and how Taiwanese managed to eventually free themselves from this mess and the KMT one-party state, and gain control of the nation by achieving democracy.

Such a work has the makings of an epic trilogy on the struggle of absolute power versus democracy replete with betrayed ideals, greedy leaders and wasted wars. Many soul-searching questions would need to be asked, especially on why only one people, the Taiwanese, achieved the desired democracy.

Did Sun really want a democracy or simply a China ruled by mythic Han and not Manchus? Did the KMT or the CCP simply use democracy as a front to mask a desire to control the Chinese nation? Is their predominant paradigm a desired return to the mythic Middle Kingdom, albeit with the borders that the Mongolians and Manchus had established? All this needs to be examined.

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