Thu, Dec 27, 2018 - Page 8 News List

It is time for Taiwan to be Taiwan

By Jerome Keating

The transition stage is marked by several developments as Taiwan moved to full democracy when the people could elect both the president and Legislative Yuan in 1996. Chief among these were the disbanding of the Taiwan Garrison Command and the ending of the “iron rice bowl” legislators of the ROC, ie, those who had not run for re-election since 1947. Taiwan also ended the Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款).

In 1996, the final stage of full democracy began and Taiwan’s two major parties took turns at the presidency over the years: the KMT’s Lee Teng-hui, 1996 to 2000; the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), 2000 to 2008; the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), 2008 to 2016; and the DPP’s Tsai, 2016 to the present.

This marked Taiwan’s full coming of age. Lee ironically was kicked out of the KMT and blamed for the party’s 2000 election loss although he was not a candidate. This was also the age when Taiwan finally shook off the Stockholm syndrome of the past one-party state KMT rule.

The relevance of highlighting several key moments in these three stages is needed as many Taiwanese voters born from 1990 on often have little knowledge of all that created the democracy that they now enjoy.

However, this three-stage framing is not enough in itself. What is more important is a conscious realization of how the KMT’s narrative progressively changed through each stage.

During the Chiang Kai-shek phase, the KMT narrative toward China was one of conquest: “first year prepare, second invade and third retake.” Whether this was propaganda, hype or the party fully believed it is open to debate.

During the Chiang Ching-kuo phase, with Taiwan out of the UN and the US moving its embassy to Beijing, the KMT narrative became that of the three noes: no contact, no compromise and no negotiation.

However, these three noes broke down with the ending of martial law and permission was granted for KMT members to visit relatives in China.

In July 1999, Lee proposed a new narrative of “state to state” relations as the way a democratic Taiwan should view its relations with China, but the KMT refused to take that up as part of its narrative.

Instead, in 2000, when the DPP took over the presidency, the KMT again shifted its narrative with then-Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi’s (蘇起) invention of the bogus “1992 consensus.” The KMT narrative now reads “one China with two different interpretations.”

Thus when seen in the eyes of history, it becomes clear that the KMT still clings to the dream of a resurrected or restored ROC. Linked to this is the KMT’s desire to hang onto its stolen assets and avoid justice for its Martial Law era crimes.

This marks a dangerous period for Taiwan. The KMT’s new “1992 consensus” narrative not only exposes its continued China-centric focus, but it also creates the possibility that some members might become quislings.

On the DPP side, the narrative has been unchanging in being Taiwan-centric. It first fought for democracy and now must fight for the survival of Taiwan as a democratic nation. Its problem is prioritizing the means and steps to achieve it and finding a way to express that in narrative form.

As Taiwanese look to the future, the question, therefore, is where do they as citizens want to go and how do they get there?

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