Thu, Dec 05, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan versus Xi’s China vision

By Jerome Keating

The presidential and legislative elections are on Jan. 11, and Taiwanese are evaluating who should lead their democracy for the next four years. At such times, the “imagined community” of Taiwan must be reviewed and contrasted with the one that exists for the nation across the Taiwan Strait.

The obvious difference between the two is that Taiwan is a democratic nation, while the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a one-party state. Taiwan has experience with one-party states, as it was one under the exiled Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime before becoming a democracy.

However, more insight is needed. Taiwanese must also come to understand the imagined community that the PRC is developing, as it seeks to legitimize its one-party state. Here, some answers are found in Francois Bougon’s biography of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), titled Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping.

Among this work’s insights, Bougon discusses how Xi perceives China’s history as being divided into four stages.

The first stage is massive, covering China’s long imperial past, the meme-like “5,000 years of history” that culminates in the glories of the Qing Dynasty.

As a matter of course, Xi includes the Mongolian Kingdom (Yuan Dynasty) and the Manchu Kingdom (Qing Dynasty) in this stage, claiming both as part of “China’s history,” but not Mongolia’s or Manchuria’s. This large time frame is brought together and simply summed up as China’s “ancient history.”

The final three stages are shorter, but more revealing.

The second — another meme — is the “century of humiliation,” in which the Manchu Kingdom includes what the Manchus conquered — Tibet, Mongolia, Xinjiang and the western half of Taiwan — but this “China” suffers “humiliation” at the hand of outside powers.

The past “humiliations” that any former iteration of China inflicted on neighboring “tributary states” in the first stage are neglected — humiliation is primarily in the eye of the receiver.

Xi’s final two stages bring China into modern times: The “New China era” is the period of Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and the “era of socialism” extends from Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) to the present.

These two stages are crucial to understanding the imagined community of the one-party state that Xi is shaping in China. Xi must unite Mao’s ideology with China’s present socialist structures to give the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) full legitimacy and the right to rule future generations.

Xi is creating a formula that would grant China’s one-party state claim to dynastic succession. From this, he envisions that the CCP’s 25-member Central Politburo, with him as general secretary, would have complete power over China’s 1.4 billion people — never have so many been controlled by so few.

This is not just an ambitious plan. It presents the imagined community and ruling structure that Xi is championing for the future, and stands in sharp contrast with democratic Taiwan.

Having already suffered under and thrown off a one-party state, Taiwan has a history that contrasts China’s, which is something Taiwanese must consider as they re-examine their imagined community and the democracy that their nation is developing.

Taiwanese must grasp why the KMT lost the Chinese Civil War to the CCP, bringing the KMT diaspora to Taiwan. The loss was precipitated by the KMT leadership abandoning the true sense of democracy embodied in their original goal of “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

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