Ever since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, a series of events — the suppression of the campaign for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year using the name Taiwan, tolerating the minister of national defense expressing his opposition to Taiwan independence, allowing Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) to take up the position as National Taiwan University president and so on — have made several Taiwan independence die-hards very unhappy because they think Tsai is turning her back on Taiwan independence.
Some have even called her “green on the outside and blue on the inside,” not to mention those who go so far as to say that she is an undercover agent for the pan-blue camp.
Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing and the pan-blue camp here in Taiwan have all decided that Tsai is in fact promoting Taiwan independence, and that is why the red and blue parties on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have come together in a concerted attack on Tsai.
Here’s a question: Should the struggle over unification or independence be treated as a dichotomy or a spectrum of positions, or should it perhaps be seen through the lens of dialectics? And is using “Taiwan” as a national title and writing a Taiwanese constitution the only things that qualify as Taiwan independence, so that anything less than that must be defined as pro-unification?
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) used to have its Taiwan Independence Clause, but their discourse later evolved into the view that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country, and that its name is the Republic of China (ROC).
This point of view has become known as huadu (華獨), or “ROC independence.”
Tsai has recently started talking about the “Republic of China on Taiwan” because she feels that this is the domestic consensus, and she strongly rejects “one country, two systems.” Of course, this position could be described as ROC independence.
What is the relationship between ROC independence and Taiwan independence? Is it about us and them, a gradual change through a series of stages or is it a dialectic relationship? Or could it perhaps be that the first position in fact is the second position disguised out of consideration for the domestic and international situations?
How anyone will answer these questions will vary depending on several factors, such as individual ways of thinking, analytical ability, understanding of the domestic and international situations, frame and clarity of mind, grudges, benefits, interests and so on.
The Chinese Communist Party thinks that Taiwan independence is anything that obstructs the “unification of the Motherland.”
From this perspective, Beijing is at ease with, and even supports, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the People First Party, the New Party, the Chinese Unity Promotion Party, the Taiwan People’s Party, the Concentric Patriotism Association and Blue Sky ROC Action. Beijing also understands that some of these organizations are less vocal in their support of unification than others, but it still feels that “they are all on our side.”
However, the minds of some of the Tsai-haters among the Taiwan independence die-hards follow very different paths. In terms of overall strategy, they do not understand the concept of looking past differences to find common ground, and instead go out of their way to look past common ground to find differences, because they are all about dichotomies.
They think of Tsai as their enemy and ROC independence as their enemy’s idea, and they will not consider joining a secondary enemy to fight the main enemy. Following this black-and-white view of the world, anyone who they relegate to the enemy camp is given the same treatment, and they make no difference between primary and secondary enemies.
They think that keeping the name “Republic of China” means being pro-unification, and that is why they call on pro-Taiwan voters not to vote for Tsai, to punish the DPP and to not get hijacked by Tsai.
With this mindset, they are either pure of mind or have ulterior motives. When I wrote in a Facebook post that “the main enemy is before us, look at the bigger picture,” they tore me to pieces.
I wonder if the publication of this piece will now earn me the label “pro-unificationist and traitor to Taiwan.”
Lee Hsiao-feng is a retired professor.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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