Former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) comment that it is unnecessary to pursue Taiwanese independence has been misunderstood and distorted by some people claim that he is giving up on independence. But Lee is actually emphasizing that Taiwan is already an independent sovereignty, and that what is important now is to improve the people's livelihoods, build national consciousness, and push for a name change and a new constitution, so that Taiwan can become a normal country.
In recent years, "Taiwan independence" theory and practice has been focused on whether a name change and a new constitution should be seen as declaration of independence, or whether Taiwan is independent, since it remains unable to enter the UN. It is indeed hard to imagine that these issues will be clarified, as there are several different interpretations of de facto and de jure independence.
The call for "Taiwanese independence" may confuse the international community, making them believe that Taiwan is a part of China. Thus, we may all be trapped by Beijing's logic that Taiwan is a part of China. Therefore, from the perspective of ensuring Taiwan's sovereignty, the discourse that the nation is already an independent state that does not have to pursue independence is undoubtedly the most feasible.
Still, we cannot ignore the fact that Taiwan is isolated internationally by China, while at the same time being hampered by the pro-unification camp and its boycotts. If the pro-independence camp ignores reality and gives an inch by looking for compromise, the pro-unification camp will take a foot. But if we face the problem squarely, unification-independence confrontation will occur, causing greater internal conflict. This is the sadness of Taiwan.
Another problem that must not be ignored is the poison left by the half-century-long colonial rule of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Consequently, any push for a name change and a new constitution would trigger fights between the two camps, proving that this is a real issue. This is why Lee deeply hurt the dark greens' feelings with the comment that the unification-independence issue was a "non-issue."
Nevertheless, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has undeniably treated the "real issue" of independence/unification as a "non-issue" during its seven years in power. For example, before elections, the DPP repeatedly calls for a name change and a new constitution, repeating the "one country on each side" and "Taiwan first" slogans, but then embraces economic integration, the active opening of direct cross-strait links, and reconciliation and coexistence promoting eventual economic unification after elections, forgetting all real issues such as the KMT's stolen assets, transitional justice, name changes, a new constitution and domestic investment.
I agree with the DPP's recent move to change the names of state-run enterprises, but these moves are merely a warm-up for the 2008 presidential campaign. If these steps had been taken in 2000 or 2004, they would have received much greater support.
I believe that for the sake of Taiwan, the argument over "independence" and "real issues and non-issues" inside the pro-independence camp should end now, and pro-green supporters should instead point their guns at the same target. Externally, we have to be aware that Taiwan is already independent; internally, we have to push for a change to the nation's title, a new constitution and domestic investment.
Unification-independence conflicts are inevitable issues in this process. There is no other solution apart from facing them head-on, because there is absolutely no middle path in the pursuit of Taiwan's independence.
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser to the president.
Translated by Eddy Chang