It is time for a little brotherly love

By Koo Kwang-ming 辜寬敏  / 

Mon, Nov 12, 2012 - Page 8

Six or seven years ago, I first proposed a China policy called “Brother Countries”. I did so for a very important reason. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the expulsion of the Republic of China (ROC) from the UN in 1971, Taiwan’s main problem, both internationally and domestically, and in particular in its relations with China, has been constant obstruction by China. In terms of the cross-strait situation, China will accept neither the “special state-to-state relations” concept proposed by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), nor the view that there is “one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait” as proposed by another former president, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Instead, China has continued to insist on the “one country, two systems” solution, which is similarly unacceptable to Taiwanese.

The upshot is that relations between Taiwan and China have been treading water for a long time. Although Taiwanese may disagree with China on a lot of issues, for example over its missile threat against the nation and its suppression of Taiwan in the international arena, it is very clear that if the China issue cannot be resolved, Taiwan cannot become a dignified, “regular” country that can make its people proud. That is why I began to think about ways to resolve the cross-strait impasse.

I was enlightened by a line in an old Chinese poem describing the plight of two brothers. It reminded me of the international pressure China is placing on Taiwan today.

I hope that the “Brother Countries” core concept will help normalize relations with China. Taiwan and China must be able to maintain a normal relationship to give Taiwan a real chance of survival and space to develop. Within Taiwanese society, a common understanding must be reached on China policy. Only through domestic consolidation will the nation be able to hold its own against the rest of the world.

That is why I have been constantly advocating my policy over the past seven years. Both in China’s and Taiwan’s cultural and moral traditions, the relationship between father and son is an absolute relationship, but the relationship between brothers is a relationship between equals.

The elder brother cares for the younger and the younger brother respects the elder one. This is the nature of the relationship between brothers, and the relationship between China and Taiwan should be seen as a relationship between brothers.

Taiwan’s development has not always been smooth sailing. For a long time, the nation was ruled by foreign rulers and the people of Taiwan have had to work hard to build the beautiful country that they live in today. China should be proud of its little brother. Now that he has grown up and established himself, they should congratulate him and treat him with respect.

However, China behaves like an old-style imperialist, unilaterally declaring that Taiwan is part of its territory instead of treating little brother Taiwan well.

The only reason the Chinese economy has developed so rapidly is because Taiwan has provided a lot of investment and assistance. Taiwanese have made great contributions to China, but still the country is not recognized within the international community.

This is an issue where the older sibling should help its little brother along. China should act like a big brother and try to understand what it is that Taiwan needs most today. It should formally recognize that Taiwan is a country in its own right and help Taiwan gain UN membership. If it does that, Chinese would win the gratitude of future generations of Taiwanese.

This is what the “Brother Countries” concept entails. The question is how it should be implemented. I propose four conditions that Taiwan would fulfill if China recognized Taiwan’s statehood and helped the country gain UN membership.

First, Taiwan will not join any international organizations or military alliances that are hostile to China.

Second, China should recognize that Taiwan is an important member of the international community and it does not necessarily agree with all of China’s international policies. However, even if Taiwan disagrees with a policy it would not oppose it, and would abstain from insisting on its rights or give up voting rights thus manifesting its status as a brother country.

Third, Taiwan will spend US$5 billion per year in a 10-year program to help promote economic development and social progress in China’s hinterland.

Fourth, many of the national treasures and collections in the National Palace Museum belong to China, not to Taiwan. Taiwan could, and should, return them to China. However, under one condition: The remains of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), who did not want to be buried in Taiwan, should be allowed to be returned to their native land in accordance with their last wishes.

These are of course only suggestions, preliminary ideas and concepts, many of which could be adjusted and improved following wider debate.

However, some people say that China and the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have already reached a consensus on “one China,” via the so-called “1992 consensus” and that Ma is already walking down the path toward unification. They also say that China’s peaceful annexation of Taiwan is already in full swing. Why would China accept the “Brother Countries” proposal, they ask.

My answer is that I think Taiwanese do not identify with and support Ma’s China policy and China will not in any way be able to annex Taiwan. The fact that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Ma administration are so close is in fact very dangerous. In the 1960s and the 1970s, the US supported many Latin American dictatorships, and see what happened there. Many Latin Americans hated the dictatorships and in the end US support for those dictators created strong anti-US sentiment.

Ma’s support ratings have dropped to 13 percent. He is clearly incapable of winning the hearts and minds of Taiwanese, so if Beijing supports him and his government, one has to wonder if they are intentionally trying to get the Taiwanese to dislike China. This is a point that the Chinese authorities must give serious consideration.

Furthermore, China must understand the backdrop to the formation of a Taiwanese and a national identity. Taiwan’s is an immigrant society, and such societies will, as a historical necessity, in the end become independent. That is what happened in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

When people have lived together in an immigrant society for a few hundred years they develop a strong sense of belonging; both to the land and to local culture and tradition. Their shared history and life experiences further deepen this sense of belonging and of an “imagined” community. Taiwanese identity is built on this feeling of a shared destiny.

This imagined community will in the end necessarily result in the formation of a state. People protect their own and the community’s interests, and so they hope to establish a state to be able to protect themselves. This is an unavoidable historical trend which transcends ethnicity.

Not everyone in Taiwan agrees on whether to call the country the ROC or Taiwan, but everyone acknowledges it is a sovereign, independent country: On this point there is a consensus. If China fails to appreciate how Taiwanese think, or how they feel, and insists on using political and economic tactics to annex Taiwan, it will find this will breed even stronger anti-China sentiment.

Mao Zedong (毛澤東) was in favor of Taiwanese independence. When the Taiwanese Communist Party was formed in Shanghai on April 15, 1928, one of its political goals was to support Taiwanese independence and the CCP sent a delegation to the meeting. Mao himself made clear his opposition to Japanese imperialism and said on many occasions that he was pro Taiwanese independence. Now, the CCP is against the idea. Surely it is not trying to develop a form of Chinese imperialism?

Therefore, when I talk of brother countries, I do so with goodwill and sincerity and I hope that China will consider the proposal. Perhaps they will not be able to accept it immediately, but I believe that there will come a day when they will address this issue.

It is debatable whether the Brother Countries proposal will find acceptance within Taiwan, or indeed within the government which has already engaged the CCP in dialogue using the “1992 consensus.” As the government’s China policy is already a cause of concern for the public it has hardly been successful.

Ma seems to be using his executive power and his legislative majority to push through what he wants in the absence of any oversight to counter him. Taiwanese have differing opinions on all of this, though. So, if Ma continues this China policy, it is likely he will see his support ratings slide even lower.

Ma’s “three noes” policy (no unification, no independence and no use of force) is both confusing and meaningless. The majority of Taiwanese believe that Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country, so the idea of independence goes without saying. Taiwan is a country in and of itself, not a territory nor a colony of any other country and all that requires addressing are the issues related to the country’s name and the Constitution, in order to normalize the country. There is no possibility of Taiwan using military force against China; all the intimidation is coming from the other direction. Therefore, the idea of “no use of force” is meaningless.

Also, according to a recent National Chengchi University public opinion poll, published in June, 63.2 percent of the population are in favor of maintaining the status quo with regards to cross-strait relations. Does that not mean maintaining Taiwan’s current status as an independent country?

According to the poll those wanting independence or to maintain the status quo together make up 82.8 percent of respondents and only 9.8 percent would be willing to see unification with China. Should the wishes of more than 80 percent of the population be subordinated to those of 10 percent? This runs contrary to the wishes of the majority of the population which is why Ma’s “no unification, no independence and no use of force” are just empty words uttered for the sake of getting votes.

It is very dangerous for the government to base its China policy on the non-existent “1992 consensus,” because this places Taiwan within a framework set by Beijing under the “one China” principle, which is injurious to Taiwan’s status internationally. The government thinks that “one China, with each side having its own interpretation”, in which Beijing says China is the PRC and Taiwan says it is the ROC, is clear, but it is far from clear to other countries. Internationally, “China” is generally regarded as the PRC in China, not the ROC on Taiwan. Is there any government stupid enough to pride itself on a policy that deceives itself and others? Is this supposed to earn Beijing’s respect, or indeed the trust of Taiwanese?

Koo Kwang-ming is a former policy advisor to President Chen Shui-bian.

Translated by Perry Svensson and Paul Cooper