If Taiwan was a normal country, it would be so much easier to talk with China about the situation that exits between us, without the tensions and issues that currently plague cross-strait relations. Only it is not.
The US achieved its independence when it parted ways with Britain. To a lessor extent, Canada did the same, as did Australia and New Zealand.
Even though all of these countries — except the US — remain members of the Commonwealth, their independent status means that they can maintain amicable relations with their former colonial master.
Bear in mind that US independence was only achieved through war with Britain and yet the US-British relationship is perhaps the closest relationship between two countries in the world today.
If one is to talk of “nations of brotherhood,” the “special relationship” between the US and Britain is an exemplar.
However, the relationship between China and Taiwan is mired by the Gordian issue of what constitutes “China” and the impossibility of separating one from the other: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) on one side and the Republic of China (ROC) on the other.
Militarily, the two still consider each other enemy states. The ROC arms its military specifically to protect itself against an invasion by the PRC, and the PRC is expanding its military, not only to validate its aspirations to be a world power, but also to subjugate the ROC.
China is increasing the number of missiles it has aimed at Taiwan, but the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which has always sought to monopolize its claim as rightful rulers of Taiwan on the back of its opposition to the Chinese communists, has actually become increasingly pro-China.
This change was not because the Chinese Communist Party has abandoned its plans to stage a military invasion of Taiwan: It was a betrayal of the spirit of the special party/ state/ military conurbation.
Taiwan needs to think about its relationship with China.
Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) “one country on each side” of the Taiwan Strait formulation was essentially the ultimate ideal, but the fundamental conditions were not in place.
Chen’s predecessor, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), had proposed a “special state to state” relationship. This was a more practical formulation encompassing the ideal, but it was beset with difficulties as there was no consensus on what Taiwan was for the people living here, simply because people are stuck in a party-state mindset.
Taiwanese, used to democratic elections, have yet to face up to the fact that their country’s very survival may well hang in the balance.
Rather than doing something proactive to make a go of it, there are those who are making arrangements to clear off to another country should the going get tough.
Some even suspect that the president of the country has this in mind, although who can be sure?
Has it not occurred to these people that the majority of the countries that they would clear off to were actually once part of the British Empire? Had these countries not split from the “motherland,” would they have such a good relationship with Britain now?
Taiwan can only properly deal with China if it is a normal country.
If we want to engage with China, without first going through this process, then all Taiwanese –– those who came over with the KMT after World War II and those who were already here –– will be doing so unsure of exactly what we are.
Lee Min-yung is a poet and political commentator.
Translated by Paul Cooper