Wed, Apr 21, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen calls China an `empire'

CROSS-STRAIT TIES The president said Beijing's `one China' principle was a political myth that it was using to consolidate its power within a `dictatorial empire'

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian takes out from his wallet a note with his ancestral home address on it during a meeting with Ross Terrill, the author of The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States. At the press conference in the Presidential Office yesterday, Chen stressed that he always bears his origin in mind.

PHOTO: CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday compared the Chinese Communist Party's rule to those of ancient Chinese imperial dynasties, saying that the "dictatorial empire" developed by Beijing would collapse sooner or later.

"The `one China' policy is actually a political myth to be used for consolidating the new `Chinese Empire,'" Chen said when he met Ross Terrill, author of The New Chinese Empire and head researcher at Harvard University's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research.

"I have noticed that the book pointed out the fact that the concept of `China' was born in late phase of the Manchu Dynasty, not 5,000 years ago," Chen said.

"And I agree with the perspective that the major difference between a modern nation and an empire is how they are created: an empire is built on military force while a modern state is born on the basis of all inhabitants' approval," Chen said.

"Therefore, the Chinese Communist regime, which is nothing but a reproduction of an ancient Chinese autocratic empire, will fall someday as its imperial predecessors in Chinese history did."

During the meeting, Chen endorsed Terrill's many points of view in his book, and he urged China to learn from Taiwan's democratic experiences.

In his book, Terrill says that the end of the Chinese party-state is at hand. He points to a number of conditions that might lead to the collapse of China, some of which played key roles in the fall of earlier dynasties, such as the Chinese polity's inability to handle succession and legitimacy issues; a revolt by farmers, especially in the peripheral provinces; and the emperor's misjudgment of the power of outsiders.

Chen also echoed Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who stressed on Monday that the major issue in Taiwan is nationalistic identity rather than ethnic conflicts, saying that more than 50 percent of people in Taiwan recognize that they are Taiwanese and that the percentage is increasing.

"Though my ancestral home was in Shao-an County (詔安縣) in Fujian Province, southeast China, this does not affect the fact that I recognize Taiwan as my motherland," Chen said.

"Where my ancestors came from is one thing, but nationalistic identification is another, and they should not be confused," Chen said.

He said that the concept of China is significant in the fields of culture, civilization and even the way of life.

"But a political `China' will be built through democratic procedures, especially relying on the development of democracy," he said.

Terrill agreed that every election in Taiwan had facilitated the consensus of a new nationalistic identification.

Meanwhile, Chen reaffirmed that his promise of writing a new constitution was an undertaking in line with democratic processes and should not be described as a timetable for Taiwan independence.

"Beijing assumes that Taiwan's democratic reform, including the realization of a new constitution for meeting Taiwan's reality, is a move toward independence," Chen said.

"It is immoral and irresponsible," Chen added, "and the constitutional move will not be postponed because of Beijing's opposition."

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