Taiwan needs to resolve the issue of its divided national identity to become a full-fledged democracy, and that requires civic awareness and engagement from the public, as well as a humble national leader who is strongly committed to democracy, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said yesterday.
Lee made the remarks in a speech at a forum hosted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, the first of a series of lectures to celebrate a 10th anniversary of the government-affiliated organization headed by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).
Dubbed “Mr Democracy” by Newsweek magazine in 1996, Lee said he followed two paths to political reform when he served as vice president in the late 1980s under then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Lee said that Chiang said on two separate occasions that “I am Taiwanese” and that “the president of the Republic of China is not required to be a member of the Chiang family,” which struck Lee as important because that was a marked departure from China’s 5,000-year history of imperial rule.
“Though I did not say anything at the time, I was of exactly the same mind as [Chiang] and that put me on the course of political reform” during his 12-year presidency, Lee said.
As influential political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote regarding challenges to democratic consolidation in third-wave democracies, Taiwan was involved in the “dissolution and reconstruction of national identity,” he said.
On the road to building a full-fledged democracy, the problem of a divided national identity that continues to haunt Taiwan needs to be resolved thoroughly, Lee said.
Lee said the idea of “new-era Taiwanese” that he put forward in 2005, when political infighting followed Taiwan’s first handover of power in 2000 and China began to use a united front strategy to divide Taiwanese, aimed to boost national identification with Taiwan.
“There was no distinction between ‘new’ Taiwanese or ‘old’ Taiwanese. Regardless of ethnicity, all 23 million people in Taiwan are ‘new-era Taiwanese,’” he said.
Many people in Taiwan who had considered themselves Chinese because that was how they were educated have now come to the realization that this was “a fictitious notion inconsistent with history and reality,” Lee said.
“Over 400 years of Taiwan’s history, Taiwan was ruled by [China’s] Qing Dynasty, Japan, the Netherlands and Spain. If China’s claim that Taiwan is part of its territory made sense, why couldn’t the other regimes make the same claim? British people would never say that the US is part of the UK,” he said.
Taiwan is a society of immigrants, and people in such a society have the right to establish their own government and country, Lee said.
Taiwanese need to develop civic awareness and exert their free will to break out of ethnic boxes, to get rid of the “fictitious notion” that they are Chinese and break away from imperial mindsets so that they can build up identification with Taiwan to ward off anti-democracy elements and Chinese authoritarianism, he said.
Lee said the future of democratic consolidation in Taiwan would also be closely related to whether the country has a capable leader.
Taiwan needs a leader who insists on defending Taiwanese, who has strong convictions about democracy and who is impartial and not concerned with the interests of any particular individual, party or minority, Lee said.
A national leader must also listen to the opinions of opponents and the needs of people with a humble and calm attitude to resolve problems in people’s lives, Lee said.
“They don’t resolve people’s problems by engaging in political infighting every day,” he said.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
ON THEIR OWN: The KMT has decided not to participate as a party at this year’s forum, and if any members do go, they would not be representing the party, Alicia Wang said The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday announced that it would not send a delegation “as a political party” to this year’s Straits Forum, after a Chinese TV program described the planned visit to the annual meeting as “suing for peace.” The 12th forum is scheduled to open in Xiamen, China, on Saturday. On Tuesday last week, the KMT announced that former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) would lead the party’s delegation to the forum, with KMT Secretary-General Lee Chien-lung (李乾龍) as deputy head. However, on Thursday last week, China Central Television’s (CCTV) Yangshipin (央視頻) program, hosted by Li Hong (李紅), included a headline
WORKING OVERTIME? NTU professor Lee Duu-jong denied that he had held a part-time position at a Chinese university or joined China’s Thousand Talents Program A candidate for the post of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) president yesterday dropped out of the race following a report questioning his links to Chinese academia and government programs. Lee Duu-jong (李篤中), a professor at National Taiwan University’s (NTU) chemical engineering department, was a member of China’s Changjiang Scholars’ Program in 2006 and was on the list of its Thousand Talents Program in 2017, a report by Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine said yesterday. The article said that Lee is suspected of having held a part-time job at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China and was the recipient