A document known as the New Culture Discourse (新文化論述), written by DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) on the topic of solving ethnic conflicts, was the subject of much controversy this week.
While the discourse was aimed at smoothing out tensions among ethnic groups, mainly those between Mainlanders and Hoklo people, more commonly known as Taiwanese, the media this week focused on a part of the essay entitled Surpassing Conflicts, Deep-rooting Reform, which says that "there will be no suitable environment in the next two or three decades for the Republic of China (ROC) to change its national name."
The essay also says that it is possible to find a way out of the controversy involving the ROC, as a symbol, because a huge proportion of Mainlanders and Hoklo people identify with the ROC -- and the name also placates China.
By seeming to disengage from the national discourse on sovereignty, the essay angered pro-independence figures in the pan-green camp while also failing to please those who wish to maintain the status quo or unify with China.
Lee was the chief architect of the essay. Cabinet Spokesman-designate Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), Council for Hakka Affairs Chairman-designate Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉) and DPP Caucus Director-general Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) were originally said to have been involved in the drafting of the essay.
But after the essay was leaked to the media, Chen, Luo and Tsai said that Lee had drafted the essay alone, and that the document was leaked before the group could meet to discuss it.
They said that later, when the group in fact met, they agreed that the part of Lee's essay on the ROC was too controversial and decided not to approve the text.
Earlier, Luo had said that the essay aimed mainly to acknowledge and respect all cultures in Taiwan, including Chinese culture.
Chen expressed similar views.
"We are trying to promote a pluralistic spirit and protect different voices in Taiwan, and promote a comprehensive dialogue among all ethnic groups," Chen said.
Chen specifically said that the members of the group would proceed with legislation to ensure that no one is discriminated against on the basis of political preference, ethnicity, culture, gender or religion.
While Luo and Chen mainly discussed the big-picture reasons behind drafting the essay, Tsai was straightforward in saying that the motivation for it was to strengthen the DPP's support base.
"We developed the essay to help the DPP expand its base of supporters, to ensure that the DPP stays in power," Tsai said.
Tsai also said that the essay was based on the DPP's 1999 Resolution on Taiwan's Future, (
"The pro-independence people want the DPP to pursue independence right away, but at the moment the environment is not suitable. But we can still make attempts in a roundabout way," Tsai said.
But Tsai also said that while the public thought the group's effort to propose a comprehensive approach to ethnic issues was aimed at providing President Chen Shui-bian (
"This aims to appeal to the Hoklo people who do not support the DPP," said Hsu Yung-ming (
Hsu said that research and polls indicate that in this year's presidential election, some people cast ballots in the referendum but did not vote for Chen Shui-bian.
Hsu said that voters in this category were probably Hoklo people who do not entirely identify with and trust Chen -- but that for the DPP, they are voters who might be won over.
"Some Hoklo people still believe that only the KMT is capable of being fair toward Mainlanders, Hoklo people and Hakkas. They are worried that the DPP will be inclined to treat Hoklo people well and cause Mainlanders to complain," Hsu said.
But Hsu said that the essay's attempt to embrace Mainlanders might not work because of still-unresolved historical issues such as 228 Incident. Hsu said that the tension between Hoklo people and Mainlanders would continue to exist.
DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui (
"We should allow time to take care of the issue of national identification. As time goes by, identification with China will fade, but right now they are trying to use political force to drive the issue. Trying to solve what cannot be solved will only cause more conflicts," Lin said.
Lin used the issue of the nation's official language as an example, saying that at present the public is content with Mandarin as the official language -- but that if the legislature began to discuss the issue, there would be endless arguments about it.
"Paying too much attention to the ethnic issue just worsens the situation," Lin said.
"We should allow time to settle our political feuds, and let things develop naturally," Lin said.
"Paying attention to symbols such as the ROC is just a way to solve a current problem, to please the old generation of Mainlanders.
"But we should really think about future generations of Mainlanders," Lin said.
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