After Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) referred to relations between Taiwan and China as a “brotherhood” in a recent speech, Taiwanese academics and politicians rushed to offer their own metaphors to describe relations across the Taiwan Strait.
Wen began using the term “brotherhood” to describe cross-strait relations as early as 2008 and did so again during the closing press conference at the National People’s Congress last month.
Frederick Chien (錢復), a senior diplomat who heads the Taiwanese delegation at the ongoing Boao Forum in Hainan Province, echoed the concept.
“Both sides should be brothers, not enemies,” Chien told media in Boao, where he was scheduled to meet Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday.
Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has responded to Wen’s comment by sidestepping the term “brotherhood” and saying that both sides of the strait “belong to one Chinese nation and are both Chinese people.”
As a political and cultural metaphor, brotherhood in Chinese means that both sides come from the same family, maintain close and friendly relations, often help each other and may share values.
Taiwanese academics discussed this idea in a recent forum on cross-strait relations in which researchers presented their own interpretations of the relationship.
The metaphorical interpretation of cross-strait relations is important, they said, inasmuch as it reveals the focus of the Taiwanese government’s China policy.
Chang Ya-chung (張亞中), a political scientist at National Taiwan University, agreed with the “brotherhood” description and said that “relations of brotherhood can be uneven, but must be equal.”
In contrast, he described China-Hong Kong relations as “father and son” and interpreted cross-strait relations in Ma’s “Chinese people theory” as “cousins.”
Chang, who also serves as association chairman for the pro-unification Chinese Integration Association, advocates a “One China, Three Constitutions” theory that calls for eventual cross-strait integration. Wen’s comment, he said, was “an opportunity of a lifetime” to promote integration as “an internal Chinese affair.”
Noting that the independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) generally views cross-strait relations as between “friends” or “neighbors,” Chang said some prominent Taiwan independence supporters, such as former presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), accept the “brotherhood” theory. Koo has said it was fine for China to view itself as the big brother, but that it would have to look after its “kid brother” — Taiwan — with goodwill and respect.
Political scientist Tang Shao-cheng (湯紹成) said the brotherhood theory poses the problem of arguing over who is the big brother. The neighborhood theory, he added, is more practical.
Huang Guang-guo (黃光國), a professor at National Taiwan University, brought up an idea submitted by Chinese academics that describes Taiwan and China as different halves of a planet in a political solar system, in which every planet is seen as a country.
The brotherhood theory could easily be misunderstood by other countries, said Gunter Schubert, a visiting research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology.
The theory suggests that it is a family matter unrelated to the outside world, Schubert said, adding that it would be better to promote integration from the standpoint of “friends” so that it is easier for foreigners to understand.
The neighborhood theory basically means Taiwan and China are unrelated entities, which would mark regression in Taiwan-China relations and is exactly what the DPP wants, Chang said.
Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), a political scientist at National Chengchi University who was envoy to the US under the DPP, said that regardless of theories, it was important to consider the implications of a DPP return to power.
While the DPP seeks peaceful coexistence with China and would respect agreements signed by the Ma administration — unless they were not beneficial to Taiwan — if it returned to power, it would never accept the “One China” principle or the “1992 consensus,” he said.
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