The more one looks at it, the clearer it becomes that the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s “peace” bid with Beijing is all about The Process.
Participants in this endeavor are so fixed on the goal, so enthralled by the historic possibilities, that anything that departs from The Process or threatens to throw it off course is met with the swift blade of the state apparatus. What we are presented with, therefore, is a classic case of the end justifying the means.
When a state embraces such an ideology, the little man inevitably gets trampled on, as we saw in the former Soviet Union, Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) China and under other undemocratic systems. Under such conditions, the state, believing it knows what is best for the citizenry, will not hesitate to abrogate people’s rights or, at the extreme, to use the tool of terror, which leads to untold abuse. There’s a word for this: authoritarianism.
There are indications — police brutality, infringements on people’s rights and the ostensible politicization of the judiciary — that the Ma administration is veering toward authoritarianism in its quest to achieve “peace” in the Taiwan Strait.
Another telltale sign that Taiwan has been hypnotized by dreams of the goal is its warped perception of reality. The clearest indication that this is happening came from the mouth of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who on Sunday said that the rights of the two giant pandas China has offered as a gift to Taiwan should be respected. Hau was referring to the pandas’ names, which he said could not be changed without violating the animals’ rights.
By no means does this newspaper advocate undermining the rights of animals. But the poor Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓), political tools if ever there was one, certainly shouldn’t rank higher than human beings when it comes to respecting rights — unless, of course, they are part of The Process.
Under this regime, the rights of Taiwanese to not be detained without charge, to display symbols of nationhood or to demonstrate against a controversial visit by a Chinese envoy — and to do so without suffering police brutality — can apparently be broken, all in the name of The Process. A request by a venerable spiritual leader like the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, or for his supporters to welcome him, can be denied if it endangers The Process.
Worse, the right of Wo Weihan (伍維漢) — accused of spying for Taiwan and executed by Beijing last month — to a fair trial, or of the dozens of activists jailed and drugged by Chinese authorities on Human Rights Day, to express their opinion, can be curtailed as long as doing so ensures a smooth process.
In this political burlesque, government officials harp on the rights of pandas and request a police motorcade to ensure a smooth drive from the airport to Taipei Zoo. Limbs of Taiwanese can be broken, blood of Taiwanese can be spilled, Tibetans can be spirited to the hills of Neihu (內湖) in the dead of night, but the pandas must be comfortable. Men can be jailed, beaten, drugged or executed without a word of condemnation, but we should respect the names the pandas have grown accustomed to in order not to confuse them.
As it focuses on the goal, the Ma government has made a pair of pandas and The Process they symbolize a top priority, while relegating the millions of Taiwanese it supposedly represents to a lower rung.
For a country so flexible about its own name, it is most instructive to see just how resolute people in the pan-blue camp can be over the names of other species.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has over the past few months continued to escalate its hegemonic rhetoric and increase its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The US, in turn, has finally realized how its “strategic ambiguity” is increasingly wearing thin. Similarly, any hopes the US had that the PRC would be a responsible stakeholder and economic player have diminished, if not been abandoned. Taiwan, of course, remains as the same de facto independent, democratic nation that the PRC covets. As a result, the US needs to reconsider not only the amount, but also the type of arms
Taking advantage of my Taipei Times editors’ forbearance, I thought I would go with a change of pace by offering a few observations on an interesting nature topic, the many varieties of snakes in Taiwan. I will be drawing on my experiences living in Taiwan five times, from my teenage years in Kaohsiung back in the early sixties, to my last assignment as American Institute in Taiwan Director in 2006-9. Taiwan, with its semitropical climate, is a perfect setting for serpents. Indeed, one might say serpents are an integral part of the island’s ecosystem. Taiwan is warm, humid, with lots of
China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimization paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, China objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at April 16’s summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security.
There is no ambiguity when it comes to war. Ambiguity begs for certainty and a lack thereof has historically led to war. History is full of examples: Europe’s and the US’ ambiguity as to how they would respond to Hitler’s growing territorial expansion in Europe was certainly a contributing factor to World War II. In the same vein, US ambiguity toward Japan’s expansionist militarism in the 1930s clearly led to the Pearl Harbor attacks that started the war in Asia in 1941. Ambiguity in a world with leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will inevitably