Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) recently traveled to Japan on campaign business for next month’s special municipality elections.
While there he said: “When Japan pursued a more open policy in the Meiji Restoration, having emerged from years of being diplomatically closed off from the rest of the world, it ushered in a Golden Age. With the upcoming special municipality elections [in Taiwan], the Taiwanese are given the clear choice between the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP], between being more open or closing ourselves off.”
This must have struck anyone familiar with modern Japanese history as somewhat odd.
How could King actually use the Meiji Restoration to compare the two sides? It is true that the Meiji Restoration played a significant part in Japan’s transformation.
However, the government at the time wanted to move away from Asian influence — by which they meant China and Chinese culture, dominant at the time — and embrace “the European Powers,” meaning the West, including the US.
In other words, prior to that point in time, Japan had been locked into an Asian cultural world dominated by China, and had fallen behind as a result.
But during the Meiji Restoration, Japanese officials wanted to become more involved in the wider world, giving the country a chance to catch up with the great powers of the time.
Look at the path currently adopted by the various green-camp parties in Taiwan. If you are going to use the Meiji metaphor, you could say that it is they who are more interested in extracting the country from Asian influence and becoming more involved with the West, rejecting the influence — political, economic and cultural — of China and those countries that follow.
The KMT, on the other hand is trying to bring Taiwan closer to China, which is precisely what its China-leaning policies and agreements such such as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will do, politically and economically. Its goal is eventual unification with China.
Japan’s success is a vindication of the policies now being championed by the DPP and other green parties. It is the same bold road that Japan struck out on during the Meiji Restoration.
It is entirely different from the KMT’s policy of regression. The ECFA is to be followed by closer cultural assimilation with China. There is little doubt that this is the KMT’s intention. It is quite clearly, explicitly and intentionally heading in the diametrically opposite direction taken by Japan during the Meiji Restoration.
The choice between the KMT and DPP, then, is the choice between dependence on China and involvement with the rest of the world.
When the KMT says “China is the window to the rest of the world,” it sounds like the party has a point, that the proposition is at least arguable.
However, when we stop and think for a second, what becomes apparent is that no other nation is relying on China to engage with the rest of the world.
The argument simply does not hold water. They are using the slogan to secure their objective of making Taiwan a part of China. I ask you, Taiwan ... is this what you want?
King’s poorly conceived metaphor, delivered in Japan, actually highlights the regressive nature of the KMT’s policy. It also demonstrates his superficial grasp of Japanese history.
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser to the president.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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