There are two competing political ideas in Taiwan.
The first is Taiwanese independence, or the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) view that Taiwan is an independent nation that happens to be named the Republic of China (ROC).
The second is ROC independence, or the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) view that the independent nation of the ROC is located on Taiwan.
Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are divided by the Taiwan Strait, which helps maintain the “status quo,” while historically, “Chineseness” lingers in the Constitution.
Taiwanese independence, ROC independence and the PRC form a complex triangular relationship. The same is true for the relationship between the DPP, the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The division between the DPP and the KMT is an internal division that is likely to be smaller than the division between the DPP and KMT on the one hand and the CCP on the other.
However, the division between Taiwanese and ROC independence has made the divide between them greater than the one between the KMT and the CCP. This is blocking national reconstruction — the KMT blocks localization and ignores the significance of democratization to Taiwan’s development.
The KMT’s ideology is mostly controlled by older party members who fled to Taiwan in 1949, but its main supporters are local politicians, military personnel and public servants. The party ruled Taiwan as a dictatorship and did not allow elections until democratization forced it to.
KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) has been a member of the KMT since the time of the party-state. The politically savvy and pragmatic Wu is hoping to be the nation’s next president.
He is trying to please both Taiwan and China, but his “‘one China,’ with each side having its own interpretation” platform is designed to fool Taiwanese.
Wu hopes that the platform will win him support from the CCP while still promoting ROC independence.
However, the ROC does not exist for the PRC. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) lukewarm response to Wu’s platform disappointed the KMT, but many party members prefer to throw their lot in with the authoritarian CCP, because they view Taiwan as nothing but a colony.
After taking over Taiwan, the KMT focused on “reconquering the mainland.” Had it not been for the UN’s decision to recognize the PRC and democratization, Taiwan would not have escaped the party’s authoritarian control.
Today’s KMT wants to abandon the ROC independence built by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) by offering Taiwan to China in the hope of being appointed its ruler.
Taiwanese have seen through the KMT’s ruses and will not support them. The KMT has even used the protests against pension reform as an opportunity to challenge President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration, even though the old pension schemes were an unhealthy product of the KMT’s party-state system.
The DPP believes that Taiwan and the PRC are two separate nations, but it still has to accept the national title “ROC” — which China does not acknowledge — and maintain the “status quo” as it waits for the right conditions to create a Taiwanese nation, since democracy is not sufficient to do so.
Still, Taiwanese independence is very different from ROC independence. Though fettered by the name “Chinese Taipei,” the nation must still seek independence and strive to be known as “Taiwan” to build the conditions for nationhood.
Only by discarding ROC independence and seeking Taiwanese independence will the nation be able to sever its ties with colonial political structures and move toward Taiwanese independence and a new Taiwanese state.
Lee Min-yung is a poet.
Translated by Tu Yu-an
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