In the seven decades since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) relocated from China to Taiwan in 1949, it has been unable to break out of the pro-unification box.
The two Chiangs — Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) — pledged to wipe out the communists and retake the other side of the Taiwan Strait. They were succeeded by former president and KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who firmly stuck to localization and rejected any attempts of unification by China.
After Lee’s exit from both the presidency and the KMT, and following former vice president and KMT chairman Lien Chan’s (連戰) two defeats in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, the party made a U-turn and is now willing to be unified by China.
On Dec. 23, KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) gave a speech during a visit to a pro-unification cross-strait exchange association. When an association member shouted “peaceful unification”, Wu quickly told him not to bring up the issue, saying that the unification of Taiwan and China would occur naturally.
One might say that Wu is “naturally pro-unification.”
Wu later explained that the purpose of his remark was to emphasize that it is not necessary to bring up peaceful unification at the moment, but this is the kind of explanation that makes things even worse. He sounds more like his teacher, former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who tried to attract votes before the presidential elections by saying that Taiwanese would be allowed to decide their future for themselves, only to actively lean toward unification with China after his election.
Judging by Wu’s claim that unification would occur naturally, he is clearly not in line with most people either of his generation or of the young generation, who support “natural” independence. This makes his claim seem anything but natural.
Perhaps he was trying to make his pro-unification approach look more palatable by saying that unification will come naturally. From this perspective, he might be more devious than New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) and some of the New Party members who have allegedly leaked information to a Chinese spy.
During Lee’s presidency, a Taiwanese official stationed in the US once spoke sternly to a group of pro-unification overseas Taiwanese, telling them to move back to Taiwan if they insisted on promoting unification. He criticized them for living a life of leisure and freedom abroad while calling on Taiwan to be annexed by China when they would not have to bear the negative consequences of such an event.
By the same token, those in Taiwan who support the concept of “natural unification” are now left with two options. They can either move to China to bask in the glory of being a “great power,” or stand as candidates in Taiwan’s free and fair elections, so as to allow the public to decide what they want.
Taiwanese law does not prohibit calls for unification with China. However, that does not mean that pro-unification activists who would rather become slaves to Beijing enjoy special privileges that allow them to break the law.
Quite a few media outlets and academics in Taiwan support cross-strait unification and they certainly have the freedom to do so, as long as they do not break the law. However, the New Party members suspected of leaking information in an espionage case acted shamelessly, while complaining tearfully that they are victims of political persecution.
They came off looking just as bad as the Ji Feng (疾風) magazine employees, who beat up pro-independence activists while shouting that “patriotism is not a crime” in 1979.
James Wang is a senior journalist.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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