Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) again caused a stir after an interview published on Monday by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) quoted him as saying that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait could forge official ties patterned after the EU model, or a pact between independent nations, or a “nations of brotherhood” (兄弟之邦).
Not surprisingly, Chen, an outspoken advocate of Taiwanese independence, was grilled by lawmakers across party lines about his remarks, which he sought to clarify by saying that they did not represent the government’s official stance.
Before dismissing Chen’s remarks, it should be noted that those ideas have been raised before by other well-known Taiwanese independence advocates. For example, Taiwan New Constitution Foundation founder Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) in 2016 touted the idea of a nations of brotherhood serving as a foundation for cross-strait ties.
For two nations to establish some kind of formal ties, they first must be two sovereign, independent states. While China refuses to acknowledge that Taiwan is an independent nation, that does not mean Taiwan should play by its rules.
They must be, in a word, equals — a notion that might have a parallel in some of former premier William Lai’s (賴清德) remarks.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers in September 2017 questioned then-premier Lai about his statement that he is a “political worker who advocates Taiwanese independence,” which they said contradicted his statement that the government should “show an affinity toward China while loving Taiwan.”
Lai said the two statements were not contradictory, as showing an affinity toward China while loving Taiwan means extending the nation’s friendliness to China in a “Taiwan-centric” way.
“Taiwan is already an independent nation. Its official title is the Republic of China. There is no need to declare independence,” Lai said at the time.
Now, when Taiwan and the US are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act, and China has increased its military posturing, it is unlikely that the government would attempt any rash move aimed at declaring independence.
However, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government could draft a motion — a political agreement, which was the subject matter of the Liberty Times interview — by pursuing diplomatic ties with and thereby extending a hand of friendship toward China.
The government could work toward this goal with patience and persistence, even if it encounters setbacks, as there is no shame in trying to resolve the standoff, revive cross-strait ties, improve trade and tourism, and promote peace and security — as the government pledged in its comments about its role in Washington’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
At the same time, it should continue to defend the nation’s sovereignty and dignity, push policies to uphold information security, counter disinformation originating in China, as well as develop and bolster the nation’s defense capabilities. It should not and does not have to sacrifice anything it is doing to keep Tawan a free and democratic nation.
This would benefit the nation by showing the world China’s true colors, enabling people to see more clearly than ever who has been refusing dialogue all these years, and who has been viciously and willfully restricting Taiwan’s international space by ostracizing it in international organizations and sidelining it at international events.
It would show the world who the troublemaker in the Strait is, and who has been encircling Taiwan with its military planes and breaching its airspace.
But what if Beijing does not approve?
That should not stop Taiwan, as China’s equal, from promoting its policies.
Taiwan’s status in the world community is experiencing something really different; it’s being treated like a normal country. And not just a “normal” country, more like a valuable, constructive, democratic and generous country. This is not simply an artifact of Taiwan’s successes in combatting the novel coronavirus. It is a new attitude, weighing Taiwan’s democracy against China’s lack of it. Before I continue, I should apologize to the readers of the Taipei Times. I have not visited Taipei since the opening of the American Institute in Taiwan’s new chancery building in Neihu last year, so I was unprepared for the photograph
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