A certain presidential candidate recently accused a rival of courting the so-called “Taiwanese independence” vote. Of course, they did this in the interest of voter segmentation and to consolidate their base, but the very concept does not bear much scrutiny.
The question is, can a candidate really do without the “Taiwanese independence” vote? If they say they can, then they should probably pull out of the race now.
Before we can discuss Taiwanese independence in this context, we have to agree on a definition and we might as well use a categorization used by China in its research into Taiwan.
According to this system, Taiwanese independence comes in three forms. The first is a straight out appeal for immediate de jure independence, such as the establishment of a Republic of Taiwan.
The second is advocacy of a “one China, two countries” formula, along the lines of the special state-to-state relations model proposed by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝); Hon Hai Precision Industry founder Terry Gou’s (郭台銘) recent proposal of “one Republic of China (ROC), one People’s Republic of China (PRC)” also falls within this category.
The third and final category comprises those who advocate “one China,” that China being the ROC, and who recognize the ROC Constitution and the National Unification Guidelines.
This class is also regarded as separatist in Beijing’s eyes, and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, should be included in this category.
In addition to these three categories, there is the concept of “cultural Taiwanese independence,” which Li Weiyi (李維一), a former spokesman of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, described as President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) attempts to “desinicize” Taiwan.
This is why it is informative to approach a discussion of Taiwanese independence from the definitions of that term devised by China.
Essentially, until Taiwan has been placed firmly under the PRC flag, every single Taiwanese — with the exception perhaps of children too small to express their political convictions — is, in Beijing’s eyes, an independence advocate in one way or another.
If this is the case, then what authority does any Taiwanese have to accuse anyone with an ROC identity number of being a Taiwanese independence advocate?
If Taiwan is really a nation, how could it not be independent? If it is not independent, what justification do Taiwanese have to elect their own president? Why do we not just accept a chief executive selected by Beijing?
The reason why Taiwanese in the second or third categories feel the need to accuse their rivals of being independence advocates can be traced to how the authoritarian KMT fled China in 1949, used military force and brainwashed the local population so as to consolidate its minority right to govern the majority.
It is 2019, and Taiwan has already progressed to a democratic, free society. What earthly reason is there to continue sullying the name of Taiwanese independence using this same old, hackneyed mindset? If a candidate does not want the Taiwanese independence vote, according to China’s definition, there are no votes to be had. Why bother running?
Of course, there is always the possibility that these accusations are made with a specific audience in mind, one that currently resides in Beijing, to demonstrate their allegiance.
Anyone doing this would do well to play and then replay recordings of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), caught between a rock and a hard place, on the one hand trying to appease her masters in Beijing while on the other trying to consider the interests of the Hong Kongers under her charge. Lam is bereft of any autonomy, not even able to decide for herself whether or not she can resign.
With those scenes playing out in your head, why would you consider continuing to wag your tail to please the same master?
This is especially difficult to understand when Hong Kongers, who have never actually experienced living in a democracy, have taken to the streets to resist a leader they perceive as being so under Beijing’s thumb.
It is surely inconceivable that Taiwanese, who are so used to democracy and the freedom of criticizing their elected president, would vote for the representative of the national leader of a foreign nation.
It is a pretty glaring mistake, and one that other presidential hopefuls would best bear in mind.
Tzou Jiing-wen is the editor-in-chief of the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).
Translated by Paul Cooper
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