It brought much relief to hear Vice President and the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate William Lai (賴清德) say, “If a Taiwanese president can enter the White House, we will have achieved the political objective that we have been pursuing,” in a forum in Yilan County on July 10, before the DPP’s National Congress on July 16.
Taiwan needs a president with a historical sense.
After a century of struggle, Taiwanese national identity has been shaped by history, but difficulties still exist.
Taiwan People’s Party Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) criticized Lai’s remark, saying that he was not “applying to be a foreign domestic helper in the White House.”
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate, is vying for restarting the cross-strait service trade agreement, and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) is eager to sign a peace agreement with China.
The history of Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia teaches us all we need to know.
However, do these Taiwanese-born presidential candidates from the two main opposition parties have historical perspectives? Or maybe they do not have it, just like Qingbai Borough (清白) Warden Chen Tung-yuan (陳東源), who is against expanding the office of the American Institute in Taiwan.
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once said, “What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.”
While under Beijing’s intimidation, the combined support rating of three pro-China presidential candidates in an opinion poll is higher than that of Lai, an abundantly experienced and fully prepared pro-Taiwan politician. Can Taiwanese not tell the difference between friends and foes?
The word “Quisling” means a traitor or a fifth column, a group of people who support enemies. The origin is former Norwegian minister of defense Vidkun Quisling, who was posted to the Soviet Union but helped the Nazis in Norway during World War II, making his last name become a byword for “collaborator.”
Taiwan is in a repeat performance of Norway’s history.
On July 5, Lai published an article in the Wall Street Journal, seeking to cooperate with democratic partners more widely and form alliances.
Democracy and autocracy are traveling on different paths, where values are decided by choosing between Beijing and Washington, but Taiwanese national identity is still split and cannot unite against the enemy while it is getting closer.
The three pro-China presidential candidates still do not understand where the “nation” is. Why does the KMT as a foreign regime not want to take root in Taiwan? It has never understood the historical pains of Taiwanese over the past 70 years.
Taiwan’s history is full of blood and tears about the struggle of Taiwanese national identity.
The struggle started from the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to the 228 Incident in 1947. Taiwanese were forced to abandon their mother tongue with the Japanification of the Kominka Movement (皇民化運動) and relearn it in the re-Sinicization led by KMT-installed governor Chen Yi (陳儀).
In one short decade, two nations, two languages and two identities were all imposed on Taiwanese through state violence. On Aug. 15, 1945, Taiwanese national identity changed from “Japanese” to “Chinese” within a day.
The following 228 Incident was a revolution for the Taiwanese soul.
Taiwan’s intellectual elites continued the democratic movements for awakening Taiwanese during the Japanese colonial period, such as the cultural enlightenment movement (新文化運動) and the petition movement to establish a Taiwanese parliament (議會請願運動).
With its legislative majority, the DPP should be continuing to deepen democracy for the Taiwanese national identity, so Taiwan can worship its martyrs as an independent country one day.
The next step of Lai’s White House remarks is becoming a member of the UN and the international community.
Does the younger generation understand the breath of freedom, receptivity and enthusiasm they have on this small island? The freedom they have been enjoying since they were born is the result attained by generational democracy’s predecessors, spending their youth shedding blood and tears.
All Taiwanese should cherish their votes, distinguishing which presidential candidate is the one that makes the most historical sense in Taiwan.
Chu Meng-hsiang is a counselor at the Lee Teng-hui Association for Democracy.
Translated by Polly Chiu
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