"Taiwan's problem isn't the unification-independence issue. Rather,the real problem is that Taiwan needs to move toward truth."
"Toward what the former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, called "living in truth."
By Cao Changching 曹长青
The Taipei Times
Monday, Dec 01, 2003
In March, Taiwan will hold an historic third direct presidential election.
In contrast to Western democracies, where the political right argues with the political left over economic and social welfare issues and national defense and foreign affairs policies, the focus of the upcoming election will remain what it was last time, with almost every topic concentrating on the unification-independence issue.
In reality, however, it would be more accurate to say that Taiwan's problem isn't the unification-independence issue. Rather, the real problem is that Taiwan needs to move towards truth.
What is the truth about the two sides of the Taiwan Strait? The truth is that there is "one country on each side." One is despotic, dictatorial communist China, the other a free Taiwan moving towards democracy and the rule of law. This is a fact that is there to see for anyone who isn't blind.
But the government in Beijing doesn't rely only on news blockades and prison guards to threaten the Chinese people and forbid them to seek an understanding of and recognition of this reality; it also deploys missiles and relies on written attacks and armed threats to stop the Taiwanese people from declaring this reality in public and from highlighting it using their votes.
Everyone knows that the Republic of China (ROC) was founded in 1912. It has its own national flag, national anthem, currency, military and passport, and its own territory under its jurisdiction. Even Americans, like people from every other country, have to go through an international visa procedure when entering Taiwan. If this is not a country, then what is it?
The People's Republic of China (PRC), on the other hand, isn't only a member of the UN, but also one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is of course also a country. This is why former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登辉) proposal of the "special state-to-state" model for cross-strait relations wasn't an innovation. Rather, like the child in The Emperor's New Clothes, he boldly put words to a fact that was there for everyone to see.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) stresses that Taiwan is part of China. It sees the PRC as the only representative of China and treats Taiwan as a rebellious province, accusing it of wanting and working for Taiwanese independence. The Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] on Taiwan stresses that the ROC was founded first, and that it was the PRC, founded 38 years later, that first made a fuss over independence, working for "communist independence" and establishing a communist power in the ROC. According to this logic, the PRC and the territory under its jurisdiction are part of the ROC.
The result is a preposterous situation whereby the CPC and the KMT both stress that there is only one China, and that they are the representative of that China. They both include the counterpart's territory in their own national territories. Even more absurd, if either of the parties doesn't include the territory under its counterpart's jurisdiction in its own national territory, the counterpart won't play along.
This is the same thing as saying that although it is a fact that your possessions aren't mine, I still have to include them in my list of possessions; otherwise you will accuse me of preparing for our separation, completely ignoring the fact that we are already separated, that we have divided our homes and that we have led separate lives for over half a century. I don't think we would be able to find such a laughable situation, a situation so full of self-deceit, anywhere in human history.
The first thing Lee did after being elected president was to challenge this hypocrisy and prompt Taiwan to move toward truth. Through several constitutional amendments, he gave up the demand for jurisdiction over China's territory, gave legal recognition to the existence of the PRC and the People's Republic of Mongolia, threw out the map that included China and Mongolia -- called "the Begonia" -- that hung solemnly in the president's office, proposed "The ROC on Taiwan," abolished the National Assembly and froze the Fukien Province pseudo-government.
Through a green revolution, he peacefully made Taiwan take its first step on the road toward truth.
Today, Taiwan is facing the question of whether or not to advance further towards truth. The ROC was established over 90 years ago in China, at a time when it held jurisdiction over 35 provinces, but not Taiwan. Further, the Constitution was created in Nanjing in 1946, more than half a century ago, and it is out of step with reality. The ROC Constitution is a hat that was created for all China and does not fit Taiwan today. In other words, it is as false as that map that once hung in the presidential office.
KMT Chairman Lien Chan (连战) has recently emphasized that there is only one China, and that this China is the ROC. This is a completely outdated and laughable approach, a way of thinking that still sees the Begonia map. It is a matter of self-deceit, incapable of deceiving anyone else. According to Lien's logic, one China means the ROC. Then what is the PRC, with its population of 1.3 billion and still one of the five permanent members of the council? A province of the ROC?
This is why it is a perfectly reasonable thing when President Chen Shui-bian (陈水扁) proposes a referendum to amend the Constitution. It moves Taiwan one step further toward what the former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, called "living in truth."
In 1988, Taiwan removed bans on new political parties and newspapers, and vast political changes have since taken place. Two successful direct presidential elections have already been held, as well as several peaceful legislative elections. In many areas, Taiwan has also begun moving toward truth by eliminating the lies and traces of despotism remaining from the period of Chiang Kai-shek's (蒋介石) dictatorship.
This, however, is a difficult process.
Not only does the CCP dictatorship mobilize the whole nation in its written attacks, military threats, and efforts toward unification and undermining and blocking Taiwan's move towards truth, but there is also interference and counterattacks from the conservative forces within the Chiang dynasty, who are trying to return to power and block Taiwan's move towards true democracy. The existence of these old forces can still be clearly experienced on any street corner in Taiwan.
The ROC flag is an obvious challenge to freedom -- the KMT party flag still sits there, amid the blue sky, white sun and red ground. Today, no democratic country in the world has a party flag as part of the national flag because this would be a symbol of the unity between party and state, and the unity between party and state is an obvious symbol of dictatorship.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, I, like many Americans, hung an American flag in my home. There is no way the American people would accept having the party flag or party emblem of the Democratic or Republican party as part of their national flag. But in Taiwan, especially in airports, harbors or important government agencies, the ROC national flag, symbolizing the unity between party and state, is displayed, insulting every freedom-loving Taiwanese.
What's more, the same problem applies to Taiwan's national anthem, which also stresses the unity between party and state. Just like the "Three Represents" in China, the anthem stresses the three principles of the people in order to unify the public's thoughts.
These are all the vestiges of the old system, empty symbols that all should be reformed so that Taiwan one day can have a national flag and a national anthem demonstrating the spirit of liberal democracy, and a national name and constitution consistent with reality, making 23 million Taiwanese the true masters of Taiwan, and letting them live in truth.
Cao Changching is a writer and journalist based in New York.
Translated by Perry Svensson