Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The 60th anniversary of division across the Strait – Taiwan’s perspective

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) celebrated the 60th anniversary of its creation by mobilizing some 100,000 soldiers to stage a massive military parade in Beijing on October 1st. Watching the Chinese fanfare and parades on television, few Taiwanese were impressed. Instead of celebrating the 98th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan on Oct. 10th, the government cancelled all celebrations out of respect for those lives, homes, and livelihoods lost in the wake of Typhoon Morakot in August.

The United Evening News said in an editorial, that watching the tens of thousand of troops marching in unison was like watching a computer animation. “While the government and the people of China still admire the mighty force of collectivism, most Taiwanese feel more confident that they have got rid of the authoritarian rule and cherish more the diversity, autonomy and individualist way of life they enjoy now.”

The United Daily News also commented in an editorial that “With regard to a nation’s military force and weaponry, Taiwan is certainly not as strong as China. But in terms of freedom, Taiwan is way ahead of China. Only when freedom and democracy have prevailed, will all the Chinese people be really liberated from the images of holding huge portraits of leaders, placards of slogans and oceans of red flags.”

Taiwan’s democracy provides catalyst

When asked by the press about his impression of the large-scale military parade in China, Premier Wu Den-yih of Taiwan said “We are not in a position to comment on whatever style the PRC wanted to celebrate its founding anniversary, which we should respect. But both sides have reached consensus that only peaceful development is most beneficial to the welfare of peoples across the Taiwan Strait.”

Chang Jung-kung, director of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party's Mainland Affairs Division, said “It is not deniable that China is strong in its national power, but Taiwan’s soft power is superior because of peaceful competition, and its democratic system.”

Tsai Ing-wen, chairperson of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said “It would be more meaningful if China had stressed the need to review the development process of democracy on its 60th founding anniversary.”

More than one million Nationalist troops fell in the Civil War between the Communists and the Nationalists before Chiang Kai-shek flew to Taiwan from Chengdu, Sichuan (China) on Dec. 10th, 1949. He came with about two million civilians and soldiers, building Taiwan into a “Bastion of Recovery” together with its four million local residents.

With a population of 23 million now, Taiwan is a democracy which enjoys astonishing economic power. In an editorial “The miracle created by failures,” the Singapore-based United Morning News praised Taiwan for its hard work and its political and economic achievements in the last 60 years. “The largest impact China will face in the future comes from the catalysis of Taiwan’s democracy.”

However, former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui holds a more conservative view, saying “Taiwan’s democracy will not be a deciding factor in China’s future democratization, which will have to come from the internal power of the Chinese mainland.”

Transcending 60 years

On the 60th anniversary of cross strait division, the Commonwealth magazine published a special issue entitled “Transcending the 60 years” which included an interview with President Ma Ying-jeou. Talking about his feelings on the 60th anniversary, Ma said, “Many KMT party members consider the Communists as enemies of blood rancor. My family does too. But I can’t put my personal resentment above our national interests.”

He continued, “The mutual exchanges across the Strait aim not just at making money by attracting more mainland Chinese tourists, or just seeking more business opportunities for Taiwanese businessmen, but also at transforming freedom, democracy, legal systems and human rights into a common language among the peoples across the Taiwan Strait….In dealing with the Chinese mainland, my government vows not to betray the national dignity and sovereignty, nor can we do nothing merely for fear of being hurt.”

In an interview with the DPP chairperson on the same issue, Tsai said. “There has been enough heated argument and fighting on the issue of unification with China or Taiwan independence in our society. We should review what values we should insist on. Once we are certain about the core values, we shouldn't tilt too much towards China because the values in China are those we are not supposed to come near.”

Long way towards being a big family

The Taipei-based China Times published an article written by freelancer Chen Yi-ting noting that “in the last 60 years, the source of threats and fear for Taiwan did not come from the imperialism of Europe or America, but from Beijing. Now we see the Chinese standing up after hundred years of being humiliated by the West. And it was Nationalist Chiang Kai-shek who was defeated by Communist Mao Tse-tung. The humiliation of being defeated should not be carried onward by the living people of Taiwan.”

"A starting point for rapprochement between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is to respect the existence of Taiwan’s entity. The Chinese government and people have always used the 'one China' policy to limit Taiwan’s maneuvering on the international stage, disallowing the use of Taiwan’s name. Every time we are denied in the international arena, we bear resentment and mistrust toward China, who still stubbornly believes that the solution across the Strait lies with military power."

“This is how one treats an enemy. If you think of Taiwanese as compatriots, you need to be more tolerant. Taiwanese are not stone-hearted. If you want us to join the greater Chinese family, please do something to touch our hearts, not threaten us with scare tactics as a way to force us into submission without an alternative.”

Today, Taiwan is confident enough to allow the live television broadcast of China’s military parade on its national day. When can we humbly expect the Chinese government to do the same by not blocking access to Taiwanese news media from it people?

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.