Monday, November 23, 2009

Desperately Seeking Suzerainty: The "Not the Time" Talks

Michael: There are negotiations being made that are going to answer all of your questions and solve all of your problems. That's all I can tell you right now.

On this lovely day here in Taichung, Taiwan Today gave the UDN report that, once again, the Ma Administration said there would be no peace talks with China "at this time":
Now is not the time for Taipei and Beijing to enter into negotiations over a peace treaty, according to Premier Wu Den-yih Nov. 20.

“Cross-strait peace talks cannot be conducted until a consensus has been reached in Taiwan,” Wu said, adding that such negotiations were impossible without stronger public support. “A win-win solution is only in the offing if Beijing faces the reality of divided rule in the strait and treats Taiwan with parity and dignity.”

Wu said Beijing must do more to back Taipei’s efforts at seeking greater international space and dismantle its missiles targeting Taiwan. “The mainland has to make an important gesture such as scaling back its escalating military threat against Taiwan,” he said. “This will help promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”
"It's not the time" is actually like a theme song of the Ma Administration -- whenever the Administration wants to avoid discussion, it reverts to "it's not the time." Can Taiwanese businessmen serve in local Chinese Communist offices? "Not the time." Can the Dalai Lama come? "It's not the time." Ma, Sept 2008: "It's not the time" to have peace negotiations with China. It's not likely that unification talks will be held "in our lifetimes," says Ma.

But now is that time, for at the press conference Wu was asked by local reporters "but isn't Lien negotiating just such an agreement?" and would not answer. The Ma Administration isn't the only entity attempting to deal with China -- the KMT Old Guard led by Honorary Chairman Lien has its own agenda. Ma appointed Lien Chan the island's rep to the APEC talks, which speaks volumes about how much China likes Lien, and how little Ma can do about it, and Hu went with the public line that the two nations were putting aside political issues to focus on economic ones. But it is hard to imagine that they didn't have a long discussion in private about how best to annex Taiwan to China, and more importantly, who will get the concrete rewards.

Wu also called for the removal of missiles facing Taiwan. This message has now been sent to China many times by both US Establishment writers and by the Ma Administration, so far falling on deaf ears. I can see the set-up now: China "reduces" or "removes" missiles in response to entreaties, the world swoons at the greatness of China, peace prizes handed out like candy. Fortunately the coming Obama surge in Afghanistan will do great damage to the prestige of the peace prize -- people always complain that the US arrogantly doesn't understand the world, but the Nobel for Obama shows that the compliment is returned: the world doesn't understand the US either. Feeling a strong Chinese cultural moment coming on here: Foreigners can never understand our nation. I guess I've assimilated....

Either way, China wins -- the missiles go and the world admires, the missiles stay and Taiwan perspires. Still, they are so useful to China it is hard to imagine Beijing deciding to do away with them.

As Stocks and Politics points out, Ma is fading in the polls: Global Views has him at 29%. He isn't showing up on campaign ads although he is stumping for local KMT politicos. What kind of leverage does he have in his own party at the moment?

Anyone catch this: although Taiwan is not engaging in peace talks, and the government has sworn it will never waver even one inch on sovereignty, the government announced that it concedes the waters around Kinmen and Matsu to China. The KMT cultural policy relentlessly continues too: the Vice Premier today touted Taiwan as the "heartland" of Chinese culture:
"Taiwan is the geographic heartland of Chinese culture and the hub for the use of traditional Chinese characters. It should therefore make the best use of these advantages to promote Minnan (southern Fujian) and Hakka cultures in a market of two billion Chinese people," said Chu.
This was at an international exhibition where he was commenting on Mandarin -- the international language of the 21st century -- another long-cherished dream of Chinese. The Ma Administration has been pushing its "Chineseness with Taiwanese characteristics" as an avowedly assimilationist answer to the problem of the rising Taiwan identity: by repositioning it as a Chinese identity. Here Chu says: it ain't Taiwanese, it's Minnan, and it's Chinese. As Taiwan moves closer to China, many in the Taiwanese mainlander camp are going to discover the contradiction at the heart of their Chinese identity: it is a Taiwan-based Chinese identity, and it contains a separate and not-Chinese Taiwan within. Will they be as confused about how to reconcile Taiwan and China as the KMT appears to be? Only time will tell.
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25 comments:

monkbent said...

"Wu also called for the removal of missiles facing Taiwan. This message has now been sent to China many times by both US Establishment writers and by the Ma Administration, so far falling on deaf ears. I can see the set-up now: China "reduces" or "removes" missiles in response to entreaties, the world swoons at the greatness of China, peace prizes handed out like candy. Fortunately the coming Obama surge in Afghanistan will do great damage to the prestige of the peace prize -- people always complain that the US arrogantly doesn't understand the world, but the Nobel for Obama shows that the compliment is returned: the world doesn't understand the US either. Feeling a strong Chinese cultural moment coming on here: Foreigners can never understand our nation. I guess I've assimilated...."

This is so, so true. Doesn't matter if I agree or disagree with what the US does, at least I get it. It's almost impossible for most foreigners to feel the same, especially with regard to America's underdog complex and presumption of moral rightness in the pursuit of "freedom."

Jeroen said...

Taiwan giving up its claim on the territorial waters around Kinmen AND tearing down anti-ship barriers around the island - what disturbing, incomprehensible actions. They sound like the KMT government's first steps to willingly make a Chinese invasion easier...

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the other day that many observers like to use the analogy of domestic violence or rape to describe the situation between Taiwan and China, where Taiwan is usually gendered as "female". This is usually a male conception and plays into male chauvinistic patters of viewing the female as weak or a victim.

I think a more apt expression of the Chinese relationship with Taiwan, at the behest of the KMT is more analogous to the good old fashioned butt fuck, which is genderless.

There will be lots of wincing, thrashing, forcing and lots of pain as China in forced into Taiwan through the narrowest of opportunities. And to get Taiwanese to bear the pain, there is the repeated promise of a big pay off at the end. "You'll eventually get used to it and like it." For which the only one to climax will be China. There is no payoff for Taiwan. It is just something Taiwan will do to make China happy.

Richard said...

Very interesting analogy by anonymous... quite vivid... not sure I'd use that analogy when describing the situation to someone, but probably more accurate than the 'rape' analogy.

Anyways, your point about the win-win situation for China Re: Missiles, is the thing I fear the most. If China removes the missiles, it basically puts the ball in Taiwan's hands. If the KMT still has a strong control over everything at that point in time, then I fail to see how the Taiwanese can come out of it on top. Seems like they can just push the idea that, "Hey look, China abandoned those missiles, we are no longer being threatened, look how nice they are, now lets sign a peace treaty so that this never happens again!"

And on the other hand, if the DPP are in power, and acknowledge the removal of missiles but don't make a step towards a peace treaty or something like that, we would then be seen as the "one all along" who couldn't find a way to make peace- which is not true at all.

In this case, as horrible and ironic as it sounds, I think keeping missiles in place is the best option Taiwan has at this point in keeping China at bay. As long as China continues to force Taiwan's hand via threat of military attack, the public opinion will continue to be in favor of "Taiwan" as opposed to China.

Thomas said...

"the Nobel for Obama shows that the compliment is returned: the world doesn't understand the US either."

Michael, I agree with you that the world often poorly understands Americans and the country in which they live, however, I don't think that your comment is apt.

The Nobel for Obama shows that the world doesn't understand Obama more than it shows that the world does not understand the US.

Obama was not only successful during the presidential campaign because of his stirring speeches. He was successful due to a certain degree of mass delusion. He was supposed to be everyone's hero who championed everyone's cause and would usher in a new era of politics. This is exactly what has led to the current disillusionment. He is, after all, mortal, and he is, heaven forbid, a politician. I think that the Nobel prize committee is probably still hung over from the campaign.

The fact that the granting of the prize to Obama was so controversial indicates just how obvious it was to so many that the committee who granted the prize is out of touch.

Michael Turton said...


In this case, as horrible and ironic as it sounds, I think keeping missiles in place is the best option Taiwan has at this point in keeping China at bay. As long as China continues to force Taiwan's hand via threat of military attack, the public opinion will continue to be in favor of "Taiwan" as opposed to China.


Yes, that is one of the things that makes me think that the missiles aren't really aimed at Taiwan, but at US analysts.

But I also wonder whether the Old Guarders are taking to Beijing and painting Ma as a closet independence supporter. How long is the CCP willing to wait? Chinese BBSs are full of nationalist hotheads who want Taiwan bombed back into the Stone Age and annexed, and there must be ranking hardliners who also hold similar opinions. Why hasn't that damned Ma brought Taiwan in yet? Tensions reduced? They are merely circulating to re-appear as something else.....

Michael Turton said...

The fact that the granting of the prize to Obama was so controversial indicates just how obvious it was to so many that the committee who granted the prize is out of touch.

Europe's dripping contempt for the US, as well as its strange admiration for the US, are simply mirrors of the same idealization that really doesn't get what the US is.

Michael

Anonymous said...

The removal of missles rhetoric is a red herring. As you say, China gets a good deal of manipulative value from them without having to actually use them. Wu gets value from them by calling for their removal as a precondition for a meaningless peace treaty, and timing the demand to the December elections.

THe KMT has already ceded territorial waters around the small islands. It would seem the unification process has begun.

Anonymous said...

Why is any kind of association with Chinese culture so offensive to the deep greens? Taiwan surely does have a "Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics." This "Chinese culture" pre-dates the arrival of the KMT on the island. This does not mean that Taiwan should reunify with the PRC at the first available opportunity. But it can be an asset for Taiwan.

As for Jinmen. This is a symbolic link with the mainland (which is why Mao let the KMT keep control of it). The greens should welcome any possibility of the surrender of Jinmen to the PRC.

Robert R. said...

Anyone catch this: although Taiwan is not engaging in peace talks, and the government has sworn it will never waver even one inch on sovereignty, the government announced that it concedes the waters around Kinmen and Matsu to China. The KMT cultural policy relentlessly continues too: the Vice Premier today touted Taiwan as the "heartland" of Chinese culture:

Yeah, they are full of gems this week: "Kinmen and Matsu belong to Fujian Province … Although Kinmen and Matsu are under the Republic of China’s [ROC] jurisdiction, other parts of Fujian Province are under the jurisdiction of the mainland," Wu said.

Michael Turton said...

Why is any kind of association with Chinese culture so offensive to the deep greens? Taiwan surely does have a "Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics." This "Chinese culture" pre-dates the arrival of the KMT on the island. This does not mean that Taiwan should reunify with the PRC at the first available opportunity. But it can be an asset for Taiwan.

It could be, and is an asset for Taiwan. But the KMT treats "Chinese culture" as an assimilationist tool. Note that Chu expressly confirmed Hakka culture, but subsumed Taiwan culture into Minnan culture.

It's not that Chinese culture is offensive to Greens, but rather the use of Chinese culture to annex Taiwan. If you can't make that separation between existence and function, you won't understand what goes on in Taiwan.

Michael

Anonymous said...

It could be, and is an asset for Taiwan. But the KMT treats "Chinese culture" as an assimilationist tool. Note that Chu expressly confirmed Hakka culture, but subsumed Taiwan culture into Minnan culture.

Michael,
I looked up Chu's comments in Chinese.
台灣位於關鍵地理位置,是中華文化的核心,未來應運用正體字保存中心的優勢,同時發揚閩南、客家文化,開發近20億人口的華人市場。
I have no idea why you say he "expressly confirmed Hakka culture, but subsumed Taiwan culture into Minnan culture". He quite clearly puts them on the same level in this statement.
Or would you prefer he said "台灣、客家文化"? That would equate "Taiwanese" culture with Minnan culture and define Hakka culture separately from Taiwan culture.

BIT said...

I agree with Richard that the missiles may serve as a psycological stimulator for Taiwanese to not let their guard down. As we all know that removing them does not reduce the Chinese hostility against this beautiful country or their intention to annex it. Mr. Peng predicted that Chinese will probably remove them before next presidential election to help Ma get elected. I think everyone who loves Taiwan should do everything they can to educate the general public that it is a true possibility that the Chinese could remove these missiles before the election, and the voters should not fall into beliving that the Ma administration has achieved a peace accord.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:55

"Chinese Culture" as we know it is an invention of a particular political project that seeks to colonize and assimilate divers peoples into a single polity. It is a modern invention of Chinese nationalists who needed a tool to realize their vision of "The Nation".

Michael Turton said...

Anon, as far as I can see nowhere in there does Chu mention any Taiwanese culture. He only mentions Minnan and Hakka, co-equal subcultures of the great, faux Chinese culture. Are there are other remarks there in which he refers to Taiwanese culture?

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:17 PM I agree. But all national cultures are manufactured in the same way. They assimilate different peoples into the same polity. In this sense the category "Taiwan" is no less constructed than the category "China".
It is also true, that although the modern idea of China is constructed, Minnan and Hakka culture in Taiwan do share a common heritage with that on the Mainland.

Thomas said...

The problem with the surrendering of the waters around Kinmen and Matsu is that the KMT and Taiwan get nothing tangible in return.

It is a valid argument to state that Kinmen and Matsu are part of Fujian and are therefore ties to China. It is equally valid to say that a decision to give up those islands on the grounds that they are historic links to China would not be too unfortunate. In such a case, Taiwanese could claim a victory in officially cutting those links with China.

The problem is that the KMT has not indicated that giving up the soverignety of the local waters is part of any such reinforcement of Taiwanese identity. Therefore, Taiwan/ROC surrenders territory and gets nothing in return.

Let's face it. The PLA has modernised to the point that, if they really wanted to take Kinmen and Matsu, they could do it in a heartbeat. The PLA hasn't done this yet because this would be interpreted as a direct attack upon the ROC/Taiwan. The islands have held great symbolic value despite the fact that they no longer have strategic value. These are KMT "symbols". They reinforce the KMT narrative of Taiwan's history which, despite its faults, was originally grounded in an opposition to military attack by the PRC. If the KMT is no longer willing to defend its own symbols, then this leaves me very little confidence that they would be willing to defend the rest of Taiwan if the need arose.

Therefore, the problem is less in the surrendering of the waters around the islands than the message that this surrender conveys due to the reasons (or lack thereof) of the surrender and the party who is doing the surrendering.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Not sure about Chu, but I know Ma has referred to "Taiwanese culture". The dispute is how "Taiwanese culture" should be defined. Minnan and Hakka culture on Taiwan does indeed share the same cultural heritage as on the Mainland.
The DPP never really defined what a separate "Taiwanese culture" means, the content of Taiwanese nationalism is mostly enlightenment motifs about democracy, human rights, and sovereignty.
At the moment, Taiwanese culture is still rather undefined, and there is still no consensus on the way forward.
Maybe that would be an interesting post for your blog...

My initial point anyway was that Chu quite rightly put Hakka and Minnan culture on the same level. This is preferable to putting Taiwan (often used synonymously with Minnan) first.

Anonymous said...

Chinese culture is offensive because it's so fake in Taiwan.

When the KMT came to Taiwan, they were shocked at how "un-Chinese" everything looked. They built plenty of cement + lead paint pagodas and lakes and walls all over the place purposefully to give Taiwan a Chinese "look".

Take Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall as a more egregious example.

It is merely a post-modern disproportional reference to northern Chinese architecture rather than something actually constructed in the tradition of northern Chinese architecture. It's very different from Beijing palace architecture in that none of the sizes in the memorial are on a human scale. It's basically hilarious, a honey I shrunk the kids kind of fantasy, except that it makes a logical postcard.

But anyways, what's interesting with young people in Taiwan is that to them, Chinese is just another color in their palette that they can choose from. They talk choose 中國風 or they can choose whatever modern expression with whatever historical or geographical accent they want. It's natural and they are consciously in charge, as it should be.

Anonymous said...

It was fairly recently (and possibly still today) that the DPP themselves suggested handing Jinmen and Mazu over to the PRC.

Pot.
Kettle.
Black.

I trust also that Chen Chu's new tigers come under fully international agreements. After all, there was so much criticism about the pandas.

Anonymous said...

Europe's dripping contempt for the US, as well as its strange admiration for the US, are simply mirrors of the same idealization that really doesn't get what the US is.

The best thing about this statement: just switch the positions of the words "Europe" and "US" and it's still true.

Stefan said...

Maybe you are right, but my gut feeling is: the world understands the US, it just doesn't understand the nobel prize committee.

Carlos said...

“Why is any kind of association with Chinese culture so offensive to the deep greens?”

Nobody likes to be assigned an identity by someone else.

That’s all it is. For example, my mom won’t admit to being being part of the “zhonghua mingzu” and it’s purely as a small measure of defiance against everyone who’s tried to force the label upon her. When she hears the term, the first thing she thinks of isn’t our ancestors’ culture, but having her language beaten out of her in school and living in a country where Chinese-ness (or lack thereof) was used to justify treating people with “Taiwan” on their ID cards (as point of family origin) as second class citizens. Those days are gone, but now Chinese-ness is used to justify those missiles pointing at our families.

It’s a natural reaction, imo.

Michael Turton said...

It was fairly recently (and possibly still today) that the DPP themselves suggested handing Jinmen and Mazu over to the PRC.

Pot.
Kettle.
Black.


Ah trolls. With stupidity like this, no wonder you post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

"Minnan and Hakka culture in Taiwan do share a common heritage with that on the Mainland."

I think this may also be a case of selective "commonalities" as these analogs are constructed around selected preconceptions of location, history,"culture" et al and fail to consider how structural change (change of polity) and the reaction and interpretation of that change/those changes lead to vastly differing meanings of culture and cultural production. For over 100 years the center of Taiwanese culture has shifted between Japan, the United States and Taipei. It is only within the past year or two that the center is shifting to Beijing, which embraces a radically different and frequently opposing cosmology than the Qing. It makes a very difficult case to argue that peoples with such different understandings and symbolic meanings in life can be called "shared". Taiwanese and Chinese create meaning through their experiences and their polities help shape the experience by projecting value into symbols and ideas. Totally divergent. If you ever take the time to go to any small town that has been roused into becoming a tourist trap for Chinese tourists you will clearly see these are different cultures as the Chinese do not understand the clues, cues and schemas to successfully negotiate life in Taiwan.