Friday, June 08, 2012

Frank Ching on Beijing's Fear of Taiwan

Bicycle policeman in Fengyuan...

Frank Ching in the NST delineates the tragic situation of poor Beijing, victimized by the heartless Taiwan identity:
Beijing is concerned that the sense of Taiwanese identity is growing stronger despite improved cross-strait relations. A majority of people on the island now identify themselves as solely Taiwanese rather than as both Chinese and Taiwanese.
This is quite true. Even that rabid fan of all things KMT, TVBS, has found this in its polling. The March poll observed that with three possible choices -- clever of TVBS to offer these choices -- hardly anyone sees themselves as solely Chinese (3%). 54% are Taiwanese and 40% are both. If they only get two choices, Taiwanese or Chinese, the vast majority opt for the first. Among the young identification with China is tiny.

Ching goes on:
President Ma himself is doing what he can to reinforce a sense of Chinese identity.

In April, he presided over a ceremony in honour of the Yellow Emperor, the mythical ancestor of Han Chinese, and was immediately excoriated by opposition politicians who feared that he was paving the way for unification with China.
In the first sentence, Ching himself avers that President Ma is doing what he can to help maintain a sense of Chinese identity, surely a necessity for a peaceful annexation. In the next sentence, he reports that opposition politicians "fear" this as if he himself had not just asserted it was true. Hokay....

Ching's major points, that "progress" between the two governments is likely to slow in Ma's second term, is probably true. As he notes, the KMT and the CCP had agreed on all the easy stuff and gotten that done. In the second term there is likely to be greater pressure for talks on annexation. Ching then transmits the Received Wisdom:
This is the nub of the issue. Beijing must realise that a consensus within Taiwan is the precondition to any successful political discussions between the two sides.

Now that Taiwan is a democracy, it is not possible for the Communist Party and the Kuomintang to reach an agreement and impose it on the people of Taiwan.
Well, actually, it is possible for the CCP and KMT to reach an agreement and impose it on the people of Taiwan. Was there majority support for ECFA? Let's not forget, the KMT controls the legislature...would they be restrained by the fall in popularity, street demonstrations, etc? Good question.

More importantly, that word consensus appears there. This idea that Taiwan must reach a consensus is common in the literature from pundits on Taiwan. As I've noted before, Taiwan has already reached a consensus: no one here wants to be ruled by the PRC and the vast majority of people favor independence. Violations of that understanding are one important reason Ma's support plummeted during his first term.

So what can speakers for the Establishment mean when they use this word consensus? It often reads to me like just another euphemism for "do what Power wants" -- what they are really saying is that Taiwanese must agree to be annexed before they can be annexed. But it could very well mean that Taiwanese must come to a consensus on what concrete actions to take. It never reads that way to me, though. since that statement is almost never made so clearly.

It is hard to see, given the KMT's adamant refusal to allow meaningful expressions of public sentiment through binding referendums, how such a consensus could manifest itself. Perhaps those who speak about consensus could more gainfully employ their time and pixels by talking to the KMT about letting a consensus be formally and meaningfully evaluated via democratic process, instead of wagging fingers at Taiwan for not having a consensus. But I suspect they don't do that precisely because they know what the results would be....

Ching then claims that Ma's goal is for China to democratize. I have trouble believing that, but let's skip to his last important claim:
In fact, it may well be that the only way Beijing's goal of reunification can be achieved is if, before that, it developed democratic institutions like those on Taiwan.
Actually, there is a consensus on this as well. As Emerson Niu's survey found:
Q4. If only small political, economic, and social disparity exists between Mainland China and Taiwan, do you favor or not favor Taiwan unifying with China?

Not Favor: 56.4%
Favor: 36.4%
NA: 7.2%
Even if China democratizes, Taiwanese don't want to give up their ability to rule themselves.

On the positive side, the call for democracy provides a plausible reason to delay discussions on annexation with China.

On a related topic, re President Ma's defining Taiwan as an ethnic Chinese society and "Chinese democracy", a friend writes:

There was an interesting exchange at the Legislature after the inauguration where members of the cabinet were asked if they were descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors per Ma's comments in his inaugural address.

Sun Dachuan, the head of the Council for Indigenous Peoples, a Puyuma, replied 'No, I am not'.

Hai Zhongxiong (Mongolian Affairs Department) said that he and Genghis Khan were not Chinese (Zhongguo ren) or 'Descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors'. Instead, they were Mongolians.

His boss Luo Yingxue however thought that there 'were different definitions of descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors' and that according to one broad interpretation, the Han, the Manchus, the Mongolians, the Hui, the Miao, and the Yao are all descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors. [MT: note that one definition of the ROC includes Outer Mongolia as ROC territory]

I also noticed that Ma's 'blood and soil' nationalistic statements in his inaugural address were sanitized.
The people on both sides of the Strait are members of the Chinese people [race], 'Descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperors, who have a common blood, history, and culture.
This was rendered into English as
The people of the two sides of the strait share a common Chinese ethnic heritage. We share common blood lines, history and culture.
Ask yourself if someone who thinks that way is really a believer in a democratic polity based on citizen participation in a free society.
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MJ Klein said...

i'm certainly not a descendant of the Yan and Yellow Emperor. why does everyone on this side of the Straight have to be ethnic Chinese somehow?

Lorenzo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lorenzo said...

Sinisupremacism, ever heard of that? Probabily not because it is disguised in so many different forms and names, such as 'chinese identity', 'confuscious academy', 'one china policy', 'such and such are our core interest', 'no interference of our internal affair', 'foreign gohost', 'western hegemony'...just to name a few. Even in this statement 'A Ban is the most corrupt', which is shouted in KMT's compaigins, has a root in sinisupermacy.

Oh, I fotgot to mention Chinese's favorist slogan 'We are all diciples/descendents of the Dragon'. So I advise everyone that sail out to seek his or her so-called 'Chinese Identity' be as cautious as walking through the vally of the shadow of death. The Eye from Morgoth might just be looking at you.

Readin said...

You cite several polls where Taiwanese claim to consider themselves "Taiwanese" and to oppose annexation. I don't know why they lie to the poll takers, but it is clear that when the Taiwanese have a chance to privately decide the fate of themselves and they're children they oppose calling their country "Taiwan" in international forums and they support politicians who openly try to make them Chinese and support eventual annexation.

Actions speak louder than words. Answering a poll is providing words, voting is an act.

Hans said...

Or we could turn it around and ask "How many people in Taiwan still care/believe about/in whatever Ma says?

Karl said...

Mangoes are in the same plant family as poison ivy. Therefore, if you order a box of mangoes to support the Green Party, you are advocating poison. Or something... eh, it's been a long week.

MKL said...

Even if China democratizes, Taiwanese don't want to give up their ability to rule themselves.

I wouldn't be that sure about this. For now it's just a theoretical question and a lot of people don't even believe that to happen in their wildest dreams. However, if one day this really happens, minds could shift in Taiwan quickly. How far is unknown, but I would not be too sure about this. After all, if China is democratic one day and stops pointing missiles at Taiwan, a union could be negotiated, where Taiwan still can rule itself in an autonomy. Anyway, I'm not saying I wish for that to happen, but it could be one of the possible outcomes IF China becomes democratic (which is a big IF and at this point for me very unlikely to happen).

John Scott said...

This discussion is made all the more difficult (at least for many Chinese and Taiwanese) due to the fact that so few of them have been educated to recognize any distinctions between race, ethnicity and nationality.

The biggest favor that the Ministy of Education could do for students in Taiwan is to begin teaching them right now how to distingiush clearly between concepts of race, ethnicity, culture and nationality, so that they will not be as easily led as their parents. They should learn how to value diversity (instead of pretending there is none), and how to use logic and reason to freely examine and discuss their own individual levels of identity (Hakka, Min-nan, aboriginal, Chinese, ROC, Taiwanese, etc.). Middle-school students everywhere should be taught how to take apart ideas and arguments built on such flimsy logic.

The fact that so many have difficulty in distinguishing between these seperate concepts (or simply refuse to) is, on the one hand, a cause of the KMT's "yellow emporer" reasoning. At the same time, this kind of thinking makes it harder for Taiwanese people to articulate their own individual and family identities without being accused of "sowing ethnic divisions".

I think the question that the Yellow Emporer types should be asked is: How and when did groups which had been pretty much completely seperate (or isolated) culturally, linguistically and blood-wise until about a century ago "become" Chinese? When did they become descendants of their emporer? And who decided that?

But those creative translations... is it just sloppy translation work? Is it done as a favor to foreigners-- to simplfy things for people who are unable to understand their esoteric culture, constructed identities and 5000-years-of-history, etc.? Or it is intentional, and done because the KMT has become media-savvy enough to know that educated international readers will see right through their game of deliberately muddying the water by conflating race, ethnicity and (PRC/ROC) nationality?

Michael Turton said...

Actions speak louder than words. Answering a poll is providing words, voting is an act.

Readin, voters don't vote on single issues.

Michael Turton said...

Actions speak louder than words. Answering a poll is providing words, voting is an act.

Nor is the situation as simplistic as you describe -- voters may vote for the KMT candidate precisely because they believe he can better keep Beijing at bay.

Also, count heads sometime. In five elections for preznit, voters have three times elected presidents who were pro-independence.


Readin said...

"Readin, voters don't vote on single issues."

When national survival is at stake, voting on any other issue strongly suggests a fatal lack of concern about national survival.