Civic nationalism, I would suggest, is becoming the dominant type for a majority of Taiwan people. It is an attachment to the island’s democratic system and its norms of popular sovereignty and majority rule. To put it simply, it is an attachment to today’s ROC and all it stands for.The last sentence has everything backwards. Taiwanese are attached to their democracy and link it to the ROC only to the extent that the ROC equates itself to Taiwan. The Taiwanese are hardly attached to the ROC's grandiose territorial goals and do not see themselves as the rulers of China. Moreover, as I have noted here many times, prominent ROC symbols, such as the flag are increasingly being reinterpreted by the locals as symbols of Taiwan. Of course, the attachment to democracy is not an attachment to the ROC and all it stands for -- to get democracy, the locals had to fight the ROC and all it stood for. But Bush can't say that to a bunch of crusty old deep blues at a national nostalgia fest, I suppose.
These differences between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism and between territory and the state are not simply an abstract academic matter. They have significant consequences for cross-Strait relations. A Taiwan that cannot agree on these issues is a Taiwan that is in a weaker position visà-vis the PRC.Skipping over his remarkably bass-akwards construction of ethnic and civic nationalism, Bush has been making this point about Taiwan's lack of internal consensus for a while (for example). This point is often made, but it is never made concretely. For example, Bush has never identified what would count as "consensus" or explained how such a "consensus" would help Taiwan concretely.
Indeed, does Bush really want Taiwan to internally resolve the issue of whether it is a territory or a state? Fact is, Washington analysts like Bush would be buying ulcer medicine by the case if Taiwan ever actually came to a consensus and formally resolved the issue of whether it is a territory or a state. Because everyone who has ever lived here for twenty minutes knows which outcome the Taiwanese would prefer. The actual consensus on that issue -- do nothing, hope we can muddle through somehow -- is what keeps Washington happy.
Ironically Bush already named some of the elements of the Taiwan consensus in another piece of his, a response to Bob Sutter he co-wrote with Alan Romberg (here with my responses). The actual, real consensus in Taiwan rests on the bedrock of Taiwan's democracy and is quite clear. So is the consensus about dealing with China -- everyone wants the economic benefits, nobody wants political talks. And nobody wants to pay to clean up the mess.
Further, it is hard to see how this alleged lack of consensus makes Taiwan any weaker than it already is in talks with China. Taiwan's problems are caused by China's rampant military buildup and growing economic might. There is little Taiwan can do about that. This situation is compounded by the fact that Washington has burned trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives over the last decade making central Asia and the Middle East safe for Chinese investment and expansion, instead of having its eye on the ball in Asia and investing in its people at home.
The truth is that Taiwan's divisions over China mirror the Beltway's own schizophrenic behavior -- it formally defines Taiwan's status as undecided but breaks out in hives if the I-word is mentioned. It lauds democracy, human rights, rule of law, and social consensus, but then supports the KMT, the party that benefits the most from ruling a divided society with a rough, imperfect democracy. It worries about China's growing power and influence, yet trades with it, transfers new technologies to China, trains its engineers and technologists, and invites its state-run economy to play in capitalist markets. Even Washington's China experts and punditocracy fill the airwaves with China commentary and advice to the government, while quietly doing lucrative consulting deals with Beijing. In fact, it seems to me that the real division and lack of consensus lies in Washington, and that as soon as the Beltway starts providing real leadership on Asia and displays a consistent, forward-looking, and concrete policy attitude on China, Taiwan will respond.
REF: Bush once wondered aloud why China continued with the military build up since Ma was playing ball. Washington amazes me sometimes.
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