Lorand Laskai writes in The Diplomat from Tainan on the KMT's de-Taiwanization policy and the history textbook revisions.
The potential hazards of a hostile occupation—Taiwanese protesters dying under PLA fire, freedom fighters waging guerrilla campaigns from house to house, and the international backlash that these images would set off—would very likely restrain Beijing from moving its threats beyond words. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) derided the foreign adventurism that landed the U.S. in Iraq, gleefully denoting the event as a milestone on America’s decline. It is unlikely to risk its own quagmire, especially while development and stability at home remains fragile.The effect of this identity is correct, which is, as Laskai points out below, one of the reasons the KMT is trying to suppress it. Beijing will have massive problems taking over a democratic Taiwan with an independent identity, and one of Ma's tasks to pave the way for the takeover was suppressing both. But interestingly, the Taiwan identity has incorporated not only an independent settler identity, but also, Taiwan's democracy, into its idea of Taiwaneseness. Voting is something akin to a sacred rite of that identity. This means that attempts to suppress democracy will attack that identity in ways that make it defensive.
A strong Taiwanese identity thus allows the country’s leadership to call China’s bluff. It is an electoral leaven—an insurance policy, if you will—against China’s inevitable military and economic dominance, one that will also strengthen Taiwan’s hand at the bargaining table. Political scientist Robert Putnam famously argued states involved in international negotiations play a “two-level game,” whereby they must simultaneously negotiate with international partners and domestic constituencies. Here democratically elected leaders have the notable advantage of being able to use domestic constraints to extract international concessions. That is, they can creditably claim at the negotiation table that “their hands are tied”—and have poll data to back it up—helping them win concessions where they otherwise could not. A fickle electorate, like an independent-minded Taiwanese public, thus can yield important benefits.
Even more interestingly, the Taiwanese identity has incorporated KMT symbols such as the flag into itself, yet it rejects the ROC's bizarre territorial claims. This means that whenever the KMT waves the ROC flag, the locals see a Taiwan flag, and flag-waving reinforces a Taiwan/Taiwanese identity rather than an ROC/Chinese identity. Re-Sinifying the locals -- by which is meant, really, recolonizing them -- promises to be a daunting task, especially since the party that is the standard bearer of the Taiwan identity, the DPP, has the institutional presence in the counties and municipalities to meaningfully resist such re-colonization of the locals.
Beijing must be very frustrated with the KMT, which has no doubt promised the moon to get its support. One wonders when the backlash from the CCP for the KMT's failures will begin.
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