Last week spokesman extraordinaire J Michael Cole wrote a rather odd piece for the China Policy Institute claiming that Beijing now faces 2 independence camps in Taiwan. The piece blew up a dismissive term used by some Taiwan independence types (=Taidu) for independence types who are willing to accept independence under the ROC label (=Huadu) into a full blown political camp. Ben Goren and I pointed out Cole's error in a follow on piece at CPI.
Although the piece is creative, it posits a false dichotomy based on a misunderstanding of the etymology of the term ‘Huadu’. Although the term has become more popular in recent years, it originated as a dismissive phrase coined by Taidu supporters to refer to other Taiwanese who they see as weak-willed appeasers of the ongoing ROC colonial occupation of Taiwan. Outside of this tiny subset of active citizens who are politically engaged on the issue of Taiwan’s independence, the term Huadu remains largely unknown.Persual of BBS systems where people discuss such things shows that the term remains a mystery even to those might use it; outside of a few young people engaging in discussions on the internet, there is no camp, no ideology, no political demands, no philosophy for the "huadu". It exists as no more than a feeling that it might be ok to be independent under the ROC label, though it is obvious that people who think that way have never thought much about what the means. Some random remarks from users on a BBS:
華獨派除了憲法跟國名外，跟台獨根本一樣啊XDTaidu and Huadu are just labels that are used to divvy up the independence movement into purist and moderate factions, largely for discussion purposes among a few aficionados. Outside of this discussion among Taidu types about other Taidu types, there is no Huadu camp. As Ben and I note in the piece at CPI, if China ever permitted Taiwan to be independent, this "difference" would vanish in a heartbeat.
Huadu faction [note: not "camp"], except for the Constitution and the nation's name, are Taidu
Huadu hopes that over time the opposite side will gradually become a normal country
What we call the nation is not important. Some Taidu people are too narrow-minded
Brian Hoie at New Bloom riffed on Cole's piece to speculate on how the DPP might treat ROC independence. He also observes of Cole's error:
If terms such as “ROC independence” or “Taiwanese independence” are terms commonly used in Taiwanese discourse about unification/independence politics to frame specific political positions, such terms are not used in English. Discussion of political positions about independence/unification politics are framed in different terms in English.This does not mean that at some point in time this discourse might spill outside its current existence on the BBS and become a full blown camp with advocates, a program, an ideological system, and so on. Perhaps Cole was just trying to get the jump on such a process as a couple of people observed: "I saw it first!". But at present, there is nothing like that in the offing, and Beijing contends with the Taiwanese and their democracy, as Cole rightly noted in his piece.
In writing about the use of such terms in Taiwanese discourse about unification/independence politics, one hopes to bridge the sometimes vast gap between Taiwanese political discourse within Taiwan and Anglophone discourse about Taiwan—even if others may arrive at different political conclusions than one’s own. But that leaves open the possibility that individual seeks to appropriate a term from its original meaning in Taiwanese discourse to create a different meaning for it in English, which creates misleading perceptions about political discourse within Taiwan.
ADDED: Jenna responds to Ben and I
Where, however, it seems to me - again in my totally non-scientific observation - that they are wrong is in dismissing it as existing at all simply because it is not an organized or semi-organized political force or a self-identifying label...except, we never denied that such people existed. *sigh* What we denied was that they represented a "camp" that Beijing had to contend with, or that the terms used in a tiny subset of the political discourse could be blown up that way. To wit:
The only evidence of Huadu’s existence surfaces intermittently in polls that ask whether Taiwanese want independence, the status-quo, or annexation. Those polls provide too little information on the identity of respondents to conclude that those who favour the status-quo have a unique and consciously shared political identityTaidu is a real political identity conscious of itself, with an ideology and program. "Huadu" is a term used by Taidu people to describe other Taidu types who are less purist. It's really that simple. Everything else is just blowing the whole discussion out of proportion.
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