Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Are there any lessons from Catalan Independence for Taiwan?

Politicians in Changhua with no formal sign of what party they belong to.... the woman has included Bopomofu by her name so voters know how to say its rare characters.

Lot of people commenting on this one.... from Brian H at New Bloom, who focuses intelligently on the global politics of referendums:
THOUGH THE the Kurdish referendum seems to be wholly undiscussed in Taiwan whereas the Catalan referendum is hotly discussed, the results of both the Catalan and Kurdish referendums showed that Catalans and Kurds desire independence from Spain and Iraq, with over 90% of Catalan voters voting in favor of independence and preliminary results showing that over 92% of Kurds support independence. As such, the two referendums succeeded in raising the international profile of both the Catalan and Kurdish independence movements. Nevertheless, what is also shared between both is the means by which state actors moved to try and shut down referendums, sought to arrest the political leaders who organized the referendum, and have vowed to use the means necessary in order to prevent would-be independence movements from succeeding. In particular, international attention has focused to a large extent on Catalonia, give the dramatic sight of riot police attacking peaceful civilians, injuring close to 900, even as Catalan firefighters and other individuals have sought to defend voters from assault from assault by police. This has resulted in the present call for a general strike in Catalan.
Brian's observation about the Kurds is spot on. The networks are full of coverage of the Catalan drama. Brian's observations about raising the profile of the Taiwan independence movement via a referendum are good, as is his comment that the US would probably oppose a Taiwan referendum, since its support for Taiwan is rational and limited. From my perspective, any independence referendum would have to take place in an international context when it could get support from both Japan and the US.

It would also have to include a majority of voters. The Catalan vote may have been 90% in favor of independence, but turnout was 42%. That level of turnout would leave the legitimacy of any independence referendum in question.

It would, however, be great to get a vote out there, since if there is anything I am tired of, it is the constant flow of idiot comments about how Taiwanese "don't care about independence" or "there is no evidence of support for independence" etc. Apparently zillions of polls, actual elections, anecdotes, whatever, none of that counts.

J Michael pores over the pragmatics of the Catalan vs Taiwan independence issue -- the whole piece is solid:
Taiwan, meanwhile, is already both a nation and a sovereign state. Unpalatable though the historical burden of its official appellation may be to many, it is nevertheless undeniable that Taiwan — or the Republic of China (ROC) — is and acts as a sovereign state. It has its own elected government, armed forces, currency, passport, has a designated territory, and is able to engage in relations with other states, to sign treaties and to join international institutions. The ongoing quest for self-determination in Taiwan is therefore evolutionary rather than revolutionary; already independent and meeting all the criteria for statehood, Taiwan (the ROC) need not break away or separate from anything in order to achieve the status of country. It should not be surprising, then, that the majority of Taiwanese, regardless of their party preference, do not feel the compulsion to take drastic action, such as holding a referendum, because the current situation already confers the benefits of statehood. Pragmatism, rather than emotion or preferences over nomenclature, is what guides the Taiwanese public on matters of sovereignty. (I would even argue that cleansing Taiwan of the impositions and legacies of the ROC, as members of the deep-green camp have long called for, is an evolutionary and not a revolutionary process.)
Cole also observes that the level of violence deployed against Catalonia is nothing compared to what Taiwan would face.

An additional issue to watch out for in comparisons is that Taiwan is not part of China under international law and in the eyes of many of the Powers. Catalonia is an internationally recognized part of Spain. The comparison can only be pushed so far.

Taiwan might take a cue from the Estonians: instead of treating a referendum as an "independence" vote, some other terminology might be adopted. The Estonians refer to gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 as "Restoration" (explanation). Referendum on "ratification of Taiwan's current independence"?
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Anonymous said...

Wonder if Easton's book will have a Kindle version?

poseidon206 said...

Hi Michael,

Truly inspiration to take Estonia as our example. That is actually historically and politically correct (now that I think about it), we need to restore our former state of independence, because we were only at most colonized by foreign powers (Dutch, Koxinga, Manchurians, Japanese, KMT), we were never part of any of these country's legitimate sovereign soil.

Anonymous said...

Someone post this

to Hacker New and generated some interesting comments:

People are waking up to China's bad behaviour. Even the nerd only site like Hacker News has interest in what China is doing. I think Sentinel.Tw had some big traffic today.

Carlos said...

Despite the differences, there are some commonalities with Catalonia - namely a generalissimo who tried to quash local languages through corporal punishment in school and blacklisting in the workplace before dying in 1975, while infantilizing them by allowing them in limited contexts like puppet shows. You also had an influx of national-language speakers coming in and helping normalize its use, though in Spain it was largely because Catalonia and Euskadi (the Basque Country) were more industralized. Then you have a democratization process that learned to tolerate - but not embrace - the local languages, so some of the bitterness remained. If two Catalan speakers speak Catalan to each other at a bar in Madrid, they might get dirty looks.

Still, the situation's been good enough for long enough in Catalonia that support for independence was probably in the low 40% range (just my gut feeling) until President Rajoy was openly contemptuous enough of the Catalans to push that number up. Doing what the UK did with Scotland - letting them vote, and holding a "we love you, please don't go" campaign probably would've worked very well. But Rajoy couldn't do that, and the new king blew his chance to calm things down in a televised speech. I don't see short-term independence happening, but in the long term it's much closer to being inevitable than it was a month ago. I'd personally be sad about that, but understanding (I'm half Valencian - we speak a dialect of Catalan but don't have their history of self-rule so we generally feel more Spanish).

The former regional president of Catalonia came out and said that Catalonia isn't structurally prepared for independence yet. It sounds like his preferred approach would be to set up all the necessary institutions first, and then declare independence once doing so was a mere formality. That's more like Taiwan's situation (and Scotland's if they had voted to leave, I think).