Backtalk! Dying for Taiwan Independence

I received a number of responses to my article, "Dying for Taiwan Independence." I have divided them into two categories: those that were soundly reasoned, and those that were not. Notice I did not divide them into "those that agreed with me, and those that did not." Agreement is always welcome, but a willingness to debate an issue on the merits is even more important. One reader who disagreed with me demonstrated such a willingness: I must disagree… You are absolutely right when you state that most "Taiwanese" individuals consider themselves Chinese, and that the same holds for most university students in Taiwan. However, just because one considers oneself to be Chinese, due to language, culture, history, etc., that does not meant that one agrees that government by Beijing is the best option. Students in Taiwan can oppose an invasion… by Beijing and STILL consider themselves Chinese. Considering oneself Chinese is not a free pass to bending over to whatever Beijing does, anymore than considering oneself an American is a free pass to accepting everything Washington DC does. At the end of the day, those who would fight, I believe, would fight for freedom, a just fight if there ever was any. Just as I would have supported the South were I alive during the Civil War, and just as I support secession in almost all locations around the globe, I believe any "reunification" of Taiwan with the mainland would be oppressive and against the freedom and property of the people of Taiwan, be they Taiwanese or Chinese.

My response was that I understand your concerns, but they would not be concerns at all if Taiwan independence zealots would stop forcing the issue. Even George "Whatever it takes" Bush knows that Chen Shui-bian, whom he now refers to as "that SOB," is the real troublemaker in the Taiwan Straits.

The US major media usually gets the Taiwan issue exactly wrong. Newsweek, which mindlessly canonized the dictatorial and corrupt Lee Teng-hui as "Mr. Democracy," is among the worst offenders. Occasionally however, they get it right. As TIME magazine’s "2005 TIME 100" list of the 100 most influential people in the world today notes, Chen Shui-bian is the real threat to cross-straits peace and stability.

The reality is the mainland authorities have no desire whatsoever to use military force against Taiwan. They have no desire whatsoever to "deprive Chinese on Taiwan of their freedom." The whole Taiwan independence issue is one giant Excedrin headache for them. They have their hands full solving serious economic problems on the mainland. Their plate is full. The last thing they need is to be distracted by trouble on Taiwan.

All they really want is the island to remain under a loose umbrella of "One China." This "One China" doesn’t even have to be the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Beijing is perfectly okay with the 1992 Consensus, in which both sides agreed that:

"There is only one indivisible China. This China includes both Taiwan and the mainland. Beijing will refer to this China as the People’s Republic of China. Taipei will refer to this China as the Republic of China. As long as Taipei doesn’t move toward independence, Beijing will not take any military action."

Beijing can live with this. All they want is for Taiwan not to become a foreign country. All they want is Taiwan not to become a nominally "independent" nation that is in fact a military forward base for Japanese and US imperialists and a link in a strategic ring of containment along China’s eastern seaboard. Beijing is willing to tolerate de facto independence as long as a future German-style peaceful reunification can be reasonably assured.

Beijing truly does not want to occupy Taiwan. They don’t need the hassle of being responsible for it. Especially now that Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian have run the Taiwan economy into the ground. If Beijing were forced to assume responsibility for Taiwan’s future now, they would inherit this mess and be unfairly blamed if they couldn’t pull Taiwan out of its economic doldrums any time soon.

But if Taiwan independence zealots force their hand, they will act.

Western sympathizers of the Taiwan independence movement need to get something through their heads. Republic of China citizens on Taiwan are not under the protection of their current pro independence government. They are its hostages. ROC citizens on Taiwan forced to endure the unelected Chen Shui-bian regime are akin to Frenchmen forced to endure the Vichy France regime, or Norwegians forced to endure the Vidkun Quisling regime. They are abductees bound and gagged in the trunk of a vehicle. Anyone who hands the kidnapper the keys and a full tank of gas is hardly doing the abductees any favors.

Anyone genuinely concerned about ordinary citizens on Taiwan must not aid and abet Taiwan’s Quisling leadership. They must instead adopt a Taiwan policy long advocated by this author and bluntly articulated by Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute:

Neither the earlier pro-Taiwan policy nor the latest pro-Beijing posture [advocated by George W. Bush] serves the best interests of the United States. It is not America’s proper role to take a position on Taiwan’s independence or other issues involving relations between Taipei and Beijing… U.S. leaders should make it clear that Taiwan must bear all of the risks entailed in whatever policies it adopts. In particular, Washington should state that it will not intervene if an armed conflict breaks out between Taiwan and mainland China.

A second reader faulted for featuring an article that "opposed the right of secession."

Nothing could be further from the truth. For the record, I don’t oppose the right of secession. As a "market anarchist" I eagerly await the day when any individual who owns a piece of land within any nation is able to declare political independence and stop paying taxes to any government that would claim him as its property.

What I oppose is the discriminatory, cynical, selective application of the right of secession as a strategic weapon in the "Great Game" of nations. A number of governments have censured mainland China for its recent Anti-Secession Law. How many of them permit secession themselves? Specifically, how many of them permit the radical and consistent form of secession I mentioned? How about none?

Secession is either a right for everyone, or a right for no one. It can’t be a right for some and not a right for others. Supporters of Taiwan independence, Tibetan independence, and Xinjiang independence demand secession for themselves, but deny secession to others. Have you ever heard a supporter of Taiwan, Tibetan, or Xinjiang independence insist that others also have the right to secede from Taiwan, Tibet, or Xinjiang? You haven’t, and you won’t. By denying the right of secession to others, they forfeit the right of secession for themselves.

See: Independence for Me but not for Thee

A third reader attempted to bypass genuine debate by suggesting that my arguments could be dismissed because of my family background! Gee, I guess that explains why Red Diaper Baby David Horowitz is a rabid, foam-at-the-mouth conservative hawk. The reader also asserted, in ignorance of the facts, that the universities polled reflected Pan Blue views. In fact as everyone who lives on the island knows, the law schools, medical schools, and humanities departments of northern Taiwan universities such as National Taiwan University in Taipei, the demographic heart of the Pan Blue camp, have for decades been mass-producing Taiwan independence radicals like Model Ts off Henry Ford’s assembly lines.

A fourth reader attempted the tired old "straw man" approach, implying that I was a closet advocate of racist Apartheid! He insisted that I was the Taiwan counterpart of a racist white Afrikaner, while "native Taiwanese" so-called, were the counterparts of South African blacks. I really did a double-take on that one. After all, if I advocated racist Apartheid, wouldn’t I be demanding separatism, not integration? Why would I be championing reunification under the roof of One China, on the premise that "Everyone is a fellow countryman, regardless of race, creed, or color?" One really has to wonder how some peoples’ minds operate.

As I read some of the responses to my article, I realized to my dismay how little many Americans know about Taiwan’s situation. They don’t understand the critical distinction between "Taiwan" and the "ROC." They think that "Taiwan" = "ROC." They don’t understand the historical events that led to the current situation, and they don’t understand the operant forces, namely:

The Kuomintang (KMT) and its Pan Blue allies, the New Party (NP) and People First Party (PFP) The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its Pan Green ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU)

The KMT and CCP both want to reunify, not now, but eventually. The DPP is a pro-Japan Johnny Come Lately force that is taking advantage of the prolonged Cold War standoff between the KMT and CCP to create a non-Chinese, anti-Chinese, pro-Japan "Republic of Taiwan." The DPP attempted to transmute the KMT’s ideologically motivated opposition to communism into an ethnically motivated hatred of their mainland compatriots, and to create an artificially concocted "ethnic Taiwanese" political identity. For years this movement gained strength. This year however, the political winds on Taiwan suddenly and dramatically reversed direction.

See: The Beginning of the End

For anyone interested in a deeper understanding of the historical background, two articles do an excellent job of connecting the dots. One comes from Linda Chao and Ramon H. Myers at the right of center Hoover Institution, the other from Henry CK Liu, a left-leaning contributor to the Asia Times.

See: The Divided China Problem: Conflict Avoidance and Resolution, by Linda Chao, Ramon H. Myers and US-China: Quest for Peace, by Henry C K Liu.

April 13, 2005

Bevin Chu [send him mail] is an American architect of Chinese descent registered to practice in Texas. Currently living and working in Taiwan, Chu is the son of a retired high-ranking diplomat with the ROC (Taiwan) government. His column, “The Strait Scoop” is published on his website, The China Desk.