Collective Silence Among Taiwan Independence Elders
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 28, 2016
Executive Summary: The DPP, and in particular Taiwan independence elders, have a better understanding of the trilateral relationship between the United States, Mainland China, and Taiwan than the masses. Naturally they have a better understanding of the impossibility of Taiwan independence. They know they cannot achieve it. The reason has nothing to do with ideals, and everything to do with personal power and special interests. They have no objection to sacrificing Taiwan's future and cross-Strait peace for their own selfish interests. Fortunately, we have entered an era of great change. Many black swans have appeared. The global picture is changing. This has revealed much of this hypocrisy for what it is.
Full Text Below:
President Tsai has been in office for a while now. The blue camp is very unhappy with her. Even the green camp has blasted her relentlessly. Of course the latter have entirely different reasons for their discontent. They have no desire to replace her. They are merely unhappy with her policy of "maintaining the status quo". That is not what they want. More importantly, Ms. Tsai has appointed large numbers of bureaucrats, many of whom hail from the blue camp, or are “Mainlanders”. This has angered Taiwan independence elders, who denounce them as “Old Blue Males”. Put simply, the Tsai Ying-wen government is insufficiently committed to the cause of Taiwan independence for their tastes.
Paradoxically however, President Tsai successfully phoned US President-elect Donald Trump. Trump later issued a series of challenges to the US government's one China policy. Logically speaking, Taiwan independence elements should be dancing with joy. But they were unusually low-keyed. In fact, news of the the "Tsai Trump phone call" provoked intense debate. Many assumed that the incoming Republican government would change China policy and provide Taiwan with new opportunities. But this enthusiasm quickly evaporated. Taiwan independence elder Wu Li-pei may have told reporters he didn't mind being America's pawn. But others remained silent.
What accounts for this strange phenomenon? The explanation is simple. Many have warned that if Taiwan is reduced to a bargaining chip between the United States and the Mainland, or a pawn in the United States' attempt to “contain” the Mainland, the first victim will be Taiwan. Republican government policy toward China has conistently started hard but ended soft, started hostile but ended friendly. More importantly, Trump is a businessman. He is likely to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip in order reach a deal with the Mainland, and win concessions or cooperation from the Mainland on other issues. Most people on Taiwan have noticed that Trump himself came right out and said as much on Twitter.
Today's Taiwan independence movement has a distinguishing characteristic. It is led by people knowledgeable about the United States, and chummy with the United States. These people differ from earlier Taiwan independence advocates, who were Japanese imperial subjects. Today the most influential Taiwan independence elders are those who have studied and worked in the United States. They had successful careers in the United States. They also have many political contacts. They have studied the United States' cross-Strait policy in-depth. They have a clear understanding of the one China policy. Therefore, when Trump issued a series of reckless statements, they were keenly aware of the dangers.
When Obama came out and reiterated the US government's long held stance on the Taiwan issue, these Taiwan indepdence elders did not make a peep. They knew these developments would have a serious impact on their pursuit of Taiwan independence. They knew that the United States' cross-Strait position includes maintaining the status quo, strategic ambiguity, and even open opposition to Taiwan independence. It also includes ensuring Taiwan's autonomy. This autonomy enables Taiwan's autonomy to pass for sovereignty, and to defy the Mainland's goal of reunification. Trump's approach has shattered the tacit understanding underlying the triangular relationship between the United States, Mainland China, and Taiwan. It as forced Obama to stand up and eliminate the ambiguity. This is not good for Taiwan, which has benefited from strategic ambiguity. Taiwan independence elders understand this paradoxical situation better than anyone.
President Tsai has a similar understanding. Following the Tsai Trump phone call, she exercised considerable restraint. She urged DPP legislators to cool their rhetoric, and not exaggerate the significance of the phone call. She was aware of the possible consequences, especially the reaction from the Mainland. She knew the United States would lose the benefit of strategic ambiguity. From this perspective, President Tsai and Taiwan independence elders understand each other perfectly.
If that is the case, why are Taiwan independence elders so unhappy with the Tsai administration? Why are they openly criticizing her? Since President Tsai was elected, a series of events have left them frustrated. Taiwan independence elders assumed that as long as they remained steadfast in their support for Taiwan independence and the DPP, they would be on the receiving end of government patronage. But lo and behold, President Tsai's concern for continuity of government, led her to rehire so-called "Old Blue Males". This of course, undermined the Taiwan independence elders' interests, and led to inevitable discord.
But isn't this the way it has always been with the DPP? The DPP has used Taiwan independence. It has incited internal conflict over reunification vs. independence. It has used so-called “ethnic” opposition to win votes. Every time an election has rolled around it has done so without fail. It simply cannot hold itself back. But when the KMT echoes its claims, or even raises the ante, the DPP shows its true colors. The DPP has flip-flopped repeatedly on amending the “referendum law". This parallels the Taiwan independence elders' ambivalence in the face of Trump's words and deeds.
In other words, the DPP, and in particular Taiwan independence elders, have a better understanding of the trilateral relationship between the United States, Mainland China, and Taiwan than the masses. Naturally they have a better understanding of the impossibility of Taiwan independence. They know they cannot achieve it. The reason has nothing to do with ideals, and everything to do with personal power and special interests. They have no objection to sacrificing Taiwan's future and cross-Strait peace for their own selfish interests. Fortunately, we have entered an era of great change. Many black swans have appeared. The global picture is changing. This has revealed much of this hypocrisy for what it is.