Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, November 24, 2006

China and the United Nations 

Met a young lady at the English corner today. I said, "What's your English name?" She said, "Linda, but you can call me 'Fish.' Fish is freedom."

For some reason, I am getting a lot of questions about Taiwan lately. Here in China, people seem to be convinced that America wants to interfere with the relationship between Taiwan and the mainland because of their desire to control Taiwan. I reminded them that the Americans have always supported the "one China" policy, because Chiang Kai-shek insisted on it then just as much as the mainland does now, and because the American association with Taiwan was always predicated on the assumption that Taiwan represented China.

How could a country like Taiwan go from being a member of the UN Security Council to being a small island nation that no one recognizes? The answer, of course, is simple. Taiwan was never a member of the Security Council. That would be ridiculous. The Republic of China on Taiwan was a member of the Security Council. People today say that China has been in the United Nations since the early seventies, after Nixon's trip to China. In fact, China has always been a member of the United Nations. And China has always been a member of the Security Council. Taiwan was a member of the United Nations and the Security Council as China, never as Taiwan.

So what to do about this contradiction? Chen Shui-bian (current president) would, of course, advocate that Taiwan become independent. But that's because he is a Taiwanese native. If you ever talk to a diehard Taiwanese native, they don't speak disparagingly about "the Communists." They talk about "the Mainlanders," an epitaph that refers to everyone who came from the Mainland after 1949, most of whom were anything but Communist. When I was a kid, Taiwan was referred to as "free China." While that name was reasonable as a distinction from the mainland government, especially given the events at that time, it would never have been honest to refer to Taiwan as "free Taiwan." The Taiwanese natives certainly didn't view it as freedom. Their island was taken over by the mainlanders (1949) in a very bloody invasion, and the government they set up, while pro-American, was not the least bit democratic.

So what is it that motivated the KMT to voluntarily give up Martial Law and become a democratic nation? Credit for that goes to Lee Teng-hui, who was a member of the KMT, but was actually a Taiwanese native. I guess I should go back one step, and give credit to Chiang Ching-kuo (son of Chiang Kai-shek), because he did seem to be moving toward democratic government before he died, and because he named Lee as his successor instead of naming someone from his family, thus ending the family political dynasty. But it was Lee who implemented the change. He offered elderly KMT law makers huge retirement honoraries, because of their meritorious service (bought them off, in other words), and once those guys were out of the way, he completely democratized the government. In the next election, Chen Shui-bian's party won because of a split in the KMT. Taiwan was now ruled by the natives, who constituted some 70 per cent of the population.

But the future direction is not independence. In a recent article in the Far East Economic Review, Ma Ying-jiu (current mayor of Taipei and KMT chief), who will probably be the next leader of Taiwan, outlined the approach he would use to this issue. He said he would not advocate independence, and he would not support reunification. He would propose following the status quo for the foreseeable future. Although the Beijing government will not support this approach enthusiastically, they will probably be relieved by this change. But Ma Ying-jiu will be a thorn in Beijing's side, too, because he always attends the Tiananmen memorials, and because he was a vocal critic of the anti-secession law, in contrast to his party, which was silent on the issue. He is having some trouble right now because of a scandal in his office. I personally think he will survive, because there is no evidence of embezzlement, just of lazy accounting, but his opponents will certainly try to use it against him, so only time will tell.

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