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Saturday, June 3, 2000

Taiwan's struggle for survival

Enduring at the edge of China

Also: Chen's Taiwanese pride was
emphatic in inaugural

By Richard Halloran
Special to the Star-Bulletin


TAIPEI -- The new president of the Republic of China on Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, has devised a comprehensive strategy intended to maintain his island's separation from the People's Republic of China while averting a war with Beijing.

The main element of this walk on a razor's edge is a vigorous effort to enhance a sense of identity among the people of Taiwan, especially in revising education to emphasize Taiwanese history and culture.

President Chen will stress the progress of democracy in Taiwan and the conversion of Taiwan's economy into a "green silicon island." He further seeks to extend Taiwan's diplomatic reach and military power.

Chen, who was inaugurated on May 20, has not articulated his strategy in public and is not likely to do so as he tries to avoid provoking Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province. An outline of the strategy can be discerned, however, in a book Chen wrote last year, in his subtly defiant inaugural address, and in conversations with close advisers and political analysts in Taipei.

The strategy, according to analysts, is intended to counter a campaign of psychological warfare calculated to browbeat Taiwan into submission with military threats, political pressure, diplomatic isolation, economic disruption, subversion and propaganda.

"China has had more than 2000 years of experience with psychological warfare," said Ni Lexiong, a senior fellow at the Institute of National Defense in Shanghai during a visit to Hawaii. "The People's Liberation Army has recently brought that up to date."

At the moment, Beijing seems to be vacillating in its attacks on Taipei, one day sending belligerent messages via the official press, the next day a softer message through officials speaking in public. Many observers believe China's thrust will not be decided until Chinese political and military leaders hold their annual meeting in the seaside resort of Beidaihe in August.

PARADOXICALLY, danger will arise if Chen's strategy is successful. That will most likely frustrate leaders in Beijing and may cause them to launch a military attack on Taiwan. That will probably bring the U.S. and possibly Japan and South Korea into the fray. The U.S. is committed to a peaceful resolution of the dispute between Taiwan and China; Japan is committed, under new defense guidelines, to assist the U.S. in such hostilities; and South Korea is the station of 37,000 U.S. troops.

"Taiwan does not sail on smooth seas," Chen wrote in his book, "Son of Taiwan." "Taiwan cannot afford to be quixotic concerning any opponent, nor can we let them dictate our position. Rather, we must anticipate all their possible reactions and formulate strategic countermeasures."

The critical component is to expand the Taiwanese sense of identity that has flowered in recent years. That was evident in Chen's inaugural ceremonies when almost all of the music, dancers, and special guests were Taiwanese rather than Chinese and the national anthem was sung by a popular singer, A Mei, who is an aborigine.

In his address, Chen drew a distinction between Taiwanese and Chinese cultures and applauded grassroots organizations "working to explore and preserve the history, culture, geography and ecology of their localities." He urged his compatriots to "create a new milieu of a cultural Taiwan in a modern century."

Members of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party said to watch for conspicuous changes in Taiwan's educational system. They said students would be taught more Taiwanese and less Chinese history and more about Taiwan's traditions, art and literature.

Over the past decade, Taiwanese scholars and writers have begun to flourish; before, they were repressed by the Nationalist government dominated by Chinese who fled the mainland.

Parris Chang, a member of the national legislature, said in an interview, "The polls show that more and more people now think of themselves as Taiwanese or as Taiwanese and Chinese. The new administration will put that into education and textbooks. Children have got to be taught more about Taiwanese history, that they are not just a part of China."

Chen's defiance of China came in the title of his address, "Taiwan stands up," and in repeating that theme three times in the text.

THE phrase echoed China's Communist leader, Mao Zedong, who told a political conference in Beijing on Sept. 21, 1949, "Ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and humiliation. We have stood up." Then, on Oct. 1, 1949, Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China from atop Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, saying: "The Chinese people have stood up."

In an effort to win more international recognition, Chen plans to expand on the flexible diplomacy of former President Lee Teng-hui.

Priority will be given to asserting that Taiwan has become democratic, with three direct elections in the past four years in which 76 to 83 percent of the eligible voters turned out.

Taiwan also has accomplished the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. In his address, Chen gave former President Lee "our highest praise and heartfelt honor for his promotion of democratic reforms."

Economically, Chen does not propose radical changes but to promote leading units in both government and private industry, revive lagging departments, abolish redundancy, and attack those that harm economic development. All this, he says, should lead to sustained progress.

Taiwan has diplomatic relations with only about 30 nations, the rest being conducted by organizations such as the American Institution in Taiwan, an embassy in all but name.

"We will strengthen legislative diplomacy or parliamentary relations," Lee Ying-yuan, a DPP legislator, said in an interview. "You will also see human rights diplomacy, environmental diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, sports diplomacy, and city-to-city diplomacy."

National security, President Chen says in his book, "outranks all other issues in importance." He says, therefore, that "Taiwan must foster the concept of deep-level defense" with augmented reconnaissance, assessments of Chinese military deployments, and intelligence exchange with nations in the region.

Chen seeks to play for time in hopes that China will be less hostile. He will continue to speak calmly to Beijing but will not concede to its demands.

"You can say a lot of nice words," said a seasoned political analyst, "but you don't have to do anything."

Richard Halloran, a former Asia correspondent
for the New York Times, is a freelance writer
based in Honolulu.

Associated Press
Chen Shui-bian has devised a strategy
for Taiwan's endurance.

Chen’s Taiwanese pride
was emphatic in inaugural

By Yoshihisa Amae
Special to the Star-Bulletin


CHEN Shui-bian, the new president of the Republic of China (known internationally as Taiwan), made it clear in his inauguration speech that Taiwan is Taiwan, and China is China.

While the 45-minute-long speech was rather reserved without any outstandingly provocative remarks, a close analysis of the context, with a comparison to that given by former President Lee Teng-hui four years ago, shows that Taiwan has become more "independent" than ever before.

Four years ago, when Lee Teng-hui became the first directly elected president of the Republic of China, he referred to its people as "Chinese," "we in Taiwan" or "the people of the Republic of China."

Chen neither identified his people as Chinese, nor did he use an ambivalent term like "we in Taiwan" in his speech.

Instead, he directly called to the "people of Taiwan" (Tai-wan-ren in Chinese), a term that Lee refrained from using in his speech. Basically, what Lee called "Chinese" or "people of Republic of China" was replaced with "Taiwanese" by the new president. This is a considerable change. For Chen, "Chinese" meant people of mainland China, not the inhabitants of Taiwan.

Chen even minimized the usage of "Republic of China," an official name of the country. In his speech, "Taiwan," which only had a geographic connotation four years ago, was used in referring to the political entity that has been separate from mainland China for more than a century.

Never did Chen mention seeking "national reunification," a goal that Lee promised to pursue in his speech, though he pledged that "the abolition of the National Reunification Council or the National Reunification Guidelines will not be an issue." This suggests Chen's intention is to maintain the status-quo, de facto independence of the island, which is the most favored by the populace.

Instead of highlighting the cultural background that people across the Taiwan Strait share, Chen Shui-bian emphasized the difference in two ways: First, Chen stressed the value of democracy, freedom and human rights which Taiwan and most developed countries enjoy but not China. Phrases like "people are the true master of the country, which no individual or political party can possess" indirectly challenge the authorities in Beijing.

THE very fact that someone like Chen, who is from a poor peasant family and was once a political prisoner, could become a president is a challenge to the communist regime of China, which is intolerant to any political opposition and is mainly controlled by "Taizidang (Princeling's Party)," sons and daughters of one generation of Communist Party leaders.

What seems to be paying a tribute to the Chinese leaders in saying, "Under the leadership of Mr. Deng Xiaoping and Mr. Jiang Zemin, the mainland has created a miracle of economic openness," is nothing but a prelude to praise of Taiwan: "In Taiwan, over a half a century, not only have we created a miracle economy, we have also created the political marvel of democracy."

The biggest slap in the face for Beijing was when Chen used the phrase "Taiwan stands up" three times in the speech as it reminded careful listeners of Mao Zedong's 1949 proclamation atop Tiananmen after the Communists had gained control of China.

Chen also quoted the Chinese philosopher, Mencius: "A government which employs benevolence 'will please those near and appeal to those from afar,' and 'when those afar will not submit, then one must practice kindness and virtue to attract them.' " Chen seems to infer that the Communist government is using the wrong strategy toward Taiwan. During the past two presidential elections, Beijing tried to blackmail the Taiwanese people: first by force, launching missiles near the island of Taiwan in 1996; and second by words, threatening, "If Taiwan independence forces come into power it could trigger a war" in March.

Secondly, Chen used rhetoric such as "child of Taiwan," "Taiwan's new family," "our beloved land," and "Taiwan -- our eternal mother." While Chen acknowledged that "the people across the Taiwan Strait share the same ancestral, cultural and historical background," compared to the above rhetoric, such description is merely a heartless fact.

IT was close to saying that Taiwanese and Chinese are nothing more than "distant relatives," a comment by Vice President Annette Lu in April that infuriated Beijing, making them rebuke her as "scum of the country."

Moreover, Chen used terminology such as "Formosa," "Ketagelan" and "Governor General's Mansion." "Formosa" is a name given by the Portugese in the 16th century, illustrating the beauty of the island of Taiwan, first occupied and governed by the Dutch, not Chinese.

"Ketagelan" is the name of a Taiwanese tribe. It was Chen himself who renamed what was then the Jie Shou Avenue (originally named in celebration of Chiang Kai-shek's longevity) to Ketagelan Boulevard, being the mayor of Taipei from 1994 to 1998. It had symbolized the Taiwanization movement in the '90s along with the naming of a park in commemoration of the tragic massacre of 20,000 Taiwanese by the mainlanders Feb. 28, 1947.

The Governor General's Mansion is a symbol of half-a-century long Japanese colonialism in Taiwan. All these are uniquely Taiwanese, not Chinese, and seem to help Taiwan enhance its image as a community distinct from China.

A poll after the inauguration showed that Chen's address received high confirmation by the people of Taiwan with different party affiliation as well as different preference on the future.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government immediately expressed its dissatisfaction with Chen's speech, charging him with a lack of sincerity.

Chen Shui-bian has fully utilized a rare opportunity in which a small island like Taiwan drew the attention of the whole world. Taiwan has indeed stood up.

Yoshihisa Amae is a doctoral candidate in the
Political Science Department at the University of Hawaii
at Manoa and a degree fellow at the East-West Center.

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