Taiwan: "I know who you are"

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This so-called "Taiwan identity", what is it about? There are people who might think that it is Taiwanese independence. But I think even though Taiwan's international position needs clarification, it isn't necessarily about independence. Rather, "Republic of China's Taiwan" or "Taiwan's Republic of China" is the issue.
(Lee Teng-hui, "Taiwan de zhuzhang")   »[1]

When U.S. president George W. Bush and Taiwan´s special envoy Zhang Zhongmou attended the APEC summit in Hanoi earlier this month, Bush reportedly turned to Zhang and said: "I know who you are." The gesture of acknowledgement was news in Taiwan. »[2]

Zhang isn´t Taiwan's president. His president is not allowed to attend APEC summits. Mainland China and its diplomatic partners practice a one-China policy. Practically, this means that no country can recognise both mainland China and Taiwan as sovereign states. Most governments worldwide, plus the United Nations, have chosen to recognise Peking, not Taipei.

On the other hand, Taiwan is too important economically to be left out at the World Trade Organisation or at APEC. Peking can live with Taiwan´s place in such trade forums as a "Chinese Taipei" delegation, just as Hong Kong is a member of the WTO and APEC, too. But when the topic in Hanoi was international politics, Taiwan was reportedly locked out. »[3]

Does the world know who the Taiwanese are? Most mainland Chinese do not. Their state-controlled media make sure about that. And where censorship alone doesn´t work, nationalist self-censorship usually does. "Taiwan is China´s".
Any other position wouldn´t go down well with mainland Chinese readers, anyway.

The usual picture, painted by China Radio International, Xinhua Newsagency and other mainland Chinese media goes like this:

Taiwan´s oppositional Nationalist Party (KMT) speaks out against alledged "secessionist moves" by some Taiwanese political organisation (or the president)

Taiwanese investors in mainland China speak out against "secessionist moves"....

Taiwanese compatriots visit mainland China to see their relatives, to sweep their ancestors´ tombs, and to shed tears of emotions and love for the motherland.

And so on. Some everyday, unpolitical anecdotes from the island may be OK for the mainland media, too.

Shortwave reception is still very popular in mainland China. You can´t access the internet from every place, and at least officially, you have to register with your ID card, in every internet cafe. Knowing such constraints, Taiwan´s overseas broadcasting service, CBS, still beams much of its shortwave capacity towards the mainland. That´s about as much as an average mainlander can learn about who they are, those cousins on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

It is an old saying by business people that "change comes with rapprochement, and mutual benefit". But when Taiwanese business people talk about Taiwanese-Chinese relations, nobody can be sure that they really speak their minds. And mainland authorities and media can´t always resist the temptation to have them speak - in favour of unification, of course. Peking only wants rapprochement at its own terms - according to a China Daily article, pro-independence investors are not welcome. »[4]

Certainly, this is no way to learn "who they are".

Peking´s relations with Taiwan, and its success in excluding Taiwan from world politics, reflects mainland China´s strength as the bigger economy of the two. But the coercion within these relations reflects Peking´s greatest weakness, just as well. It fails to see things and people as what and who they are. For sure, these policies have done a lot to alienate Taiwanese people - including many of those who aren´t really interested in independence, but still not fond of being pushed around by their big mainland cousins, either.



[1] Lee Teng-hui: Taiwan de zhuzhang (Taiwan's view), p. 54, overseas edition, Taipei R.O.C., 1999
quote ––« suowei "taiwan rentong", daodi shi shenme ne? you ren hui renwei shi taiwan duli. danshi, wo renwei, jishi taiwan de guoji diwei bixu mingquehua, que bu yiding yao ju ni yu "duli", fan er shi jiang "zhonghua minguo taiwan" huozhe shi "taiwan de zhonghua minguo" shizhihua, cai shi dangwu zhi ji. »–– unquote
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[2] Ziyou Feng, CBS Taipei Chinese Service, 06-11-21
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[3] Singtao Daily, European edition, 06-11-18/19, page A14
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[4] China Daily Online, 2004-06-22
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External links about this topic
Direct China–Taiwan travel agreed – but "There is still a long way to go"
BBC News, Jun 13, 2008

John McCain statement on Taiwan presidential elections
Republican Candidates, May 24, 2008

Barack Obama´s letter to Ma Ying-jeou
Realm of JT, May 23, 2008

Ma Ying-jeou: "If elected, I would not talk with the mainland on the issue of unification"
thestandard.com.hk, Feb 25, 2008

Every party caucus within the Legislative Yuan, regardless of size, will hold a veto over party negotiations
Taipei Times, Jan 13, 2008

Taiwan, and the world´s moral nakedness
Haaretz, Nov 06, 2007

Ma Ying-jeou terms status quo as ´one Taiwan, separate definitions´
taiwanheadlines.gov.tw, Aug 07, 2007

What´s in a Binlang?
youtube, Jul 24, 2006

Cross straits trade ten years ago
Eric Valles, Tan Liang An, 1997

Taiwan´s political status

 partly veiled
 Taiwan, partly veiled

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