Foreign relations do not normally fall within the jurisdiction of a local leader, but Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) was plagued with questions on the China problem even while he was still on the campaign trail. Asked to accept the so-called “1992 consensus,” he shot back with a curt: “First tell me what the 1992 consensus is.”
Newspapers say that his basic stance on China is one of “mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual exchanges,” and that “China is a foreign nation, and as a foreign country it should receive all of these, like any other foreign country does.”
However, there are problems with this outlook.
First, is it necessary to “understand” China more than it already is? The Chinese Communist Party governs 1.3 billion people and the world has conducted, or has access to, broad and penetrating research on every aspect of China: its history, culture, society, politics, foreign relations,
economics, education, military and ethnic makeup. Bookshelves around the world creak under the weight of periodicals and publications on China. It would be difficult to seek to know more about the place than has already been scrutinized and written upon.
China is open about its intentions to annex Taiwan and has permeated the nation, gaining a firm grip on classified information. How much room is there for the two nations to understand more about each other?
Second, whenever it has the opportunity, Beijing obstructs, suppresses and embarrasses Taipei. Taiwan is the world’s orphan, the “other woman.” How can talk of “mutual respect” even begin?
Third, there is the issue of “mutual exchanges.” Millions of people move back and forth between the two nations every year. Chinese officials of all ranks, seniority and importance come to Taiwan on “inspection tours” as if they were central government officials touring regions under their jurisdiction. Back and forth they go, while Taiwanese officials fete them, keeping them informed of conditions, making reports and openly speaking of “unification” when talking to the media.
When the pandas were shipped to Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC) flags were taken down from the sides of the roads and tucked away out of sight, as if the two animals would be angered by the sight of the national flags.
Hundreds of Chinese students, all decked out in communist uniforms, strutted the stage of the National Theater, performing their own national dance, but when Taiwanese visit China, they just keep their heads down, afraid to poke them out from the shell into which they have retreated.
Heaven forbid the words “nation,” “president,” “democracy,” “freedom” or “human rights” be uttered — and that is not even to consider broaching the subject of the national anthem and flag. The most senior Taiwanese leaders sing the Chinese national anthem, pandering to authorities there.
Fourth, how can China be treated as if it is just another foreign nation when it has 2,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan from the other side of the Taiwan Strait and it has promulgated its “anti-secession” law as a form of intimidation. The pity is that Taiwan is just too weak to do anything about it.
Otherwise, the nation would be within its rights according to international law to destroy those missiles as part of a legitimate defense.
China is a foreign nation that is manifestly hostile toward Taiwan, so of course it does not deserve to receive the same treatment as other nations.
Ko has only just stepped into his post. He has a lot of things to deal with. He has no need to get embroiled in the bottomless mire that is the China problem. It would be far better for him to act as a detached observer, watching from afar.
Peng Ming-min was an adviser to former president Chen Shui-bian.
Taipei Time 2015-01-08