The China Desk
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Taiwan Independence, Objection Sustained
Originally posted at Chinese Community Forum (CCF)
January 20, 1999
You think you are Chinese, or not, born that way? Think about it again. Whether Mongolian Chinese and Tibetan Chinese are Chinese, you may argue with Luo Ning. But, some Taiwan Chinese or Minnan Chinese have been trying to be not Chinese. What's in Taiwan indepedence? Bevin Chu tells you what he foresees.
-- CCF Editors
Diehard Taiwan independence activists have recently stepped up pressure for a national referendum on Taiwan independence. They have cited a wide range of untenable legal arguments to justify their shrill demands. International and constitutional law experts have rebutted these elsewhere, so I will not belabor them here.
Above all they have claimed that their cause is nothing less than the natural expression of the Will of the People and therefore occupies the moral high ground.
The gist of their argument is that the inhabitants of any given geographical region on the earth have the incontrovertible right to self-rule, specifically to establish their own national governments. How, they protest, can any enlightened person who professes respect for human rights and democracy argue with this obvious truth?
Confronted with this sort of rhetoric, some defenders of Chinese national unity have fallen silent.
This is a mistake.
The fact is the Taiwan secessionists have never fully considered the logical implications of their simplistic pro-independence rationale. Their case is far shakier than it might initially seem.
Taiwan secessionists would draw a boundary line through the territory of an existing nation, China, defining the territory to be unilaterally declared independent, the offshore island of Taiwan.
Taiwan secessionists would call for a "national referendum," not a referendum open to the nation, but one in which citizens outside their arbitrarily drawn boundary would be prohibited from participating.
Having secured their independence, Taiwan secessionists would compel any unwilling minority within the boundary which voted against independence to accept the pro-independence outcome, by force if necessary.
Consider the following hypothetical string of events.
One: Beijing finds itself temporarily distracted by a crisis in Xinjiang or Xizhang. Taiwan independence elements seize the opportunity to establish a "Republic of Taiwan."
Two: Loyalist elements in northern Taiwan counter the Taiwan independence move by holding an identical "national referendum," open only to those inside a new boundary line they have drawn up around metropolitan Taipei, where opposition to Taiwan independence is most heavily concentrated.
Three: They successfully establish a loyalist "Chinese Republic," an unhappy minority of pro-Taiwan independence voters inside this new "Chinese Republic" is outvoted.
Four: Elements of the Hakka minority and the Nine Aboriginal Tribes, formerly content to be part of a tolerant, multicultural China, are now wary of a Minnan-dominated "Republic of Taiwan." Each establishes its own nation, carving up this offshore island of China into ten more "sovereign republics."
Five: Initially triumphant but now stymied Taiwan independence plotters, having finally realized their cherished "Taiwan Dream" after four decades of scheming, have two ways to respond.
Response A: They recognize the right of the eleven new republics to do exactly what they themselves just did. They sit by and watch idly as their newly founded "Republic of Taiwan" breaks apart before their very eyes.
Response B: They invade Taipei to prevent "splittism," Beijing's term for separatism. They do exactly what they condemn Beijing for threatening to do if Taiwan declares independence, resort to military force to preserve national unity.
What do they do?
No one familiar with the mindset of militant DPP and TAIP secessionists can have any illusions about what their response would be. It is not as if they haven't made their unalloyed fanaticism perfectly clear in public debates on Taiwan television talk shows. It should be clear now that Taiwan independence advocates have no right to complain when Beijing adopts the very same policies they would if the unity of a "Republic of Taiwan" were threatened by secessionist movements.
Not one of the modern world's large nations permits portions of their country to secede unilaterally in this manner.
Quebec independence, for example, requires the unanimous consent of Canada's other provinces.
The United States, possibly still the freest nation in the world, certainly has no right to object to Beijing's explicit intention to invade if Taiwan declares independence. It chose to prosecute an appallingly bloody civil war rather than permit the Confederacy to secede. China did not then dispatch warships to America's Atlantic coast to side with the Confederacy.
As recently as last year federal law enforcement agents besieged and captured a tiny band of Texans for plotting Texas independence. Refusing to relinquish the military option of nipping independence movements in the bud is hardly a policy exclusive to Beijing.
Thoughtful defenders of liberty must resist the temptation to assume that any and all independence movements are necessarily "freedom fighters." As one Cold War joke wryly noted, a freedom fighter is "someone who fights freedom."
Defenders of China's national unity need offer no apologies for opposing Taiwan independence, a petty tribalist secession movement motivated by ethnic bigotry. Taiwan independence rhetoric collapses under close scrutiny.