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Taiwan Independence, R.I.P.
January 21, 2001
Executive Summary: Taiwan independence is dead. It died, stillborn. Taiwan independence was the triumph of politics over economics. That is, until the iron laws of The Marketplace turned Taiwan independence zealots' pipe dream to dust. In retrospect, no other result was possible, or should have been expected.
Taiwan Independence is Dead
A funny thing happened to Taiwan independence. It died stillborn, and never saw the light of day.
On May 20, 2000, oriental despot Lee Teng-hui, in a brazenly fixed "democratic" election, "peacefully transferred" his imperial presidency to longtime Taiwan independence demagogue Chen Shui-bian.
See: The Strait Scoop "Taiwan's Fraudulent Election"
By October 2000, five short months after Chen's "historic" victory at the polls, Taiwan independence had been utterly discredited. A-Bian's administration was adrift and rudderless. The public was dumbfounded and disillusioned. Anyone not wearing ideological blinders could see Taiwan independence was a bankrupt ideology and a spent political force.
The TAIEX had plummeted to 5000 from a 52 week high of 11,000, for an entirely different set of reasons than the NASDAQ, leaving Taiwan's shareholders, mostly small, individual investors, poorer by half. A quarter of all manufacturing facilities on Taiwan had closed their doors forever, or were in the process of doing so. Laid off factory workers were committing suicide by running hoses from their exhaust pipes into their cars. Those too poor even to own cars were hanging themselves from the rafters. A-Bian's approval rating had plunged from a high of 80% upon his inauguration to a low of 35%. Voters who had cast their ballots for Chen were calling in to local TV talk shows to confess they regretted their choice.
Billionaire industrialist Wang Yung-ching, CEO of Formosa Plastics, a "native" Taiwanese Horatio Alger revered by millions as "The God of Enterprise," was demanding that A-Bian immediately acknowledge the "One China Principle" and open "Three Links" to the Chinese mainland ASAP, or else Taiwan's economy would be done for within three years. "We're all Chinese on both sides of the Strait after all," Wang affirmed, "what's the problem?" "The Lee Period was not as good as the Chiang Ching-kuo Era," Wang added for good measure, "and the Chen Period is even worse than the Lee Period."
Academia Sinica Chairman and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Lee Yuan-tseh, head of A-Bian's own hand-picked Brain Trust, was sternly admonishing Chen, "Time is not on our side," echoing the New Party's long-held cross Straits policy stance, and sounding remarkably like a pro reunification opposition spokesman.
A surprisingly cohesive alliance consisting of the ROC's three major opposition parties, the Kuomintang (without Lee Teng-hui at the helm, naturally), the New Party, and the People First Party, all solidly pro reunification and representing 61% of the voting public, was loudly demanding Chen Shui-bian's recall.
Former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh wryly noted that "It took Lee Teng-hui twelve years to divide the KMT into three [rival parties, the KMT, NP, and PFP], but Chen Shui-bian only five months to unite them back into one." Shih, along with former DPP Chairman Hsu Hsing-liang and former DPP PR chief Sissy Chen, three of the DPP's brightest lights, had resigned from the party in disgust, repudiated Taiwan independence ideology and become the movement's harshest and most effective critics.
Even the Dalai Lama had gotten in the act, and was cautioning Chen that in light of Taiwan's close cultural and economic affinity with mainland China, it was unimaginable that the island could be separated from mainland China and become fully independent. Say what you will about His Holiness, he's a lot quicker on the uptake than his counterparts on Taiwan.
Who could have imagined the tide would turn so quickly?
The Triumph of Politics over Economics
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"
-- George Santayana
What happened was the great American historian George Santayana was vindicated, again, for the umpteenth time. The lesson of history it would seem, is nobody ever learns a damned thing from history. The underlying cause of the Taiwan independence movement's astonishingly swift collapse, at its apparent moment of triumph, was in fact glaringly obvious, at least to anyone not blinded by his own political zealotry.
"It was the economy, stupid!"
The trump card for Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo in their Cold War era struggle against Mao Tse-tung, just as it was for West Germany and South Korea, was the ROC's capitalist economy. It was the free market ROC's reward for putting economics ahead of politics. As Deng Xiaoping, "Capitalist Roader No. Two" would later put it, "White cat, black cat. As long as it catches rats it's a good cat." The mainland's grinding poverty was Maoist hard-liners' bitter harvest for putting politics ahead of economics. As the late Chairman Mao himself put it, "Better Red than Expert."
Putting politics ahead of economics would also be the reason for Taiwan's alarmingly swift economic decline under petty tribalists Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian.
A Brush-Off for Business, Chen needs to rebuild confidence -- fast
Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian and the Taiwan separatist nomenklatura have never really understood how the vast wealth that fell into their laps was created in the first place. To nomenklatura everywhere, immense public wealth is like the air around them. "It's free. It's ours. And hey, there's plenty more where that came from!" The late Senator Dirksen satirized the nomenklatura mindset with his immortal quip, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're getting into real money."
Stupifyingly naive Newsweek correspondents' assertions to the contrary, "Mr. Democracy's" most enduring "legacy" was to squander in a single decade what ROC taxpayers had diligently amassed over the previous four. Lee cavalierly frittered away the ROC's economic advantage greasing the palms of tin pot dictators, foreign arms merchants, and rabid anti-China hawks in The World's Greatest Deliberative Body. All in a extravagant and quixotic effort to lay the groundwork for a "Republic of Taiwan." Lee Teng-hui's "checkbook diplomacy," in tandem with his "Avoid Haste, Be Patient" cross straits policy eventually hollowed out the ROC economy.
Does Lee, who does not consider himself Chinese but rather Japanese, give a damn? Hardly. If nullifying the ROC's hard won economic miracle was the price of manipulating Taiwan Chinese into hating mainland Chinese, to the strategic advantage of unrepentant Japanese expansionists, so be it. The only people Lee has ever identified with are the Japanese. Not peace loving Japanese individuals of conscience, such as Professor Saburo Ienaga, candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, but war criminal Hirohito and neofascist Shintaro Ishihara.
As New Party legislator Fung Hu-hsiang astutely observed, to understand Lee Teng-hui's perspective on any issue, simply imagine how a right wing Japanese militarist would see the same issue, and you will have your answer. The irony of course is that Lee's "Taiwan independence now, Taiwan independence forever, to hell with the cost" policy left his own hand-picked successor without the means to carry on his holy crusade. Lee's Taiwan independence chickens have come home to roost in Chen's coop.
Chen's dilemma can be stated quite simply.
If on the one hand, 23 million living, breathing human beings on Taiwan are to survive, let alone prosper, A-Bian must boldly sweep aside his predecessor's artifical barriers standing in the way of economic, social, and yes, political reintegration with the Chinese mainland.
If on the other hand, the constipated, small-minded, petty insular ideology of Taiwan independence is to survive, A-Bian must not only keep Lee Teng-hui's barriers in place, he must erect even higher ones, committing economic suicide. Taiwan will then devolve into an impoverished island backwater unable to afford the cost of political independence.
A-Bian has arrived at a fork in the road. Both roads lead to One China. Take one and arrive before dusk, warm, dry and refreshed. Take the other and arrive at the same destination after midnight, cold, wet and exhausted. The route is optional; the destination is not.
One almost feels sorry for A-Bian. Almost.
The Racist Roots of Taiwan Independence
Taiwan independence ideologues neglected the ROC economy, because its devotees among the left of center DPP and TAIP have never really believed their own high-minded rhetoric about why they were demanding independence. As A-Bian's post-election behavior makes clear, "freedom and democracy" were expendable. And if you expect a party named the "Democratic Progressive Party" to rush to defend sovereign individuals' right to own private property and engage in free trade, think again.
See: The Strait Scoop "Freedom and Democracy Disappear in Taiwan"
Instead Taiwan independence was animated at its core by anti-Chinese race hatred and the Stockholm Syndrome. Many Taiwan independence extremists within the DPP and TAIP are in fact ethnic Japanese. Like exiled White Russian aristocrats following the Bolshevik Revolution, these Japanese colonial overlords deeply resented the loss of their privileged, exalted status. They never came to terms with Japan's humiliating surrender to the Chinese, whom they held in contempt as racially inferior. Rather than be repatriated to Japan, they remained on Taiwan as fifth columnists and struggled to sabotage Taiwan's restoration to China.
Together with "Japan-ized," "Stockholm Syndrome-ized" Taiwan independence Quislings, they provoked the infamous 2-28 Incident of 1947, massacring thousands of defenseless Chinese, including women and children. Some even donned their mothballed Imperial Japanese Army uniforms and samurai swords. The Taiwan independence zealots' primary targets were "mainland" Chinese, but "native" Taiwanese caught sheltering the zealots' intended victims were hacked to death with samurai swords as casually as the rest.
See: The Strait Scoop "Taiwan Independence and the 2-28 Incident"
Other Taiwan independence extremists are the illegitimate offspring of unfortunate Taiwan Chinese women sexually molested by Japanese soldiers during Japan's brutal 50 year colonial occupation. Like Adolph Hitler, who suspected he was part Jewish, but despised that aspect of his background, some have attempted to cope with their painful inner conflict by identifying exclusively with their Japanese component and utterly disowning their Chinese component. They loath anything and everything Chinese, because being Chinese is associated in their tortured psyches with contemptible weakness and impotence. They strive desperately to be "more Japanese than the Japanese" because being Japanese is associated with a comforting sense of efficacy and power.
Lee Teng-hui is widely believed to be just such an individual. A family portrait of the Lee family reveals an adolescent Lee Teng-hui who bears no resemblance whatsoever to his nominal father, Lee Ching-lung, but an uncanny resemblance to the Japanese police officer standing in the background, the elder Lee's superior officer and "friend of the Lee family."
See: The Strait Scoop "Taiwan Independence and the Stockholm Syndrome"
I have refrained in the past from discussing these skeletons in the Taiwan independence closet because merely mentioning them could easily be mischaracterized as racist provocation. In fact the racism is not mine, but theirs.
Just north of Korea's China border, a visitor to the region will encounter 2 million Chinese citizens of ethnic Korean descent. They fled to China during the chaos of the Korean War. They are considered every bit as "Chinese" as so-called "Han" Chinese.
In Japan on the other hand, even ethnic Koreans who have lived in Japan for four generations are still considered "sangokujin" or "dangerous aliens" by Japanese demagogues such as neofascist Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, a close friend of Taiwan independence Quislings Lee Teng-hui and Annette Lu.
Dr. Wendy Abraham of the Sino-Judaic Institute of Menlo Park, California recounts a fascinating but obscure tale of Jewish traders who traveled to ancient China on the Silk Road, as early as the Tang dynasty. China was the only nation in the world, Dr. Abraham avers, which never singled out the Jewish people for scapegoating on the basis of their heritage. Descendants of Kaifeng Jews in China today still identify themselves as "Yutai," i.e., "Judaic," on government census forms.
Lost Jews of Kaifeng. Click on History
There is only One Race
"There is only one race, the human race."
-- Pearl Bailey
China is a political entity with a venerable unifying cultural heritage, but the Chinese are not a race. The Chinese couldn't be racists demanding "racial purity," even if they wanted to be. The Chinese have been mutts or mongrels of mixed, indeterminate origin since time immemorial. Both Beijing and Taipei agree that China is comprised of roughly 56 "official" ethnic groups. Both are also aware the lines between these "official" categories are so blurred as to be virtually meaningless. .
Even so-called "Hans" are not a homogeneous ethnic group. What was once referred to as "Han China" has been invaded so many times over so many centuries, quite frankly nobody knows who's who anymore, or cares. Confront any modern Chinese with this aspect of China's history and their puzzled reaction will invariably be, "That's interesting isn't it? Why do you mention it?"
This incidentally, is among the "reasons" pre WWII Japanese strategic thinkers considered Chinese to be genetically inferior. Chinese were sheep whom nature intended to be sheared, therefore undeserving of mercy. Such reasoning culminated in the Rape of Nanking and Japanese Imperial Army Unit 731's Joseph Mengele style "medical experiments" performed on live victims.
The Other Holocaust: Nanjing Massacre, Unit 731, Unit 100, Unit 516
Human beings are simply human beings. Leading edge research on human DNA has confirmed what most unprejudiced individuals already knew. Inheritable differences attributed to "race," are of insufficient magnitude to constitute distinct subspecies. As far as geneticists and molecular biologists are concerned, race is a non-category, a fiction.
"Today, many anthropologists speak of clines, or gradations, to distinguish between degrees of genetic closeness that include differences in skin color, propensity toward diseases, and all the other factors-visible and hidden-that make us what we are. Geneticists speak of lineages, or haplotypes, when they describe the different subgroups that have descended from our common ancestors. The old distinctions between what were once called races persist in everyday speech, but they are becoming linguistically and ideologically obsolete and as far removed from science as the once exalted study of alchemy."
-- Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles and Marilyn Nissenson
A History Lesson
Taiwan independence Quislings routinely assert that Taiwan's economic miracle was "built on a foundation of efficient Japanese colonial rule" and owes little or nothing to mainland China, or even "mainlanders" on Taiwan. Those familiar with China's history know this to be a textbook example of The Big Lie. While smugly proclaiming total independence from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan separatist spinmeisters have consistently evaded at least three inconvenient realities.
One, Chinese Sweat. A mainland Chinese administration masterminded the Taiwan region's post war economic miracle.
Two, Chinese Money. Taiwan's gold reserves came straight out of the vaults of China's Central Bank in Nanking.
Three, Chinese Blood. The Taiwan region was spared an eternity of Japanese colonial over lordship, as well as Mao's collectivist excesses by pro capitalist mainland Chinese who refused to yield to either.
A mainland Chinese administration masterminded the Taiwan region's post war economic miracle.
The vaunted "Japanese infrastructure" Taiwan independence zealots invoke so routinely and wistfully, including manufacturing plants and the rail system, was leveled to the ground during the final years of WWII by USAF B-29s. Reduced to rubble. Blown to smithereens. Gone. No longer existed.
So how could it have contributed anything whatsoever to Taiwan's subsequent prosperity?
It couldn't. It didn't.
In fact Taiwan's modern infrastructure and heavy industrial facilities were constructed from the ground up on the rubble of WWII, during the administrations of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo.
Chiang Kai-shek's administration parceled out public land administered by the ousted Japanese colonial government to impoverished Taiwan Chinese peasants, to be used for agriculture, or to Taiwan Chinese entrepreneurs, to be used as factory sites for basic industries. Even occupation era landlords, who if truth be told were Japanese collaborators, were generously compensated with shares in the newly established companies. Both peasants and former landlords prospered. Lee Teng-hui crony Ku Chen-fu's family was compensated with shares in Taiwan Cement. Ku today is a billionaire.
Taiwan's gold reserves came straight out of the vaults of China's Central Bank in Nanking.
When the Japanese were defeated and forced to retreat to Japan's main islands, the Bank of Taiwan was bankrupt. Japan's samurai fascists had squandered all of Japan's wealth on their megalomaniac campaign of hemispheric conquest, and had emptied Taiwan's coffers in the process. The Taiwan dollar in 1945 was worth roughly as much as Confederate money in 1865. In other words, it wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. No one in his right mind would accept Taiwan dollars, because they were fiat currency backed by nothing, nada.
Taiwan as a result had no way to rebuild.
In 1949, when Mao's CCP defeated the KMT, Chiang Kai-shek emptied out the vaults of China's Central Bank in Nanking, and shipped her entire gold reserves, 920,000 liangs worth, to Taipei. This gold was deposited in the vaults of the Bank of Taiwan and used to back the New Taiwan Dollar, making possible Taiwan's economic recovery and subsequent economic miracle. In the process vast expanses of China's mainland provinces and regions were impoverished for the benefit of one tiny offshore province, Taiwan.
Does the province of Taiwan really have no connection with rest of China?
The Taiwan region was spared an eternity of Japanese colonial over lordship, as well as Mao's collectivist excesses by mainland Chinese who refused to yield to either.
During the early years of Japanese occupation, valiant Taiwan Chinese engaged in armed resistance against Japan's army of occupation. Tragically, their undermanned, ill equipped ranks were annihilated by Japan's vastly superior forces. This patriotic Chinese resistance movement is sometimes referred to as "Taiwan independence." Their heroic late 19th century anti-colonialist movement must not be confused with Lee Teng-hui and Annette Lu's post WWII nostalgia for Japanese colonial rule, for reasons which should be obvious.
Instead Taiwan was emancipated from an eternity of demeaning Japanese colonial rule in 1945 only through the sacrifices of millions of fellow Chinese on the mainland. The price they paid was staggering. An estimated 1.3 to 2.2 million Chinese military dead. An estimated 13 to 22 million Chinese civilian dead. Taiwan today is out from under the Japanese yoke only because millions of mainland Chinese sacrificed their lives resisting Japan's infernal war machine for eight hellish years.
The vast majority of ordinary Taiwan Chinese who kept a low profile, obeyed the Japanese occupation forces under duress, at the points of Japanese bayonets, are innocent and blameless. Most Taiwan Chinese were for all intents and purposes kidnap victims rescued from their Japanese abductors by their mainland Chinese relatives.
Taiwan's "comfort women" in particular, like the 300,000 victims of the Rape of Nanking, were fellow victims of brutal Japanese aggression. Mainland Chinese and "mainlanders" on Taiwan feel enormous sympathy and a deep sense of solidarity with them.
Taiwan's Quisling elite on the other hand, not only made it more difficult for mainland Chinese to defeat Japan and liberate Taiwan, they made it more difficult for any Taiwan Chinese who dared contemplate overthrowing their Japanese overlords from within Taiwan.
Similarly, the Taiwan region of China was spared Mao's crackpot Marxist Leninist misrule only because Chiang Kai-shek transferred China's national capital from Nanking and carried on his anti communist resistance from Taipei. Had Chiang and his Nationalist Party leadership lost heart and sought political asylum abroad, as they could easily have done, Mao would have overrun Taiwan in a matter of weeks, perhaps days.
The sacrifices of Nationalist Chinese troops spared all Chinese on Taiwan, "native" and "mainlander" alike from Mao's Three Antis, Five Antis "struggle campaigns" chillingly depicted in "Farewell, My Concubine." From Mao's People's Communes, which tore infants from their mothers, from Mao's Great Leap Forward, which reduced millions to eating grass and tree bark before dying of starvation. From Mao's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which deprived an entire generation of Chinese youth of sound educations and promising careers.
Craven cowardice and rank ingratitude have a name. That name is Taiwan Independence.
What A-Bian Should Do
Chen Shui-bian should immediately agree to the "One China Principle." He should not acquiesce to it as if it amounted to an admission of defeat, but insist on it as a matter of principle. He should seize the initiative by calling for a truly historic summit with Jiang Zemin, to discuss in earnest and in detail how and when China should be reunified.
Chen should then exploit to the hilt his authority as president of the Republic of China, to demand even greater liberalization on the Chinese mainland, just as Kim Dae Jung, whom A-Bian claims to admire, has used his authority as president of the Republic of Korea to promote the liberalization of northern Korea.
In what has to be the ultimate irony, Chen Shu-bian is the sole political leader on the entire planet who has every right to lecture Jiang Zemin about "human rights, democracy, freedom of the press and freedom of religion" in China, whereas Leaders of the Free World William Jefferson Clinton and George Dubya Bush have no right whatsoever.
Here is why.
The ROC government in Taipei, according to the ROC Constitution Chen Shui-bian has solemnly sworn to uphold, is the sole legitimate government of China, including the Chinese mainland. This means ironically, that the separatist DPP, by succeeding the KMT as the ruling party of the ROC, also assumed a legal obligation to contest the CCP's rule in Beijing.
The Republic of China government was founded in 1911. The Peoples' Republic of China government was founded in 1949. The ROC government has seniority. The PRC government from the ROC perspective is a Johnny Come Lately, a pretender to the throne.
The ROC government, as arguably the more legitimate government of China, has the moral and legal obligation to promote the General Welfare of her citizens, not merely 23 million on Taiwan, but 1.3 billion on the mainland and 6 million in Hongkong to boot. Any criticisms A-Bian might direct against Beijing, providing he acknowledges the "One China Principle," would fall under the category of domestic policy debate between rival Chinese political leaders.
To demand Chinese reunification is not only NOT "surrendering to tyranny," it is an act of moral courage. It is seizing the moral high ground. To demand Taiwan independence on the other hand, is an abdication of moral responsibility. A Nobel Peace Prize and a place in history as a visionary peacemaker, alongside Willy Brandt and Kim Dae Jung await Chen. But only if he has the guts to defy separatist hate-mongers within his own party, and to seize this "dangerous opportunity."
Taiwan independence fundamentalists' attitude alas, can be summed up as, "We don't give a damn about 1.3 billion fellow citizens on the mainland. They're nothing to us. We'd rather go back to being a nominally independent puppet of an abusive former colonial oppressor, and pretend to be Japanese." Not even bona fide, first class Japanese, but ersatz, second class Japanese."
Now that is moral cowardice. That is surrender to tyranny.
Taiwan Independence, R.I.P.
Taiwan independence, in retrospect, was doomed from the moment of its conception. Only the timing of the Taiwan independence movement's sudden demise was unexpected, and caught everyone from Taiwan independence zealots to Chinese patriots off guard. Its collapse was as unexpected as the fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1989. Yet given the larger geo-economic forces arrayed against both, it was every bit as inevitable.
International Trade and National Security
Taiwan independence is dead. It simply doesn't know it yet. Like the Bruce Willis character in M. Night Shyamalan's metaphysical thriller, "The Sixth Sense," the specter of Taiwan independence walks the earth, unaware it is no longer among the living. When comprehension finally dawns, the wedding ring will fall to the floor, and Taiwan independence True Believers will awaken to the shocking truth.
Taiwan Independence, Rest in Peace.
It will not be missed.