Thursday, June 28, 2007

Taiwan and the art of the irrational

Proponents of Taiwanese sovereignty have placed such high hopes on the law that they have begun to sound like the old woman who complains to the police that the burglars should not have broken into her house because break-and-entry and robbery are against the law. Not a single week passes by that the newspaper doesn’t receive at least one op-ed about some document, signed fifty years ago, showing that China has no legal right over Taiwan. The Cairo Declaration (“Communique”) of 1943, signed by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt (seen left, at the Cairo Conference), for example, or the Peace Treaty signed by Japan, are often the object of scrutiny by academics, as a close reading clearly shows that, despite Beijing’s claims, they never intended for Taiwan to be handed back to the People’s Republic of China.

Right though the authors may be, the problem is that theirs is a futile battle, and slash wildly as they might, their sword keeps slicing air, as the enemy chose long ago not to fight that battle.

Even though Beijing has, at times, also resorted to the “legal” aspects of its claim over Taiwan by, for example, including the opinion of so-called “experts” in state-controlled publications, it ultimately pays little attention to the law and no amount of legally based argumentation on Taipei’s part will persuade it to abandon what it sees as its own.

In an article published today in the Taipei Times, I argue that if Taiwan is to prevail in its quest to obtain recognition from the community of nations, it must focus more on the irrational. In other words, to sell itself, what it and any entity striving to achieve a similar goal must bring to light is not so much dusty legal documents that no one can dispute as arguments that appeal to the imagination.

Readers can access the article, titled Taiwan and the art of the imagination, by clicking here.

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