Saturday, June 13, 2009

China advertises itself

It’s been a good past 30 days for Taiwanese independence. First, on May 18, Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) — with media in Geneva present — was administered a strong dose of anger by Taiwanese over the government’s participation at the World Health Assembly meeting under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

Though the outburst humiliated Yeh, it also showed the world that a large proportion of Taiwanese are not satisfied with the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s opaque and dangerously rushed dialogue with Beijing. With daily headlines in foreign media describing the situation in the Taiwan Strait as one of unhampered rapprochement and closer ties, people outside Taiwan could be forgiven for believing that all Taiwanese are united behind Ma, that they all support his policies on China. As I have written before, the bumps in the road — and there are many — have largely been ignored, and if it takes incidents such as Yeh’s public humiliation to raise awareness about the substantial opposition that exists in Taiwan, then so be it.

Ironically, it was a Chinese official in Fukuoka, Japan, who put shoulder to the wheel of the Taiwanese independence movement late last month, this time by showing the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s policy on Taiwan.

The principal actors in this little scene are Chinese Consulate-General in Fukuoka Wu Shumin (武樹民) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Department of International Affairs Director Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴, pictured right), with minor roles for US Consulate officials, Fukuoka officials, and representatives from Thailand and Mongolia. The setting: A banquet hosted by the Fukuoka government for international representatives at the Kyushu National Museum.

Sharing a table throughout the banquet, it was only after they exchanged business cards that Wu realized that Hsiao was a member of the pro-independence DPP. Initially taken aback, Wu then said that a recent visit to China by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) — also a DPP member — was a first step in convincing the party to abandon Taiwanese sovereignty. Hsiao is then reported to have said that Chen’s visit would not change the DPP’s stance on independence, at least not until China had removed the 1,400 missiles or so it continues to aim at Taiwan (yes, despite all the cross-strait love we keep reading about in international media).

According to Hsiao’s recollection, Wu then replied with the following: “What would retracting the missiles do? We can hit you even if we pull the missiles all the way back to Beijing. We not only have short-range missiles, we have plenty of mid-range ones, too.”


[The DPP] has done its thing for eight years, but didn’t [former President] Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) end up in jail? What international space? Ma Ying-jeou accepts the ‘One China’ principle, so we give him international space. The DPP wants independence for Taiwan and that is a dead-end road. You [Hsiao] are not even from the academic field, so what are you doing here? The DPP is a futureless party, unless it accepts One China.

Hsiao then did what more Taiwanese should do under such circumstances: She put Wu on the spot, not by reciprocating hatred, not by screaming, but by translating, into English, Wu’s comments for the benefit of the audience.

All is well in the Taiwan Strait? Think again. If the rest of the world won’t believe Ma’s detractors or refuse to at least listen to what the DPP and other pro-independence movements have to say, well, what else can be done but to allow Chinese officials to share their thoughts publicly? This was a brilliant coup, an extemporary one at that. More of the same is needed, which calls for a greater presence of DPP officials at public functions internationally, and highlights the dire need for English language abilities within the party so that such things can be communicated with the audience.

This is what is needed, intelligent, rational exposure of the Chinese threat — not headline-grabbing, though ultimately pointless, antics such as the three DPP Taipei City Councilors who around the same time last month slapped white paint onto a KMT symbol on the East Gate (Jingfu men) in Taipei.

Wu is no aberration; there are more where he came from. Despite what the rest of the world is being told, despite the so-called “peace” in the Taiwan Strait, China remains a bully and will not hesitate to threaten, even when things are going its way. The only reason we have been hearing about “peace” in the Taiwan Strait since Ma came into office a little more than a year ago is that unlike the DPP, his government has allowed itself to be intimidated by China’s saber rattling.

(Ms Hsiao describes, in Chinese, the events above on her own Web site, at


stuart said...

Great read. I think you meant 'intimidated' in that final sentence.

I agree that the DPP needs to demonstrate clearly that Taiwanese people are not about to accept a takeover.

Wu's comment that the DPP is a party with no future is interesting, because the same is true for any party in Taiwan that embraces rule from Beijing. Unless, that is, the CCP accept multi-party elections as a condition of reunification.

Not very likely.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...


Thanks for the note. Demonstrate clearly and rationally on the international stage, I’d add.

Yeah, I meant intimidated; thanks for catching that!