Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lien Chan’s ‘Great Chinese Nation’

As if it wasn’t enough that the leader of an authoritarian regime would congratulate an increasingly all-powerful and undemocratic Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) over his “election” as chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the KMT’s honorary chairman, Lien Chan (連戰), was yet again home — that is, in Beijing — cavorting with his namesake and insulting the democratic spirit cultivated by Taiwanese over the decades.

Mutual trust based on opposition to “Taiwan independence” and adherence to the so-called “1992 consensus” was the driving force for progress in relations between China and Taiwan, National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin (賈慶林) said while meeting Lien on Monday.

The development of relations between China and Taiwan, Jia said, need a “solid cultural hold” besides an economic basis. (Translation: Gradual annexation cannot only occur via economic integration, but also through cultural assimilation.)

For his part, Lien said the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should advance the relations in all fields while enhancing economic and cultural exchanges, adding that they (i.e., the KMT and the CCP) should work to help people in China and Taiwan strengthen their sense of identity to the Chinese nation, Chinese culture and history.

“I believe history sides with the revival of the Chinese nation,” said Lien, the same twice-failed presidential candidate who, just as Beijing enacted its “Anti-Secession Law” “legalizing” use of force against Taiwan in March 2005, was being wined and dined in Beijing. (Revival is a word we have been hearing quite a bit in recent days; though it is hard at this point to know exactly what its users mean by it, the term has worrying undertones of nationalism.)

Lien, who in the wake of the devastating 921 Earthquake in central Taiwan almost 10 years ago could not mask his aloofness toward ordinary Taiwanese during a visit near the epicenter, never represented Taiwanese. He is part of a conservative clique within the KMT that represents the interests of the 15 percent of Mainlanders who comprise the population of Taiwan (and even among them, only those who support unification), and the 1.3 billion Chinese. His comments on Monday were not only a denial of Taiwanese identity as separate from the “Chinese nation,” but paralleled increasing signs that Taiwan is on the brink of experiencing “identicide” — a concept advanced by my friend Sarah Jane Meharg in Canada, which consists of the willful erosion by a particular group (usually the dominant one) of the symbols of another group’s identity, including language, cultural icons, sense of place, landmarks and so on.

With news of increasing cooperation between Taiwan and China on TV productions and in the news industry, added to Chinese investment in newspapers in Taiwan, discriminatory ECFA cartoons and talks of finding a common denominator between the traditional Chinese used in Taiwan and the simplified form used in China — as I’ve argued, a “dumbing down” of traditional Chinese — there is ample evidence that Taiwanese culture is under assault and that this will only intensify. For the 85 percent or so of Taiwanese in Taiwan, “strengthening their sense of identity to the Chinese nation” can only mean one thing: the abandonment of who they are.

Lien, still an influential figure within the KMT and, despite his unelected status, in relations across the strait, has no problem with that.

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