Thursday, December 02, 2010

Taiwanese polity not an abstract

Whether it be in Beijing, Washington or Taipei, the elite political discourse oftentimes fails to listen to the voices that will ultimately make or break lasting peace in the Taiwan Strait: the 23 million Taiwanese

One, if not the, principal element that in the long term will hamper sustainable peace in the Taiwan Strait is the tendency of world leaders to edit out the principal stakeholders in the equation — the Taiwanese people.

It goes without saying that the authoritarian regime in Beijing, unreceptive as it is to the political grievances of its own people, would ignore the whims and desires of 23 million people across the Strait. This largely accounts for the behind-the-scene, technocratic approach to cross-strait negotiations that Beijing has taken with President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and helps explain why Ma and his Cabinet have also acted as if the will of the people were more of a nuisance — or at the minimum something to be shaped and controlled — rather than that which, in a democracy, should be driving government policy.

Confucianism and lingering paternalistic tradition, however, only partly explain why the Taiwanese polity appears to have been abstracted from the political calculation in Taipei and Beijing, because other countries with no such ideological baggage often commit the same mistake.

As I argued in a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal Asia, the much-hailed lowering of cross-strait tensions that has occurred since Ma came into office in 2008 will not be sustainable as long as the cost of that rapprochement is the ignoring of the views of Taiwanese on identity and sovereignty.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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