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Oct 8, 2008

Thoughts on the TI movement

You know, one of the legacies over the last two decades years of Taiwanese rule was the sort of soft collapse of the Taiwanese Independence movement as such. Most of the institutions are still there (WUFI, the Taiwan Independence Party (建國黨), etc). These groups originally called for terminating the ROC and its constitution and declaring independence.

But after A-bian's election and the end of the KMT's monopoly on governance, the TIer groups weakened considerably. Founding members of the TIP resigned en masse. Most groups started to argue along lines of DPP dogma which claimed Taiwan was already independent and need not even change the country name, even while promoting a new constitution.

And during Chen's term the KMT largely was forced to accept this sort of reasoning. Even when the KMT was refusing to say "one side, one country," they were forced to associate the ROC with Taiwan alone and abandon talk of unification, rarely mentioning "One China" but preferring just "92 consensus." Current VP Vincent Siew even reneged on his own wording of a "One China market" during the campaign, threatening the DPP with a lawsuit if they kept talking about it, despite the fact that Siew himself used the phrase in his own book.

I think that if Ma is able to move any of these "one country, two regions" issues beyond rhetoric, to institutionalize them further, then we're going to see a resurgence of the TI movement. I think he's already gone farther in rhetoric than most people will passively accept, especially given the poor governance. And I think Chen Yunlin will see that on his visit. China will be watching closely.

And this is exactly why a backfire may hurt the KMT's aspirations: as Ma moves to further institutionalize this "one country, two regions" formula in future agreements with China, TIers will gain strength, the DPP will gain strength, and China will back off from signing anything serious for fear of a DPP victory. Because a DPP victory could leave certain benefits in place while giving the chance for the DPP to reject or reinterpret other provisions of agreements.

So I am starting to think Ma won't get his peace treaty this term. China will want to see the KMT win at least twice in a row, probably three times, and see a tamed DPP, before they'll give the KMT that ultimate sweetener. And Ma may not be lucky enough to get two terms.

1 comment:

Carlos said...

It was a similar story in Spain (very similar - both had a generalissimo ruling in very similar ways and dying in 1975). During the dictatorship, the Basque separatist group ETA enjoyed quite a bit of popular support not only within the Basque region, but also in the rest of Spain. For the most part, non-Basque Spanish believed in a united Spain, but there was a lot of sympathy due to the way Franco treated regions with their own languages and cultures.

After Spain democratized, the rest of Spain - and many within the Basque region too - believed that the new situation was good enough and they should be happy with it. Equal rights really calms people down, makes them less willing to take risks for potential gains that are mostly symbolic. So in Taiwan, it's no surprise that people are okay with being part of the ROC so long as it's democratic and mostly free.

It also explains why older Taiwanese feel closer ties to Japan. The Japanese occupation followed the exact same pattern as the ROC's: 20 years of brutal repression and bitterness, 30 years of slow liberalization and improved relations due to economic advances, and 10 years of quite advanced liberalization leading up to near-equality (I think with a month to go in the war, Japan elevated Taiwan to full Japanese status). So if you grew up near the end of the Japanese period, you got the good end of that cycle plus the bad end of the ROC's cycle. The young people now are just as accepting of the ROC. Not much we can do about it, 60 years seems to be what it takes to conquer a country. Let's just hope the cycle doesn't repeat itself under the PRC.