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Apr 18, 2010

A point of Blue thinking

I've been wanting to blog on this topic for months, and thankfully, Michael Turton's latest post gave me just the right opening to present my contention.

Michael's post displays some of the worst paragraphs of a China Post editorial, but the line that caught my attention is this:

It is ludicrous to argue that Ma is planning a sellout of Taiwan. Even if he dreamed of presenting Taiwan to the People's Republic on a silver platter, he couldn't make his dream come true.
This sentiment is quite prominent in blue and light-blue thinking. I've had lots of debates with light-blue, anti-unification voters where I don't even raise the idea of KMT intent to sell out the island. Instead, I try to remind them what the Chinese position on Taiwan's future is. These voters, however, simply dismiss arguments about China's intent, policy or rhetoric. "Of course the CCP is going to say and do those things," they'll argue, "but what difference does it make?"

There is a real lack of concern about the Chinese position, and I find that these light-blues are convinced China simply can't force Taiwan's hand. This is why I think they dismiss the China policy/intention part of the equation, and instead believe that Taiwan can engage economically or culturally with China under almost any set of conditions with no threat of being forced into political capitulation. They figure the Taiwanese electorate just wouldn't let unification happen, and China can't force it.

Meanwhile, I find that the deep blue voters -- those with deep ideological bonds to the KMT or institutions it has created -- equally dismiss Chinese intentions for Taiwan's future, but I think they do this for entirely different reasons. First, many of these voters once deeply believed anti-Communist rhetoric from the old days. They believed the KMT line about a constant threat of invasion facing Taiwan, which justified martial law and lack of political freedoms. When Taiwan democratized and these anti-Communist arguments disintegrated, I think these deep blues just came to believe China was never and will never be the threat the old KMT guard made it out to be. And given their receptiveness to some eventual (if distant and mutually agreeable) unification, they see the "closer economic ties" as a great thing as well. Further, I think they see the Chinese "good will" rhetoric as genuine, and they accept that only DPP style "Taiwanese independence" would cause China to try and force unification.

Over all, however, I've always felt that the KMT's success in promoting its China policy depends on not factoring in China's arguments and intentions for Taiwan's future. And that seems foolish and short-sighted, at best. What surprises me is how many blue voters of different stripes are willing to ignore China's role in this equation, as well.

But what do you think?


dennis said...

i think too many voters unestimate the effect of leverage over taiwan china can gain through various non-military means. these people have not waken up to 21st century and still thinks that they are safe as long as not a missile is fires. frankly it's sad and angers me as taiwan is too my country and i cant count on them to protect it.

Anonymous said...

This is an extremely good point. I found this to be true as well, but did not fully comprehend its importance. More people should know about this naivety. Many people in Taiwan underestimate what Chinese government can and willing to do to push for annexation IMO.

It is funny how frustrating it is to convince the light blue people to take CCP SERIOUSLY, given all the things the CCP has done and said. But then again no one really took Hitler serious until it's too late.

The main problem for the DPP and pan Green then becomes how to inform these boneheads to be more cautious in their risk assessment....

Islander said...

Well said, A-gu. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

I think it's just a shame that millions of Taiwanese aren't blessed with the tremendous analytical abilities that have given you such a crystal clear view of "Chinese intentions" towards Taiwan.

阿牛 said...

There's agreement on the Chinese intentions -- to annex the island. The disagreement is on how relevant that is.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and you state pan-Blues are willingly ignoring "China's intentions and arguments".

Uh, no.

Although you seem dismissive of their world-view... the vast majority of pan-Blues are able to comprehend Chinese as well as you, and many even have IQs reaching 100. And they understand the PRC's "intentions" of eventually annexing or reunifying Taiwan into a single Chinese nation, but believe that such a move will only occur on Taiwan's terms.

And they believe this not because they're misguided, confused, or formerly brain-washed. It's not because they're misled as to the size of Beijing's missiles... it's because they recognize the obvious fact that Beijing doesn't NEED to use force. Beijing is on a trajectory to achieve it's goals without ever firing a bullet.

The fantasy of formal Taiwanese independence is an aborted fetus... barring the eruption of WW3, it's a hopeless cause.

Robert R. said...

"And they believe this not because they're misguided, confused, or formerly brain-washed. It's not because they're misled as to the size of Beijing's missiles... it's because they recognize the obvious fact that Beijing doesn't NEED to use force. Beijing is on a trajectory to achieve it's goals without ever firing a bullet."

But nowhere in A-gu's post does he mention military force.

However, if the Blues recognized that Beijing can achieve it's goals without firing a bullet, then why are they trying to enable that achievement through policies such as ECFA?

D said...

"They figure the Taiwanese electorate just wouldn't let unification happen, and China can't force it."

There's so much speculation involved here, given the fact that no one can predict the future, or even produce really legitimate reasons for following specific paths of action in the present. That notwithstanding, I think there is _some_ reason behind the thinking illustrated in the above quote. To begin with, the ROC isn't going to just disappear. If you read PRC propaganda (including some of its transformations in western media), it leads you to believe that Taiwan would just "unite" with China, at the snap of one's fingers. But there are significant hurdles to actually _legally_ dissolving the ROC, and they aren't going to disappear (Unless the PRC wishes to dissolve itself into the ROC??). I don't see the citizens of the ROC voting to dissolve themselves under any circumstances. Do you?

This brings us to the PRC's "force", and their motives. As for the latter, one recurrent dissatisfaction I have with many "green" opinion pieces is that they greatly simplify PRC intentions. Yes, the PRC's stated intention is to regain Taiwan. But that does not mean, despite all the missiles and the threats, that they're willing to do anything to achieve that. There are other considerations. Like the price of oil, for instance. Taiwan would be happier if the US (and Japan) would simply and outright guarantee their de facto independence, but even without that formal guarantee, the chance remains high (I would say very very high, although I know a lot of people are more cynical about this) that the US would intervene in a PRC-Taiwan conflict. This certainly plays into the PRC's strategic thinking, no matter what they say. A conflict could (I'm not saying _would_) ignite an East Asian conflict, and that would not be to the PRC advantage at all.

That leaves the softer forms of force, which I assume is what people are more worried about. That Taiwan's economy would be so bound to the mainlands that resistance would be futile. To this, I say: let's see what ECFA actually says, and perhaps see what ECFA actually does. There are always elections coming up, so there is always a chance to change course. I don't believe Ma is going to be able to do anything (even if he is willing, and I'm not so sure about that, even if everyone I read paints him as the devil incarnate) to set Taiwan on some irreversible course towards union with the PRC.

Anonymous said...

@last anon: so, who do you think WILL control Taiwan in the middle or longterm if annexation happens? The Taiwanese? In which fantasy world do you have to live in to prefer to be ruled by a bunch of old sacks sitting in Beijing, when you can have an elected government?

Gilman Grundy said...

Could it possibly be because the closer economic and cultural links that the KMT supports do nothing concrete to further unification? That KMT supporters believe that the sovereignty of the ROC is not any more threatened with the ECFA than it is without?

You seem to be offering a caricature of pro-blue views as being ignorant or self-deceiving for not seeing the relevance of mainland pro-unification policies in closer cultural/economic ties without actually explaining the process by which closer economic and cultural links are supposed to be parleyed into forced unification.

It is not enough to oppose such links because you do not trust mainland motives if they are of long-term benefit to the Taiwanese people. The old one about 'economic blackmail' makes no sense, at least not given the way that mainland China is already Taiwan's biggest trade partner and target for investment by far, and became so under a pan-green president.

阿牛 said...


I think a main point you bring up is the same point I'm trying to drive home -- that the blue evaluation is ambivalent to closer ties, seeing little danger. There's less emphasis on Chinese ability to leverage other ties to force unification.

I think theories on how other ties can lead to greater Chinese leverage for unification efforts is a well covered topic, and I did not cover them in the post. Perhaps another day.