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Jul 2, 2011

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

You may be familiar with the opening line of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a famous novel from the late Yuan-early Ming period. As Wikipedia translates it,
The world under heaven, after a long period of division, will be united; after a long period of union, will be divided.  話說天下大勢,分久必合,合久必分。
A heavy sentence like that carries a lot of weight when applied to the Taiwan situation, especially as Taiwan and China are undeniably in dis-union, regardless of how one views sovereignty issues.

And as you also might imagine, the metaphor might come to seem prophetic if you switch up the opening phrase to "after a long period of unity, will be divided; after a long period of division, will be united." And that's exactly what President Ma Ying-jeou said June 28th when attending a ceremony conferring promotions of higher-level ROC military officers. Of all possible places.

The context of this remark is even more baffling to me:

他表示,中國歷史上分分合合,合久必分、分久必合,但不論那一次分?那一次合?都靠戰爭解決;這次是第一次用和平解決爭端,這是中華民族、炎黃子孫的創舉,大家應該要有這個勇氣,把這段歷史寫好。 [President Ma] said that Chinese history was full of both division and unity; after a long period of unity it must divide, and after a long period of division it must be united. But when to divide? When to unite? Both had always been decided by war. Yet this time is the first time that peaceful methods have been used, a pioneering effort of the Zhonghua Minzu and the decedents of the Yellow Emperor. Everyone should have courage and make sure this section of history is written well [A-gu: aka, a peaceful union comes to fruition].

I find this a remarkably strong statement of the KMT's aspirations to realize unification. That degree of directness is not at all typical: remember how the President did a 180 after his 'ultimate unification' (終極統一) remark back in 2007ish, and how the KMT constantly accused the Greens of "smearing" Ma when they trotted out his own words? Or how the KMT threatened to sue DPP politicians for harping on the "One China Market" (一中市場) philosophy of Vincent Siew?  So I was just stunned to see this remark at all, much less this close to the election, much less at a military ceremony at a time where Ma's administration  spends much media time defending their commitment to the country's defense.

But I was completely beside myself to find that while newspapers had picked it up, the remark wasn't making the sort of waves I would have expected. I mean, this is GOLDEN material for DPP election ads. What am I missing here?