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May 26

Taiwan’s Ma Yingjiu – A New Era

Written by Buxi on Monday, May 26th, 2008 at 11:21 pm
Filed under:Analysis | Tags:, ,
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This year has so far been confusing and surprising for many Chinese.

We’ve been faced with a number of challenges none of us expected: January snowstorms, Tibet riots, Olympic torch protests, and then the devastating Sichuan earthquake. But surprisingly, one potential flashpoint that many of us have been worried about for a decade seems to be settling down into an orbit that most of us appreciate and support.

I’m speaking, of course, of Taiwan. On May 20th, Ma Yingjiu (a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party) was inaugurated in Taipei as President of the Republic of China.

Taiwan is an issue that thoroughly divides China from much of the rest of the world, at least at first glance (much like Tibet).

Within the Chinese community at large, support for Taiwanese independence is basically non-existent; the most common point of debate isn’t whether we should oppose independence for Taiwan, but whether we should invade today or tomorrow. I know some observers may be skeptical whether this is really the case. I’ll just make a few quick observations, and then leave the rest to be explored in detail in future blog posts.

  • First, the people of Hong Kong also have rather firm ideas on this issue, this despite the existence of an independent media and the legacy of a British-designed education system.
  • Second, even within the Chinese dissident community, the number of people who openly call for independence can be counted on a single hand; even those who consider themselves die-hard enemies of the Communist Party spend most of their time hoping that Taiwan can eventually liberate the mainland.

In the West, attitudes towards the Taiwan issue tends to be pretty one-sided towards the other direction. Taiwan should be recognized as an independent country if that’s what the Taiwanese want to be, and the world should guarantee it’s security from the aggressive Communists on the other side of the strait.

But after more than a decade of provocation and conflict, the situation on both sides of the strait has finally evolved to a point that cross-strait relations seem ready to be set on a new trajectory. For the entire time the Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao administration has been in office, government policy in Beijing has been one of “preventing independence” rather than working actively for reunification. And after 8 lost years as the Taipei government was controlled by independence-diehard Chen Shui-bian, the new administration of Ma Yingjiu and Vincent Xiu is ready to shake hands and return the favor with a similar policy. (And this is not all metaphor: Hu Jintao and Vincent Xiu actually did shake hands a few months ago at the Bo’ao Economic Conference.)

Ma’s inauguration speech was watched with great anticipation by all those interested in this issue, and here’s my translation of the relevant portions of his speech, which is a modified version available here (courtesy of the China Post in Taiwan)

I sincerely hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can seize this historic opportunity to achieve peace and co-prosperity. Under the principle of “no unification, no independence and no use of force,” as Taiwan’s mainstream public opinion holds it, and under the framework of the ROC Constitution, we will maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. In 1992, the two sides reached a consensus on “one China, respective interpretations.” Many rounds of negotiation were then completed, spurring the development of cross-strait relations. I want to reiterate that, based on the “1992 Consensus,” negotiations should resume at the earliest time possible. As proposed in the Boao Forum on April 12 of this year, let’s “face reality, pioneer a new future, shelve controversies and pursue a win-win solution.” This will allow us to strike a balance as each pursues its own interests. The normalization of economic and cultural relations is the first step to a win-win solution. Accordingly, we are ready to resume consultations. It is our expectation that, with the start of direct charter flights on weekends and the arrival of mainland tourists in early July this year, we will launch a new era of cross-strait relations.

We will also enter consultations with mainland China over Taiwan’s international space and a possible cross-strait peace accord. Taiwan doesn’t just want security and prosperity. It wants dignity. Only when Taiwan is no longer being isolated in the international arena can cross-strait relations move continue to progress. We have taken note that Mr. Hu Jintao has recently spoken on cross-strait relations three times: first, in a conversation of March 26 with U.S. President George W. Bush on the “1992 Consensus;” second, in his proposed “four continuations” on April 12 at the Boao Forum; and third, on April 29 when he called for “building mutual trust, shelving controversies, finding commonalities despite differences, and creating together a win-win solution” across the Taiwan Strait. His views are very much in line with our own. Here I would like to call upon the two sides to pursue reconciliation and truce in both cross-strait and international arenas. We should help and respect each other in international organizations and activities. People on both sides . The people of both sides of the strait all belong to the Chinese race (zhonghua minzu), and we should do their utmost to jointly contribute to the international community without engaging in vicious competition and the waste of resources. I deeply believe that by combining the greatness of this world and the wisdom of the Chinese people, Taiwan and the mainland can absolutely find a path towards peace and glory.

In resolving cross-strait issues, what matters is not sovereignty but core values and way of life. We care about the welfare of our 1.3 billion compatriots on mainland China, and hope that mainland China will continue to move toward freedom, democracy and prosperity for all the people. This would pave the way for the long-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations, creating the historical opportunity for a shared victory.

The passages in bold above are areas where I modified the translation from the version issued by the Taiwanese press. Ma Yingjiu used key words and key phrases that reflects his good-will towards the Chinese people, and we should not over look them. He repeatedly emphasizes that the people on Taiwan and mainland China are compatriots and members of the Chinese race, very meaningful after the previous administration spent years attempting to redefine Taiwanese identity as being something else.

Ma Yingjiu will not rush into reunification; his emphasis is on ending the hostility that has effectively divided cross-strait society at the lowest levels for 60 years. What’s most significant is his repeated emphasis on the “1992 consensus”, in which both sides of the strait agreed that there existed “one China”, but little else. He is also implicitly demanding that mainland China modernize politically and socially before any such reunification occurs, a demand that many Chinese (including I believe those in government) hopes to see sooner rather than later.

He has recently said that he does not see reunification happening within his lifetime. That’s not a provocative statement; many Chinese have a similar long horizon when they consider reunification with Taiwan as well. But I do believe that for those of us younger than Ma by a few decades, we could very well see some form of reunification in our life time.


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50 Responses to “Taiwan’s Ma Yingjiu – A New Era”

  1. andrew Says:

    “the most common point of debate isn’t whether we should oppose independence for Taiwan, but whether we should invade today or tomorrow.”

    as a hong kong citizen, i have to say that while i dont agree taiwan should declare independence, invasion, whether today or tomorrow, is out of question.

    i guess most people in hk just want taiwan to stay what it is right now.

  2. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    after decades rule of Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, and also pushed by many of the CCP hawkery policies, a large portion of Taiwanese people have turned from pro-unification to pro-independence.

    only freedom,democracy,respect and economical integration can lead a unification by not by a force. I personally against any means of force

    If my brother has set up his own family and if he wants to disconnect the family tie, I will be upset, I might cry but I would not use force. I would not block his way to make a friend. I would invite him for the diner, I would let the kids play together to love each other.

    brothers are always brothers and should treat each other like brothers

  3. Nimrod Says:

    Yeah, I think that’s a bad turn of phrase, although the jist of it is right: most people are debating “when” reunification will happen, not “if”. Also I exclude Taiwanese from this perspective because many of them genuinely have different baseline views, but they’ve changed their minds in the span of about 10-20 years so they’re fickle.

  4. MutantJedi Says:

    It was just a short time, two months in 1986 spent in Taichung. But during this time, the feeling I got from people aged 20 to 25 was that Taiwan is Taiwan. Whatever was across the straight was pretty scary. Reunification meant war. When you write the question across the straight was “whether we should invade today or tomorrow.” That invasion would happen on the soil where my friends live. It wasn’t hard to imagine an invasion as martial law was still in effect.

    Even though there was the feeling of Taiwan is Taiwan, inescapable was the ideal of one China. Anyone that fails to understand that part of Chinese culture is not getting the first thing about the culture. That said… “Taiwan was officially regarded by Qing Emperor Kangxi as ‘a ball of mud beyond the pale of civilization’ and did not appear on any map of the imperial domain until 1683.” Wikipedia

    Regardless, WWII returned Taiwan to China from the Japanese and the KMT had somewhere to retreat to. With all that has happened over the last 60 (more like 100) years, it is interesting to have the KMT in power. You could feel the tension ease when they won the election.

    What I believe the Taiwanese people want is to be able to continue to be prosperous and to improve. As the mainland progresses, you’ll find the relationship across the straight also progress. I agree, “we could very well see some form of reunification in our life time.”

  5. Buxi Says:

    andrew / BMY,

    I share with both of your points of view, and I think the “silent majority” of Chinese (those who are offline) aren’t looking to use force at any point in the near future. Nimrod is correct, the biggest question is when and how reunification will occur.

    But in the online world where males under the age of 25 have the loudest voice, I think what I said above is more correct. The most common, most heated debates are often about if force is called for *today*. (Although Ma Yingjiu’s election has certainly dented that.)

    I have always had mixed feelings about the possible use of force; I’m mixed because I think it depends on the context. I believe if after years of free social interaction Taiwan wanted independence, I would respect that. Say, in the year 2016 after 2 consecutive terms with Ma in charge, with millions of Taiwanese/mainland Chinese tourists going in both directions… I’d respect their voice.

    But I personally would not have respected a referendum say, in 2004 or 2005… when most Taiwanese hadn’t had a chance to see what mainland China had now become, and were instead being led by what I consider a minority, extremist government.

  6. MutantJedi Says:

    Actually, I think the author got the question right. The question in the Mainland, for a lot of people, was not if but when to invade. There are a lot of missiles on both sides pointed at the other side. When the previous Taiwan government puffed their feathers about independence, they puffed the world closer to a very nasty war.

    What both sides need is time for progress all around. Stronger economies and opportunities to work together will go far to bring about reunification. There is no need to rush.

  7. MutantJedi Says:

    Cool. I just checked the list of 56 ethnic groups and 高山族 Gaoshanzu (Taiwanese aborigines) is in the list.

    中国民族 Zhongguo minzu, I think (but then who am I?) is better translated as Chinese people rather than Chinese race. The Chinese race is normally considered to be just the Han. Perhaps it is my Canadian perspective, but exclusive language tends to be divisive.

    Many might be reassured if Ma meant “race” but I expect that the other 55 ethnic groups might feel a bit slighted. 🙂

  8. Bela Says:

    Let’s see that after WWII there were of course objections to mainland China in Taiwan, and some even preferred Japanese colonial rule over the 10% new population made out of escaping KMT. After 30+ years of more or less dictatorship, the people of Taiwan build the first democracy in Asia! That’s now some 12 years ago and there are really people who are giving more weight on a weak voice now emerging in a PRC-controlled China over Taiwan. I cannot disagree more! If Ma nowadays can say, mainlanders are compatriots and stress one race (here I wonder what lesson he learned from WWII), it is only because they know that there is only a really small number who ever wanted to reunify in Taiwan. That’s how Chen spent his time in office and that’s why China had lots to do to prevent independence instead of having had the time to plan invasion. So for this point Chen should be credited.
    The other thing is that the people who live here before (not reluctantly like out-of-China KMT) are the majority and THANKS do not care about race a great deal, so for them it is mainly a economical or power-political question whether or not to unify and at this point I cannot more agree on the statements above: It’s a matter of time!
    Whatever mainlanders think of reunification is not a deal over here, even the contacts and links are everywhere. Everyone should know, that without Taiwanese FDI into China nothing similar would have happened in Shanghai and Guangdong. But the majority of China is still poor peasants and for them actually it does not make any difference where on the map Taiwan is and what color it has (except probably for those divided families). My friends in Shanghai even say with a smile, they would like to have an independent Shanghai and would prefer ROC ruling them.
    As a German “observer” in Taiwan, I only really like the “brother” relationship as a good example of reality.

  9. Buxi Says:

    中国民族 Zhongguo minzu, I think (but then who am I?) is better translated as Chinese people rather than Chinese race. The Chinese race is normally considered to be just the Han.

    It’s actually zhonghua minzu (中华民族), not zhongguo. I’m not an academic so I can’t tell you the proper definition of “race” or “people”. But the term zhonghua minzu was designed so that we can avoid the confused statement that “the Chinese race is considered to be just the Han”.

    You’re not necessarily wrong, the English language is just flawed here. I’ve thought more than once that we should just avoid using the English term “Chinese” forever, because it’s simply loaded and confusing.

    Bottom line: I want to emphasize that “zhonghua minzu” means something very distinct from the Han race, and Ma Yingjiu as well as everyone else in China is clear on that.

  10. Opersai Says:

    I don’t know, I hope force will never be used on this. I’m happy as long as Taiwan doesn’t declare independence. I do remember reading somewhere that there were a lot of propaganda that painted mainland China as very poor, stiff and scary place to live, and that the communist party is just evil.

    With that said, I think, I THINK, for many Taiwanese, the reason don’t want reunification is because the economical and political difference. If one day, mainland China develops into a equally or even more prosperous place, I think less people will be objected to the idea of reunification.

  11. Jack Says:

    Well, the other tacit possibility that hasn’t been brought up is perhaps prosperity and stability will make it so that China really doesn’t care if Taiwan is ultimately independent or not.

    I personally don’t see much benefit from independence or reunification and would be happy if Taiwan stayed as it was in perpetuity.

    Also, a decision to reunify with the threat of force in the background seems to lead to a question of legitimacy of any decision. A reduction of Cross-Strait tensions or a reduction of armament would go a long way in resolving that.

    Also, I would not paint the West in having such unequivocal support of Taiwan independence. There are those from the West I’ve spoken both off and online that see Taiwan as a belligerent troublemaker not worth being pulled into a conflict over. Most reasons have to do with either fear of the Chinese military or economic relations.

  12. Jack Says:

    Oh yes, and non-intervention is another reason as well.

  13. Allen Says:

    I am definitely comfortable with Taiwan’s current orbit. As long as the differences between Taiwan and Mainland is rooted in economics and politics (recognized as such), I have no problem. As soon as people try to toy with our history and identities, that’s when I get mad…

    That said – with Taiwan and Mainland united for now by a common identity – I think China can take on any challenges there are in the world…

  14. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – I’ll start calling the Chinese people 中华民族 when they start calling the UK 联合王国.

  15. Buxi Says:

    @FOARP,

    As far as I can tell, Americans tend to use the terms English and British interchangeably too. I guess I don’t really know how the Scots and Welsh feel about that, but so far at least there doesn’t seem to exist too much reason to dispute the term.

    In contrast, in today’s world, the question of whether China is a country of “zhonghua minzu”, or a country of Han Chinese seems to be a pretty relevant one.

  16. K Says:

    Everyone seems to be ignoring what I think is the key point of Ma’s speech:

    “Taiwan doesn’t just want security and prosperity. It wants dignity. Only when Taiwan is no longer being isolated in the international arena can cross-strait relations move continue to progress.”

    If the mainland government continues to block Taiwanese participation in international organizations and the two sides can’t find a way to get around the sovereignty issue then it will be hard to convince Taiwanese that the CCP can be trusted to respect them and their interests.

  17. Nimrod Says:

    K, it’s a given that the international space that Taiwan has to maneuver is inversely proportional to the amount of independence it seeks. This seems counter-intuitive, but it is the nature of cross-straits relations. I think Taiwan will get more space and dignity as it comes to grips with its position instead of trying to fight it. Personally I thought it was pretty undignified for e.g. an independence-seeking Chen Shui-bian to fly around trying to find a place to land.

  18. MutantJedi Says:

    Buxi,

    (blush)不好意思! I know that it was 中华民族. And I agree with what you wrote.

    Not being an academic, I’ll sally forth with saying that I think it should be “people” instead of “race”. “People” is inclusive of the various races and ethnicities whereas “race” is exclusive to a specific group. For example, “Canadian people” doesn’t mean just Canadians of European descent. “Chinese people”, similarly, ought to mean something beyond just the Han ethnic group. But, you are right, in many corners, “Chinese” === “Han”. Just as in many corners, “Canadian” === “White”.

    That’s why I’m a bit sensitive about equating, through translations, Chinese people with Chinese race, as was done in the translation above. The evolution of understanding, and of language, has to start somewhere. 🙂

    I think that this issue is more than just “Politically Correct”-ism. The ethnic diversity of China is something not well understood in the West. Challenging that stereotype of a monolithic face of China, I think, is an important part in getting the West to see China beyond 2D caricatures.

    FOARP,
    Confused. Wouldn’t the parallel be more like calling the people in the US caucasians instead of Americans? That’s my point. Using race as defining nationality.
    … at the same time, I’ve heard that one should be a bit careful about throwing out identifiers like Scot, Welsh, Irish or English in a pub. 🙂

  19. K Says:

    Nimrod,

    I think you are right that the more the Taiwanese government pushes the independence line the more the mainland tries to restrict its international space. But the problem is the link between dignity, international recognition, and independence. Taiwan currently operates as a de facto independent state, but does not have the international recognition that would allow it full sovereignty. Preventing Taiwan from gaining that recognition is a key part of mainland strategy, thus the mainland’s attempts to restrict Taiwan’s international space. If Taiwan is given greater international space, such as the freedom to join the United Nations or the World Health Organization, this would imply international recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty.

    But Ma seems to make the point that this ability to participate in international society is important for Taiwan’s dignity. If he is right, and significant numbers of Taiwanese see the issue in the same way, then the problem becomes how to give Taiwanese the dignity that comes from international recognition (which would make Taiwanese happy), but prevent that from turning into a recognition of Taiwanese sovereignty (which would make the mainland very unhappy).

    I don’t pretend to have an answer to this, and I think it will require create thinking on both sides to turn this dilemma into a “win-win solution,” but I don’t believe that expecting the Taiwanese to just come to terms with their current (undignified) position is a realistic proposition.

  20. FOARP Says:

    By the way guys, can you bring up one example of mainland officials recognising the existence of this so-called ‘1992 consensus’?

    Likewise, it’s weird saying that ‘中华民族’ is not a racial identifier and then turning around and saying that people outside the borders of your own state belong to it. For myself, I see no difference between the way the term is used and the way Han Chinese is used except for tokenism. You guys may feel similarly about terms like ‘Canadian’ or ‘American’, but these terms are not used to say that everyone who belongs to a race found within the borders of those countries should be ruled over by this or that government.@Buxi –

    As far as I can tell, Americans tend to use the terms English and British interchangeably too. I guess I don’t really know how the Scots and Welsh feel about that, but so far at least there doesn’t seem to exist too much reason to dispute the term.

    In contrast, in today’s world, the question of whether China is a country of “zhonghua minzu”, or a country of Han Chinese seems to be a pretty relevant one

    My point was that since the outside world has decided on one term they are unaware that a dispute even exists, and wouldn’t care if they did.

    Race relations in China are pretty edgy. The Han in general had extremely low opinions of Turkic peoples (“they are all thieves/terrorists”) and the Tibetans (“Do not leave areas where there are lots of Han, otherwise they will kill you with their knives”) even before recent events. I just don’t think its viable to try to convince people that they are part of a racial grouping which is a) non-existent and b) meaningless – can you tell me what the characteristics of the 中华民族 are?

  21. Buxi Says:

    By the way guys, can you bring up one example of mainland officials recognising the existence of this so-called ‘1992 consensus’?

    You mean… like these articles from Xinhua?

    The below quote come from spokesman of the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, from back in March of 2006.

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-03/29/content_4359737.htm

    The joint press communique on the “common aspiration and prospects for cross-Straits peace and development” signed between Hu and Lien has clearly defined the common ground of sticking to the “1992 Consensus,” opposing “independence of Taiwan,” seeking cross-Straits stability, promoting the development of cross-Straits relations and safeguarding the interests of the people on both sides of the Straits.

    …He also said the two parties would work jointly for discussion of Taiwan’s participation in international activities to begin after the resumption of cross-Straits dialogue based on the “1992 Consensus.”

    The below article is also from Xinhua, and the quote also comes from the Taiwan Affairs Office, back in 2005:

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-02/28/content_2627052.htm

    “The current problem in cross-Straits relations lies in the fact that the Taiwan authorities do not recognize the one-China principle and deny the 1992 Consensus,” said a spokesman at the cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office, who asked his name not be used.

    The “1992 Consensus” refers to an agreement reached by the two sides in 1992 in Hong Kong, in which each side agreed to its own interpretation of the one-China principle.

    And Hu Jintao explicitly talked about the 92 consensus in a phone call with George Bush shortly after Ma was elected to office. The Chinese press has been filled with mention of 92共识 and 一中各表 this spring.

    Likewise, it’s weird saying that ‘中华民族’ is not a racial identifier and then turning around and saying that people outside the borders of your own state belong to it.

    I didn’t say it’s not a racial identifier. I don’t know how academics race or “peoples”, so I don’t want to get into a technical debate about whether the right word is “racial”. Whatever you call it, zhonghua minzu doesn’t necessarily refer to legal citizens of China; huaren and huaqiao around the world are all members of zhonghua minzu.

    As far as race relations in China being edgy… I don’t think China has the patent on that. The Chinese in our most crass form have extremely low opinions of people from anywhere other than the local city. People from Shanghai also have a very poor opinion of people from Anhui, and people everywhere in China have a poor opinion of people from the Northeast.

    In the mean time, Han Chinese live in mutual harmony with 50+ other minorities right in our midst. In any Chinese city, you can walk around and find halal (清真) restaurants on just about every block. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a halal sign on any restaurant in the United States… with the sole exception of a Chinese restaurant in the SF Bay Area.

  22. FOARP Says:

    So let me see, no sign of this ‘1992 consensus’ until the KMT started bigging it up after the DPP got back into power – funny that.

    Try finding evidence of it before 2000 and you’ll be lucky to see anything. This is because the term was made up by Su Qi (苏起), head of the National Security Council in the new administration, as he admitted back in 2006, and did not come out of the 1992 negotiations.

    At any rate, if 中华民族 is a racial identifier and overseas Han Chinese belong to it but Tibetans and Turks don’t feel they belong to it, then it seems pretty clear that 汉族(and people that can pass as Han) = 中华民族. If people outside China simplify things so that Chinese = people who look like Han Chinese, this is just a reflection of identity politics inside China.

    By the way, I soooooooooo miss Chinese Halal food. Where I was living on the Mile End Road in London had a Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Somali Halal Chicken/Kebab shop every ten yards, but they don’t match up to the stuff the Hui et al cook up – not even nearly. Every time I’m in Taipei I go with a mate of mine to have 牛肉辣面 at a place which (according to legend) was set up by former KMT muslim soldiers – the place is (again, according to legend) frequented by greats like Jackie Chan. I just wish I could remember the name of the place.

  23. Buxi Says:

    So let me see, no sign of this ‘1992 consensus’ until the KMT started bigging it up after the DPP got back into power – funny that.

    And what’s funny about that? I understand the term didn’t exist until Su Qi “invented it”. So what? Aren’t political terms invented every day? I can’t see how the historical legacy of the term could possibly be more meaningful than the fact that both sides are embracing it.

    As far as your comment about zhonghua minzu… how do Muslims who don’t eat pork and pray in mosques, many of whom do wear distinctive skullcaps, “pass as Han”? Are the people who ran the restaurant in Taipei you attended Han, or are they Chinese, or are they members of zhonghua minzu?

    “People who look like Han = Chinese” isn’t a reflection of identity politics inside China, it’s a reflection of your own biases. As I’ve stressed before, non-Han Chinese are reminded of their non-Han identity when they fill out a government form, when they look at their identity cards, when they apply to college, when they consider having children. There’s plenty of awareness within China of the distinction between Han and zhonghua minzu.

    And finally… are you really sure you’re proud of what you seem to be calling for? A world divided into nations and races on the basis of differences that we can “visually identify”?

  24. Opersai Says:

    I did remember watching a youtube video of an interview of a Uighur women of Chinese Nationality. She didn’t want to identify to the English term “Chinese” because it doesn’t reflect her identity since people have perception that Chinese == Han.

  25. Buxi Says:

    I’m a big basketball fan. All I know is that I’ve watched these two men represent the Chinese National Team for years:

    Adejiang, Uygur, former point guard for the Chinese National Team, and now head coach of the PLA Bayi Rockets.

    Bateer, Mongolian, former center for the Chinese National Team (and played for the Denver Nuggets in the NBA). I have a couple closeup pictures of me and Bateer, love the guy. His wife is also Uygur, as it happens.

  26. Opersai Says:

    Right, Buxi, that reminds me. Guess which ethnicity is one of the “famous” student leaders of June 4th? Uygur!

    My point above though, isn’t that minorities Chinese don’t want to associated as 中国人, but the English term “Chinese” is so confusing, and largely misinterpreted as equivalent to Han.

  27. MutantJedi Says:

    Opersai, Buxi,
    You’re absolutely right. That’s why I struggle with the English on this.

    I knew that there were different ethnic groups in China a long time ago but it wasn’t until a Han friend of mine, from Xinjiang, shared some Uyghur music with me, explaining how many of her friends are Uyghur, did fact finally sink in. Recognition of the ethnic richness is a strength.

    So… what to do about English?
    I expect that eventually it will catch up.

    In the meantime, a Uyghur not wanting to be “Chinese” can be misinterpreted.

  28. Opersai Says:

    To MutantJedi

    Well, that’s why I especially said she didn’t want to be identified with the ENGLISH term of “Chinese”, not that she didn’t want to be identified as Chinese. =D

  29. FOARP Says:

    As far as your comment about zhonghua minzu… how do Muslims who don’t eat pork and pray in mosques, many of whom do wear distinctive skullcaps, “pass as Han”? Are the people who ran the restaurant in Taipei you attended Han, or are they Chinese, or are they members of zhonghua minzu?

    I’m not going to go around trying to decide what people should call themselves – but I would understand if they were more than a little confused themselves! I would accept however, that identities can be layered, but the idea of 中华民族 is a pretty artificial one that seems to have been made up to include all the races within the borders of a state dominated by a single race – the Han.

    “People who look like Han = Chinese” isn’t a reflection of identity politics inside China, it’s a reflection of your own biases. As I’ve stressed before, non-Han Chinese are reminded of their non-Han identity when they fill out a government form, when they look at their identity cards, when they apply to college, when they consider having children. There’s plenty of awareness within China of the distinction between Han and zhonghua minzu.

    There is indeed – one is a definite fact and the other seems to be a meaningless blanket term invented to cover everyone who happens to have been born in China and all Han born outside. If the Turks really are ‘中华民族’ then what about the tens of millions of Turks who live outside China? Are they ‘中华民族’? If yes, then why doesn’t China have the right to rule the areas of central Asia in which they are found? If not, then why should overseas Han Chinese be included in ‘中华民族’?

    And finally… are you really sure you’re proud of what you seem to be calling for? A world divided into nations and races on the basis of differences that we can “visually identify”?

    People identify themselves, they can see that they are not part of the Han, they can see that the PRC is a Han-dominated state – they draw their own conclusions. This has nothing to do with what I think. A genuine multi-ethnic state with real local autonomy is the only way of containing these forces.

    The main point behind pointing out that there was no agreed ‘consensus’ in 1992 is to show that the essential difference – that there was no consensus over what ‘one China’ means – still remains. An agreement to differ is no consensus and does not allow meaningful agreement. The ‘one China’ principle as operated by the PRC remains one under which Ma Yingjiu has no power to negociate. The ROC remains the ROC, the PRC remains the PRC – pretending otherwise will not help.

  30. Buxi Says:

    There is indeed – one is a definite fact and the other seems to be a meaningless blanket term invented to cover everyone who happens to have been born in China and all Han born outside. If the Turks really are ‘中华民族’ then what about the tens of millions of Turks who live outside China? Are they ‘中华民族’? If yes, then why doesn’t China have the right to rule the areas of central Asia in which they are found? If not, then why should overseas Han Chinese be included in ‘中华民族’?

    These are good questions.

    I think 中华民族 very much requires a self-identify kind of thing, rather than a broad racial thing. I can only add that most often, those who self-recognize as 中华民族 but hold passports of other countries are called 华人 or 华裔. I think Turkic Uygurs who identify with Xinjiang outside of China should be called 华人. I think Korean-Chinese living in South Korea who identify with China should also be called 华人.

    People identify themselves, they can see that they are not part of the Han, they can see that the PRC is a Han-dominated state – they draw their own conclusions. This has nothing to do with what I think. A genuine multi-ethnic state with real local autonomy is the only way of containing these forces.

    I’d like to hear your explanation of multi-ethnic states in the West. Just about every Western country I know is multi-ethnic: the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom. All have sizable minority populations. These countries are also dominated by a specific race, and it’s physically obvious that many of these minorities do not belong to that race.

    Are you saying its inevitable that black men in the United States would “draw the conclusion” that they’re not American? That South Asian men in England would “draw the conclusion” that they’re not English?

    Is “real local autonomy” also the only way of containing these forces in these countries? Why doesn’t China have the luxury of aiming to achieve the model that these countries have largely adopted?

    I’ve also pointed out before that of the 130 million non-Han Chinese in China, Tibetans and Uygurs form a tiny minority. Some of these non-Han Chinese are largely Sinified (like the Manchu), but many of them are *not*. Why hasn’t China needed to provide local autonomy in those cases?

    Again, is it really your universal belief that countries are destined to be racially pure places, unless autonomy is implemented?

  31. MutantJedi Says:

    FOARP,
    My understanding of 中华民族 is much like calling people of Canada Canadians. We still like to call people who were born here but immigrate elsewhere Canadian, especially if we like them.

    I don’t know if I would call my Canadian born Chinese Han friends 中华民族. Some of their families have been in Canada longer than mine. It would be like calling me a German. German heritage yes, but I don’t speak German or do German things. On the other hand, my friends who have just immigrated, will likely feel comfortable with the 中华民族 identity.

    The multi-ethnic concept of China didn’t start with the Communists.

    In Canada, there was a huge debate on cultures and identities. What is a Canadian? Is it more than just being not an American? Is it more than Hockey? How do we recognize diversity yet build a common identity? Our model, unlike the American melting pot, is a mosaic (not without its own controversies). The reason I bring up the Canadian model is that, from my perspective, I have absolutely no problem recognizing and celebrating ethnic diversity.

    I do have a problem with the apartheid perspective you seem to advocate. Local autonomy to contain ethnic forces? Bottle up an ethnic group into a… what? ghetto? If we replace a few words in your rhetoric like Aryan for Han and American for 中华民族, it starts to get more than a little disturbing.

    I think I must be mistaken. I must be reading you wrong.

  32. MutantJedi Says:

    The script filter either didn’t like my span tag or didn’t like the “style=’text-decoration:line-through'”. I meant that “Chinese” in “Canadian born Chinese Han friends” be crossed out. 🙂

  33. Michael Turton Says:

    Thanks for the pointer to your blog, Buxi.

    Michael

  34. FOARP Says:

    “I think I must be mistaken. I must be reading you wrong.”

    You can read me anyway you like. My main point is simple – that the whole idea of 中华民族 is one that appears to be a way of telling everyone that they are the same race. It would be like an American claiming that there is an American race or a South African claiming that there is a South African race. Since the idea of 中华民族 is used to justify the claims over Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet this idea deserves critical analysis. The racial language involved in this is not my creation.

    I do have a problem with the apartheid perspective you seem to advocate.

    Please point out one place where I have advocated apartheid.

    Where I have talked about containing seperate ethnic identities, I am merely talking about the difficulty of maintaining a unitary state where there are significantly disperate peoples occupying geographically distinct areas without resorting to military force in the way that China does. Making me out to be a racist for talking about this is a facile argument.

    I’d like to hear your explanation of multi-ethnic states in the West. Just about every Western country I know is multi-ethnic: the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom. All have sizable minority populations. These countries are also dominated by a specific race, and it’s physically obvious that many of these minorities do not belong to that race.

    True, all I am saying is that telling everyone that they are members of a single race is not a very convincing argument.

    Are you saying its inevitable that black men in the United States would “draw the conclusion” that they’re not American? That South Asian men in England would “draw the conclusion” that they’re not English?

    People know what a racial grouping is. Is ‘American’ a racial grouping? Not from what I have seen. Is ‘English’? My impression is that it is in the same way that ‘French’, ‘German’ and ‘Italian’ are, but that ‘British’ is not. Is 中华民族? Well, the fact that it includes the term ‘民族’ and the way in which it is used to justify territorial claims and applies to people outside the borders of the Chinese state seems to suggest that it is a racial term.

  35. Buxi Says:

    I believe zhonghua minzu is more along the lines of “British”. While the British empire was still intact at least, being British meant something other than Anglo-Saxon.

    As far as advocating apartheid… to many Chinese, the “high-degree of autonomy for Tibetans” that the Dalai Lama calls for sounds suspiciously like calling for the establishment of a racially pure ghetto.

  36. Opersai Says:

    Buxi:

    @_@ how did topic on Taiwan turn on Dalai Lama again? Interesting where the conversation could go.

    But that said. I actually have a question about the “high degree of autonomy for Tibetans”. I once read 1 of the 5 request was to clean out all non-Tibetan ethnics, especially Han. Then, I read this was (changed to?) stop anymore Han immigration (or emigration) to Tibet. So which one is it? Or is either true or still effective?

    Note: Dalai Lama claim CCP is relocating large amount of Han ethnics into Tibet, and hence marginalize local Tibetans; however, the statistics show, 92% of the local population is Tibetan. Though, each year, a huge amount of influx emigration happen from neighboring province as people, (mostly poorer farmer from Sichuan province), go to TAR (Lhasa mostly) for job opportunities. Most of them left families (children, elders, wife) behind, as they plan to make a fortune and return home eventually. There is little government can do about this, since they are not trying to move their “huko” to Tibet.

  37. Opersai Says:

    Oh, I want to add. The huge emigration influx happens to most major cities in China, e.g. Beijing, Shanghai, Shengzen etc.

  38. Buxi Says:

    Opersai,

    I totally agree with your second comment. If Beijing wanted to emigrate people and flood Tibet, it would take the steps that it took in Xinjiang during the 1950s. There would be a million Han living and working in Lhasa by the end of the year.

    (There’s already discussion of relocating earthquake victims all the way across the country to Zhejiang. How about we relocate the earthquake victims to a closer and yet less crowded place… say, Lhasa?)

    But you’re right, what am I doing taking up this post about Taiwan with Tibet comments… let’s setup another post about the “high degree of autonomy” issue in a few weeks.

  39. FOARP Says:

    “a racially pure ghetto.”

    So let me get this straight, the DL is a racist and I am therefore advocating apartheid by saying there should be regional autonomy for ethnic minorities occupying geographically distinct areas? Palestine anybody?

    By the way, and I know this is of little importance on a Chinese-centric blog, but it is the English who are mainly Anglo-Saxon (but are also of Norman, Norse, and Celtic descent). The Scots, Welsh, and Irish are mainly of Celtic (but also Norse) descent, and the term ‘British’ was used as a catch-all for English-speaking residents of the British Isles. Nowadays there is a huge dispute over what ‘British’ means, or if it means anything. Many people define there identity in terms of layers – they may say that they are Pakistani Muslims first and then British, or that they are Englishmen firstly, and afterwards Europeans. It may be that Chinese may also find this an easier way of going about things – but all people choose their own path. Simply saying that everyone is ‘华夏儿女’ seems unlikely to wash in the current climate.

  40. Buxi Says:

    FOARP,

    So let me get this straight, the DL is a racist and I am therefore advocating apartheid by saying there should be regional autonomy for ethnic minorities occupying geographically distinct areas? Palestine anybody?

    I didn’t accuse you of advocating apartheid, nor did I accuse the Dalai Lama of being a “racist” (only because I don’t know how to define the term). But it seems clear to me the Dalai Lama’s argument is that Tibetan culture can only preserved by maintaining racial, cultural, and political “purity” from non-Tibetans.

    As far as Palestine… Israel refuses to grant equal citizenship to Palestinians who believe they deserve it, correct? I don’t see how it can refuse equal citizenship *and* refuse self-determination for Israeli Arabs.

    China refuses self-determination, but it does not refuse citizenship. Any Tibetan can return to China right now and have the exact same political and legal rights every single other Chinese citizen has.

    PS. Did you mean to post this comment in this other thread…?
    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/?p=141

    If you move this comment over there, I’ll move mine as well and delete both from this thread.

  41. Opersai Says:

    I don’t have much to offer to the argument since I know little about the subject. I’m getting very confused between the line of nation, people, race, ethnics etc. Actually, I’m pretty unclear does a nation set a race? Like is Japanese same race or a different race from Chinese? Sorry, I know very little about this.

    However, this little thought occurred to me when reading your debates between each other. If Qin didn’t unit all the small countries, and if Han dynasty didn’t exist, would we have many, many different ethnics today? Was Han not somewhat created superficially at one point of time to include people from many different regions, whose customs can be drastically different from each other?

  42. EugeneZ Says:

    All the political news aside on Taiwan, what was perhaps more telling of the future mainlan China – Taiwan relationship was the scenes of eqrthquake relief efforts in Taiwan. Ma Yingjiu and his wife spent hours answering phones to take in donation, while the singers (one of them is Fei Yueqing) perform based on the doner’s requests.

    Here is my bold prediction – over time, perhaps 20-30 years timeframe, as China develops into a respected major power on world stage, and overtakes USA as the No. 1 economy in the world, fewer and fewer people in Taiwan will prefer independance. A serious discussion of reunification will take place. The major conflict or tension, as all of Chinese worldwide will realize is that between the west and China, not between one group of Chinese vs. another group of Chinese across the Taiwan strait. Chinese will be united in their aspiration to become the most singnificant contributor to the next stage of development of human civilization.

  43. Jennifer Says:

    The next stage in the development of human civilization will not involve the same nation-state politics that have resulted in nothing but war and tension for the past thousands of years. If Chinese really are sincere about “One world, One dream.” they would drop their nationalist bullshit and evolve a little.

  44. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – Thanks, but it’s alright where it is. My point about Palestine is that supporting autonomy in an area does not mean supporting having that people rounded up into ‘ethnically pure ghettos’ – the two are obviously contradictory. In such matters you may support a people’s right to greater control over their lives without necessarily supporting the policies of their main parties. I do not like much about the PLO, and like even less of what I hear about Hamas – but I still think the two state solution is the best.

  45. Buxi Says:

    FOARP,

    Well, here’s another interpretation of the term 中华民族: “Chinese nation”. See this analysis of the Hu/Wu meeting linked from the KMT’s English-language website:

    Also worthy of note is the fact that Hu mentioned the “Chinese nation” twice in his welcome remarks and that Chairman Wu also employed the phrase “Chinese nation” two times. Both used “Chinese nation” to replace “One China.” In a similar fashion, “cross-Strait relations” may replace “stating respectively each side’s national title.” According to informed sources, Wu and Hu collectively employed the phrase “Chinese nation” more than ten times during their meeting.

    I wouldn’t have connected this English term to ‘zhonghua minzu’, except with the help of people less pleased about the term. See this editorial.

    The decisive point, as the official Kuomintang News Network highlighted yesterday is that both Hu and Wu “used ‘Chinese nation’ to replace ‘one China.”‘

    This political parlor trick did not simply “set aside the dispute over sovereignty,” as claimed by Wu, but instead elevated a racialist (and unhistorical) concept of the “Chinese nation” (invented by Qing Dynasty writer Liang Qichao in the early 1900s) based on “common blood ancestry” above both the PRC and the ROC constitutions and committed both ruling parties, in their status as the self-anointed representatives of the “great Chinese nation,” to the imposition of this “final solution” to the cross-strait dispute.

    Not to sound too snarky about it… but if they’re unhappy about it, you can imagine how pleased I am. 🙂

  46. Buxi Says:

    Jennifer,

    The next stage in the development of human civilization will not involve the same nation-state politics that have resulted in nothing but war and tension for the past thousands of years. If Chinese really are sincere about “One world, One dream.” they would drop their nationalist bullshit and evolve a little.

    I’ve never seen myself as really being on the forefront of human civilization. Those members of our species who have clarity of mind should absolutely lead the way and “evolve” first, and the rest of us delinquents shall follow.

    I would agree with you one thing, however. “One world, One dream” is a fantasy; there are many different dreams on this world, and we are all striving towards our own

  47. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – A very good friend of mine is a former sports editor at Taiwan News (the blue-topped newspaper that is – has it undergone a make-over? I don’t recognise much about their new website), but all the same, I must admit I had the works of Liang Qichao in my mind during this recent discussion. However, if a new definition can be made then let them make it. The main problem comes in when people try to fudge what the meaning is – vagueness as to meaning is a problem here.

  48. CanadianChinese Says:

    I am impressed by the width and depth of the opinions expressed in this blog. Most of you seem netral on whether Taiwan should be united with China. Most of you do not see the benefits. I see the benefits. The obvious benefit would be a stronger China. Well, this is a benefit if you love China. However, this is not what I want to talk about. I would like to talk about the opportunities created because of China’s strong desire to unite with Taiwan. Whether China and Taiwan will be united at the end is irrelevant.

    What are these opportunities? It is well known that it is not easy to get China to listen. Look at what happened in Tiananmen Square. Look at the push for human rights from the West. Nobody could make China change. However, because of China’s desire to unite with Taiwan, Taiwan can make her change. Taiwan does not have to unite with China at the end, but Taiwan can make her change.

    For example, Taiwan can ask for a politcal reform for a multi-party democracy. China has a single party political system now. For Taiwan to unite with China, it would be reasonable for the ruling party of Taiwan to ask for a chance to rule all of China. The only way this “chance” can be provided is through multi-party democracy. Of course, the communist party will win in the first several elections, but the important point is that we have changed the system.

    Another example, Taiwan can demand the level of human rights in China should be at least at par with Taiwan. This is a reasonable demand as the people in Taiwan will not agree to lose their human rights in the unification process.

    Now, will Taiwan do that? Remember, Taiwan does not have to unite with China at the end. It has nothing to lose. It just has to make China change and the rest is up to the people of Taiwan. Why should Taiwan do that? Taiwan is a democractic country. The people respect human rights. It would be their best interest to bring their neighbour to think the same.

    Smart guys, I would like you to build on it. Find ways to capitalize on these opportunities!

  49. Allen Says:

    @CanadianChinese – so you see Mainland-Taiwan reunification as a mirage and see an opportunity for capitalizing it – eh?

    I agree with you in one sense: Taiwan – as part of greater China – can make China change.

    I disagree however with you on the assessment that the goals of reunification is in the end just a mirage…

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