September 5, 2008

Taiwanese Progressive Leader Speaks Of Nation’s Independence from China

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Correction Appended See Below
Yesterday afternoon, Chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan Dr. Tsai Ing-wen LL.M. ’80 delivered a lecture on the current relationship between China and Taiwan, emphasizing the domination of Taiwanese politics by the Republic of China. The lecture, “Cross-Strait Relations: Past, Present and Future” was presented by the Cornell Law School Clarke Program in East Asia Law and Culture.
Tsai, who was elected chairperson of the DPP earlier this year, discussed the recent successes of her political party and, more specifically, Taiwan. She went on to deliver her views on the tumultuous relationship between the Kuomintang (KMT), the ruling political party of Taiwan, and the DPP, a party often associated with the Taiwan independence movement. Tsai began the lecture by highlighting the vast economic and political accomplishments Taiwan has made regardless of China’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Taiwanese government.
“Some consider Taiwan one of the flashpoints in Asia, a landmine; however, Taiwan is considered a success story in Asia … Taiwan developed a free and democratic nation … As of 2008, Taiwan is the 16th largest trading nation in the world; it is committed to free trade,” Tsai said.
Tsai described the nationalism that is very evident in present day Taiwan. She explained the difficult situation in Taiwan, where a predominant proportion of its population is from mainland China. Nearly 30,000 Chinese mainlanders immigrate to Taiwan annually. However, she provided evidence supporting her claim that the majority of Taiwanese seem to support the nationalist movement.[img_assist|nid=31450|title=Progressive thought|desc=Dr. Tsai Ing-wen LL.M. ’80, chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan speaks at Cornell Law School.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“In a poll conducted by a local television station, 80 percent of respondents identify themselves as Taiwanese. 18 percent of respondents identify themselves as Chinese,” Tsai said.
Tsai, who received her law degree from Cornell in 1980, feels that Taiwan’s economic growth, achievements in foreign trade and successful implementation of democracy are proof enough of Taiwan’s independence from mainland China.
“It is unfortunate that China has become desensitized about Taiwan’s democratic growth … China continues to seek political dominance of Taiwan,” Tsai said.
Today, there exists no consensus between the KMT and DPP. The Republic of China officially lists Taiwan as a province; however, government power on the island is employed at national and local levels.
“The DPP and the KMT insist that they are two separate sovereignties both refusing to recognize each other,” said Tsai, showing her strong support for Taiwanese independence.
“Taiwan should be given the right to have its voice heard … It is the right of the Taiwanese people to make decisions for themselves … The consensus is clear; peace and stability across the strait is in every players best interests,” Tsai said.
Tsai explained that the Republic of China wishes to maintain the status quo. The KMT believes that Taiwan, which is a member of the World Trade Organization and has its own currency and military, has enough political freedom. Tsai argues that a status quo cannot be maintained if there is not an agreement between the two parties.
“Maintenance of the status quo seems to be the consensus. But what is the status quo? Can there be two different definitions of the status quo?” Tsai asked.
Towards the end of the lecture, Tsai made a powerful statement about China’s nationalist slogan, ‘One China,’ which aims to unite all of its territories under the Republic of China. She argued that Taiwan cannot be seen as a part of the Republic of China.
“The KMT’s interpretation is that ‘One China’ is the Republic of China,” Tsai said.
One of the commentators, Chen Jian, the Michael J. Zak Professor of History for U.S.-China Relations, agreed that Taiwan should be proud of its economic and political accomplishments and that the Taiwanese people should feel a sense of pride and distinction.
“Taiwan is one of the most successful stories of democracy and open society … It has shattered the long-standing notion that it was impossible in China for democracy to arise,” Jian said.
He went on to disagree with several of Tsai’s comments including her view that the Taiwanese military should receive foreign aid. He said this will only create an arms race between the two.
“If one builds up their military … it will instigate the other to,” Jian said.
After the event, the audience was told to remain in their seats as Chairperson Tsai was escorted from Myron Taylor Hall. Many members of the audience identified themselves as Taiwanese and were curious to hear about the DPP’s current political state.
“I’m Taiwanese and I am interested in the political issue,” said Yung-Hao Ching, a post-doctorate working in biomedical sciences.
“I just got a job in Taiwan so I think it is a good idea to catch up with the current political issues.”

Correction: The KMT is the ruling political party of Taiwan, not China. The Communist Party of China is the ruling political party of China. The Sun regrets this error