Washington Post: "Taiwan's milestone"

Washington, 17 December 1997

On Wednesday, 17 December 1997, the Washington Post, slightly belatedly, came up with an editorial commentary on the 29 November 1997 elections in Taiwan. The editorial was titled "Taiwan's Milestone", and was also published as "Taiwan shows the Way" in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune. The editorial termed the election result a "remarkable victory" and stated that the consolidation and maturity of Taiwan's democracy stands as a "...constant rebuttal to Beijing's contention that Chinese values and self-determination don't mix."

While the editorial is overall very positive about the developments in Taiwan, it still contains a number of misconceptions, which should be cleared up immediately:

First and foremost we want to emphasize that the consolidation and maturity of Taiwan's democracy have little to do with "Chinese" values, but are the result of our Taiwanese identity and values, just like American democracy is based on the American identity and values as opposed to colonial-time English values.

The editorial also states that the United States "...is certainly opposed to China's forcing a solution, but it also opposes any unilateral Taiwanese moves towards independence that China would view as provocative and unacceptable."
As it can be safely assumed that for the time being China will view any move towards Taiwan independence "provocative and unacceptable", we doubt seriously that the United States should let its policies be determined by a repressive regime in Beijing in this way. The people on the island should be allowed to determine their own future, and if they decide on independence, we should respect their decision. That is what the principle of self-determination is all about.
We may add, that the people in the American colonies went ahead with their Declaration of Independence in spite of the fact that England found American independence very "provocative and unacceptable." Do we then have the right to tell the Taiwanese they can't have their independence?

The editorial furthermore states that the election "...wasn't about foreign policy but rather about local issues."
The issues may indeed have been local issues, but the underlying trend is that the people on the island are not satisfied with the Kuomintang's status quo, and want change.They want change on the island itself, away from the KMT's corruption and nepotism.

It is also clear they want change in Taiwan's international status: It is significant that among the elected officials were a large number of prominent advocates of Taiwan independence and of the island's membership in the United Nations, such as Tainan mayor George Chang and Taoyuan County Magistrate Ms. Lü Hsiu-lien.

It is also peculiar of the Washington Post to state that "...it's significant that the DPP, as soon as it won the local election, began repositioning itself as an advocate for peace and stability."
The democratic opposition has always been an advocate of peace and stability. Indeed, peace and stability can only be achieved if China gives up its claims on the island, and accepts it as a friendly neighbor, instead of perpetuating an old Civil War in which the Taiwanese had no part.

The editorial also misquoted DPP-chairman Hsu Hsin-liang as saying that the party's pro-independence platform is "...interesting only as a historical relic."
What Mr. Hsu actually said was that the pro-independence clause in the DPP-platform "...is a historical document, just like the U.S. Declaration of Independence."

The conclusion must thus be that the Taiwanese do NOT favor "...a continuation of the current ill-defined situation", as the Washington Post proclaims, but rather want to be accepted as a full and equal member of the international community.

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