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U.S. sovereignty a model for Taiwan
Paul Lin
11/30/2003

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Thousands of Taiwanese people recently took to the streets to push for changing the nation's name, carrying out referendums and establishing a new constitution. This clearly shows that Taiwan's democratic movement is about to move into a new stage.

The Republic of China (ROC) entered a new era when it relocated to Taiwan and the People's Republic of China (PRC) was officially established in 1949. Even as then president Chiang Kai-shek vowed to retake China in an effort to maintain people's morale, he knew in his heart that it was a mission impossible -- although most people did not sense it at that time. He even said during a speech in March 1950 that "our ROC already fell into the enemy's hands last year, and has `almost' become extinct." The only thing left over the past half century has been the "ROC on Taiwan."

Taiwan created not only an economic miracle but also a miracle of democratic politics during this period. However, unlike the nation's economic and political miracles, its diplomatic work has been repeatedly frustrated because of China's merciless suppression. Taiwan must embrace the world resolutely so as to gain dignity that matches its economic and political achievements in the international community. Unfortunately, Beijing is using some Taiwanese politicians' unification sentiment to hold back Taiwan, and constantly intimidates the nation by pen and sword. This damages the nation's economy and politics, and its chance to walk its own way. As a result, unifying people's understanding and actions through the establishment of a new constitution that matches reality has become an increasingly urgent task.

The Anglo-Saxons, along with other ethnic groups, broke away from British rule and arrived in America, becoming a new immigrant country by founding the United States of America. This is exactly what Taiwan should do. Today's China is just like Britain in the past, and tomorrow's Taiwan will be just like today's US. If China claims that Taiwan has always been a part of its territory, then perhaps Britain can also claim that North America has always been a part of its territory.

Most ancestors of the Taiwanese people were immigrants from China, just like most ancestors of the American people were immigrants from Britain. The US was able to declare independence and create a new constitution. Why can't Taiwan do so? The US inherited British culture and developed its own one. Taiwan inherited Chinese culture and is also able to develop a culture of its own. The minor differences between Mandarin spoken in Taiwan and Putonghua -- the most commonly spoken language of China -- are just like the minor differences between today's American and British English.

The British people relocated to North America threw away the historical baggage of Britain and marched forward, becoming more advanced and open. The historical baggage of China is heavier, and is not easy for Taiwan to get rid of. But once the nation gets rid of the heavy burden, it's expected to become an advanced country with an even higher quality of people. At least, Taiwan's democratic politics have surpassed the situation in China.

The US did not copy the British constitution when it was established. In the future, Taiwan does not have to follow the ROC Constitution either. Of course, it can choose to keep and glorify the good parts. It's difficult to make a constitution, especially an all-round constitution similar to that of the US. Fortunately, the Taiwanese people have discovered more and more problems since the power transition in 2000, and learnt better about where to start -- so as to promote the beneficial and abolish the harmful. At a time when the nation is striving to boost the economy, it should also strive to make a new constitution that can be accepted by the Taiwanese people.

From Christopher Columbus' discovery of America in 1492 to the 13 colonies'

declaration of independence in 1776, this process actually contained many adventurous factors. Today, human beings have become much more civilized. What Taiwan is doing is in fact a great experiment. The US fought the War of Independence in order to break away from British rule. The ROC also underwent bloody battles with the PRC in the past. Since the "ROC on Taiwan" has remained independent in these years, it's hoped that an independence war that is beneficial to no one can therefore be avoided.

Nevertheless, Britain was a democratic country when the US declared independence. But China is still under authoritarian rule and is unwilling to reform to this day. Plus, the wide power gap and the narrow geographical distance between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have made it tougher and riskier for Taiwan to walk the US path. It needs more help from the international community, especially from the US, and it also hopes to gain the support and understanding of insightful people in China.


Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

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