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June 22, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright June 22, 2008. Used by permission.


One fascinating aspect of the KMT’s regaining political dominance in Taiwan is the reappearance of two forms of nationalism that have been central to that party’s political ideology, namely Greater China (大中華) and anti-Japanese resistance (抗日). Both have enjoyed a certain degree of legitimacy in the context of modern Chinese history, yet each carries its own risks as well.

The theme of Greater China found clear expression in President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九’s inaugural address, which emphasized the idea that the residents of both China and Taiwan were part of a greater ”Chinese nation” (中華民族). It also seemed significant that Ma made no mention of Japan, as well as the issue of whether Taiwan (or the Republic of China, for that matter) is a sovereign state. From a diplomatic perspective, the skirting of such issues in order to enhance cross-Strait negotiations makes considerable sense, as can be seen in the successful conclusion of agreements on direct flights and tourism. However, as I noted in a previous blog, the question of who will benefit from these policies is unclear, and there are also concerns about the costs. One example is Ma’s agreeing to be addressed as ”Mr. Ma” when he meets China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin 陳雲林 later this year. While such compromises have a reasonable chance of furthering future ties between China and Taiwan, one cannot help but think of other leaders from the previous century who were willing to make all manner of sacrifices in the interest of ”peace in our time”.