Matters of the heart and soul

During the 19th National Party Congress of the Communist Party of China last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered the following about Taiwan in his speech (begins towards the bottom of page 50):

解决台湾问题、实现祖国完全统一,是全体中华儿女共同愿望,是中华民族根本利益所在。必须继续坚持“和平统一、一国两制”方针,推动两岸关系和平发展,推进祖国和平统一进程。

一个中国原则是两岸关系的政治基础。体现一个中国原则的”九二共识”明确界定了两岸关系的根本性质,是确保两岸关系和平发展的关键。承认”九二共识”的历史事实,认同两岸同属一个中国,两岸双方就能开展对话,协商解决两岸同胞关心的问题,台湾任何政党和团体同大陆交往也不会存在障碍。

两岸同胞是命运与共的骨肉兄弟,是血浓于水的一家人。我们秉持”两岸一家亲”理念,尊重台湾现有的社会制度和台湾同胞生活方式,愿意率先同台湾同胞分享大陆发展的机遇。我们将扩大两岸经济文化交流合作,实现互利互惠,逐步为台湾同胞在大陆学习、创业、就业、生活提供与大陆同胞同等的待遇,增进台湾同胞福祉。我们将推动两岸同胞共同弘扬中华文化,促进心灵契合。

我们坚决维护国家主权和领土完整,绝不容忍国家分裂的历史悲剧重演。一切分裂祖国的活动都必将遭到全体中国人坚决反对。我们有坚定的意志、充分的信心、足够的能力挫败任何形式的”台独”分裂图谋。我们绝不允许任何人、任何组织、任何政党、在任何时候、以任何形式、把任何一块中国领土从中国分裂出去!

Continue reading “Matters of the heart and soul”

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Independence v. Unification

Two independence movements were buzzing in Taiwan in the past few weeks, with Catalonia seeking independence from Spain and Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly for separation from Iraq. Both ongoing events sparked new discussions on whether Taiwan should be holding an independence referendum, and how China and the rest of the world might respond if a vote took place.

Much like other complicated political problems in the world, however, it is not as simple as an independence referendum. For one thing, there remains large divides within the Taiwanese population on the status of Taiwan as an independent state as well as what that state, if actually independent, should be called. The Taiwan National Security Surveys designed by Duke University and conducted by National Chengchi University in 2016 showed that more than 70% of people surveyed agreed with the following statement:

 台灣是一個主權獨立的國家,它現在的名字叫做中華民國。
[Taiwan is a sovereign independent country, and its current name is the Republic of China.]

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China threatens US Congress over Taiwan legislation

In response to the passage of Taiwan Travel Act in the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 12, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson reiterated its continued opposition to any official US-Taiwan contacts, while the Washington Post reported that the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to block Taiwan-related legislation. Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai expressed “grave concern” over the Taiwan Travel Act (House and Senate versions), the Taiwan Security Act and both the House and Senate (section 1270) versions of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

The Taiwan Travel Act will encourage official travel between Taiwan and the US. The US Department of State currently imposes restrictions on official travels between the two countries due to the lack of official diplomatic relationship. The Taiwan Security Act and Taiwan-related provisions in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act encourages military exchanges between Taiwanese and American armed forces and authorizes ships to make port calls to both sides’ naval bases. All aforementioned legislation still need to pass both chambers of the US Congress.

Taiwanese activist tried in China

After Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-cheh was abducted when crossing into China almost six months ago, his wife Lee Ching-yu received a phone call from a Zhang Zhongwei on September 6. Zhang claimed to be Lee’s attorney and asked Lee’s wife to travel to Yueyang, Hunan, China, where Lee would be due to attend trial. Lee’s wife departed for China on September 10 and had to sit through what could only be described as a farce of a trial the next day.

During the trial, Lee “confessed” to charges of “subverting state power” through posting articles on Chinese social media platforms QQ, Weibo, and WeChat with the intent to “maliciously discredit” the Community Party of China and promote democracy. He also added that he received “well-rounded education” during his detention and had come to recognize the progress China made in development. He further expressed his appreciation in China’s “civilized justice system”. The court uploaded Lee’s trial in edited segments to its Weibo account. The court will sentence Lee at a later date.

We may never know what actually led to Lee’s “confession” until and if he is released back to Taiwan. Most people who voted in Taiwan’s election or anyone who has voiced support for an independent Taiwan are guilty of those “charges” Lee “confessed” to. But one thing has never been clearer: China will prosecute and hunt down whoever it wants, under whatever reasons it deems necessary, but it is definitely not convincing any sane Taiwanese that the Communist Party of China, its one-party authoritarian rule, and unification are desirable in Taiwan’s future.

Linguistic challenges when writing about “China”

The Financial Times last month published The dark side of China’s national renewal (subscriptions required), addressing the idea that all Chinese people should help China achieve the “China Dream”:

To an English-speaking ear, rejuvenation has positive connotations and all nations have the right to rejuvenate themselves through peaceful efforts.

But the official translation of this crucial slogan is deeply misleading. In Chinese it is “Zhonghua minzu weida fuxing” and the important part of the phrase is “Zhonghua minzu” — the “Chinese nation” according to party propaganda. A more accurate, although not perfect, translation would be the “Chinese race”.

Zhonghua minzu 中華民族 is a phrase that doesn’t translate well in English. As discussed by Arif Dirlik in Born in Translation: “China” in the Making of “Zhongguo”, the words China and Chinese are inherently invited by the West.

As Lydia Liu has observed, “the English terms ‘China’ and ‘Chinese’ do not translate the indigenous terms hua [華], xia [夏], han [漢], or even zhongguo [中國] now or at any given point in history.”

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Charter 08

In honor of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Chinese dissident who passed away just hours ago, we are posting his dream of a democratic China in the form of his Charter 08, a petition written to advocate for China’s transformation into a true democracy. May he rest in peace and finally be free.

I. Foreword

A hundred years have passed since the writing of China’s first constitution. 2008 also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thirtieth anniversary of the appearance of Democracy Wall in Beijing, and the tenth of China’s signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy student protesters. The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values. Continue reading “Charter 08”