Monday, March 05, 2007

When the Reign Goes

the full text of last Guardian post - which for some reason barred comment!

The chairman's reign
Chiang is on the way out in Taipei. Maybe now would be a good time to exorcise Mao in Beijing.

Ian Williams
One of the few occasions on which Jun Chang and Jon Halliday show Mao Tse Tung with any deep human feelings in their biography is when they describe how he went into mourning following the death of his old partner and rival, Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek. Their biography also showed how much Mao owed Chiang for giving him a free pass for much of the legendary Long March. Chiang and Mao had other areas of agreement as well, notably their common determination that Taiwan was part of one China, with one legitimate government, even though they begged to differ about which of their governments that was. So it will be interesting to see Beijing's reaction to the news that the Taiwanese government is downgrading the massive Mausoleum to Chiang Kai Shek in Taipei, and evicting the old Generalissimo's mortal remains from it. Taiwan's pro-independence government have already de-Chianged Taiwan's airport, the presidential palace and moved his omnipresent statue from military barracks. They have also begun to rename the old agencies, deleting the vestigial "China" in the title. The next move is to commemorate the massacre, which took place sixty years ago this week (February 28 1947) of some 28,000 Taiwanese that Chiang staged as a "welcome-back to the motherland" for the brief period in modern history when Taiwan and the mainland shared the same government. Back in Beijing, crowds still queue to see the pickled chairman in the mausoleum while his head still adorns the appreciating Yuan. And his successors still maintain the peculiar protocols of the People's Democracy, one of which is pointing more than 900 missiles at Taiwan and threatening to unleash them if the Taiwanese people should ever renounce their vestigial claim to the mainland and declare the island an independent entity. In fact, the mainland would be better off inviting Taiwan to take over. Since Chiang's death, the island has built a prosperous and vibrant, albeit boisterous, democracy, which in the social democratic sense - of unions, labour regulation and a national health service - is actually more socialist than the mainland. Taiwan's elected rulers are actively engaged in exorcising the tyrannical past, in contrast to the comrades in Beijing, who try to avoid mentioning Mao the way that John Cleese tried to avoid mentioning the war. The chairman keeps cropping up anyway. In contrast, the People's Republic still adheres to the old principle that the way to win hearts and minds is either to twist testicles or put bullets in brains. Those 900 missiles are hardly a Valentine's Day card to the broad masses of compatriots in Taiwan. In the modern world, as the British discovered in Ireland, and indeed earlier with the 13 ex-colonies, it is difficult to win love and respect at the point of a bayonet. China's threats are more than a little counterproductive in building a spirit of Chinese patriotism among Taiwanese. China spent decades supporting the right to self-determination for its chums in the non-aligned. It could try being consistent. Indeed one additional charge that pro-independence Taiwanese may bring against Chiang is that when the mainland won the China seat at the UN in 1974, he withdrew his delegation. In the nature of the UN, Taiwan, as the Republic of China, could have relied on sheer inertia to retain a seat in the general assembly. Now of course, Beijing bullies and the rest of the world kow-tows. There is only one China, agreed Richard Nixon in the Shanghai Communique. And the rest of the world is prepared, for example, to leave a diplomatic and global governance vacuum in the epicentre of the SARS and Avian Flu global potential pandemics because Taiwan can't join the WHO. China keeps growling in the UN about the peacekeeping force in Haiti because the Haitians still recognise Taiwan. It is past time for other countries to stop the kow-towing and bring the PRC up to speed with historical progress. The Middle Kingdom is, like Monty Python's parrot, "dead, passed on ... no more ... a stiff ...b ereft of life", and should be left "to rest in peace". The PRC's claim to Taiwan has all the legal and moral stature of a revanchist British claim to Ireland or New Zealand. In fact, less. The British ruled those places far longer than the mainland had any effective power in Taiwan. Even if one were to accept the PRC's claims, the Chinese delegation, along with the rest of the world, accepted the new doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect at the 2005 UN heads of state summit. Legally, Beijing can no longer croon "'t ain't nobody's business if I do", if they drop 900 missiles on Taiwan. The rest of the world has a responsibility to intervene - and a large self- interest. It also has a big incentive to start thinking about this. Perhaps most disturbingly for the future is the US guarantee to Taiwan against a Chinese invasion, which in turn, the Chinese have promised if the Taiwanese "declare independence". A promise from Tricky Dicky is not the most negotiable currency in the world, and looking at the amount of money made in the US from buying Chinese goods cheap and selling them dear, it would be natural for Taiwanese to wonder about the protective umbrella. It was in return for those guarantees that they gave up on nuclear weapons. If the guarantees begin to look shaky then maybe the nuclear self-denial will be as well. If Taiwan is not a state it cannot join the non-proliferation treaty. and if it is part of China, then it benefits from the existing nuclear powers' exemption in the treaty. Whether it builds or buys them (North Korea may have some on offer) there are few nuclear powers in the world with half the justification that Taiwan has. There should be some serious negotiations with China about ending this impasse, not from the usual prone posture before the throne. They should be told: you can woo, but you cannot rape. And they have to take no for an answer if that's what the Taiwanese want. Beijing's rulers can keep Mao on the banknotes, but should get him out of their heads.

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