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Chinese political model can solve Taiwan impasse

By Sunny Goh, The Straits Times, 27 August 2000

Beijing and Taipei must look beyond Western models of reunification and exploit their Chinese similarities in history and government, says expert

THE only way for China and Taiwan to break out of their cross-strait impasse is to rely on a Chinese style of government and not be hemmed in by Western models of reunification, a China hand said.

Professor Wang Gungwu, director of the East Asian Institute, said that Beijing and Taipei must have the political will to find a Chinese solution that lies outside the language of international law introduced by the West.

As long as you use the rhetoric of Western nation-states and so on, the problem cannot be solved. These theories were essentially determined by Western Europeans 200 years ago, he said.

Within that framework, you can't solve the China-Taiwan relationship. As long as you use that framework, China can't move, Taiwan can't move, both sides are stuck, he added.

Prof Wang gave his comments as a participant at an EAI seminar on Friday, where about 20 scholars discussed ways for the two bitter rivals to overcome their cross-strait differences.

He believed the solution lies in banking on their Chinese similarities in history and government.

Both sides must be prepared to say "Ah, we are Chinese, we don't accept their legal system, we work out our own system'. But if neither side is prepared to do that, both sides are caught in the international language of law, relations and politics.

Without it, he explained, the United States, Japan and other world powers would insist that they follow the Western system as enshrined in the United Nations charter.

Asked why he was against the Western model, Prof Wang said he had watched the formation of nation-states in Europe over a period, and noticed the little things that little countries used to justify their nationhood.

Now I see the Asian nations doing the same. They are copying, using the same techniques, the same way of arousing feelings, the same use of memories, of history, to make people hate somebody else more, or love somebody else more, he said.

Whoever controls their values and government, he added, determines the things to use for making the myth more believable or powerful.

Whether we like it or not, this is now the norm the West has brought to the whole world. Globalisation has meant globalising the nation-state ideal, for better or for worse.

Asked if Western concepts such as confederation or federation could be used as reunification models, he said the Chinese did not have any real commitment to these.

They don't really understand, but they accept the language which everybody uses -- they are forced to. The Chinese don't use these terms. So this is something unique about the relations between China and Taiwan.