Taiwan’s illusory sense of superiority over China

11-Jun-2014 Intellasia | Want China Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

After resuming her position as chair of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Tsai Ing-wen’s biggest mission is to review the party’s cross-strait policy. Observers are now speculating on the direction Tsai will go and wondering whether the DPP will give up its independence platform or even accept the 1992 Consensus.

If Tsai chooses not to accept the 1992 Consensus as it seems to be similar to the ruling Kuomintang’s advocacy, then what kind of new policies can Tsai and the DPP advocate? and how will the party persuade Beijing to accept its policy?

Observers are meanwhile concerned about the DPP’s political path. Will Tsai ally with the subgroup led by former DPP chair Frank Hsieh? How is her relations with the independence group? Will she win the support of former president Lee Teng-hui? How will her complicated history with Su Tseng-chang, former DPP chair, affect the DPP’s policy reform?

Everyone is concerned about policy and power struggles. But few are concerned about deeper issues, such as the underlying social psychological obstacles to DPP policy reform.

Tsai has two political assets in regards to cross-strait policy. Firstly, she is seen as the mastermind behind Lee Teng-hui’s two-state theory, thus winning the goodwill and high expectations of the independence group. Secondly, in her term as vice premier, Tsai was seen as comparatively pragmatic and rational, leading many to believe that she can lead the DPP to realise the party’s cross-strait policy reforms. However, Tsai doesn’t have the firm will, determination and capability to address the sense of “Taiwanese superiority” felt by many in the pro-independence camp – a social psychological barrier that is hindering the DPP’s transformation.

The sense of Taiwanese superiority refers to the belief that Taiwan’s economic development, democratic politics and way of life are superior to that in mainland China. There is also no need for Taiwan to communicate and integrate with the mainland because doing so will only damage and lead to the loss of the island’s existing assets, which will also lead to retreating from democracy and undermining the way of life in Taiwan.

No one can deny that Taiwan has experienced an economic miracle, which is the main reason behind the sense of superiority. However, Taiwan’s economic miracle was achieved because of the structure of depending on exports to the United States via opening the market. Now that the US economy has experienced a slowdown, Taiwan’s growth engine has stalled.

Under the structure of the cold war, the US helped build Taiwan’s democratic brand, supporting the stability of the Taiwanese government. Compared with Taiwan’s economic miracle and political stability, the mainland, which was once complacent and shut itself off from the outside world, has noted the large gap between itself and Taiwan.

The Taiwanese public has enjoyed the benefits of the country’s economic and political miracle, but people have failed to see the bigger picture, ignoring the defects in their system. Despite the sense of superiority, the competition between the two sides of the strait is dynamic. When the mainland moved toward reform and opening up, Taiwan’s limitations were gradually exposed. Meanwhile, a failure to see from an international perspective has made Taiwan lack a sense of crisis, making Taiwan repeat the same mistakes of the mainland.

Taiwan should conduct a self review and find ways to fully open itself up to opportunities. The sense of Taiwanese superiority has now become an obstacle to the country’s continued progress. Many in Taiwan remain unwilling to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the mainland as they see China as a threat. However, failing to be pragmatic and learn from the mainland’s positive experience will make Taiwan lose out on a perfect opportunity.

Tsai’s top priority now is to confront and deal with this illusory sense of Taiwanese superiority. If the public refuses to let go of this sense of superiority, it will be impossible to understand China – something that Tsai has recently advocated.

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Category: China

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