This past Monday was a really big day for Taiwan and mainland China… supposedly. It was 100 years ago on Oct. 10 in China when an army mutiny in Wuhan sparked a chain of rebellions (collectively known as the Xinhai Revolution) that led to the overthrow of the ruling Qing regime and the creation of the Republic of China. Double Ten is meant to commemorate the Republic of China, which only exists on Taiwan. There was a big parade in Taipei, a big speech by Ma Ying-jeou and some festivities about the “100th anniversary of the ROC”. Meanwhile in China, President Hu made a speech calling on Taiwan to reunite at a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary.
Despite the immense historical significance, I didn’t really find the 100th anniversary to be really meaningful. As with a lot of topics regarding China and Taiwan, I have a bunch of issues. While Taiwan has done quite well in economic terms under the KMT and become a democracy, it cannot by itself define China whether it be culturally or politically. It’s not that I don’t like Taiwan, but as time passes and especially in this past year, I’ve come to realize a more uglier side here that’s made me much less sentimental. To be honest, I was kind of looking forward to this anniversary last year. But as it got closer and closer, several things troubled my mind.
There’s also a lot of hype about the ROC that don’t really ring true. For instance, there’s been some trumpeting of the ROC as the first democracy in Asia and I can’t fathom why. I don’t know much about the 1911 to 1927 period, but I’m pretty sure there was never real direct elections nor real separation of state and judiciary. I do know there was a warlord who fancied himself an emperor who forced Dr. Sun out of the presidency and took it himself, only to die several years later without any successor. In fact, I’m not even sure whether the ROC existed when this warlord Yuan Shikai ruled. When Chiang Kai-chek gained control of China in 1927, chaos, conflict and Japanese invasion all prevented direct elections from taking place. Then when the KMT came to Taiwan, it ruled as an authoritarian regime until the early 1990s when the first popular election for president took place in 1996. Even if popular elections for legislators took place once or twice, the ROC on the mainland was a democracy only in fits and starts for much of its past, with the exception of the past 15 years. It may be the oldest surviving Asian republic, but not the oldest or first Asian democracy, I should think.
Then there’s the biggest issue of all- the continued separate existence of China and Taiwan as political entities and hence, a striking example of the deep chasm that rocked China over 50 years ago. There’s a lot of complications with the China-Taiwan issue that I can’t fully explain here and don’t want to, but suffice it to say that as long as this state of affairs continues, the ROC can never be recognized as a nation. Yet I don’t think reunification in the near future would be too beneficial (despite my pro-China leanings) because for now there are some issues that the CCP hasn’t quite shown it understands and should deal with before it can consider having Taiwan back into the fold. What I do believe is that Taiwan and mainland China have deep cultural, economic and political bonds (specifically through the KMT) and that Taiwan should be part of a genuine Greater China entity.
While Taiwan’s government and media seem to have no difficulty in celebrating a whitewashed form of the ROC’s history, mainland China’s government seemed to be a bit uncomfortable. The 100th anniversary might sound good on paper, but in taking a closer look, it signifies a lot of harsh circumstances that reflect the conflicted state of affairs on both sides of the strait.