Taiwanese Owe Hung Gratitude

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Wednesday November 25, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

The storm clouds remain over the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and are forcing the different camps within the party to align themselves with one side or the other. The fate of its presidential candidate - Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu who has played by all the rules - will apparently be determined at a special party congress on Saturday.

Pundits of course will be analyzing the result and arguing the pros and cons of whether replacing Hung at this stage will be of any advantage. Whatever the result, next year's election will not be a pleasant memory for the KMT.

Despite all this Sturm und Drang, there is still a surprising silver lining for Taiwanese voters. If nothing else, Hung has made them aware of what it means to be Taiwanese and to a degree forced them to choose how they want to define their nation and the path it should take.

To understand this, one needs to borrow a term and concept from a non-political field; axis mundi. As a term often used in fields like cultural mythology, it has a spiritual connotation and is literally translated as the place "where Heaven and Earth are seen as coming together."

Groups, tribes, and peoples use it to designate a center or alleged pivot point where for them the sacred and profane meet and connect. The space around it then becomes sacred space as opposed to profane space. And from this "sacred center," all other space is defined and boundaries are drawn.

In the modern day secular world, the sense of spirituality found in such parlance is lost, but as far as nations are concerned the idea of a central point and axis remains. Thus a nation's capital serves as its political axis mundi. On the other hand, a nation may have a different economic axis mundi, its financial center.

In applying this to the US, for example, Washington would be considered its political center whereas New York City is its financial center and axis. In China, Beijing would be considered the political center whereas Shanghai would be the financial center.

What about Taiwan? For Taiwan, Taipei serves both roles; it is both political and financial center of the nation, and here is where Hung's candidacy plays its part.

Hung as a loyal foot soldier and true believer of the KMT doctrine has tried to follow the double talk of president Ma Ying-jeou. She has tried to say that there is only "one China" and the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) are that "one China".

However, Ma sidestepped the apparent controversy by saying they can be "one country, with two interpretations."

Hung unfortunately said that they both sides agree and have "one interpretation".

For the Chinese, there is no question that Beijing is the axis mundi of their nation. It is their political center. No Chinese would even dare consider Taipei as either the political or financial axis mundi of their nation. Similarly, few if any Taiwanese would consider Beijing as their axis mundi.

Being an artful dodger, Taiwan's current president, Ma has for a long time been able to fudge the distinctions between the ROC and PRC without getting into specifics. He refers to the ROC's 1947 Constitution to justify its existence and its right to China ignoring the fact that for the PRC that Constitution disappeared when they drove Chiang Kai-shek and his followers from China in 1949 and set upon writing a new constitution. To cling to his position, Ma has resorted to a bogus "1992 consensus, something that was never put to or agreed upon by the PRC.

Ma's evasiveness is further seen in examining his promised "three noes, ie. no unification, no independence and no use of force.

The first two promises sound conciliatory; Ma appears to be saying that the ROC would not seek unification with or independence from the PRC.

However, what do they really mean? Is he saying that the ROC would exist in a bubble still pretending to be the China? Put bluntly this translates into the reality of doing nothing.

In other words, Ma would sit on his hands, look pretty and smile, but do nothing. Hung on the other hand as a true believer of the KMT's propaganda is not capable of playing such games.

Ma's third 'no' further demonstrates this nonsense and presents an absurdity. Under Ma, the ROC pledges not to undertake any military action.

At first glance, this promise sounds sensible, but under examination it appears to have been added simply to have a rounded three promises rather than a bare two. For who would the ROC - aka - Taiwan want to wage war against? Would it attack China the US, Japan or any other nation? What fool would consider that absurdity? At least Ma promises he will not.

Hung's downfall has been that she is a simple, straightforward person and incapable of the subterfuges of Ma. Perhaps she also misread or misinterpreted why Ma's approval rating had dropped and now hovers between 9 and 18 per cent. For her the nation's axis mundi would at best temporarily be Taipei at least until the ROC retakes China and then the ROC might consider moving from Taipei to Beijing.

For Hung, the end result is that she took literally the word games that her party has played for decades. For all practical purpose this resulted in her betrayal. She was sent into battle carrying the party banner thinking that the party's salvation lay in getting it to go back to its lost sense of axis mundi. She therefore questioned and challenged Taiwanese as to why they did not see Beijing as their sacred place.

Across the aisle, any Democratic Progressive Party candidates would have no problem in stating that Taipei is the axis mundi of their world. They do not see any need to go beyond their borders. From this perspective the difference between the party platforms becomes clear.

This also explains why People First Party presidential candidate James Soong is being marginalized. Soong appears too much like Ma, another artful dodger who skirts around the issues.

Though they would not follow her, Taiwanese do need to thank Hung for clarifying the issues much better than anyone else. Taiwanese now simply have to ask themselves the question what is the axis mundi of their world?