Taiwan, Carl Schmitt and a Nation's Enemies

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Wednesday August 29, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC) is a mid-sized nation. In population it is larger than 70 percent of the nations in the UN; in GDP it exceeds some 85 percent of those same nations. However, more importantly, it can take pride in being a newly established democracy.

Since 1996 the people of Taiwan freely elect both their president and their legislators. However, the successful achievement of this democracy did not come easy. Through sacrifice, sufferings and death, the people overcame half a century of martial law, White Terror, and one-party state rule imposed on them by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

The achievement of this democracy is a salient victory of the people and what significantly defines the nation of Taiwan as Taiwan.

However, while Taiwanese might be tempted to bask in the achievement of this democracy, it is all the more important that they revisit the thoughts expressed by political theorist Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political.

In that work, Schmitt presented his important distinction in how the basis of state sovereignty and autonomy is its ability to define clearly who your friend is and who your enemy is. This entails what is most valuable to Taiwanese and it lays open what they must examine.

There are many historical developments and locational factors that make Taiwan what it is, but the deepest and most distinct factor, and that which gives Taiwan its unique sovereignty, is its newly established democracy. This democracy becomes then in Schmitt's words, a defining characteristic of what people will fight for most to maintain. It also serves as a means to mark who is and who is not the enemy of Taiwan.

While many are not used to visualizing state-to-state relations according to Schmitt's friend/enemy distinction, it quickly becomes evident that in this view, the greatest current threat to Taiwan's democracy is the People's Republic of China (PRC).

China's basic claim to Taiwan is territorial. It maintains this claim to sovereignty over the democratic Taiwan by stating that Taiwan is a "breakaway province." This position is filled with inconsistencies, ambiguities and anomalies.

Before Taiwan achieved its democracy, it had many colonizers, the Dutch, the Spanish, the fleeing Ming, the pursuing Qing and then of course the Japanese who took it as the spoils of war and became the first to control the whole island.

In "Taiwan's Imagined Community," (August 8, page 8), I presented how in the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan gave up Taiwan without designating a recipient and this enabled the KMT to become a unique "colonizing diaspora" on Taiwan.

However, China also has its own unique, "amoebic way" of interpreting and classifying history in its favor, and western writers too often accept it.

When the Mongolians conquered all the land from Asia to present day Hungary, the Khanate ruled by the Yuan Dynasty (including then China, Tibet and Manchuria) became "China" and not Mongolia.

When the Ming broke free but did not conquer the areas of Mongolia, Manchuria and Tibet, their kingdom became a more limited and realistic China. However when the Manchus overran Ming China, Mongolia, Tibet etc. all that territory again "magically" became China and not Manchuria even though the Manchus ruled and all males had to wear their hair in a Manchu queue.

In 1887, the Manchus declared Taiwan a province, even though they did not control the whole island. Thus, this eight-year period from 1887 to the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, when the Manchus surrendered "in perpetuity" what they did not control to Japan, became the basis for the PRC's "amoebic" claim that Taiwan is a breakaway province. Such is the fog created by the Chinese discourse; it is a fog that also ignores how present day Mongolia is not considered a "breakaway province" under the same judgment or how in the 1930s, Mao Zedong advocated that Taiwan become "independent" of Japan.

Return to Schmitt where he posits that the realistic basis of politics and nationhood is knowing who is a friend and who is an enemy and how an enemy need not be based on nationality.

The clear enemy of Taiwan's democracy is a hegemonic China. What then about the KMT and the alleged "1992 consensus?"

In the Chinese Civil War, the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) fought as enemies for control of China; this was a classic fight that clearly fits Schmitt's distinction.

The CCP won that civil war and created the PRC. For this reason it has never agreed to the KMT spin of the bogus "1992 consensus" that there can be "one China with different interpretations." Anyone who interprets the CCP victory in any other way is its enemy.

However, the CCP's victory in the Chinese Civil War and any claim to possession of Taiwan are two separate matters. And this is what casts a whole new light on the KMT insistence on the bogus "1992 consensus."

Why does the KMT still try to foist its spin of "two interpretations of one China" on Taiwan and the world? And does this action in itself make the KMT an enemy of Taiwan's democracy?

The KMT did not begin this spin until it lost the presidency of Taiwan in the 2000 democratic election, an election that became a warning of more democratic defeats and a deepening revelation that it had been a "colonizing diaspora."

In Chinese history, the profitable switching of sides is a common factor. Chen Yi is a good example and one close to home for Taiwan. He switched from the warlord Sung Chuang-fang to Chiang Kai-shek in 1927 and eventually was rewarded with the post of governor of Taiwan in 1945.

The 228 Incident lost him that job but he was still rewarded by being made provincial chairman in Zhejiang where he started colluding with the winning communists. This made him no longer a friend but an enemy of Chiang and led to his execution in 1950.

Chen's example represents the question that Taiwanese must ask of all KMT members who maintain that there was a "1992 consensus" and how it contains the belief that there is only "one China with different interpretations."

There is no question that what makes Taiwan, Taiwan is its democracy. Therefore, those that support that democracy are Taiwan's friends and those that work against it are its enemy.

If the KMT is more loyal to its fabricated "1992 consensus," it has by that action become the enemy of a democratic Taiwan and not its friend. Does this now make it the new Chen Yi?

There is more. This matter of the fabricated "1992 consensus" also exposes the harsh reality that must be examined in the coming elections. It raises the question that Taiwanese must ask of all candidates.

Where do you stand as regards Taiwan's democracy? Are you its friend or its enemy and would you die to defend it?