Mike and Jon,
C'mon men, I have a grant to write and now instead of thinking about my Research Plan I can’t stop thinking about Taiwan! Urrrgh.
Mike, your gut feeling is right, I am largely at odds with most Mainland Chinese on issues regarding Taiwan (and Tibet, but please let’s don’t go there). I can’t possibly write anything comprehensive on “Taiwan Situation” - I am generally in agreement with your guys on the issue - but I think I may be able to give you some ideas as to why most Mainland Chinese scholars here in US have that kind of attitude toward Taiwan Independence issue.
Before I came to the US and had lived here for a while, my thoughts were pretty much in the same lines as the Communist government. The main reason is that we were brought up in such rhetorics that “The Treasure Island Taiwan is part of China since the ancient times” and that “it is an inseparable part of our great Motherland.” etc. etc. To support such claim, a single historic event were taught over and over again in which the heroic Chinese General Cheng Cheng-kung of the Ming Dynasty, sailed from the mainland to Taiwan in 1662, defeated Dutch colonists, and “reclaimed” Taiwan back to the bosom of our Motherland. These are all deeply engrained in our knowledge system and in our way of thinking. As anybody who has a basic knowledge of Taiwan history may know that this sense of history as we have been told is completely false. I believe that the high Chinese Communist officials are fully aware of the real history of Taiwan, but use this kind rhetoric to brainwash the mass of not-so-well-educated and younger generations, in order to rally the people under the great banner of patriotism in their fight with Kuomintang.
The old habit, or the old way of thinking, dies hard, as we all know. For many Chinese people here in US, they go about their studies, works, and everyday lives. They may whole-heartedly embrace the American way of life. However, not all things that they have learnt long ago vanish or change automatically without hard thinking or purposefully seeking the truth. That’s probably why these Mainland Chinese people, as smart as they maybe in their respective professions, still stick to their old belief about Taiwan. I think that they may still hold that patriotism is a nobler notion than individualism.
As for my own change of view on Taiwan, it came gradually. First, I recognize that Taiwan is, if not in name, but IN FACT an independent country since 1949. It used to be THE legitimate government of ALL China in the eyes of world until 1972, when its seat in UN was thrown out, and PRC was accepted in. This was a great triumph of China’s Communist government’s diplomacy. For many years PRC has poured loads of monetary and human aids to some third world countries while leaving her own citizens live in the most subhuman conditions. In 1989, I’ve also come to the realization that the Mainland Chinese government was no longer a legitimate government representing Chinese people. They became illegitimate long ago but I only was able to realize it after the June 4th of 89’. So for me there it went their claim for Taiwan too. Still sometime later, when I finally recognized that individual freedom and happiness is above all other slogans and ideologies, my view on Taiwan were naturally come to place.
I think that Mainland Chinese people need to first learn the real history of Taiwan. They also need to realize where exactly their loyalty is placed – the government, the country, or the people. For us, it is clear that people (or individuals) are above all others.
My current view of Taiwan is that it is in fact, though not in name, an independent country. Its statue in international community and its contributions to world economical and political affairs have been prominent and positive. Taiwan and its people deserve the recognition, respect, and full benefits of an independent sovereign country. It is a shame that the only thing (or nearly the only thing) that prevented Taiwan and the rest of the world to do so is the threat from PRC. PRC has never been unclear about its position: independence means war. Now I come upon unfamiliar territories of politics and military tactics in the area, e.g., I don’t know whether PRC is bluffing or not. All I can say is I honesty don’t know which (declare independence or not) would be the best route for the people of Taiwan to continue pursuing their remarkable prosperity and ever more increased liberty.
Perhaps, in an ideal world, Taiwan and mainland are best to be unified, since we share the same language and culture and are now economically inseparable. But that is not possible now given the economical inequality of the two areas and the simple fact that the Mainland is still ruled by a totalitarian government whose legitimacy is based on lies and the repression of truth.