Taiwan, China can learn from Europe Day

Today is Europe Day, and I have very mixed feelings towards a day with a name like that. For Chinese people in particular, the name “Europe” evokes simultaneous feelings of hate and love, fear and respect.
The fear and hate part derives from the merciless bombardment from European gunboats that shook China, an ancient civilization spanning 5 millennia, from a thousand-year mentality of confidence and superiority in which it had believed itself “situated in the center of the earth, surrounded by barbarian states,” almost overnight. This also brought along a century of uprisings and calamities, a period of history painful to look back on.
The love and respect part has the same root. Merciless as the gunboat policy was on the surface, it sowed the seeds for the development of an integrated system in China. Democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedom all come from the kernels of civilization within this system: They did not exist in the traditional Chinese political system, which cared little for them. After a century of unrest, these seeds have gradually began to flourish among the Chinese. In Taiwan, these elements of civilization have already grown into a robust tree, protecting the freedom and peace of the Taiwanese people with its shade. Although these same elements are just barely breaking through the soil in China and are still in the initial stages of growth, they show promise of growing to be vigorous and strong, assuring the Chinese of happier days ahead.
In recent generations, in order to eradicate the encroachment and destruction visited on us by the imperialism of a century ago, Europe has played a major role in promoting the advance of a modern, integrated human civilization. Even more admirable is the fact that Europe is still the main proponent of this cause even today. The EU is a measure of the achievement of this drive. It has been drawing up the blueprint for a better world transcending national borders in which everyone works as one towards happiness.
On May 9, 1950, then French foreign minister Robert Schuman announced the Schuman Declaration, calling on European countries, and in particular France and Germany, to pool their capabilities in producing their major strategic resources, coal and steel. The call was received very favorably and in the following year, under the co-operation of France and Germany, the European Coal and Steel Community was established, the precursor of today’s EU.
Since May 1 the EU has taken in ten more member states, including some former communist Eastern European and Mediterranean countries. This brings the total amount of members to 25, making it a new politico-economic body with a population of 450 million. This was not only a great day for Europe, but promises unlimited new possibilities for the whole world. It makes possible the abolition of national, cultural, linguistic and religious barriers using peaceful and co-operative means, as well as the consolidation of the global community.
This level of success with integration was hardly imaginable before. Ever since the eruption of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, France and Germany have erected fences of hate between them. For many decades afterwards, this enmity between the two countries was the fuse setting off large-scale wars in both Europe and the rest of the world. Each conflict deepened the hatred. It took the bloody lessons of two world wars for the politicians and peoples of the two countries to realize that the borders between them could only result in further accumulation of hate that would end in calamity for the people of not only France and Germany, but of Europe as a whole.
The only path to peace was to destroy the fences erected between them and to unite in a common cause. Once they realized this, the two countries made a dramatic transition from being deadly enemies to becoming allies, and then from allies to members of a family.
Putting aside their enmity, they started moving towards integration, laying the foundations for a robust peace and stability in Europe. In order to commemorate this impressive and valuable achievement the leaders of the European Community, the precursor to the EU, decided during the 1985 summit in Milan, to name May 9 every year as Europe Day.
This shows how different the Europe of today is from that of a century ago. Despite the fact that the Europe of 100 years ago did bring some kind of systematized civilization to the world, they employed imperialistic tactics, bringing much suffering and chaos to other countries. As a result, our love is tinged with reproach, and our respect accompanied by fear. The Europe of today has been elevated to the status of a “pioneer of integration”, bringing enlightenment to humanity with wisdom and magnanimity, conducting an experiment of a common system transcending national boundaries for the globalized modern world.
One would hope that the success of the EU will inspire a new wave of integration all over the world. It is because of this that we should have nothing but respect and love for modern Europe, and can leave hate and fear behind us.
The success witnessed in Europe should be admired and learned from when looking at cross-strait relations today. Hate can only lead to more hate, and goodwill must create more goodwill. Following the Franco-Prussian War, both France and Germany embarked on strengthening their military capabilities on the assumption that this would ensure national security. On the contrary, however, these measures only built the ramparts of hate even higher, and the atmosphere of confrontation and anxiety lead to war after war.
The logic employed then is almost identical to that informing the policies of the leaders on each side of the Taiwan Strait: China is not abandoning its military threat, and Taiwan is ploughing the huge sum of NT$200 billion annually into its national defense budget, hoping that this will guarantee national security.
In truth, this logic will result in the opposite of the intended outcome. Could it be that the lessons learned at France and Germany’s cost have not been learned well enough? Why are we moving along the same ill-fated route in the cross-straits situation?
Nowadays, Germany and France are no longer stuck in the quagmire of mutual escalation of aggression, and resources formerly earmarked for protecting themselves against each other or for financing aggression have been diverted to promoting welfare. What’s more, in this process of mutual co-operation they have deepened the compassion and trust between them, removing the soil which nourished the roots of war.
This is the greatest insurance for national security. Why is this hugely successful turnaround, in which co-operation has dissolved mutual enmity, invisible to the governments and peoples either side of the Strait?
The shared destiny and linked fortunes of these countries are the products of an irreversible process, and the only way forward is for them to stand united and rely on each other. All it requires is for the leaders and people of the two sides of the straits to learn from the wisdom and foresight of the people of Europe what Europe Day represents. Then perhaps we could embark on a road that would benefit the people on either side of the Strait.
陳長文 C. V. Chen is chairman of the Taipei European School Foundation.


中文版〈歐洲日 學習超越國界的胸襟〉,聯合報, 2004/05/09

【2004/05/09  Taipei Times 930509】

Russell rule could help citizens see through lies

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, “In studying a philosopher, the right attitude is neither reverence nor contempt, but first a kind of hypothetical sympathy, until it is possible to know what it feels like to believe in his theories, and only then a revival of the critical attitude.”
To put it in more concrete terms, we should approach viewpoints we disagree with by first identifying those parts we are able to agree with, or in which we believe. It is only then that we can resume our critical stance.
That is to say, once we have abandoned our own previous opinions, we are able to undertake criticism based on the state of mind in which we could judge our own opinions with humility. If we learn to assess what what we believe in and seek a more sympathetic understanding of why others’ opinions differ from ours, we are finally in a position to begin our criticism.
When applied to the debate on who loves Taiwan, Russell’s words should come as a rude awakening to some politicians and others. I also believe that if everybody followed Russell’s suggestion they would be less likely to conclude that some people love Taiwan while others do not.
Here’s an example. Suppose an individual advocated the immediate and unconditional unification of Taiwan with China. Irrespective of how much you disagree with such a proposition, before proceeding to criticize it you should first imagine that you agree with the proposal, and only after that try to identify its positive aspects that deserve support.
When you have established the reasons for supporting this opinion, the next step is to lay out the argument’s weaknesses one by one with a humility that allows for self-criticism.
At this point you can compare the pros and cons you have identified, and finally use this comparison to decide whether you agree or disagree with the proposition.
In the same way, anyone who would disagree with an individual who supports an immediate announcement of independence, regardless of the potential cost in terms of war, should first dissect the arguments for and against this position before coming to a decision.
Although difficult to achieve, this is nevertheless a desirable target for everyone to aim for. In this way we will discover that our society need not discuss whether advocates of specific positions care for Taiwan or not, and will examine instead whether their ideas have inherent value.
The question of how much one cares for Taiwan is purely subjective. Regardless of whether individuals advocate unification or independence, if they say how much they care for Taiwan, no one else has the right to question what they think or what their motives are. The moment an onlooker jumps to the conclusion that a certain person does not care for Taiwan, they immediately draw a dividing line between themselves and the person they are judging. There is then no room for Russell’s “hypothetical sympathy.”
This is not to say that we should not be critical of views that differ from our own, just that what we could argue and judge should be restricted to such views’ adoptability and soundness as determined by definable objective standards (such as seeking the greatest benefit for humanity).
I sincerely hope that every Taiwanese will be able to ap-proach people and events with sympathy and discover that irrespective of how much our opinions differ, the one thing com-mon to us is our uncontested love for Taiwan.
C.V. Chen is the president of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China.
中文版〈假設的同情〉 ,自由時報, 2004/04/22
【20040428 Taipei Times 930428】

Last lines of defense: calm, courts

With President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) winning the election by a narrow margin of less than 30,000 votes, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) wants the election result to be annulled. Pan-blue supporters took to the streets and the feverish atmosphere surrounding the election did not end with the announcement of the result. Society is still clouded with worries and uncertainty.
However, worrying will not solve the problem. I think the priority for the Taiwanese people is to elevate their thinking to the point that they can transcend emotions, ideology, partisanship and even their Taiwanese identity. They can then consider what the country lacks and what it should strive for.
First, Taiwanese society lacks trust in the system, which is most worrisome following the calls for a recount of the ballots. The question of who is right about the recount is secondary. We need to investigate a more fundamental issue — that is, our society’s mistrust of the system.
Had the winner of the election been the pan-blue alliance, the pan-greens would not necessarily have behaved more calmly than the pan-blue camp has. It is because both sides’ trust in the system is a selective pseudo-trust — they trust the system only when the result is to their advantage.
Mistrust in the system is not only the fault of the pan-green or pan-blue camp. Maybe the real problem is that people cannot trust the system itself.
Yet on the other hand, neither of the camps can escape the blame. Over the past decade, both camps have been numbing themselves with “the legitimacy of their goals.” In order to achieve their professed ideals, both camps have found excuses to justify their illegitimate means. Take the presidential election, for example. The pan-blue camp was not unreasonable when it claimed the election was unfair.
During the election campaign, the pan-green camp had abused administrative resources in order to achieve an electoral win. The decision to hold the presidential election and the referendum on the same day also led to suspicion in the pan-blue camp that the government was attempting to rig the vote. Yet four years ago didn’t the pan-blue camp, then in power, also abuse its administrative position to bully the opposition?
If both sides ravage the system when they are in a position to influence it, how can we expect the already-strained mechanism to be effective in settling disputes when a crisis arises?
Second, tolerance among people is gradually decreasing.
The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran once said, “If duty destroys peace among nations, and patriotism disturbs the tranquility of man’s life, then let us say, `Peace be with duty and patriotism.'” Over the past few years, the beautiful expression “love Taiwan” has become the source of domestic confrontation thanks to the political parties.
No matter where we were born or where we came from 50 years ago, hasn’t half a century of intermarriages, integration and a common life turned us all into one big family? Even if we are not family, we are at least classmates and friends. What differences are huge enough to tear us apart?
Unnecessary confrontation among people only serves to glorify politicians. Whoever wins the election, politicians of both camps are the biggest winners. The battle between the two camps creates only one loser — the entire public, paying with a loss of emotional closeness and unfocused government.
There is no need to censure politicians. Where there is profit to be had, there are crowds — such is human nature. Politicians are no exception. If fierce confrontation is advantageous to politicians, that is what they will aim for. As long as they see themselves climbing the ladder of power, they do not care about what is said about them.
It is exactly because people have lost their tolerance that they cannot stand the thought of their party losing the election. That is why we witnessed endless conflict, various illegitimate methods and doubts about vote-rigging during the election and disagreement over the result after the election. What will happen next?
Whether the judicial authorities will carry out the recount is still unknown, but will the pan-blues find the result acceptable if the judicial authorities recount the ballots and confirm the previous result? Or if the result of the recount favors the pan-blue camp, will the pan-green camp be able to stand losing the election?
Browsing through materials on the ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland lately and comparing it to Taiwan’s elections, more emotionally charged with each election, I really hope that people of Taiwan can calm down to consider what they really want and what they think is most important.
No matter what happens next, I hope that we will remember that we are brothers and sisters raised on the same piece of land. Nothing can tear our feelings apart. We must maintain a minimum tolerance that will allow us to tolerate any possible outcome. Now the controversy has entered the legal process. We may mistrust the administrative system, as it was once manipulated by the political parties, but the judiciary is a relatively clean area. Let’s maintain our remaining trust in the system and patiently await the judicial decision.
Last, I’d like to put forward a call to the judicial authorities. Compared to the administrative system, which has suffered severe intervention by political parties, the judicial authorities are a relatively trustworthy mediator, as Taiwan’s judicial reforms over the past few years have resulted in some praiseworthy achievements.
This time, faced with lawsuits involving an event as important as a presidential election, the judicial system cannot brush aside doubts or concerns by simply saying that the integrity of the judicial process cannot be questioned. Even if it means mobilizing enormous judicial resources, the judicial authorities should handle the case in an open, fair and transparent manner in the shortest time possible in order to manifest its public credibility. The staff taking over the trials should also be carefully selected in order to avoid controversy resulting from their political stances.
The question of whether this controversy will be peacefully resolved depends on the last line of defense — public calm and judicial prudence.
陳長文 C. V. Chen is a senior partner at the law firm Lee and Li.
Translated by Jennie Shih


中文版〈兩道無可再退的防線〉 ,中國時報, 2004/03/22
【20040322 Taipei Times 930322】