This only happened yesterday. I was there, so I want to provide some more information about the incident.
Student: What is our stance when signing the Services Trade Agreement? Are we signing the agreement as two countries?
Zu-Jia Lin: In our constitution, it mentions the Mainland Area and the Free Area, and the Free Area is Taiwan Area. Therefore, this is the agreement between the Mainland Area and Taiwan Area. It’s not between two countries.
Student: So you’re saying Taiwan isn’t a country right? Taiwan is just an area.
(The students applauded.)
But what this video doesn’t show is:
Zu-Jia Lin wanted to avoid further discussion about this political issue,but the students urged him to continue. Therefore, he finally said:
“The Republic of China is an independent sovereign state. I’m sorry but this is as far as I can go.” (The students applauded again after this.)
Later, Zu-Jia Lin mentioned that of course we are afraid of the Mainland because they keep threatening Taiwan’s sovereignty. However, we have two choices: not trade with the Mainland until they don’t threaten our sovereignty anymore, or we can cooperate with the Mainland by providing some compromises.
Zu-Jia Lin represents the opinions from the government. In my opinion, the idea that the current ruling KMT party in the ROC government has about the Mainland Area and the Taiwan Area is the result of themselves not being able to admit the fact that the Mainland has been ruled by other people for a long time. The Republic of China hasn’t ruled the Mainland for a long time. Instead, it has been ruled by the People’s Republic of China. What the ROC has ruled for the past 60 something years are Taiwan Island, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. In fact, the ROC and the PRC have been two separate sovereign states for a long time. Our government shouldn’t say “this is the agreement between the Mainland Area and the Free Area. It’s not between two countries.” Just like how the PRC shouldn’t say that Taiwan is part of their territory.
Taiwan isn’t an independent country. It is Republic of China that is an independent country. Before the ROC came over, Taiwan was colonized by Japan. It wasn’t an independent country. Before Japan fully colonized Taiwan, Taiwan declared independence and there was the Republic of Formosa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Formosa). However, Taiwan was only independent for 150 days before Japan conquered it. Before the Republic of Formosa, Taiwan was part of the Qing Dynasty.
I think the reason why the young people in Taiwan now think Taiwan is a country is that we naturally developed identity connected to the soil we step on everyday. The number of people who regard themselves as Taiwanese has been the majority (source：http://esc.nccu.edu.tw/course/news.php?Sn=166), and the number has been increasing. The younger generation born after the 70s grow up on this island, hearing that “Lee Teng-hui is the first elected president of Taiwan,” “Taiwan is a democratic country.” When we apply for our National ID card, we do it through the government in Taipei, not in Beijing. We have been hearing since we were children how different China and Taiwan are. Taiwanese education also started to be localized to Taiwan when we were in junior high school. The younger generation has walked further and further away from China. Whether the families of these young people were bensheng (people who were here before the ROC government came over to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-Shek) or waisheng (people who came over to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-Shek after WWII), it is hard to avoid these young people identifying themselves as “Taiwanese.” Even if these people don’t want to say that they are “Taiwanese” for the fear of being said to have connections with the DPP (the pro-independence party), they probably won’t say they are nationally Chinese. They will probably say they love Taiwan, but not China.
Whether the people who think Taiwan is a country noticed the difference between “Taiwan” and “the Republic of China,” they seem to have accepted the ROC government is the government of Taiwan. One good example is that most people in Taiwan say that October Tenth is Taiwan’s birthday. However, that is only true when you equate Taiwan with the Republic of China.
When the ROC government is accepted, there is some problem to be solved. The ROC was the government that retreated to Taiwan after WWII when it was defeated by the Chinese Communist Party. It basically fled here and tried to continue the operation of the ROC government. It succeeded. However, the people that came over with this government were different from the people that had already been in Taiwan. They didn’t identify themselves with the island of Taiwan. That made sense, because they didn’t grow up on this island. That was also why when the ROC government first came to Taiwan, their main goal was to reclaim the Mainland.
The ROC government has been in Taiwan for over 60 years, and they still have this unsolved problem, because the ROC government still rules Taiwan with its constitution which says that their territory includes the Mainland (and Monglolia) and the “Free Area” (Taiwan). To put it plainly, legally according to the ROC constitution, the current one the current government uses now, says that Taiwan is just an area, not a country.
I have so many friends who don’t like to talk about politics, but more than often they talk about how much they don’t want to be part of China. They also like to stress that Taiwan is a country. When they hear the news about how Taiwan can’t hang their national flags in some international occasions, they feel angry and sad. When they travel abroad and get asked: “Oh you’re from Taiwan. Is Taiwan part of China?” they often answer promptly: “Of course not! Taiwan is a country!” They don’t seem to realize that they are talking about the most controversial political issue about Taiwan’s sovereignty, and what they really want is for Taiwan to be independent. When the politicians mention Taiwan independence, these people are silent, because they don’t want to be political. When they meet people from China, they are also silent, because they don’t want to talk/argue about politics.
I think the ROC government has long been aware of the difference between Taiwan and the Republic of China. Nevertheless, they cannot Taiwanize or localize the constitution because this is equal to declaring Taiwan independence. During the time when China would threaten us with military force, the ROC government didn’t want to do it. Now when China uses economical benefits to attract us, the ROC government probably doesn’t have the desire to do it anymore.
The government official has stated clearly that the Services Trade Agreement is regarded as being between the Mainland Area and Taiwan Area. It isn’t looked at as an agreement between two countries. The Taiwanese people now have to think about one thing: what kind of future do we want for Taiwan?
If what you want is also for Taiwan to be a country, don’t be afraid to say so, because a lot of people think the same as you.