"Far Eastern Economic Review" (Jan./Febr. 2005)
"Show Brotherly Love for
It¡¦s up to man to control whether there is war or peace in the Taiwan Strait. In isolated Taiwan, nobody would dare to start a war. Although people at all levels have varied opinions and debate vigorously, on this issue there is a high degree of consensus¡X¡§Don¡¦t fire the first shot!¡¨
On the mainland, it seems that everybody puts the emphasis on ¡§reunification.¡¨ No matter who you talk to, even those who have given no thought to the difficult question of independence or reunification, at least on the surface they will speak with one voice¡X¡§Don¡¦t hesitate to use force!¡¨
If we take the people on each side of the Strait as a single entity, the Taiwanese resemble a younger brother who wants to ¡§break off from the family,¡¨ but definitely doesn¡¦t want to start a fight. The people on the mainland are like the older brother¡X ¡§Never let him split from the family; if he splits the family, we¡¦ll beat him to death.¡¨
Just because a younger brother wants to split off from the family, the older brother wants to kill him¡Xin a modern society, isn¡¦t this attitude a little bit barbaric? Isn¡¦t this way of thinking a tad foolish? In this day and age, isn¡¦t this kind of action rather backward? Isn¡¦t treating people this way a crime?
In the past few years, our society has made progress in many respects, and on many issues we can listen to different voices, and constructive criticism has started to have a corrective effect. Therefore, even though the decline of morality is shocking, and the tendency to follow the crowd is strong, I believe it is still possible to deter mine right from wrong, and conscience will not be entirely extinguished. Because of this, it is crucial that on the great issue of war and peace with Taiwan, different voices must be allowed to speak out, and different viewpoints considered. That¡¦s because, when you talk about Taiwanese independence and reunification, war and peace, it¡¦s a matter of vital importance to the hundreds of millions of ordinary people.
Of course, this great issue is much more complicated than the brother analogy above. So let¡¦s look at this matter more closely and see what conclusions we can reach.
The mass of Taiwanese people are not one whole, but rather they are a society made up of 23 million individuals. In the last 110 years, this society was not ruled by mainland authorities for at least 105 years. For this reason, Taiwan has diverged politically from the mainland, and this is not the Taiwanese people¡¦s fault. Consider that over the course of three or four generations, the resistance to Kuomintang rule was successful, the bans on other parties and publications have been removed, and elections have spread from the grass roots up to the highest levels.
So if under these circumstances, such a society (expressing itself through elections) refuses to accept, or at least immediately accept, control by the mainland government, this is very natural and understandable. Moreover it should be considered and respected, since at the very least this is not a fault of the society, or a crime committed by the Taiwan people. Making such an innocent society suffer the terror and destruction of war, obviously this is not the conclusion we should reach.
If we think about it, within Taiwan there are millions of people who do not support a rush toward independence, and in fact oppose independence. If we ignore all reason and persist in opening hostilities, isn¡¦t that quite barbaric?
Perhaps some people believe that going to war in the Taiwan Strait is not about killing a younger brother but preventing Taiwanese independence. Then we must think through the fact that, in an area the size of just two Beijings, and with a population the size of two Beijings, and on a small island with the same population density as Beijing, turning loose the full power and force of the Chinese military, including navy, army, air force and missile forces, will create a horrific slaughter. And if we then consider the involvement of American forces, and how innocent civilians would be drawn into the conflict, would it really be possible to decapitate the younger brother? Tens of thousand of innocent Taiwanese, including those who opposed independence, would be killed. So isn¡¦t a war in the Taiwan Strait more than a little barbaric?
So would war prevent Taiwanese independence? When one uses a means to attain an end, it can be called reasonable, but when one doesn¡¦t achieve the end but still uses the same means, that¡¦s foolishness. So let¡¦s see, is war in the Taiwan Strait reasonable or foolish?
Killing the little brother will not stop the breakup of the family¡Xsuppose the younger brother¡¦s family is wiped out, when his immediate family is dead, why would he care about the split in the extended family? (Human beings, not things, make up a family.) Or suppose not everybody in the little brother¡¦s family has been killed. Then the survivors would feel a deep sense of hate that would persist for a thousand generations.¡K
At all times and in all countries, because of various reasons, there have been some societies that wanted to separate from others, or unite with others. Hence the ancient Chinese saying, ¡§Union comes after a long separation and separation comes after a long union, that¡¦s the rule of all forces in the world.¡¨
In the past, this kind of ¡§separation and union¡¨ or ¡§unification and independence¡¨ were often resolved by military force, which inevitably brought humanitarian tragedies, since ¡§one man¡¦s success is based on a thousand people¡¦s bones.¡¨ But there also have been people with lofty ideals who valued people¡¦s lives more than emperors¡¦ achievements, and showed superior courage and intelligence. They became well-known sages and men of virtue. Among them there were some great people that could shake hands with political enemies despite prejudices and old grudges. Such people not only win awards for building peace in this life, but also achieve great reputations for all posterity.
Human civilization now has reached a point when it has become common sense for anyone with a good conscience to peacefully resolve any dispute, including disputes over independence and unification. No matter whether the result is unification or separation, it is the progression of human conscience to reach one¡¦s goal by civilized means instead of savage means. That is precisely why there are people in Scotland and northern Italy who want independence, but neither would use military force. Who wins or loses in Flanders, Belgium or Quebec, Canada is not decided, but it won¡¦t endanger anyone¡¦s life. Czechoslovakia split into two countries without the loss of a single life and they still get along peacefully¡K.
To undermine peace and start a war is the biggest crime a regime can commit, according to the traditions of civilization. Mencius said, ¡§An emperor who gets rich but doesn¡¦t practice benevolent rule is already against Confucianism, how much more so if he instigates a war. People on the field will be killed if there is fighting for the field; people in a city will be killed if there is fighting for the city, that is obtaining land by eating people, such a crime deserves the death penalty!¡¨ Confucius deemed human lives higher than anything else, and it is the highest crime to kill people for land.¡K
Mr. He is a professor of philosophy at People¡¦s University in Beijing and a delegate to the National People¡¦s Congress. This article was originally posted on November 18, 2004 on the Beijing-based Web site www.yannan.cn under the title ¡§The Taiwan Strait Needs Peace, Not War.¡¨ The site is run by Guo Qionghu with the stated purpose of cultural and artistic exchange. The translation is by Hugo Restall.