Cross-strait word games get wordier

Joe hung

The state of affairs across the Taiwan Strait certainly is hard to understand for non-Chinese. The Americans, of course, have difficulty understanding the difference between Deng Xiaoping’s “one country, two systems,” Lee Teng-hui’s “one country, two states,” and Ma Ying-jeou’s “one country, two areas,” with which each of the three leaders has tried to describe officially the same relationship between the two sides of the Strait. So do the Japanese, who know more about China than the Americans, though not enough to learn the importance the Chinese attach to the rectification of names.

The Chinese people, who are all basically Confucian, keep fussing about the right names. When asked by a disciple what he would do if he took over administration of a state, Confucius replied: “The one thing needed is the rectification of names.” The sage went on to enlighten the disciple: “If names are incorrect, words will be misused, and when words are misused, nothing can be on a sound footing; law and punishments will not be just and people will not know where to place hand or foot.” That’s why one cannot be too careful about names, Confucius concluded. Mao Zedong defeated Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Chiang came to Taiwan with his Kuomintang government and troops at the end of that year, upgrading the status of Taiwan Province to that of a sovereign, independent country named the Republic of China. Chiang fumed and bristled when his country was called Taiwan, for it went counter to his adherence to the fundamental principle of the rectification of names.

Deng proposed his “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong, where a free market system would co-exist side by side with the Communist system on the mainland of China after 1997. He then offered an improved “one country, two systems” proposal to the Republic of China in Taiwan. Chiang Ching-kuo ignored it, but his successor Lee Teng-hui came up with his counteroffer of “one country, two governments,” insisting that there exist two political entities on an equal footing in one China. Jiang Zeming, Deng’s successor, didn’t agree. But Lee had what is known as the “1992 Consensus” set in place. It’s a tacit pact reached in that year, under which both Taipei and Beijing are agreed that there is but “one China,” the connotations of which can be orally and separately enunciated. This modus vivendi made it possible for the Republic of China to adopt the Statute Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. In full accordance with the spirit of the statute drawn up in line with the Constitution of the Republic of China as amended, President Ma Ying-jeou’s ruling Kuomintang offers “one country, two areas,” as a rephrased modus vivendi of Lee’s “one country, two governments” which he renamed “one country, two states” toward the end of his tenure in 1999. In the meantime, that one country called China is the People’s Republic of China to the people of the “Mainland Area,” whereas it is named the Republic of China, whose government rules the Taiwan Area that includes the Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other uninhabited islands in the East and South China Seas.