當威權的高牆倒下……──政治五怞~

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1999 / 10月

文‧李光真



政治學中有一個定律,「越是威權國家,越是政治掛帥。」政治,正是台灣半世紀來的重心與核心。

不同的是,五十年前,報章上歌功頌德、暗巷民宅裡則風聲鶴唳;五十年後,媒體儘是一片對政局的規諫、訾議,對政治人物的臧否撻伐,計程車司機就是最雄辯的街頭政論家。

台灣政治的變,令人瞠目,令人欣喜,也引人深思。

八月底,剛召開「美麗島事件二十週年紀念」記者會的民進黨前主席、立委施明德,在自己的辦公室裡接受採訪。「二十年前,美麗島是叛亂團體、人民公敵;二十年後,美麗島卻是 全民公認的台灣民主的里程碑,」自認「很幸運,能夠活著看到夢想逐步實現」的施明德回顧。

重回囚室當主人

命運往往充滿了令人驚奇的邂逅。一九九三年,施明德首度當選立委,要在京畿要地找個辦公地點,當秘書帶他來看這棟大樓時,他幾乎不敢置信,這個地點,原來就是他第一次犯下所謂「叛亂罪」,被警備總部羈押了十一個月的地方。同室三位死囚魂魄已渺,而他竟在三十年後回到這裡,當上主人!然而不時地,死囚的腳鐐聲沈沈拖過地面,在他耳畔響起。

民國三十八年,國府兵敗來台,退無可退;為了力保最後一塊領土,頒佈了戒嚴令,從此這個純樸小島便進入人人自危的時代。將近四十年間,政治的嚴密控制深入每個階層、每項活動,「保密防諜、人人有責」是小學生朗朗上口的口號;「蔣總統萬歲!中華民國萬萬歲!」是每年雙十國慶十萬軍民的歡呼;「寧可一家哭,不能一路哭」的警備總部信條,讓多少家庭夜半驚魂、多少菁英就此噤聲;社會講求的只有家國,沒有個人。

在當時,大環境有著不得不如此的苦衷。民國三十八年中共武力奪取大陸;三十九年韓戰爆發、四百萬人喪命沙場;六十四年越戰結束,越南淪為共黨國家……,「赤化」的威脅如此具體而巨大,何況台灣是座孤島,「退一步即是死路」?!

「正因為『退一步即是死路』,國府在台灣的經營真是戰戰兢兢、步步為營,」台大政治所教授朱雲漢指出,國府遷台,帶來了二百萬軍民,雖然加重了台灣本地人的負荷、壓縮了本地人的發展空間,然而不可否認,「集大國之力來經營小島」的結果,使台灣的發展腳步如飛。

地方自治、民主扎根

民國四十年代初期,國府的施政重點為「平均地權」、「耕者有其田」。政府用股票換土地,強迫台灣仕紳階級將資源投入工商活動,同時奠定了近半世紀來貧富差距不大、社會安定 的基礎。而更早,民國三十九年,還在兵慌馬亂、風雨飄搖的年代,政府就開始舉辦台灣地區地方公職人員的選舉,也可以看出國府施行「地方自治」的決心。

「地方自治,國之礎石」《國父思想》上寫得清清楚楚。然而,中央政府播遷來台後,小小島上又有「中央」又有「省」,兩者的轄區有百分之九十五以上的重疊。在中央政府無法「 放手」、「分權」的情況下,地方自治在台灣,只剩下選舉這一形式。

住在雲林台西的八十三歲老阿嬤記得,每到選舉,村里幹事就會送來「走路工」,從早年的肥皂毛巾到後來的鈔票,純樸的鄉人總是歡歡喜喜地收下,然後很有信用地用選票回報。雖 然國民黨一黨獨大的地位難以撼動,但在歷年選舉中,非國民黨候選人始終保有近三成的當選空間。遠在阿扁之前,台北市長高玉樹,高雄市長楊金虎,都是早年擊敗國民黨提名人的 「黨外英雄」。

時序進入民國六十年代後期, 台灣經濟起飛的現象已引起全球矚目,「四小龍」成為許多開發中國家取經學習的對象。然而,經濟繁榮,襯托得外交處境更為淒冷。曾經和英法美蘇 世界四強並列聯合國安理會常任理事國的中華民國,終於難敵國際政治的現實,邦交國一度只剩二十二國。

塞翁失馬,焉知非福。外交失利,國際舞台封閉,台灣轉而將注意力轉回島內。在 本土運動思潮帶動下,台灣人民好像張開了眼,開始仔細審視自己腳下立足的土地,發現了許多隱藏 在「大中國神話」及「經濟發展第一」盾甲下的不足與缺失,社會運動開始萌芽,政治鬆綁的呼聲也隨之激昂。

回顧當時,當異議份子已被長期消音、煽動力減弱;當經濟富裕、老百姓滿足程度提高;當一襲輕便夾克的經國先生走遍全省,「民間友人」遍佈各階層後,對照對岸中共在十年「文 化大革命」後的動盪、貧困、廢墟一片,國民黨政權顯然有了自信、以及隨自信而來的包容度和柔軟度。

當威權的高牆倒下……

民國六十六年,全省縣市長選舉,桃園縣的許信良因自行參選而脫離國民黨,民眾則因懷疑國民黨作票而包圍中壢警察局,爆發了「中壢事件」。兩年後,高喊「台灣獨立」的「美麗 島事件」爆發,上萬高雄民眾湧上街頭,對一向安定、溫馴的台灣社會帶來極大的衝擊。所幸在政府及抗爭者雙方的自制下,並未釀成像北京六四「天安門事件」的慘況。

「美麗島事件」遭鎮壓後,反對運動第一代菁英先後繫獄,辯護律師派代之而起;理性、組織的基調,伴隨著美麗島政治犯家屬的悲情訴求,使得「黨外」陣營在選舉中屢有斬獲。在 此同時,體認到「時代在變、潮流在變」的經國先生,在他與病魔搏鬥的最後半年內,宣佈解嚴、開放民眾赴大陸探親、開放報禁,為台灣民主揭露一線曙光。其後李登輝總 統繼任, 又持續一連串的政治解禁動作。

民國八十年,當老一代的中央民意代表全面退職後,以前只能選省市議員、縣市長、以及寥寥數席的增額中央民意代表的台灣人民,終於可以投票來全面改選中央民意代表了。結果, 當年的國大全面改選,國民黨以囊括近八成的席次大獲全勝。

「環顧全球,當威權的高牆倒下,長年一黨專政的執政黨居然還能保住政權的,恐怕只有台灣的國民政府了,」朱雲漢解析,地方自治已實施三十多年,各項選舉提供了民眾最好的宣 洩管道;而李登輝擔任黨主席後的國民黨本土化政策成功,也是原因。

解嚴倏忽十二年,台灣政治氛圍的鬆動顯而易見。去國二十多年的張老先生,前年 回來,看到報紙上大幅的國家領導人諷刺漫畫,聽到收音機裡罵國家領導人「頭殼壞去」,他驚嚇地 不敢相信,這竟是當年壓迫感無處不在、空氣令人窒息,使他憤憤逃離的同一個國家?

本土化與國家化

民主的成就,植基於意識型態的鬆綁。

「台灣國民政府最大的改變,是從一個外來的流亡政權,逐漸落實為本土政權,」中研院社會研究所研究員蕭新煌點出癥結,這是一段「必然,但不容 易」的過程。

蕭新煌指出,當光復大陸的希望已愈趨渺茫,台灣從反攻「跳板」變成復興「基地」,再變成國民政府延續政權的唯一希望所繫時,蔣 經國回應了這樣的潮流變化,於是有了六十年代 刻意、大量培植台籍菁英的「崔苔菁」政策。李登輝繼任後,更進一步藉總統直選、凍省,把台灣從「中國的一省」向上提昇,「地方台灣」蛻化,「國家台灣」成型。

朱雲漢也指出,民國三十八年前,從明鄭、清朝、日據、再回歸中國,台灣一直是某種大體系下的次體系,從未有過成為獨立國家的想像和期望。然而蔣介石將中央政府遷來台灣,台 灣開始有了自己的軍隊、自己的貨幣、自己的護照、自己的法律體系……,一個國家的雛形、一個獨特的國家身份認同,就這樣點點滴滴被建 構出來,不斷強化鞏固。「本土化的國民 黨」、「國家化的台灣」,正標示著五十年來台灣政治的兩大里程碑。

解嚴十二年,民主、自由、人民當頭家,台灣已經完全做到。然而,翻開報紙,兩 大黨內部政爭放話、憲政改革亂象不斷、黑金型地方政客五鬼搬運、視法律為無物……,台灣有了民 主,但離「法治」尚遠。

「破」舊易,「立」新難

「民主本來就有兩個階段,先『破』、後『立』,」中研院社會研究所研究員、澄社社長瞿海源解釋。就「破」來說,種種威權時代的不合理限制已經取消,白色恐怖陰影也逐漸淡 去;然而現在面臨建立民主架構的巨大工程時,才驚覺真正的考驗剛剛開始。

「要建立優質民主,一是健全政黨體制,二是改善民主體質,可惜台灣在這兩方面都乏善可 陳,」瞿海源指出,今年三十歲以上的人,都是戒嚴教育下長大的,沒有政治制衡的觀念, 沒有獨立判斷的能力,也缺乏民主素養。台灣優質民主的建立,還有一段長路要走。

令人憂心的是,全新的自由空氣讓人陶醉,連許多知識份子都不覺得有什麼迫切改革的需要。

今年八月,當國民大會代表又嚷嚷著要擴權、延任時,瞿海源帶著數千名群眾,到陽明山中山樓前示威遊行,要求「廢國大」。

然而,「現在的遊行示威,走的人是瀟灑走一回,看的人是輕鬆看一回,誰也不把誰的訴求當真,」瞿海源感嘆,十幾年前,等閒上千人的集會就會招來層層拒馬刺網伺候,軍警憲兵 一字排開;如今威權暴力沒了,相對地遊行示威的力度也出不來;所有的改革訴求,都好像打在棉花上,令人充滿無力感。

腳鐐心態與新貴滋味

前幾年因和「外省黨」新黨立委喝咖啡、提倡「大和解運動」,而「從反對運動神主牌上被趕下來」的施明德,冷眼看著政壇的紛紛擾擾,也忍不住提出警示:「台灣雖然民主了、自 由了,可是許多政治人物還是揹著無形的手銬腳鐐,多疑、猜忌、凡事歸咎陰謀論,」施明德在許多場合疾呼同黨同志要胸襟開闊,「不是民進黨上台就不會搞威權」。

直至今日,施明德仍把綠島監獄「綠洲山莊」的鳥瞰圖掛在辦公室進口處,每天看上幾回。不是記恨,而是提醒自己,絕對不要重蹈覆轍。

「腳鐐心態」讓政壇無法平心靜氣地辨明是非曲直;隨新興權貴滋味而來的腐化,更讓施明德憂心:「『承受苦難易,拒絕誘惑難』,民進黨的道德理想需要重新建立。」

朱雲漢則在審視國民黨的功過時指出,撇開白色恐怖不談,國民黨在台灣最嚴重、至今還尾大不掉的「政治敗筆」,是對憲法的操控。

「世界上沒有一個國家,有專責、常設性的修憲機構,一天到晚嚷嚷著要改寫憲法,」朱雲漢指出,憲法是國家根本大法,憲法必須安定,國家才可能長治久安。然而在戒嚴時期,蔣 氏家族為了維護政權及維持「統治全中國」的象徵性法統,不僅允許第一屆國大代表可以無限期延任,還給予各項優渥待遇,讓國代成為令人垂涎的專任職。惡例既開,至今難以收 場。

今年九月,國民大會在全民聲討下強行通過延任案──自己決定將任期延長兩年又四個月;又聲稱延任是為了要另行制訂「台灣基本法」,嚇得台灣股市連連重挫。即使千夫所指,然 而只有國代能夠自己「廢掉」自己,小老百姓也無可奈何。

黑金政治,是另一項國府政權之「瘤」。朱雲漢指出,國民黨遷台初期,領導者背負著「貪污亡國」的慘痛教訓,一直勉力維持勤政、清廉的政治「潔癖」。可是在高層潔癖底下,為 了維繫政權而與地方勢力打成一片、利益均霑的共生體系已悄然成形。演變至今,政壇黑金交融,濃得化不開;政府的威信大損,還在萌芽的民主也慘遭蹂躪。

「國內的選舉充滿了黑金運作的痕跡;民意代表中,一半和黑道有關,」這是中研院院長李遠哲九月間在一項座談會中對政局提出的諍言。他坦言,台灣的民主只是供國際宣傳炫耀之 用,其實內裡亂象叢生。那要如何導正呢?李遠哲含蓄地說,人民要覺悟自己想要什麼,善用自己手中的選票去撥亂反正。

島內的政治運作未上軌道,無奈對岸的虎視眈眈,更讓情勢複雜百倍。

期盼和平邁向「雙贏」

民國六十年代,在美國「聯共抗俄」策略下,中共開始重回國際舞臺。自此,台灣的國際地位受到空前壓縮:民國六十年,中華民國退出聯合國;次年,中日斷交;六十八年元旦,中 美斷交……。國際地位的矮化,激起本土意識的凝聚;而當自由、民主、富裕的台灣早已從「漢賊不兩立」的內戰桎梏中掙脫,希望創造「雙贏」時,中共卻還固守著五十年前的內戰 心態,執意將台灣當做「叛離的一省」,緊咬著台灣不放。

「從台灣移民四百年史來看,如何對抗對岸的霸權中國,一直是這座孤懸小島的最大挑戰,」用「宿命」來形容兩岸關係的瞿海源感嘆。兩岸僵局未解,霸權中國還是中國,但台灣的 一切卻受到扭曲變形,連帶地內部分裂也難以弭平。

資深新聞工作者南方朔觀察到,台灣外交人員,是用「寸土必爭」的決戰心態在辦外交;台灣企業家,是在「戒急用忍」氣氛下兩岸鑽營的人格分裂者;統獨爭論無所不在,「五四運 動」八十週年,光是「我們」的五四?還是「他們中國人」的五四?就可以爭執一上午而毫無交集。甚至連「廢國大」這樣純粹以健全憲政體制為考量的提議,都會被指為破壞法統,搞台獨!

歷史是諷刺的。民國三十八年,國府流亡台灣,堅守神州最後一塊未被赤化的淨土,立國的自由民主信念卻遲至四十年後才稍有成績。如今半個世紀過去,台灣在各方面都已脫胎換骨、重獲新生,唯有與對岸的關係,至今依然緊繃。

眼前的僵局,何時能解?儘管台灣一再宣示不獨立、不急統、不對立,希望兩岸中國人互相幫助、爭取雙贏,然而只要中共不肯正視現 實、霸權心態不能轉化,兩岸前景必然迷障重重。

將來結局難以逆料,然而「台灣人自己治理這塊土地時,就要盡力把它弄好;將來歷史上,會為這五十年記下輝煌的一筆的,」施明德如是說。

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EN

Beyond Authoritarianism:50 Years of Political Transformation

Laura Li /tr. by Phil Newell


In political science there's an iron law that "the more authoritarian a country is, the more politics is made the top priority." Politics has been the main focus of public life in Taiwan for the past half-century. Does this mean Taiwan has been authoritarian for 50 years?

Hardly. To be sure, 50 years ago, newspapers were ritually singing the praises of the leader and government, while ordinary people were afraid to open their mouths to say anything. But today, the media criticizes everybody, and taxi drivers can be heard expounding on political topics of the day.

Political change in Taiwan has been startling, gratifying, and thought-provoking.

It is the end of August. Legislator Shih Ming-te, the former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, has just held a press conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Formosa Incident (also known as the Kaohsiung Incident), and we interview him in his office. "Twenty years ago," he recalls, "The regime opponents who were organized around Formosa magazine were considered a subversive group, enemies of the state. Now the Formosa movement is widely recognized as a milestone in Taiwan's democratization." Shih considers himself "very lucky to have survived to see my dreams become reality."

Returning to prison as the master

Fate plays curious tricks. In 1993, when Shih had just been elected to the Legislative Yuan for the first time, he was looking for an office in Taipei City. His secretary took him to see one building, and Shih almost couldn't believe his eyes: This was the very same building were he was held by the Taiwan Garrison Command for 11 months the first time he was arrested as a so-called subversive. Three of his fellow prisoners at that time were sentenced to death, but Shih has survived to return after 30 years as the master. Nevertheless, from time to time, he can still hear the echoes of the dragging chains of those condemned to death.

In 1949, the Kuomintang government, having lost the civil war in mainland China, retreated to Taiwan, a place from which there was no further retreat. To secure this last foothold, the government declared martial law. Suddenly, every individual in this little island was at risk.

For nearly four decades, politics controlled and penetrated every aspect of life. "Protect secrets and defend against spies, this is everyone's responsibility!" was a slogan every primary school student knew by heart. "Long live President Chiang, long live the Republic of China!" shouted 100,000 well-instructed soldiers and citizens on National Day. "Rather that one household cry than one street cry"-a dogma of the Taiwan Garrison Command-caused countless families to experience terror in the middle of the night and countless leaders of society to be muzzled. The only thing that mattered in this society was the state, not the individual.

This harsh reality was in part a result of the environment. By 1949, the Communist Party controlled all of mainland China. In 1950 the Korean War broke out, a war that would kill four million people. The Vietnam War raged for many years up until 1975, when South Vietnam fell to the Communist North. The threat of "Communization" loomed large and real. Taiwan is just a lonely island, and the government declared that "retreat is the road to death."

Chu Yun-han, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University, says "it is precisely because 'retreat was death' that the government was extremely cautious." When the KMT came to Taiwan, it brought with it an estimated two million military and civil refugees. Although this greatly increased the burden on local Taiwanese, and severely curtailed the growth of opportunities for local individuals, it is undeniable that "concentrating the capabilities of the large country to manage a small island" helped Taiwan to develop rapidly.

The roots of democracy

In the early 1950s, the government's main policies were "equalization of land rights" and "land to the tiller." The government traded stocks for land, and forced Taiwan's gentry to invest their resources in industry and commerce. At the same time, it laid the foundation for the social stability and equal distribution of wealth that have characterized Taiwan over the past half-century.

Even earlier, in 1950, still in a period of uncertainty and chaos, the government began holding elections for local (county, city, and provincial) governments.

In The Thought of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, it clearly says that local government is the bedrock of the nation. Nevertheless, after the central government came to Taiwan, the jurisdiction of this small island's "central government" was virtually identical to its "provincial government." Since the central government had no intention of releasing control or delegating authority, the only thing left to local government was the formal exercise of the local elections.

An 83-year-old woman who lives in Taihsi Village in Yunlin County, recalls that when election time came around, the village or neighborhood chief would send people little gifts. In the early days these were such things as soap and towels; later on the gifts were often cash. The simple country folk were usually delighted to receive them, and could be trusted to deliver their votes to those who gave the gifts. Although the KMT's position as the hegemonic party was unassailable, over the years, candidates who were not members of the KMT won some seats in these elections. Long before Chen Shui-bian of the DPP became mayor of Taipei, Kao Yu-shu and Yang Chin-hu, running as independents, defeated the KMT nominees to win the mayoralties of, respectively, Taipei and Kaohsiung.

By the late 1970s, Taiwan's phenomenal economic growth had caught the attention of the world. Asia's "four little dragons" became the focus of study among many. But even as the economy prospered, the diplomatic situation became dire. The Republic of China, one of the founding great powers of the United Nations Security Council along with the UK, France, the US, and the USSR, ultimately could not resist the reality of international politics, and at one point was reduced to having formal relations with only 22 countries.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining. As Taiwan was sealed out of the international community, attention turned inward. Under the influence of the "nativist thought movement," the people of Taiwan woke as if from a dream, and began to look carefully at their own land for the first time. They discovered many problems and shortcomings that had been hidden behind the "Greater China myth" and the policy of "first priority to economic development." Social movements began to rise, and there was a growing clamor for loosening of political restrictions.

Looking back, there were many reasons for the government to feel confident. Political dissidents, long silenced, had little capacity to stir up the public. Indeed, with economic growth, people were largely satisfied with the standard of living. In addition, Chiang Ching-kuo, the nation's leader at that time, was widely considered a "friend of the common man" after touring every corner of Taiwan dressed casually in a windbreaker. Taiwan looked even better in comparison with the ten years of chaos of the Cultural Revolution in mainland China and the poverty and destruction there. With so many reasons for confidence, the KMT became more tolerant and took a "softer" line on dissent.

After authoritarianism

In 1977 came the Chungli incident: At that time elections were being held for city and county executives in Taiwan. In Tao-yuan County, Hsu Hsin-liang split from the KMT and ran as an independent. His supporters, suspecting that KMT was engaging in vote fraud, surrounded the Chungli police station and a riot ensued. Two years later came the Formosa Incident. Calling for "Taiwan independence," more than 10,000 residents of Kaohsiung took to the streets. These were major shocks to Taiwan society, which previously had been stable and tame. Fortunately, with both government and opposition showing restraint, there were no tragedies similar to the Tiananmen Incident in Beijing.

With the repression of the Formosa opposition, the first generation of opposition leaders were imprisoned. Their place was taken mainly by the attorneys who defended them. Sympathy for these political prisoners and their families, combined with a rational, more organized approach, enabled the opposition-known as the "Tangwai" (meaning "outside the KMT")-to do reasonably well in elections.

It was at this time that then-president Chiang Ching-kuo began to recognize that, as he put it, "times are changing and trends are changing." Later, as he fought a final struggle against long-term illness, he announced the lifting of martial law, permission for people to travel to mainland China, and the lifting of restrictions on the formation of political parties and opening of new newspapers. These steps marked a great liberalization of politics in Taiwan. Chiang's successor, Lee Teng-hui, has carried on with a series of political liberalization measures.

In 1991, the older generation of KMT politicians that filled the seats of the legislative branch of the central government-who had been in place since 1947-were forced to retire. Finally, the people of Taiwan, who in the past could only vote for local officials and a very small number of so-called "supplementary seats" to the national parliament, could elect their own legislators. In the first National Assembly elections after this, the KMT won nearly 80 percent of the seats, an overwhelming victory.

Chu Yun-han notes: "Taiwan is perhaps the only case in the world in which, after the fall of authoritarianism, the long-term ruling party was able to maintain power democratically." This could be because local elections had been in place for more than 30 years, giving people an outlet for their frustrations. The successful "Taiwanization" of the KMT under Chairman Lee Teng-hui was another factor.

Today, 12 years after the lifting of martial law, there has been a manifest change in Taiwan's political atmosphere. An elderly gent named Chang, who left Taiwan 20 years ago and returned a couple of years ago, is amazed when he sees cartoons lampooning national leaders or when radio commentators say national figures' "brains are on the fritz." Is this is the same country that he left all those years ago because of its suffocating and oppressive atmosphere?

A new KMT, a new Taiwan

The accomplishments of democracy have been rooted in a relaxation of ideological control.

"The greatest change the Nationalist government has experienced is its transformation from an externally imposed government-in-exile to a localized regime with roots in Taiwan itself," says Michael Hsiao, a researcher at the Institute of Sociology at the Academia Sinica. This was, he says, "essential, but not easy."

Hsiao points out that as hopes for "recovering the mainland" faded, the government's own characterization of Taiwan gradually changed-from being the "springboard" for counterattack, to being the "base" for eventual recovery of the mainland, to being the last and only hope for the perpetuation of the ROC government in any form. President Chiang Ching-kuo accepted these realities. Thus, in the 1970s, he promoted a large number of Taiwanese political elites. President Lee Teng-hui, through such measures as direct election of the president and freezing of the provincial government, has gone even farther, attempting to transform Taiwan from its previous status as "a province of China" or "local government" to "the state of Taiwan."

Chu Yun-han says that, before 1949, Taiwan was always a subsystem of a larger system-under the Cheng family with its loyalties to restoring the Ming dynasty, as a province of China under the Qing dynasty, as a Japanese colony, and as a "restored" part of the ROC after WWII. There had never been any thought or expectation that Taiwan would be an independent country.

However, after Chiang Kai-shek moved the ROC government to Taiwan, Taiwan thereafter had its own army, its own currency, its own passport, its own legal system. . . . A consciousness of national identity gradually took shape, and has since been strengthened and consolidated. It can safely be said that the two terms that might best express Taiwan politics over the last 50 years would be "the Taiwanization of the KMT" and "the nationalization of Taiwan."

Today, 12 years after the lifting of martial law, Taiwan truly has democracy and freedom. Yet, as you look at the newspapers, you see the major parties engaged in internal power struggles, a National Assembly out of control amending the constitution to suit its own whims, intensive corruption and involvement of organized crime in politics, and the apparent powerlessness of the law. Taiwan has democracy, but the "rule of law" is still distant.

Destruction and construction

Chiu Hei-yuan, of the Institute of Sociology at the Academia Sinica, explains that "democracy has always had two stages, first destruction then construction." As far as destruction is concerned, restrictions on freedom from the authoritarian era have been eliminated, and the shadow of the White Terror has disappeared. However, faced with the enormous task of building the democratic system, people are amazed to find that the real work is just beginning.

Chiu says: "To build a high-quality democracy, the first thing is to create a healthy political party system, and the second is to improve people's understanding and practice of democratic habits. Unfortunately, Taiwan has not done well in either of these respects." People who are today over 30, having grown up under the martial law education system, lack any concept of political checks and balances, are short on the ability to make autonomous judgments, and have poor democratic ethics. There is still a long way to go before Taiwanese democracy can be said to be qualitatively satisfactory.

What's worrisome is that the new atmosphere of freedom has intoxicated many people, and even quite a few intellectuals do not feel there's an urgent need for reform.

This August, as members of the National Assembly were talking about expanding their own powers an extending their own terms, Chiu led a demonstration of a few thousand people to the Chungshan Hall on Yangmingshan, where the Assembly was meeting, to demand its elimination.

However, sighs Chiu, "In demonstrations these days, some people might walk along for a while, and others may watch from the sidelines for a while, but nobody really treats them seriously." A decade or so ago, a gathering of a thousand people would bring out ranks of military policemen and barbed wire barriers. Today, there's no threat of authoritarian violence, but correspondingly there's little power to the demonstrations either. Demands for reform are "like punching cotton," and he feels a sense of powerlessness.

Unchain your hearts

Shih Ming-te, who a few years ago "fell off his pedestal as a deity of the opposition movement" because he promoted a "reconciliation movement" and socialized with legislators of the New Party (which is seen as a "mainlanders' party") takes a cool view of the current turbulence in the political arena, and can't help but warn: "Although Taiwan is democratic and free, many politicians still have invisible chains; they are bound by mistrust, suspicion, and conspiracy theories." Shih has on many occasions warned his party colleagues to free themselves of old prejudices: "Even if the DPP becomes the ruling party, that doesn't mean that it would be free from the temptation of becoming more authoritarian."

Even today, Shih keeps a bird's-eye-view photo of the "Oasis Hotel"-the facetious nickname for the political prison on Green Island were he spent so much time-at the entrance to his office, where he sees it several times a day. The point is not to remember what ills have been done him, but to remind himself that such things should absolutely never happen again.

The chains" he describes make it hard for many politicians to distinguish right from wrong. Many, tasting power for the first time, become corrupt themselves. This makes Shih even more concerned: "It's easy to bear with hardship, but hard to resist temptation. The DPP has to rebuild its moral ideals."

In looking at the KMT, Chu Yun-han says that, putting aside for the moment the White Terror, the most serious and unresolved political failure of the KMT in Taiwan has been manipulation of the constitution.

Referring to the National Assembly, he declares: "In no other country on earth is there a standing body specially responsible for amending the constitution which spends all its time doing nothing but rewriting the constitution." The constitution is the nation's basic law: it should be stable so that the country can be stable. However, in the martial law era, the Chiang family, in order to maintain the regime's power and the claim that it ruled all of China, allowed the first parliament elected in 1947 to have its term extended indefinitely, and even gave members added privileges, making the National Assembly a lifetime sinecure. With that precedent in mind, modern assembly deputies are that much harder to rein in.

In September of this year, disregarding an outcry from the entire nation, the National Assembly voted to extend its own term by over two years. They've said that one reason for extending the term is to establish a new "Taiwan Basic Law." This alone sent the Taiwan stock market into free fall. Yet, despite mass criticism, the only people who can dissolve the National Assembly are the deputies themselves, and the ordinary citizen is powerless to do anything.

Another "cancer" which haunts the ruling party is "black gold politics." This refers to widespread corruption and the involvement of organized crime in politics. Chu Yun-han points out that when the KMT first came to Taiwan, the leadership, remembering how corruption was fatal to their regime in mainland China, tried to keep the government clean. But, while the highest authorities were basically uncorrupted, the KMT-in order to maintain links with local power centers-entered into a dubious symbiotic relationship with local vested interests. Today, organized crime, money and politics are inextricably intertwined. The government has suffered a great loss of credibility, and Taiwan's budding democracy is threatened.

"Elections in Taiwan are everywhere marred by black gold politics. I would say half of the assemblymen and legislators in Taiwan have some connection to organized crime," said Lee Yuan-tseh, Nobel prize winner and now president of the Academia Sinica, addressing a seminar held in September to discuss the political situation. He said forthrightly that Taiwan's democracy is mainly something to show the international community, but internally there is disarray. How can this be corrected? Lee says that the people must themselves wake up and learn how to use their votes to turn things around.

While domestic politics is still not yet on a completely healthy track, eyes from across the Taiwan Strait look covetously on the island, greatly increasing the complexity of the political situation.

Looking for a win-win solution

In the 1970s, when the US adopted the policy of moving closer to Communist China as a counterweight to the Soviet Union, China began to rejoin the international community. From that point, Taiwan's international space began to shrink. In 1971, the ROC was forced out of the United Nations. The following year Japan broke relations with the ROC, and the US did likewise on January 1, 1979.

The narrowing of international space in turn sparked the rise of "nativist ideology" in Taiwan-nascent Taiwanese nationalism. Now that Taiwan is free, democratic, and prosperous, the old policy of refusing to coexist in the international community with mainland China has been abandoned, and the government hopes to create a "win-win" situation. But mainland China still has the mindset from the civil war half a century ago. It is determined to treat Taiwan as a "renegade province," and will not give Taiwan any room to move.

"It's our fate," says Chiu Hei-yuan. "From the earliest immigration of Chinese to Taiwan 400 years ago, this little island has always faced the problem of how to deal with the hegemonic Chinese power across the strait." As long as the current standoff remains, China is still China, but Taiwan's status is distorted, and this has effects internally as well.

Senior journalist and commentator Nan Fang Shuo observes that Taiwan's diplomats are fighting a battle over every inch of ground. Taiwan businessmen, on the other hand, are schizophrenic, because they are being asked by the government to "be patient" but they know that in business time is money.

Everything in Taiwan is affected by the reunification-independence debate. For example, discussions on the 80th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement were complicated by the question of whether not the movement should be seen as "ours" (i.e. as something in which Taiwanese participated) or something that belongs exclusively to "those Chinese." You could debate the issue for a whole day without coming to any common ground. Even the issue of eliminating the National Assembly, which should be one of simply making the constitutional system more sound, involves suspicions that those who want to eliminate it, by creating discontinuity with the old ROC system, are encouraging Taiwan independence!

History can be ironic. In 1949, the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan, hanging on to the last bit of Chinese territory that had not been taken by the Communist Party. However, it was only 40 years later that the ideals of freedom and democracy formally extolled by the ROC were put into practice. Today, with half a century gone by since 1949, Taiwan has already transformed itself. It is only in the realm of cross-strait relations that the old tension remains.

When will the standoff end? Taiwan's government has consistently announced that its policy is one of no independence, no rush to reunify, no antagonism, mutual benefit for Chinese on both sides, and a win-win situation. But the problem is that, as long as Beijing does not face reality and does not change its hegemonic attitude, the future of cross-strait relations still looks murky.

The future is unpredictable. However, says Shih Ming-te, "So long as Taiwanese do all they can to manage this piece of land well, then these 50 years will leave a splendid mark in history."

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