WHEN China was ruled by emperors and governed by mandarins, the political spin used to discourage attempts to oust the ruling dynasty, and to cow smaller kingdoms into submission was the claim that the emperor “possesses the Mandate of Heaven.” Every Chinese ruler of the Celestial Empire had to have this mandate of Heaven. Otherwise it would be an illegitimate power that deserved to be dislodged.
The ruler with Heaven’s Mandate would also have to be as good as the gods. He should have the soothing voice of the Benevolent Father. The more powerful an emperor, the more kind he sounded. The weaker ones were the more strident.
The virtual emperor of China since 1949 is the Communist Party and its chosen President. It seems that the People’s Republic or its officials still need to have the soothing but firm Fatherly Voice of Heaven.
People of the part of China that is Taiwan saw this flaw again last week. Taiwan’s leaders maintain that their “Republic of China”-and not the “People’s Republic of China” that the Communist Party established on the mainland in 1949—is the real government of China.
But the fact is that the people of Taiwan, and most likely the people of mainland China also, don’t really care about the ideologies. They know they are Chinese. And they just want their government to be just and fair to them—and be helpful in making them prosper and have productive jobs and profitable businesses.
Of course, the Beijing central government leadership must continue to declare Taiwan-Republic of China to be “a renegade” island or an island of China in the hands of renegades. But there is every reason for Beijing to do everything to make the Taiwan people—the Han Chinese as well as the aboriginal Taiwan people—to feel comfortable with the PRC leaders although they are communists and the Chinese people in Taiwan are not.
Until recently, this was more or less the situation. The old enemy of the Communist Party of China, the Kuomintang (KMT) or the Nationalist Party of China, whose late leader was no less than the “Father of Modern China” Sun Yat Sen, has become a friendly bunch of compatriots of the Beijing leaders. Taiwan-ROC has been ruled by the KMT most of these 67 years since the Communists won the civil war.
Under the KMT, Taiwan-Republic of China has evolved from a dictatorship under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek into a “country” with an authoritarian government under Chiang’s heirs, and at last into a genuine and robust democratic nation, which is one of the richest “countries” in the world. But the marvelous thing is that as Taiwan-ROC developed into a great “country”—with properly elected officials—relations between it and the People’s Republic’s officials in Beijing have become warm.
Taiwan people and corporations are the largest “foreign” investors in mainland China. Taiwan’s KMT and national leaders visit China.
As far as Beijing’s leaders are concerned it would just be a matter of time before Taiwan-ROC and PRC reunite. And most Taiwan-ROC leaders belonging to the KMT also see that happening, but not in the sense of Taiwan-ROC being absorbed into Communist China but in the manner of today’s relationship.
A formula that made this comfortable relationship possible is the so-called 1992 Consensus agreed to by PRC officials and Taiwan-ROC counterparts. The consensus states that there is only one China but it allows both sides to have its interpretation of what the one-China principle means.
Meanwhile, however, some of the people of Taiwan have been worrying about their “country’s” growing closeness to the Communist Party-ruled mainland’s officials. They don’t like Taiwan-ROC to be reunited and absorbed by China. These people, in the most recent Taiwan-ROC elections, voted to end KMT rule and elected Ms. Tsai Ing-wen President of their “country.”
Now, Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party is described as a “pro-independence” party. This is because it once actively campaigned on the platform of Taiwan declaring itself a really independent country distinct from the China mainland.
President Tsai’s election upset Beijing so much, especially because she refused to endorse, or accept as binding on her government, the 1992 Consensus.
Thereafter, the PRC government, acting not quite the benevolent Emperor with the Mandate of Heaven, decided to act like a bully. It suspended diplomatic communication with Taiwan.