The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black
Originally posted at Chinese Community Forum (CCF)
Bevin Chu
February 17, 1999

The debate over Taiwan independence has gone off track. Permit me to re-focus on my original point. Namely, how the moral/ethical arguments invoked against China are never applied even-handedly against the China-bashers’ own nations and governments. So please, no more cynical and futile efforts to guilt-trip Chinese who oppose Taiwan and Tibetan secession. China is actually on considerably firmer ground morally and ethically than the US when it comes to her territorial sovereignty. If the relentless and tiresome China critics in the US had enough integrity to apply exactly the same arguments against the US that they regularly apply to China, America’s territory would have to shrink back to the original 13 colonies, smaller if truth be told.

Those knowledgeable about Chinese history know that China acquired most other territory when more powerful tribes such as Hunnish and Turkic tribes in the north-west, and later the Mongols and Manchus which were at the time alien conquered her, but subsequently intermarried with so-called “Han Chinese”, thereby consolidating their territories. The term “Han” of course has never designated or been intended to designate a “pure” race, as the Han, so-called, were already of mixed ethnicity, and proudly so.

Mr. Walsh wants me to swallow the idea that today’s US government doesn’t selectively target and persecute those it perceives as dangerous or subversive. His astonishing assertion that political movements in the USA are not targeted for their views and function openly, without persecution, will come as a shock to anyone not living in Ozzie and Harriet Land. Mr. Walsh seems to be inhabiting a pre-Watergate “America can do no wrong” mental universe. Has Mr. Walsh never heard of the term “selective enforcement?” How about “DWB” (Driving while Black?) How about recently revealed FBI investigations into the sex life of the non-violent, committed pacifist civil rights leader Martin Luther King? King wasn’t even advocating political secession, merely demanding equal rights under the law within a unified, integrated, colour-blind America. Sounds pretty tame to me. Imagine how J. Edgar Hoover would have dealt with him if he had been a Dalai Lama style head of an armed separatist revolt?

Has Mr. Walsh ever heard of the American Indian rights activist Leonard Peltier? Even after the Freedom of Information Act utterly discredited the evidence used in his conviction, and the Justice Department was forced to admit in his second appeal that it had no idea who killed the two FBI agents he was convicted of murdering, Peltier is still serving two life sentences. It can’t happen in America, Mr. Walsh? The ugly reality is that Peltier is a political prisoner in a country that sanctimoniously champions political prisoners in other countries. As the ancient American expression goes, the pot is calling the kettle black.

Mr. Walsh pleads that he does “indeed accept the implications of the principle of self-determination in full.” Does he really? I have watched with a mixture of amusement and exasperation as he tap-dances around the downside of the logical implications of genuine self-determination. Not just “self-determination” as defined to suit him, but when it impacts on America instead of China.

Mr. Walsh has a touching faith in “democracy.” He seems to imagine that if an individual is outnumbered, then justice has been done, and the individual must lump it. After all, we voted on it, didn’t we? But the self that has a right to self determination is not a group. Any group. The true self is the sovereign individual. Genuine self-determination is determination of every individual’s fate by the individual himself. Not by any group he is supposed to belong to. Anything less is merely quibbling about whose arrangement for frustrating authentic self-determination is proper. This includes the unjust coercion of every sovereign individual by every “democratically elected” government on the planet. Yes, Mr. Walsh, even America!

When Mr. Walsh claims Americans have genuine liberty, he simply hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about. Try seceding from the rule of the federal leviathan in Washington, Mr. Walsh. And watch them come down on you like a ton of bricks. I speak from personal knowledge. A former co-worker of mine in Los Angeles went to prison for just such an offence. I paid for some of his legal bills out of my own pocket. No, he did not commit any violent acts. He merely declared himself sovereign and independent in accordance with Common Law and Pro Se Law, dutifully filing all the necessary legal documents in a peaceful manner, declared that he was relinquishing all future claims on Social Security and other government benefits, and then refused to pay the taxes involved. He was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned in Club Fed for close to a year. No, we are not free in the “democratic” west, Mr. Walsh. We are only “free” if we go along with the crowd like sheep.

Mr. Walsh’s flippant remark: “Mr. Chu defends the right of “all Chinese” to vote in a Taiwanese referendum and calls this democratic. Does he support the right of all humans to vote on this issue? How about all Asians who speak Chinese?” reveals his lack of seriousness. His remark that “The rational [sic] for allowing the citizens of the Republic of China to vote on its future, and to exclude those who don’t live there is clear… Claiming that the proper geographical area is all of China is not convincingly more logical than the claim that Taiwan is the proper geographical area,” reveal that Mr. Walsh is as uninformed about Taiwan’s legal status as he is flip.

Did Mr. Walsh say “the proper geographical area?” Mr. Walsh seems to think I arbitrarily gerrymandered an improper geographical area when I included the mainland. I’m sorry to disappoint him, but I derived my proper geographical area from the Republic of China’s Constitution. The Republic of China’s Constitution defines the territory of the Republic of China as comprising the continental provinces and numerous offshore islands, including the island of Taiwan, Hainan island, Quemoy and Matsu. Let me assure Mr. Walsh I did not make up the ROC’s Constitution. Notice I said Republic of China, not People’s Republic of China. I am merely taking the Republic of China’s Constitution seriously, at face value, even if others, most notably the Quisling Lee Teng-hui, don’t. Isn’t a Constitution supposed to mean what it says, Mr. Walsh? Or is it just a piece of paper?

Mr. Walsh would do well to read the ROC Constitution before inflicting his uninformed opinion on others. It is of course, written in Chinese. This is because the Chinese people living in the province of Taiwan are Chinese citizens. So they speak, read and write Chinese. I assume Mr. Walsh can read Chinese. Since Mr. Walsh professes such a deep and abiding respect for the laws of democratic governments, then why does he sweep the ROC’s Constitution, the ROC’s most fundamental law, which explicitly defines the ROC’s territorial boundaries as including the Chinese mainland under the rug? Is it simple ignorance? Is it unfair to conclude that the real answer is that it doesn’t serve his arbitrary, subjective, ad hoc political purposes?

Mr. Walsh complains that the PRC doesn’t permit the 1.2 billion Chinese who happen to have fallen, via the fortunes of China’s ongoing Civil War, under their area of control, to vote at the polls. But when I suggest that the ROC ought to do things differently, being nominally democratic after all, setting a better moral example, he objects that that doesn’t yield the end result he wants — Taiwan secession. In short, he wants to rig the game in defiance of the Constitutions of both the ROC and PRC. We now have an ample demonstration of just how much he respects the Rule of Law.

A lot of peculiar and bogus reasoning has been run up the flagpole by TI’ers regarding Taiwan’s geography. Taiwan is separated from the Chinese mainland by 100 miles of water. This to TI’ers makes it geographically “separate,” therefore politically separate.

Who says?

Hainan island off the coast of Guangdong is separated from the mainland by water too. Is Hainan therefore not part of China by virtue of geography? Hawaii is separated from the Continental United States by approximately 2,000 miles of water. Twenty times the distance Taiwan is from mainland China. Is Hawaii on that basis therefore politically not part of America? Guam is so far from America it is actually closer to China than to America. Should Guam be part of China instead? I don’t think so. Alaska, although situated on the continent of North America, is not even contiguous with the lower 48. It borders instead on Canada. Should it therefore be part of Canada and not the US? Japan is an archipelago comprised of a handful of large islands and numerous smaller islets. Should each of these be politically independent because they are separated from each other by ocean? The Philippines and Indonesia are each comprised of hundreds or even thousands of islands. Should each of these patches of land separated by ocean be accorded independence on this basis?

For that matter, many islands are politically divided. The eastern end of the island which contains Haiti also contains the Dominican Republic. The northern part of Borneo belongs to Malaysia, the southern part to Indonesia. Actually from a topological perspective the major continents are merely larger “islands.” Is every continent automatically supposed to be a single nation?

The mere fact that the Chinese province of Taiwan is surrounded by water means nothing politically. There is no justification for drawing a line around it politically on that basis.

Unless one is prepared to apply these patently absurd justifications to every nation on the globe, then please refrain from applying them to China. Taiwan is part of China by history, tradition, language, culture, international law and any damned basis you care to mention. Let’s have no more of this nonsense.

As it happens, the People’s Republic of China agrees with the Republic of China that Taiwan is not a nation. Despite widespread semantic shorthand which refers to the Republic of China as “Taiwan,” from an international law perspective there is no nation state in the world known as “Taiwan,” just as legally speaking, there never were two political entities known as East Germany and West Germany.

There is of course a province known as Taiwan, but it is not a nation, it is merely one of two dozen provinces of the Republic of China — or the People’s Republic of China — depending on which of the two rival Chinese political parties (the CCP and the KMT) one happens to support. The government which resides in Taipei and physically controls the island of Taiwan and portions of the mainland province of Fujian, is the Republic of China. The government which resides in Beijing, and controls the rest of the mainland is the People’s Republic of China. Both regimes are part of a temporarily divided China. Just as the Union and Confederacy were temporarily divided during the American Civil War.

Even Lee Teng-hui (inadvertently) admitted recently that this PRC/ROC stalemate is part of a yet unresolved Chinese Civil War. Just as East and West Germany were once divided, and North and South Korea still are. Yes, the stand-off has lasted 50 years, while the American Civil War lasted only four. So what? Show me the statute of limitations on reunification. Germany was divided for almost as long. Korea is still divided. None of which is at all relevant. China is China. She has her own timetable. Anyone who knows anything about Chinese history knows China has been divided far longer than that, again and again and again in its 5000 year history.

Just as American citizens who live 2,000 miles off the California coast, in the offshore state of Hawaii, are Americans, so the 1.2 billion Chinese who happen to live a mere 100 miles on the other side of the Taiwan Straits, in Fujian and 22 other mainland provinces and 5 autonomous regions, are also legally citizens of the Republic of China. No more, but no less than the 21 million citizens of China who happened to be living on an offshore province and were thus by sheer dint of fate spared Chairman Mao’s insanity.

That of course was then. This is now. Deng was not Mao. Jiang and Zhu are even less like Mao. Premier Zhu Rongji was a victim twice over of Mao’s persecution of pro-free market reformers. Even many western journalists, who are often painfully slow on the uptake about developments in China are finally beginning to see the light. The latest issue of Newsweek for example has a surprisingly fair article describing the astonishing lack of constraints ordinary Chinese in post-Mao, post-Deng China experience in their daily lives, certainly compared to Mao’s nightmarish era. The Cold War is over. Time to stop nursing old hatreds. Time for reconciliation and reunification. Time to get over the Cold War mindset and let go of the mental pictures of a “terrifying spectre of global communism” threatening “civilisation as we know it.” Germany has already done it. Time for China to do the same.

Mr. Walsh says that the Union’s forcible prevention of Southern Secession doesn’t count. Because it happened in 1865. Well, who made up that rule? Mr. Walsh? Why should anyone else accept his timetable? What will he do if some one else disagrees? Use force? Let’s look at Mr. Walsh’s nonsensical logic for a minute. Suppose anti-secessionist forces prevent Taiwan independence next year, in Y2K. In 2130 AD a unified China will be able to look back and say exactly the same thing Mr. Walsh did. It doesn’t count. It happened in 2000. Ancient history. Is Mr. Walsh’s ad hoc excuse-making supposed to represent some sort of moral and intellectual integrity?

Actually this entire debate, both Mr. Walsh’s arguments and mine, could be dismissed as mere intellectual masturbation. In the real world these matters are decided the way American Indian territorial sovereignty, Mexican territorial sovereignty, Hawaiian territorial sovereignty, Alaskan Inuit and Eskimo territorial sovereignty were decided. By the sheer military might and brute force of the US Cavalry. By Gatling guns mowing down the aboriginal peoples, until there were not enough left surviving to constitute a coherent pro-independence political force. This of course is the real reason American Indians cannot get their lands back. Is the ever more centralised federal leviathan in Washington prepared to undo any of these unjust territorial acquisitions? Are you kidding? We all know this. Why pretend? This holier-than-thou hypocrisy offends the rest of the world, Mr Walsh. People are not fools. Don’t piss on their heads and tell them it’s raining. They won’t buy it. The bitter irony is that if China had actually committed the genocidal atrocities that America has, and the Dalai Lama and his Hollywood acolytes accuse her of, China would not be pestered with the separatist headaches she is experiencing today.

The just-ended ordeal by public humiliation of William Jefferson Clinton is an object lesson. Or should be. The Democrats were the ones who demanded the creation of the Office of the Independent Counsel during Watergate, when they wanted to get Nixon. They demanded its continuation during Iran-Contra to get Reagan. They demanded its further perpetuation to get Reagan’s VP George Bush, for guilt by association. Finally it backfired and almost got their guy, so now of course, they want it abolished. Ideas have consequences, Mr. Walsh.

The Afghan Mujahadin “freedom fighters” funded and supplied with Stinger missiles by the CIA during the Cold War years, have miraculously metamorphosed, like Jekyll into Hyde, into the virulently anti-America Taliban threatening Jihad (holy war) against hapless American civilians today. Does anyone really know what political repercussions sleazy CIA support for the pro-Taiwan independence DPP and the Dalai Lama’s reactionary theocrats in Tibet will reap some day?

Those self-appointed Global Policemen who would deliberately weaken China by Balkanising her territorially, invoking the insincere rhetoric of “self-determination,” had better understand that the ideas they endorse today may contribute to the political disintegration of the World’s Only Remaining Superpower tomorrow. So be careful what you wish for Mr. Walsh. You just might get it.

Rebuttal to a Taiwan Independence Fellow Traveler

Rebuttal to a Taiwan Independence Fellow Traveler
Originally posted at Chinese Community Forum (CCF)
Bevin Chu
February 03, 1999

Mr. Walsh’s rebuttal is rife with both factual errors and logical contradictions.

First, the factual errors.

Mr. Walsh alleged that “if the people of Quebec vote democratically for independence, they will be granted independence (the unanimous consent of the other provinces is not required).”

What can I say? Except Mr. Walsh is simply wrong.

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled in August 1998 that Quebec’s separatist government did not have the right to unilaterally declare the province independent.

“Secession of a province ‘under the Constitution’ could not be achieved unilaterally, that is, without principled negotiation with other participants in Confederation within the existing constitutional framework,” the court said in a unanimous decision. “Negotiations would be necessary to address the interests of the federal government, of Quebec and the other provinces, and other participants, as well as the rights of all Canadians both within and outside Quebec… there are linguistic and cultural minorities, including aboriginal peoples, unevenly distributed across the country who look to the Constitution of Canada for the protection of their rights. The court has confirmed that any possible process of independence must proceed in a manner that respects shared values that include federalism, democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and respect for minorities,” Chretien said in a statement. “In particular, it has found that the government of Quebec does not have the authority in Canadian law to effect independence unilaterally nor does it have such a right in international law.”

Mr. Walsh wrote “What [Bevin Chu] says about … independence movements in the USA is simply wrong… While it is true that the CCP is not alone in using force against democratic (i.e., non-violent) independence movements, all of the other governments that do so are dictatorships.”

Dictatorships? Let me repeat what I wrote before. The United States chose to prosecute an appallingly bloody civil war rather than permit the Confederacy to secede. Mr. Walsh makes no mention of this in his “rebuttal. ” Texas and Hawaii were both annexed illegally. The “purchase” of Alaska from Russia was receiving stolen goods. Modern day challenges to federal authority are systematically and ruthlessly suppressed by Federal law enforcement. And we haven’t even gotten around to shameful history of genocide and illegal landgrabs from American Indians.

The Texas indendence radicals were probably guilty as hell of the offenses they were charged with. That does not alter the fact that the feds targeted Texas independence radicals not for writing bad checks, but for “plotting secession.” No, the feds did not cite sedition or treason as the charge when they rounded them up. They invoked the criminal codes. China bashers, does this ring a bell? It should. The feds did exactly what Beijing does with pesky organizers of opposition political parties, they prosecute them not as subversives but as common criminals.

Now for the logical fallacies.

Mr. Walsh doubts that Taiwan secessionists would deny others in Taiwan the same right of self-determination. He has not witnessed TI legislators physically assault and injure dissenting lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan or thuggish TI taxi drivers attack hapless women passengers who failed to speak the Minnan dialect as “Tai jian” or “traitors to Taiwan.” Does Mr. Walsh really believe these humorless fanatics will be content to passively watch the disintegration of their precious “Republic of Taiwan,” without “doing something?”

Mr. Walsh defends the TI’ers. My prediction as “only a statement about how any government functions.” In other words “Everybody does it. What’s the big deal?” But Mr. Walsh contradicts himself. If indeed all governments use force to enforce their laws then how unsubstantiated is my assumption that TI’ers would deny others the right to secede as well?

Mr. Walsh wonders: “Can Mr. Chu really be supporting the principle that the majority cannot determine their own form of government? Mr. Chu doesn’t acknowledge it openly, but his words clearly mean support for dictatorship of the few over the many.”

Really? China is a nation state whose sovereign territory includes the mainland as well as the offshore islands of Taiwan and Hainan. Both the PRC and the ROC Constitutions agree on this. TI’ers are calling for a “national” referendum in which 1.2 billion fellow citizens outside the TI’ers’ unilaterally defined boundary would be prohibited from participating. The TI’ers don’t want majority rule. They want their version of majority rule. They want minority rule within an electoral district defined so that they constitute a majority. Perhaps Mr. Walsh can explain to CCF readers just exactly how this is democratic? Since I defend the right of all Chinese citizens to participate in any such referendum, I could argue that I am being much more democratic. The TI’ers, by arbitarily restricting participation in their referendum to only 21 million are being anti-democratic and exclusionary.

Let’s not be politically naive. One can achieve a democratic majority on any issue under the sun, provided one gets to set the geographical boundaries of one’s electoral district. If one can exclude in advance those who would vote against one’s initiative or referendum, then the result is a foregone conclusion. This time-honored process is known as gerrymandering. Gerrymandered electoral districts have nothing to do with democracy. Mr. Walsh merely prefers TI gerrymandered boundaries to China’s constitutionally defined (by both the PRC and ROC) national boundaries.

Mr. Walsh infers that “Mr. Chu implicitly acknowledges that a Taiwan secessionist government would have the support of the majority.” Hardly. My article was a thought experiment which granted the TI’ers’ a hypothetical majority merely to illustrate the invalidity of TI moral/ethical arguments. At no time did I imply that the TI’ers enjoyed a real world majority. In fact, the latest Gallup Poll reveals that the Taiwan public’s patience with endless, shrill TI agitation is wearing thin. The DPP’s setbacks during the recent Three in One Elections provoked internal bickering over dropping Taiwan independence from the DPP’s official charter.

Mr. Walsh hurls the wild accusation that “Mr. Chu, implicitly, supports the right of the unelected government of the PRC to use force against the Chinese people.” Mr. Walsh is conflating “government” with “nation.” China is a nation. It has been in existence for five thousand years. The Taipei regime is a government. It has been in existence for 87 years. The Beijing regime is another government. It has been in existence for 50 years. Governments come and governments go. Nations, consisting of the land and the people, endure, hopefully. Opposition to national disintegration hardly constitutes endorsement of any particular ephemeral regime. When Hitler violated the cynically drafted Nazi-Soviet Pact and invaded Russia, patriotic Russians fought valiantly at Stalingrad, not for Stalin, whom many of them detested, but for Mother Russia.

The “right to self-determination” is a double-edged sword. If Mr. Walsh wishes to invoke it, he had better be prepared to accept its implications in full. He cannot restrict its application only to regimes he personally approves of. Otherwise he is merely arguing that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. A principled defense of the right to self-determination would authorize ever smaller political entities to secede from whatever political entity they currently belong to, stopping only at the level of the individual citizen. This means, theoretically at least, every property owner on earth would be legally and morally entitled to hold a “national” referendum, with himself as the sole voter, declare his own private plot of land a sovereign republic, and refuse to pay taxes to the nation, the state or province, the city or county in which he (formerly) resided. Not surprisingly, no government on earth is willing do more than pay hypocritical lip service to the concept.

As a libertarian and borderline anarchist I assure Mr. Walsh I on the other hand, have no objection whatsoever to such a global scenario. If this were what secessionists the world over actually advocated, I would be ecstatic.

But this is not what they want. What they want are merely smaller — but not freer — tribalist collectives tailored to suit their personal ethnic prejudices. Woe to any genuine liberty loving individualists unfortunate enough to find themselves trapped in such “independent republics.” They can look forward to being treated the way German Jews were treated by the Nazis, or the way ethnic Chinese-Indonesians are treated by rabid Indonesian bigots.

Parting Shot
March 17, 1999

Mr. Walsh alleges that my response “was… clever… but it avoids the question.”

CCF readers know better. Actually Mr. Walsh himself knows better. My original piece stuck in his craw precisely because it was impolite enough to draw attention to the widespread hypocritical application of one standard for America and another standard for China. When it comes to demanding respect for “human rights” what was good enough for the American goose is apparently not good for the Chinese gander. Fair-minded readers understood perfectly well that was my original point.

Mr. Walsh gives it one final try when he states: “In Mr. Chu’s opinion the PRC should use force to compel the people of the ROC to accept re-unification with the PRC if they refuse to do so voluntarily.”

You mean like President Abraham Lincoln’s opinion that the USA was right to use force to compel the people of the CSA to accept reunification with the USA when they refused to do so voluntarily, Mr. Walsh? You mean like “A house divided against itself cannot stand” Mr. Walsh?

The fact is that Mr. Walsh, when confronted with his (1) flagrant double-standards and (2) crude verbal sleights of hand, repeatedly pretended that nobody was alert enough to realize what he had done. CCF readers witnessed him do this with (1) huffy demands that China forswear the use of force to prevent national disintegration, even while he made excuses for the Union’s refusal to let the South go its own way, merely because it happened before his private Statute of Limitations and (2) the substitution of “PRC” for “China,” even after I took pains to remind him of the distinction between governments and countries. Did anyone miss the fact that his motive for conflating “PRC” and “China” was to milk the residue of Cold War paranoia for what it was worth?

Mr. Walsh consistently refused to deal with the issues honestly and frankly. I too, have nothing more to say to him. The old expression “playing a lute to a cow” pretty much sums up my experience with Mr. Walsh.