Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan (安峰山) on June 15 denied during a press conference in Beijing that an “anti Taiwan” sentiment had developed among Chinese citizens and argued that the negative thoughts were instead aimed at those who support “Taiwan independence.”
An did not mince his words. “Any attempt to seek secession will be unsuccessful,” he said, while rejecting recent comments by Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council that relations across the Taiwan Strait are between “neighbors.”
“The mainland [sic] and Taiwan belong to one China, and compatriots on both sides are a family, not ‘neighbors,’” he said.
There are problems with An’s statement, which should be seen for what it is: propaganda aimed at a domestic audience. For one thing, the TAO and other state organs don’t give a damn about what ordinary Chinese people think. It purports to channel their voices without bothering to ask them what they really think. If it did, and assuming that ordinary Chinese were allowed to speak freely, it would find that the great majority of them have many other — and certainly more pressing — concerns, ranging from pollution issues, food safety, employment, education, health care and elderly care, among many others.
Another problem with the statement is that it aims the purported anger at the wrong people — or at too few people, to be precise. This stems from the fact that “Taiwan independence” involves a much wider phenomenon than the activities of a “small group of people” who seek to “secede” from China or to make constitutional amendments. It also involves the majority of people in Taiwan who favor the “status quo,” a stand-in term for de facto independence with which most supporters of the “China friendly” Kuomintang (KMT) are perfectly comfortable. In fact, besides the increasingly marginal 10% or so of the Taiwanese population who do support unification with China, the rest should all be legitimate targets for the “anger” An presumes to speak of. This also includes those in the blue camp who are proud citizens of the Republic of China, (ROC) which for them, just as those who seek de jure independence, stands for everything that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) isn’t — liberal, democratic, progressive, fair.
For the great majority of the people who fall into those categories, Taiwan (or the ROC) has already “seceded,” and there is no going back. And in their minds, there is absolutely no doubt that next-door China is, and will continue to be, a neighbor.
If ordinary Chinese are, as Mr. An claims, indeed angry at the people in Taiwan (and I seriously doubt that is the case), they’re going to have to admit that their ire should be aimed at a much larger group of people than they originally thought. Like it or not, China is a neighbor — and a not particularly nice one of late.