Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chinese President Hu Jintao - West of Taiwan Strait

by M. Ulric Killion 

Chinese President Hu Jintao (R Front) meets with tunnel construction workers in Xiamen, southeast China’s Fujian Province, during his inspection tour in Xiamen from Feb. 14 to 15, the first two days in China's Lunar New Year. (Photo: Xinhua/Ju Peng). 

During the first weekend of the Chinese New Year holiday, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Fujian Providence (Hu urges developing west side of Taiwan strait, Xinhua, February 16, 2010). As Xinhua reported, “Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for efforts to accelerate the construction of the economic zone on the western side of the Taiwan Strait during his four-day inspection tour to Fujian Province that ended Monday. Hu urged Fujian officials and people to seize the favorable opportunities offered by the central government on the construction of the economic zone and accelerate the transformation of the economic growth model. Hu, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, visited Zhangzhou, Longyan and Xiamen in Fujian during the inspection tour and celebrated the Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, with local residents and Taiwan compatriots living in Fujian.”

It is more noteworthy, however, that his visit to Fujian Province included a visit to the seaside city of Xiamen, which is immediately west of Taiwan. Standing on the banks of the city of Xiamen, one can actually see two of the smaller islands that, as claimed by Taiwan, belong to the Taiwan archipelago. The two smaller islands in closer proximity to Xiamen’s coastline, though still a part of the Taiwan archipelago, are a part of the Greater Kinmen (大金門) archipelago. In particular, there is a smaller island lying in Xiamen’s harbor, which is Lesser Kinmen.

(Poster on Lesser Kinmen Island reads: 三民主义 统一中国/Three People’s Principles unite China; Photo/From Wikipedia).

On a clear day one can also see a poster on the island of Lesser Kinmen that reads: 三民主义统一中国 (San min zhuyi Tongyi Zhongguo). The phrase refers to the political theory or philosophy of Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan). This is his famous “Three Principles of the People.” The political idea actually associates with the earlier Republic of China (R.O.C.), which is distinguishable from the People’s Republic of People. Before 1949 and the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, actually, related his ideas of a new democracy to Sun Yat-sen’s earlier post-1911 theory of the “Three People’s Principles” (Three Principles of the People, San-min Doctrine, or San min zhuyi). 

Sun Yat-sen’s “Three People’s Principles”, more particularly, represent the principles of minzu (government of the people or nationalism), minqua (government by the people or democracy), and minsheng (government for the people). Many also translate the principle of minsheng as representative of the idea of socialism. This is because the concept of minsheng addresses issues of how the government would take care of the people, such as providing food, clothing, shelter and other necessities. The “Three People’s Principles” are also considered the basic philosophical ideals underlining the Chinese Revolution (1911) and founding of the Kuomintang (KMT; Guomindang) or the Chinese Nationalist Party. Additionally, many also employ the “Three People’s Principles” to describe Chinese nationalism, democracy, and economic equalization. In 1919, when in Shanghai, Sun Yat-sen presumably started writing the “Three People’s Principles.” The actual text of the “Three People’s Principles” that is available today is from his lecture notes, which are written in the vernacular style in 1924, when he reorganized the Kuomintang in Canton, in Guangdong Province (Ulric Killion, Modern Chinese Rules of Order (2007), Chapter 1).

However, Taiwan is not alone in its display of a public message by billboard or even propaganda by billboard. This is because from the Taiwan view of  the Xiamen coastline there is China’s version of public messaging by billboard. 

(A poster in Xiamen facing Taiwan reads: 一国两制 统一中国 (Yi Guo Liang zhi Tongyi Zhongguo One country two systems unite China; Photo by M. Ulric Killion).

China erected its own display of a political slogan, which conversely says: One Country two systems unite China. During the early 1980s, the slogan of “One country, two systems” is a political theory that is attributable to Deng Xiaoping as the means to unite China. In other words, during the era of Deng Xiaoping, the idea of the unification of China under one banner took shape. This meant promoting the unification or uniting of the systems of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan with the mainland under one banner or one China.

The propaganda by billboards seems reminiscent of the Cold War. This is because both sides by billboard-propaganda appear to acquiescence to the ending of a shooting (or military) war with the resumption of war by dialogue or even by public billboards. When visiting the area one gets an eerie sense of war, though now only a war of words. In this sense, it is a good sign but still perhaps a tedious and tenuous peace for both sides. The sense of uneasiness comes from the fact that the shooting war did not end until the 1970s. 

In an earlier article, Reuters (Chinese tourists flock to Taiwan’s Kinmen island, February 14, 2007) reported,
Kinmen County, an island chain with a population of 76,000, is catering to Chinese tourists by converting military facilities into tourist traps and building museums with wartime themes. Chinese tourists, who come on a rare ferry link from the mainland, can visit minefields, mortars and other wartime relics as well as purchase souvenirs of switchblades, cleavers and other knives made from spent artillery shells. A multilingual tourist map of the 12 Kinmen islets is sprinkled with little red stars showing where the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war in 1949, battled their mainland-based Communist rivals on-and-off until the 1970s. Taiwan estimates 10,000 troops died in the decades of fighting, and the island itself attained fame in the West when it became a major election issue in the 1960 U.S. presidential election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Due to its proximity to China, Taiwan considered Kinmen a front-line to staving off its Communist foes, and built up a large military complex there, including miles of tunnels in the years after its 1949 retreat. All but 3,000 of the Taiwan soldiers who were once based here to repel invading Chinese have retreated to Taiwan about 200 km away.
Nonetheless, China is now stressing diplomatic and economic relations with Taiwan. As Xinhua reported concerning President Hu Jintao’s visit, “When inspecting the Haitian Wharf, the largest container terminal in the province, he urged the operator to boost the cross-Strait cooperation in economy and trade with better services.   During his visit to the Xiamen Strait Cruise Center, Hu talked with a Taiwan passenger awaiting the ship, who said the travels across the Strait are much more convenient than before. Hu said that compatriots across the Strait are like family members and should keep in close contact.” 

(Shuzhuang Garden Beach, Gulangyu, in Xiamen; Photo by M. Ulric Killion).

According to Xinhua, “Hu also visited some tourist attractions including the Gulangyu Islet and extended his greetings to travelers.”

Shuzhuang Garden is one of Gulangyu’s notable gardens. 

Gulangyu and its many gardens and beaches is a beautiful place with several pavilions, a pagoda, old-style bridges, different views of the sea, and narrow street corridors that are well worth wandering around. 

(Military facilities on Gulangyu, in Xiamen; Photo by M. Ulric Killion).

However, Gulangyu, like the Greater Kinmen (大金門) archipelago, still shows signs of the earlier shooting war, notwithstanding its natural display of beauty, scenery, and nature. 

This is because one can still find located near the center of the island a military installation or facility, and other signs of an earlier shooting war. For instance, a walk along one of the beaches in Gulangyu might also reveal other signs of a former shooting war, such as an abandoned bunker.

 SDC13098(An abandoned bunker on a Gulangyu beach, in Xiamen, which shows obvious structural damage on the outside wall; Photo by M. Ulric Killion).

As for Xiamen in general, Xinhua reported, “Hu stressed the role of tourism in the transformation of the economic growth mode, urging local authorities to make Fujian a tourist resort with international fame. During his visit to a tourist information center in Xiamen, Hu urged the city to strengthen its tourism management and provide better services to solicit more visitors.”

During his visit, Xinhua also reported, “Hu extended Spring Festival greetings to migrant workers at the construction site of Xiang'an Tunnel in Xiamen. Speaking highly of the migrant workers as a labor force growing in China's reform and opening up, Hu urged all government departments to be more concerned about these workers.” 

(Gulangyu celebrating the Chinese New Year; Photo by M. Ulric Killion).

During his tour in Zhangzhou and Longyan, according to Xinhua, “Hu visited some Taiwan businesses. He also promised favorable polices to support and accelerate the development of old revolutionary bases.”

Finally, the ending of a shooting war is always a good thing. For instance, in Xiaman even the location of the poster or billboard (i.e., One Country two systems unite China) facing Taiwan was off limits to public eyes and sightseers until about the 1990s, and enjoyed a strong military border patrol presence. 

China is now focusing on improving China-Taiwan relations through diplomacy and economic relations, though still diplomatic and economic relations, ultimately, manifesting its “One country, two systems” political theory or philosophy. 

All of this is still better than a shooting war.

Copyright © Protected - All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2010.

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