EDITORIAL: Flag furor
shows China’s true colors
When singer Deserts Chang (張懸) held up a Republic of China (ROC) flag given to
her by a Taiwanese student at a concert in Manchester, England, and told the
audience that it was the flag of her country, Chinese students in the audience
were upset. The incident set off a battle between Internet users on each side of
the Taiwan Strait and raised the question that if Chinese citizens become irate
at the sight of a Taiwanese flag at a concert, how the two sides will ever be
able to discuss peace with dignity and equality.
Holding up the national flag after being handed one by a compatriot at an
overseas event was a natural reaction, nothing more, nothing less.
As Chang said: “It is just a flag. Flags, pineapple cakes, Taiwanese rice,
Gaoshan tea and traditional characters all mean the same thing to me — They
represent the place I come from, and wherever I see them I always feel gratitude
While Chang’s reaction — and her comments in the aftermath — have been tolerant
and composed, she has faced an outpouring of vitriol from China. She has been
scolded for promoting Taiwanese independence, been called a “slut” and accused
of going to China just to “steal our money.” The attacks have been rude,
personal and politically biased.
How ironic is it that the target of so much bile is the daughter of former
Straits Exchange Foundation secretary-general and vice chairman Chiao Jen-ho
(焦仁和), a man who had dedicated himself to breaking the ice between Taiwan and
Given the delicateness of the cross-strait situation, top leaders on both sides
have stressed peaceful exchanges, but apart from superficial slogans, Beijing
has never made any concession when it comes to allowing Taiwan international
space. It reserves extra approbation to the use of the ROC name and flag in
international settings and often embarrasses Taiwan, for example by insisting
that it be listed as a “province of China” on maps and by international agencies
Despite years of such repression, China’s tactics have been less than effective
when it comes to influencing the average Taiwanese. Instead it has created
widespread resentment, as evidenced by the results of a recent TVBS opinion poll
that found that if respondents had to choose between unification and
independence, a record 70 percent would choose independence.
Suspicions and distrust of China’s motives have also created strong public
opposition to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) and the recent
service trade agreement, even though Beijing — and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)
— feel that it has gone a long way toward pleasing Taiwan by making concessions
in these agreements.
Chang’s actions have won widespread support in Taiwan, including from lawmakers
from across party lines, and public support for unification is likely to decline
a bit further as a result of the furor. She said she has spent many years
thinking about her national identity, but that she did not want to evade either
the opportunity for exchange or the current dispute over interpretation, saying:
“This is the only way that we will get an opportunity to both shape and witness
what they will become.”
Flexibility must be the fundamental principle of cross-strait exchanges. If
China continues to maintain its high-handed and autocratic attitude to Taiwan,
the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will only continue to drift further apart.
The government made much of Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍)
addressing Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) as “Minister
Wang” when they met at the APEC summit in Indonesia last month, citing it as an
example of China’s goodwill and flexibility. However, Deserts Chang’s simple act
of holding her national flag aloft has revealed China’s true colors.