- - Thursday, February 5, 2015

Popular Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je has caused a big stir in the global Chinese community for remarks he made during a recent interview with the U.S. magazine Foreign Policy.

At issue was Mr. Ko’s assertion that the longer a region is colonized, the more civilized the region will become.

“For the world’s four Chinese-speaking regions — Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China — the longer the colonization, the more advanced a place is,” Mr. Ko said, throwing a verbal bombshell. The comment came in an article published last week under the headline “Taipei’s Fiery New Mayor Knows Whose Culture is Best.”

“It’s rather embarrassing,” the mayor said. “Singapore is better than Hong Kong; Hong Kong is better than Taiwan; Taiwan is better than the mainland.”

The remarks provide potent fodder for his political enemies in Taiwan who accuse the mayor of subservience to colonial powers and who are demanding an apology to the people of Taiwan. The island was ruled as a colony by the Japanese for 50 years from 1895 to 1945. The critics also say Mr. Ko should apologize to residents of Hong Kong, ruled by the British as a crown colony for 155 years until 1997, when it was handed over to the Chinese government.

Mayor Ko remains undaunted, although he did issue a statement clarifying that the point he was trying to make was that “the longer a region is in contact with modern civilization, the higher the degree to which the society in the region is civilized.”

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In the same interview, Mr. Ko proposed a daring political solution to ending the cross-strait imbroglio whereby the Communist government in Beijing claims Taiwan as a part of China in a “One Country, Two Systems” scheme but the Taiwanese have been resisting Beijing’s claim.

To counter Beijing’s offer, Mayor Ko proposed a “Two Countries, One System” political alternative. In such a structure, China and Taiwan would both remain as separate countries but both would have a form of democratic rule.

Both China and Taiwan “have to mutually know, understand, respect each other; then finally we can cooperate with each other. We have to convince mainland China that a free and democratic Taiwan is more in China’s interest than reunification,” Mr. Ko said.

This is considered absolute heresy in Beijing because it is essentially a declaration that Taiwan is in fact a separate country independent of China.

But Beijing has so far remained essentially silent on the article, likely because Mr. Ko’s remarks, although unsophisticated, represent the unspoken feelings of many in Taiwan and China.

Mr. Ko, a physician and a university professor, is a political neophyte and a maverick. But his plainspoken and nonpartisan spirit has made him the most popular politician in Taiwan, easily winning the prized office of the mayor for the capital city of Taipei.

Xi to military attaches: Follow my orders

President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has told the largest conference of People’s Liberation Army military attaches that military diplomacy conducted all over the world must be ideologically stringent and follow his orders without any hesitation.

An important arm of the government’s extensive military intelligence and foreign espionage, China’s large corps of defense attaches enjoys great access to internal political mechanisms and power struggles, which only promotes greater paranoia among Party leaders over potential leaks to foreign agencies while the attaches are posted abroad.

The current sweeping purge of corrupt officers throughout the military’s ranks intensifies that paranoia.

“We must strengthen our political awareness, maintain the highest degree of compliance with our Party Central’s decisions and orders,” Mr. Xi told the large gathering of attache corps who had been summoned to Beijing for the 16th Military Attaches Work Conference. “You must unwaveringly submit yourselves to the absolute authority of the Party, follow exactly the decisions and orders from our Party Central and the Central Military Commission.”

Mr. Xi is the general secretary of the Communist Party as well as the chairman of its Central Military Commission.

“You must be well-disciplined, following the rules and regulations, fortifying your ideological front line, lifting your comprehensive character quality, voluntarily rejecting corruption to fend off degeneration,” the president said.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected] and @Yu_miles.

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