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5 - Referendum and the Taiwanese National Identity

from Part 2 - On Taiwan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 October 2017

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Summary

The controversial referendum proposals and the first island-wide referendum on 20 March 2004 were a crucial aspect of the emergence, growth and acceleration of the conscious effort by President Chen Shui-bian and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to articulate and redefine a distinct Taiwanese national identity. The controversial issues concerning Taiwanese national identity and the referendum have drawn much attention from policy-makers and scholars in Taiwan, Mainland China and the US. Yet a substantial study of the intrinsic and complex multirelations between Taiwanese national identity and the referendum question has not been undertaken.

This chapter focuses on the important topic of the debate over the resolution of Taiwanese national identity through referendums. The previous chapter provided the political background against which the impact of Taiwanese democratisation on the national identity question and the politics of referendum took place. Through a case study of the referendum in 2004 in Taiwan, this chapter shows how the proposed referendum was manipulated and watered down. While it points out the limits of referendums in general and the flaws of the Taiwanese referendum in particular, the chapter still favours referendums as a conflict-resolution mechanism, and argues for increasing the deliberative component of such referendums.

The chapter begins by outlining the party-political origins of the referendum and then examines the influence of outside actors on the process. It then describes the process of political struggle and negotiation between the pan-Blue and pan-Green camps and assesses the outcome of that struggle before finally arguing in favour of deliberative over mobilised form of referendum (Chapter 1).

REFERENDUM: PRINCIPLES AND PROBLEMS

Today, national groups are seen to have a right of secession, that is, a right to leave the existing state and to take over control of the territory that they currently occupy. The legitimacy of state boundaries is thought to be conditional upon the popular vote. There is a growing consensus that state boundaries are legitimate only if the state protects the peoples within them and the people assent to remaining within those boundaries. If these conditions are not met, peoples are increasingly able to divorce themselves from the political unit and take their land with them.

Type
Chapter
Information
Governing Taiwan and Tibet
Democratic Approaches
, pp. 96 - 107
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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