One of the most important events in history was the Peace of Westphalia. After spending 30 years killing each other over the details of whether and how the wine served at comunion became the blood of Christ, people just got exhausted, and the soution was “do what you want.” As a result the modern state was born, and this later got mixed in with other threads to form the nation-state.
The trouble is that now the concept of the nation-state is causing more problems that it solves in the Taiwan situation. The Taiwan dispute is basically about whether or not Taiwan is or is not a nation-state, and if you try to resolve the question unambiguiously, lots of people are going to die.
The solution which seems obvious and which *has* been the solution for the last several decades is to not resolve the question unambiguiously, and to provide enough ambiguity in the system so that people can believe what they want. This involves having multiple interpretations of what “China”, and “Taiwan” mean.
The problem with Chen Shui-Bian was that he tried to make the situation unambigious, and he started from a premise that if 51% of the people on Taiwan voted for a particular interpretation than that interpretation became the one and only objective one. The articles that I was going to respond to but did were the classical “what identity are you?” and the idea is that majority wins.
There are two problems with this
1) a system of governence in which 51% of the people get to do whatever that want even if the 49% object is not a particularly stable form of government. You end up with screaming fights over trivial issues in order to get 50%+1 vote, and that in the long run wrecks public trust and confidence in government.
2) a more serious problem is the notion that Taiwan should be able to decide what to do without considering the opinions of the rest of the world. The argument says that this comes from the right of self-determination. There are elements of “democratic legitimacy theory.” Taiwan is a democracy so its opinions matter, the PRC is not so its opinions don’t.
This notion has one serious problem. It basically means that Taipei has the right and ability to involve the United States into a major war without any input by the American people. The idea is that the right of self-determination means that the US would be obligated to come to Taiwan’s defense in case of a declaration of independence. This would have Taipei determining issues of war and peace for the United States. Chen Shui-Bian might like this, but most Americans don’t.