Envisioning Taiwan in a
Changing World
Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness;
it invents nations where they do not exist.—Ernest Gellner
China, Taiwan, and the Rhetoric of ‘‘Nation’’
During an interview with a German radio station in July of 1999, L
Teng-hui (
Taiwan’s first native born, democratically elect
president, touched off a political firestorm with his seemingly offha
remark that Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (prc) enjoy
‘‘special state-to-state relationship’’—a surprising departure from the i
tentionally ambiguous terminology in which Taiwan’s status has tra
tionally been shrouded and a statement that many in the internation
community thought came perilously close to describing Taiwan as an
dependent nation. Both Beijing and Washington interpreted Lee’s wor
as a rejection of the ‘‘one China’’ formula that has maintained peace
the region for half a century, and they reacted with alarm. The form
responded by conducting military exercises in and around the Taiw
Strait, and the latter hurriedly dispatched envoys to both Beijing a
Taiwan to try to calm the waters. Eleven days later, Taiwanese offici
sought to ‘‘clarify’’ President Lee’s description of the relationship betwe
Taiwan and China by expressing their belief that ‘‘there is one nation a
two countries.’’ As journalists quickly pointed out, these remarks we
made in English rather than
When invited to repeat the sta
ment in Chinese, the government spokesman politely declined, sayin
again in English, that ‘‘we are still looking for the right words.’’ In C
nese, of course, there is only one term—guo jia
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