A fair question, and I wouldn’t call it naive. I’ll do my best to respond… although like all difficult issues, the simple answers aren’t fully satisfying, and the satisfying aren’t fully simple.
It’s most definitely not a grudge. There’s no sentiment of anger towards the Taiwanese at large, and it’s certainly not due to some mortal fear lingering from the Civil War. To borrow the words of one Abraham Lincoln, who in turn borrowed the words of Constitutional drafters a century prior, the Chinese desire to unify with Taiwan can be explained as a quest to “form a more perfect union”.
As I’ve said earlier, Chinese civilization is relatively unique amongst men. It is one of the few nations that has placed such a premium on unity, on harmony of all lands underneith the sky. For over 2000 years, China has been united far more (in terms of calender years) than it has been divided. Given the chance to segment into smaller kingdoms + fiefdoms, the intellectual and cultural philosophies that guide our nation have always led us back to a unified state.
We believe that we can not thrive as individuals unless our nation also thrives. Is that such a hard concept to understand?
As we look out over the world today, we see suffering, disease, war, and poverty in nations throughout the world. We know there are men out there who wage an individual struggle of heroic proportions, men who worker far harder than you or I, trying to bring wealth and security to his family. But if their nation is chaotic, if their nation is poor, if their nation is the military play-thing of another serving their own interests… their struggle will be an impossible one.
A unified China will be a strong China. The inverse of that statement is equally true. When European powers began to colonize and exploit China, they first weakened it by dividing it. They emasculated the central government, supported local warlords, and carved out local territory. Hundreds of millions of Chinese lived in poverty for 2 centuries, and it surely wasn’t because these Chinese were unwilling to work to better their lives… it was because their efforts were meaningless.
The 19th and 20th centuries are reminders of the importance of a strong, unified China. The presence of Taiwan is in itself insignificant. It represents 2% of the Chinese population, and in another 5-10 decades, it’ll likely represent 2% of the Chinese economy. Taiwan is more or less a symbol, the testing point for a principal.
China is more than just the geographic area where 1.3 billion Chinese-speaking, yellow-skinned, slant-eyed Mongoloids happen to congregate… just like a “family” is more than 3-4 people who happen to live in the same house. China is a nation with a history, and hopefully, a nation with a future.
For centuries, our forefathers lived up to their commitments; they sacrificed and worked to create this more perfect Chinese union, building a nation that give hundreds of generations of Chinese safer, more harmonious, and prosperous lives. In the 19th and 20th century, this “commitment” faded, and China collapsed into poverty and decline.
Well, that has stopped today. We’re living up to our commitments, again.
I personally can imagine several scenarios where the Chinese, as a people, accept that the Taiwanese have become an “other” after a long period of reflection and contemplation… and accept their independence. But I will not accept a scenario where we just shrug our collective shoulders and say out of apathy, “who cares… let’em go”. That doesn’t become an option until we’ve exhausted all other paths.
I firmly believe the majority of Taiwanese are proud of their Chinese identity, and can come to appreciate the advantages of a unified, stronger Chinese nation. I also firmly believe that under the current political environment, they’re being fed a steady, demonized view of this possibility. I say, after 2-3 decades of reconcillation, if I’m proven wrong on the above… then we can cast’em loose and let them make their own way.
But we aren’t going to weaken what makes China, China. If Lincoln can sacrifice the lives of millions of his countrymen to preserve his union, the least we can do is sacrifice some money and a few decades trying to preserve ours. And if anyone tries to deny us this opportunity for reconcillation, then our determination will be challenged yet again. I think we’ll be ready for that challenge.