Chen Shui-bian: On Independence
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 September 2010
Chen Shui-bian achieved an international reputation for his promotion of Taiwan independence. Whilst that reputation may have been well earned, the analyses on which this conclusion is based are frequently flawed in two ways. First, by using an undifferentiated notion of independence, they tend to conflate sovereignty with less threatening expressions of Taiwanese identity and pro-democracy discourse. Second, by failing to take into account the impact of immediate strategic context, analysts ignore a fundamental element of democratic political communication. In our empirical analysis of more than 2,000 of Chen's speeches, we seek to avoid both flaws by unpacking the concept of independence and taking into account Chen's strategic relationship with his primary audiences. Our findings challenge popular portrayals of Chen, but more importantly they have strong implications for policy makers and students of political rhetoric with regard to current and future ROC presidents.
- The China Quarterly , Volume 203 , September 2010 , pp. 619 - 638
- Copyright © The China Quarterly 2010
1 As an indication of this fame, a Lexis-Nexis search of English language news sources between 2003 and 2008 returns 1,390 articles with three or more mentions of Chen in connection with “Taiwan independence.”
2 A similar Lexis-Nexis search returns 464 articles in which Chen is associated three or more times with “recklessness” or “danger.”
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46 Ibid. Although holding referenda concurrent with presidential elections was clever, particularly in 2004, it should also be noted that this it is not unusual in other democracies, usually for cost-cutting purposes.
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58 Indeed there is tentative evidence to suggest that Chen, and Lee before him, purposefully used a parochial stage to project a message to a much wider audience. Lin finds that of 40 “key speeches” delivered between 1992 and 2005, the majority of the ones that emphasized “Taiwan's independent sovereignty or protested PRC aggression” used informal occasions to do so. Jih-wen Lin, “Uncovering the informal dimensions of Taiwan's cross-Strait policy-making,” 34th Sino-American Conference, University of Virginia, 2005, p. 9.
59 Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy.
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64 Kao, “The referendum phenomenon in Taiwan;” Christiansen, “Putting Taiwan's constitution on the agenda,” These authors also note that referenda were conceived as a means for Chen to bypass the institutional gridlock created by divided government.
65 See for instance Rigger, Shelley, “Taiwan in 2003,” Asian Survey, Vol. 44, No. 1 (2004), p. 187CrossRefGoogle Scholar. We intend the empirical analysis to demonstrate, at least, that this reading of the referendum and constitutional reform issues is reasonable.
66 To some extent the construction of any content dictionary requires subjective decisions about the connotations of word and phrase content in a complex discourse (as indicated by the discussion of referenda and constitutional reform above). Our dictionary is thus not intended to be the final word on textual indicators of the three categories.
67 Subsequent work will, however, explore the economic integration aspect of cross-Strait discourse.
68 Between 20 March and 7 June 2000, three Chen speeches were available, including one as president-elect and his first inauguration. Though these are obviously important speeches, the consistent record of President Chen's public speeches did not begin until 7 June 2000.
71 Will Lowe, “Yoshikoder: an open source multilingual content analysis tool for social scientists,” APSA Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 2006.
72 Exceptionally, in the case of “New Year and National Day” and other formal speeches, such as inaugurations, we coded the form of the speech rather than the audience.
73 At this point we should acknowledge that our strategic argument is under-determined by the available data, by which we mean that our assessment of Chen's discursive behaviour is more difficult in the absence of comparative data. Unfortunately, speeches made by other political figures in Taiwan, e.g. in the opposition, were not available in anything like the same abundance as Chen's. Similarly, our argument about audiences is weakened by the absence of data on the positions and preferences of these groups. In effect we are limited to the inference that Chen's relationship with these groups varied, but the degree and direction of this variation we leave to future work.
74 By this statement we do not mean to imply that all audiences (and all speeches) are equally important. However, in our large-scale analysis we treat audiences as separate effects to avoid the problems, discussed in the introduction, of arbitrarily attaching importance to select audiences.
75 In fact Chen's speeches do get longer over the period, so to take account for this and avoid biasing the results, all of our models are normalized by the length of each speech.
76 This is because external events enter each model additively and raise or lower all audiences' fitted proportions together; there were no significant interactions. By contrast, our argument depends only on the relative proportions of each category per audience which all remain the same, rather than their absolute values.
77 It should be noted that whilst the probability of Chen mentioning indicators of sovereignty appears to be extremely low, language-use norms dictate that the resting levels of category counts for complex concepts is always likely to be low. Zipf, George, Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort (New York: Hafner, 1965 )Google Scholar.
78 Ross, “Explaining Taiwan's revisionist diplomacy”; Ross, Robert, “Taiwan's fading independence movement,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 2 (2006), pp. 141–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar.