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an interesting opinion article. the author compares the minds of Taiwanese with that of Briton, since the two are island residents who may have the same kind of ideas towards continents. UK has joined the EU, so will Taiwan join the mainland to establish "one country, two system" style.|
When thinking about what Taiwan's public has in mind, one factor can't be overlooked: Taiwan is an island.
It is said that the topography of the area where ancient people lived had influence on their worldview.
Mountain people tended to be more conservative. They were less willing to accept changes of values, as opposed to people who lived along the shores of a continent.
Why was this? To people who lived in valleys, things that came from the other side of the mountains were likely to be bad: tax collectors, thugs and/ or contagious diseases.
The population of coastal cities on any continent in any era believed in "the more trade, the better" concept. They were likely to welcome strangers and allow them to settle down.
Islanders were believed to have the combined characteristics of both mountain people and the people of the coastal cities.
The waters around their piece of land protected even better than a mountain range because it was more difficult to sneak in. The ports of an island could be opened and closed by its rulers to their liking.
The military could be concentrated around the ports and beaches because it didn't have to protect long land borders.
Even in the worst case scenario, when ports were blocked, islanders could still rely on their own farming and fishery. Islanders could afford to hang on their own ways yet still profit of overseas trade.
The British are islanders, too. The British public and its leaders were much more hesitant than the public and leaders of France, Germany or the Netherlands about joining the European Union.
To the British, becoming a member state was much like giving up the comfortable island position that has protected them from continental ills for centuries.
However, the European integration went better than expected. The continent's economic stability made the islanders change their minds to join the union.
Last year's financial turmoil prompted some in Britain to move closer to Europe in the hope of weathering the crisis, although the subsequent Greek crisis and the sudden threat to the euro rapidly scuppered its supposed attractions.
The Taiwanese public thinks in a similar way as the British. The Taiwanese wish to retain and reinforce the all too comfortable island position, but they know that if they do, they are going to be left out.
It is obvious that the economic developments on the Chinese mainland and the continuing Hong Kong and Macao success stories are much more impressive to the Taiwanese public than the developments on the European continent are to the British.
The British public doesn't see France as a big cake they want to have a piece of, but exactly that's how many Taiwanese see the mainland.
This is where the Taiwanese minds are caught. For both Taiwan's major political parties, the decision about how to approach the mainland politically is very tricky.
If Ma Ying-jeou's government is seen as being too quick on that issue, then the public's islander-instinct will snap in and the Kuomintang will lose the next election.
If Taiwan's opposition, the Democratic Progressive Party, is seen as being too slow on approaching the mainland, it will be the feeling of missed opportunities that will spoil the DPP's chances.
The better things go on the mainland economically, the more willing the Taiwanese public will be to become part of a union with the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao.
As more and more Taiwanese travel to the mainland, the number of Taiwanese who will accept the mainland's "one country, two systems" model is bound to increase.
This again is a phenomenon that Europe has witnessed. British tourists flocking to Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal to escape chilly winters has convinced some inhabitants of the British islands that integration with the continent is nothing to be scared of.
There are many signs that the Taiwanese public will eventually embrace the mainland. But the "island mentality" may not disappear any time soon.