The Five Color Problem

There is a famous theorem in the field of mathematics known as graph theory.  This is the four-color theorem, which states that every loopless planar graph admits a vertex-coloring with at most four different colours.  So what is the five-color problem? 

KMT chairman Lien Chan visits China and receives a warm welcome.  PFP chairman James Soong will be visiting China next, and he will probably get a warm welcome too.  Is this good or bad?  I couldn't tell you because I am not a seer.  

However, I will note that there are two ways for Taiwan to deal with China.  On one hand, we have this current wave of sweet talking which does not necessarily lead to any concrete developments in the future.  However, we can all agree that the war talk is absent here.  And the enthusiastic reception of Lien Chan by the people in the streets of Nanjing, Beijing University and Xian looks good on television.

On the other hand, we have heard the DPP guys talk tough.  For example, here was Prime Minister Yu Shyi-kun (via Salt Lake Tribune): "You fire 100 missiles at me, I fire 50 at you. You hit Taipei and Kaohsiung (Taiwan's main cities), I at least hit Shanghai. If we have such a counter-strike capability, Taiwan is safe."

Which would you or the people on either side of the Taiwan Strait rather hear?  I know that I don't like the fear factor much.

In the following, I have translated a post by Chinese blogger Michael Anti.  This gives you a different flavor from the Chinese and western mainstream media or the expat blogosphere.

The peace trip of Lien Chan means different things to different people with different positions.  The pan-green camp has fallen into an emotion nadir; Chen Shui-bian took a lonely journey to the Americas; Lee Teng-hui cannot sleep at night; Wang Ben-wu is in tears after being notified that he may be prosecuted for his role in the airport riot -- the tears were shed not because of his fear of jail time, but at the dimming of the prospects for Taiwan independence.

At the Chongshan Tomb in Nanjing, Lien Chan spoke the words "Republic of China" aloud.  When the people of mainland China heard those words, they were not repulsed.  Instead, they treated Lien as one of their own.  So "Big brother Chan, how are you?" became the headline on the front pages of newspapers.  Most mainland Chinese and pan-blue crowds probably breathed a sign of relief, just like my mother.  "This way, there will not likely be any war."

When Lien Chan landed in Nanjing, it was another handshake between the KMT and the CCP.  But since this was not the governing DPP, there was a limit about what this means.  Even the Wall Street Journal published an editorial to remind Lien Chan that he does not represent Taiwan.  But Hu Jintao has shown us what he can do: he can as hard with the <<Anti-Secessionist Law>> but he can softer than soft.  Objectively speaking, this is the first time that the Chinese leaders have found the right direction in the China-Taiwan relationship.  Hu Jintao changed the failure of his predecessor and successfully landed in Taiwan.  At this time, the Big Red has begun to interfere with the previous politics of the four colors (blue, tangerine, green yellow), and this is a brand new game now.

For Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek, it was their own personal worlds.  Between them, the Taiwan Strait can go to war or peace if they wanted.  Deng Xiao and Chiang Jing-guo were both reformers and pragmatists, so the relationship across the Taiwan Straits was determined by private citizens as well as free markets.  As for Jiang Zemin and Lee Teng-hui, the former was a follower who wanted to continue the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping while freezing the political reforms and the latter is the self-proclaimed Moses leading Taiwan out from the twin Egypts of China and authoritarianism.  Clearly, Jiang and Lee could not get along, and the Taiwan Strait became an imaginary line that cannot be traversed.  Since 1996, with the influence of Lee Teng-hui after the election, Taiwan had a double change with respect to democracy and ethnic identification, and this offered Beijing no opening.  Each time that Beijing made some proclamation, things got worse as their sympathizers were pained and their enemies were delighted.  Even the pan-blue people wished that Beijing would say nothing because silence was their best way of support.

When the pan-blue camp grabbed a victory in the 2004 legislative elections, people were shocked.  But this reflects the negative influence of Lee Teng-hui's use of ethnic divisions.  In Taiwan, about 15% of the people are mainlanders and another 15% are Hakkas.  They can speak both Mandarin and/or Hakka.  These 30% are the "blood lineage" votes for the pan-blue camp.  As long as the issue of ethnic strife exists and as long as mainland China is not under long-term chaos, these people and their descendants will be the base for the pan-blue camp.  Geographically, they are mostly in the northern part of the island as delineated by the Muddy Water Stream.  If Taiwan should become independent, these 30% will be directly damaged by the Fujianese chauvinism.  Therefore, in any island-wide elections, the pan-blue camp will win if they can get another 20% of the votes.

About 60% of the people in Taiwan are Fujianese who can speak the Taiwanese dialect, and most of them live in the south of Taiwan.  But Taiwan independence is not automatically their choice.  Today, Taiwan is already owned by them.  As long as the economy of Taiwan improves and the Taiwan Strait are heading towards peace, it is not impossible that half of the 60% will support the pan-blue camp.  So as long as the pan-blue camp can get another 20%, they will win the election.  Mistakes by Chen Shui-bian, the stability of mainland China and peace in the Taiwan Strait will mean success for the pan-blue camp.  Therefore, Taiwan Strait is really represented by the 20% which are pan-blue Taiwanese, and they are the true decisive factor in Taiwan politics.

From this point of view, the future of the Taiwan independence movement is hopeless.  Lee Teng-hui used ethnic origins to cut out a 60% nativization, but at the same time, they have pushed the other 30% down to the other extreme.  This division is also connected to the north-south geographical dichotomy.  Any extremist Taiwan independence move will divide.  Even if they tried their utmost to establish an independent Taiwan nation, this will be at most a Cyprus.  And if China interferes, then it will be an Ireland.  By that time, the new Taiwan Strait will be the river known as Muddy Water Stream that divides the north from the south of Taiwan.  However, unless ethnic divisions were leveraged, what kind of Taiwan independence is left?

This time, Hu Jintao invited the pan-blue leader to visit China and finally touched the core of the Taiwan problem.  On one hand, this visit creates an environment for peaceful exchange, and make the people of Taiwan sense the non-belligerent face of China.  It has also given more Taiwan business people the space for imagination.  As a result, more middle-of-the-road voters in Taiwan will shift towards the pan-blue camp.  On the other hand, it has also given the imagination to the mainlanders that the pan-blues are one of the their own kind, and therefore re-affirmed their affinity with the compatriots in the Taiwan of the Republic of China.  Any future pan-blue/pan-green conflict will be looked upon by the mainland citizens are "our compatriots are being mistreated" and public opinion will support intervention.  So whereas Lee Teng-hui and the DPP were playing the ethnic division game, mainland China has now entered in the blue/green game.

No wonder the spiritual leader of Taiwan independence, Lee Teng-hui, cannot sleep at night and opinion leader Wang Ben-wu is shedding tears.  For them, this was a nasty move.  When the pan-blues landed on the mainland, the reds also entered Taiwan.  In the four color palette in Taiwan before, green and blue were the primary colors.  But with 1.3 billion reds introduced, which of the other colors can resist?

Is it over?  No.  Lien Chan's dream for peace and the pan-blue's dream for the presidency are actually not really tied to what is happening in Taiwan.  As long as they manage China properly and the Americans do not object too much, what cannot be done?  Take a look at Hong Kong.  Isn't it behaving nicely?  These dreams are all premised upon a fundamental hypothesis: China will continue to develop with no crisis in the next three, or even ten, years.  If a crisis should occur, then not just Taiwan, even Tibet and Xinjiang will be lost.  In that case, the pan-blues will he held responsible for getting too close to China and causing too many Taiwan businesses to become inextricably invested in China.  At that time, the pan-blue as well as the pan-green camps will all support Taiwan independence.

Who can guarantee that there won't be a huge crisis in China in three years or ten years?  Lien Chan is betting that in the three years up to 2008, everything will be sound in China.  In that case, Lien Chan is the hero of peace, and the pan-blues will gain the presidency.  The DPP is maintaining a distance, and they are betting that in the longer term a crisis will emerge in China, and their current slow-down policy for entering China will represent foresight.

Who can tell?

Professor Qin Hui has evaluated the Three Peasants Problems as: "The key to the China problem is not the Three Peasants Problems.  The key to the Three Peasants Problems is the China problem."  In the same way, the Taiwan problem is actually the China problem.  If it is handled properly, it is also a problem of China itself.  In other words, the Taiwan Strait is actually located inside Zhongnanhai itself.

The presentation of the coloring theorem has many other examples in minority political calculus around the world.  In the United States, the Cuban lobby has a disproportionate influence on US policy towards Cuba over the years (and Venezuela in recent  years), because it is perceived as a single-issue voting bloc that would be critical in presidential elections that are often won by 1% or 2%.  Other significant American special interest groups are the Right-to-lifers, the pro-Choice people, labor unions, civil right groups, gays/lesbians, religious groups, war veterans, etc.

When the electorate is approximately evenly split between two political parties, a special interest group can gain disproportionate influence.  When one political party is in disfavor, it will pander to capture enough special interest groups.  But the converse tragicomedy is that a political party can triangulate a special interest group into supporting it without actually delivering any results, because the alternative is not unviable (see Triangulation Meets Apostasy for an example from Taiwan).

In the political scene before the KMT visits to mainland, the pan-green camp had a slim-to-none lead over the pan-blue camp.  Chen Shui-bian won the 2004 presidential election by a measly 0.2% with an assist from a campaign to cast null votes and sympathy aroused by two mysterious bullets, and then the pan-blue camp won the legislature battle afterwards.  The DPP had no choice but to espouse a Taiwan independence stance to capture that single issue segment even if this is not the majority opinion.

As Anti explained, the political landscape has now shifted vastly with the KMT/PFP visits to mainland China as the political center is shifting towards the pan-blue camp.  If the pan-green camp adheres firmly to its previous positions, it might be crushed in future elections unless some huge crises hit China.  Alternately, the DPP can outdo the KMT/PFP by having Chen Shui-bian visit mainland China and outflank the opposition.  That would leave the Taiwan independence proponents, such as the Taiwan Solidarity Union, with the choice of being still involved in a pan-green camp that will not support its core issues, or being exiled under its own color into the wilderness of political insignificance.

(TVBS via Yahoo! News)

This survey was conducted on April 26, 2005, the evening after Lien Chan departed for China.

(ERA Survey Reseach Center)  April 27-28, 2005 survey of 974 persons via telephone.

(China Times via ChineseNewsNet)

This survey of 766 Taiwan citizens on April 29, 2005 from a random sample of telephone numbers, the evening after Lien Chan met with Hu Jintao.

(Apple Daily)

Automated voice telephone survey of 620 adults on April 30, 2005.

(China Times

Telephone interview with 1,101 respondents between May 3-5, 2005.