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Redefining Kinmen`s role in Taiwan Strait

Redefining Kinmen`s  role in Taiwan Strait

While addressing commemorative activities for the 60th anniversary of the Guningtou battle, President Ma Ying-jeou renewed his campaign vow to help Kinmen build a bridge across Greater Kinmen and Lesser Kinmen as well as expressing a hope that there will be no further repetitions of the slaughter six decades ago that took nearly 10,000 lives.
Given the territory's status as a "pan-blue" camp stronghold, Kinmen County government officials have anticipated full and active support from Ma's restored KMT administration in helping the former fortress island develop as an interface between Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party -ruled People's Republic of China.
Such a course would be in line with the strong desire of Kinmen residents for their home's redefinition as a bridge to the PRC and their desire to remain in Taiwan's democratic political community.
Given its location opposite the Chinese port metropolis of Xiamen, engaging the PRC is not only an ideological preference for the Kinmen County government but also a pragmatic necessity.
The question is what kind of "engagement" and how it should be carried out.
Fortunately, the Kinmen County government has given up on gambling casinos as its first resort for development in the wake of the rejection of casinos by Penghu County residents by a stunning 56 percent to 44 percent in a September 26 referendum strongly supported by the KMT government.
Speaking to a conference on "Building an University Island on Kinmen" held at the National Kinmen Institute of Technology Sunday, Kinmen County Commissioner Lee Chu-feng that "the benefits of casino industries may be like 'a flash in the pan,' but the negative consequences will endure."
Instead, Lee noted that a development path oriented on culture, education and tourism "may develop profits slower, but its positive contribution will be long-term and deep-rooted."
To realize the vision of developing Kinmen's unique historical, cultural and educational assets, carefully crafted improvements in "hardware" and "software" infrastructure, including the proposed bridge between Greater and Lesser Kinmen, a concept which was also endorsed by the former Democratic Progressive Party administration.
The concept of Kinmen as a virtual bridge between Taiwan and the PRC is likely to spark fierce debates on the potential implications on Taiwan, including the implications for national security as well as national identity.
Continuing its decades long-habit of using Kinmen and its people as instruments to achieve its own political and ideological goals, the "pan-blue" KMT camp advocates intends to use this concept, symbolized by both the current "small three direct links" and a proposed Kinmen-Xiamen bridge, to promote the fusion of Taiwan and the PRC.
Precisely for this reason, many pundits in the Taiwan-centric "pan-green" or pro-DPP camp, are leery about projects such as the proposed Kinmen-Xiamen bridge and other moves that would seem to further lock Taiwan into the PRC's orbit.
There are undoubtedly risks in either direction, but it is equally beyond question that Kinmen and its nearly 90,000 residents, cannot remain in limbo forever, especially as the former KMT fortress island is surrounded by rapidly developing exchanges through the opening of direct marine and commercial air transportation links between Taiwan and the PRC since Ma took office last May.
In order to avoid its complete hollowing out, Kinmen needs to find its own center of gravity to survive and the Greater Kinmen - Lesser Kinmen bridge is vital for the expansion of Kinmen's effective domestic economic and social territory as well as to facilitate absorbing resources from the PRC's neighboring Fujian Province.
Given Kinmen's political domination for the foreseeable future by the pan-blue camp, objections by the DPP or other pan-green forces to a broader role for Kinmen together with necessary regulatory "firewalls" in engaging the PRC would be futile and only breed unnecessary resentment toward the DPP, which cannot even field a candidate in December's county commission race.
Instead, the DPP and Taiwan-centric social and cultural groups should affirm Kinmen's rejection of the casino gamble and provide active assistance for the fostering of Kinmen's best sustainable option of fostering historical or cultural tourism based on its own "magic" attractions and help refine a "win-win" strategy for both Kinmen and Taiwan.
One feasible concept could encourage Kinmen to play a role as a testing zone for engaging the PRC. After all, Kinmen certainly requires access to coastal Fujian as a hinterland for cultural, tourism and educational development to find its own niche and an experimental opening in Kinmen would allow Taiwan to reduce and hedge the risks of a rash "deregulation" or "loosening" of Taiwan's educational system to the PRC. Fostering Kinmen's peaceful development with a degree of involvement from Fujian can provide Taiwan with a buffer to delay a rash or uncontrolled expansion of cultural and educational exchanges with the PRC and foster a continued role for the Kinmen people in a Taiwan-centered "life circle" in which the Kinmen people can retain their high degree of political clout in Taiwan's democratic state and freely foster balancing linkages with the international community.

Updated : 2021-07-25 23:12 GMT+08:00