[VIEWPOINT]China-Taiwan dispute long-termThe Taipei International Book Exhibition 2005 opened on Tuesday. South Korea was invited as the guest of honor. The scale of the exhibition at the Taipei International Trade Center was no less grand than any other international book fair. Many countries in Asia and Europe opened their booths. Many South Koreans in the publishing business, including 17 publishers and the Korean Publishers Association, participated in the exhibition.
Another international book exhibition where Korea is invited as the guest of honor is the Frankfurt International Book Fair that will be held this fall. Korea even boisterously formed a committee and prepared for the Frankfurt Book Fair for more than one year. Compared to the effort and attention given to the Frankfurt book fair, the attitude of our publishers and government authorities toward the Taipei book exhibition seems passive to the point that the host country would feel sorry if it knew.
But what is worse is its contrast to the Beijing International Book Fair. In the annual Beijing Book Fair, dozens of our publishers, even if our country is not the guest of honor, reportedly compete to open booths and participants reach hundreds of people. A person concerned declared that the enthusiasm of our publishers and interested people participating in the Beijing Book Fair and the Taipei book exhibition would be 10 times different.
Books are a type of goods after all, and the international book fair can be called a place of commercial transactions in the sense that it is held in the trade center as is the case in our country. Therefore, it is natural for more marketers to rush toward a bigger market, but the views of our publishing industry and the government authorities on the two international book fairs in Beijing and Taipei seem to be overly different. Moreover, Taipei is said to import more books and have more purchasing power than Beijing.
Even so, if interest in and enthusiasm about the Beijing Book Fair are aimed at a vast potential of book exports to the Chinese continent, neglecting Taipei is not at all a strange practice in terms of commercial transactions. Because investment in the future is a good investment. But it can hardly be accepted as good one if the interest and enthusiasm are an extension of blind pro-Chinese trends that can be found in our government and some lawmakers of the ruling party. The pro-Chinese trends, which are expressed in the form of anti-Americanism at times and appear like an extension of nationalism at other times, are essentially based on the optimism toward the future of China. This is the belief that the progress of China will sustain at a current speed and flow and that China will act as the most important variable in determining our future before long. In extreme cases, some people seem to think that China will exercise a critical initiative over the fate of our country in the future to the point of reminding us of the suzerainty of the past.
But in the sight of us who cannot still be free from the whirlpool of social division and conflict that began in the 1980s, the inequality of distribution in China that is getting deeper and wider following the development of the market economy and industrialization makes us hesitant to be optimistic about China’s future. Reportedly, China already has a population of nearly 200 million whose annual income exceeds $10,000. On the other hand, nearly 1 billion people still remain with an annual income of $1,000.
Although we have lived in a capitalist economy in which private ownership has been guaranteed by the constitution, and have received education from childhood about capitalist economies where income difference arising from free competition is accepted, we could not tolerate the inequality of distribution that had taken place in the process of industrialization for 20 years. No one will deny that political and social movements in the 1980s appealed to the public. For the same reason, the movements could draw support from the masses most effectively.
Until what time will the Chinese tolerate the widening income gap, after having enjoyed economic equality in a communist system where private ownership had been denied for 40 years since the end of World War II? Furthermore, the important object of liquidation of the Cultural Revolution that had swept the Chinese continent for a decade since it began in the 1960s was the capitalistic inequality that had not yet even formed. Although I don’t know in what form the country will pay the penalty, it is not difficult to predict that the side effect of rapid growth will be a big burden to the future of China. Agreeing to the application of the size of the continent and that of Taiwan to Beijing and Taipei, viewing Taiwan as part of China, is also as hard as agreeing to the blind pro-Chinese trends.
Whether the argument for Taiwan’s independence will succeed, or whether the two countries will maintain the relationship of hostile-reliance, according to China’s political considerations, Taiwan and China will remain separate countries for a considerable period of time in the future. We should see Beijing and Taipei not as alternatives but as having a parallel relationship.
* The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Moon-youl