Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

From Self-Otherization to Self-Solidification: A Discursive Analysis of People's Visions of Peace in Taiwan

Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

From Self-Otherization to Self-Solidification: A Discursive Analysis of People's Visions of Peace in Taiwan

Article excerpt

Peace has been embraced, almost cross-culturally, as an ideal state of human existence that people aspire to. Yet individuals' conceptualizations of peace vary in accordance with an array of factors such as life experiences, socio-cultural- natural, regional environment and current events (Boulding, 1988; Cavin, 1994; Jeong, 2000; Steinberg, 2004). To some, peace is an abstract, imagined utopia; to others, a political conundrum in the international arena--so overwhelming that how to achieve it is beyond their capability. To those who are influenced by spiritual traditions in the East as well as in the West, peace is more primarily contended as a personal daily practice in the mundane world (Barash and Webel, 2009; Jeong, 2000). With individual idiosyncrasies aside, women, in lay theories, are perceived to be more peaceful by nature, while men, more suitable for building (e.g., at negotiation tables) and defending peace (e.g., in battles and wars). Women, thereby, have not been included and sometimes have been excluded from the discursive field of peace and security, which is assumed to be masculine, like many other conventional public sectors (Boulding, 2000; Confortini, 2009; Kimble, 2004; Goldstein, 2001, 2002; Tickner, 2002).

The corresponding term of peace in Chinese is he-ping. According to the National Language Dictionary published by the Ministry of Education of Taiwan (The Republic of China) in 1997, the term "he-ping" is defined in three aspects:

1. harmonious, peaceful existence

2. a status of no war

3. gentleness, tenderness

"Calmness" and "tranquility" are listed as its synonyms while "war" and "voraciousness" as its antonyms. However, the entirely positive denotations associated with the literal meaning of the term he-ping do not afford the word its popularity in Taiwan. In fact, for a long period of time, discourse of peace and security in Taiwan, an island overshadowed by an unresolved dispute with China over its sovereignty in the past sixty years, has long been exclusively framed within the discourse of national defense, while any alternative discourses had been hushed and demeaned all throughout the 23 years of martial law ruling. Though today's Taiwanese people have enjoyed one of Asia' s few functioning democracies and celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the removal of the martial law,1 peace is still a subject not often talked about in the public discourse. This could be attributed to the fraught relationship filled with confrontations between Taiwan and China that has been looming over people's psychological mindsets for so long. Taiwanese people are not accustomed to freely discussing peace-related issues in public without thinking of the recent rhetoric of China's "peaceful rising" policy and its paradoxical placement of short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. China's latter "strategic action" is justified by its longstanding claim on the island as a breakaway province. If the Taiwanese people dare to advocate for across-the-strait peace, they are at real, serious risk of being labeled as persons who are "echoing China's peace rhetoric" or even as "betraying Taiwan."

The self-muted silence finally became unbearably stifling to the people in Taiwan when the Cabinet approved plans for a special arms purchase budget of 18 billion US dollars in June 2004 to cope with the increasing cross-strait military imbalance that goes against Taiwan. Refusing to be forced to maintain a discreet silence on the issue and leave the peace/security discourse to government, the strong civil society in Taiwan organized large-scale protests and parades in 2003 and 2004. Twelve thousand people appeared on the street to show their objection against the arms deal; a petition of more than a million signatures was submitted to the Administrative Yuen (the Cabinet). These events together with the day-to-day media coverage of the arms deal prompted ordinary Taiwanese people to start talking about peace and security in Taiwan, which was a very rare phenomenon in the island's history. …

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