One China, Different Expressions and the Cross-Strait Tango
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 28, 2008
Ma Ying-jeou and Vincent Siew have won the election. If the international media is in agreement about anything, it is that cross-strait relations will improve.
Actually this is merely a gut feeling, merely a hope, an attempt to turn desire into reality. Authorities on both sides have a lot of work to do. After all, it takes two to tango.
First, an equitable framework must be established. The mutually acceptable basis is the 1992 Consensus that entails One China, Different Expressions. Taipei has been saying One China, Different Expressions. Beijing has been saying Different Expressions of One China. But at least Beijing does not feel compelled to openly repudiate Taipei's One China, Different Expressions. It might be best to use the term 1992 Consensus as an umbrella for One China, Different Expressions and Different Expressions of One China. Each side can then have its own version as long as they do not openly disagree.
On this matter, Beijing must adopt a more tolerant policy. Cross-strait relations have been based on maintaining the status quo. Even Beijing's anti-secession law merely opposes de jure Taiwan independence. It cannot deny the existence of the Republic of China. After 20 years of cross-strait struggle, Beijing must admit that without the Republic of China there is no status quo. To maintain the status quo, one must maintain the existence of the Republic of China.
In the past, audiences at international matches held by the Republic of China were not allowed to wave ROC flags. This prohibition has been nullified by the practical impossibility of enforcement. Subtle developments such as these are beneficial to the development of One China, Different Expressions, and conducive to maintaining the status quo. Ma Ying-jeou has called for a diplomatic truce. Beijing's response will be an indicator of its willingness to respect the Republic of China's diplomatic space. If Beijing wants to maintain the status quo, it must not push Taipei too far.
Beijing's must relate to Taipei on the basis of One China, Different Expressions. If it fails to do so, Ma Ying-jeou will be unable to improve cross-strait relations. Once Ma Ying-jeou becomes president, he will have to consider three points. First, he must not casually propose arrangements such as his Cross-Strait Common Market. Instead he should first create an improved framework for interaction by opening up Three Links and Direct Flights. Lee Teng-hui trotted out his National Unification Guidelines years ago. The embarrassing result was a one man show. He could neither go forward or go back. Second, Ma must continue enhancing Taiwan's international trade role. He must help transform Taiwan into an Asia-Pacific Operational Center. Improved cross-strait relations will facilitate this goal. Cross-strait relations will then have a more solid foundation. Third, once Ma Ying-jeou becomes president, he must use "language appropriate to one's position" when making cross-strait comments.
Toward the end of his election campaign, Ma Ying-jeou issued a statement on Tibet. In terms of election strategy it was perhaps unavoidable. But calling Beijing "arrogant and stupid" was excessive. Stopping at "brutal and irrational" would have been more appropriate. Once Ma Ying-jeou becomes president, he must exercise discretion when referring to the Tiananmen Incident, Falun Gong protests, and Tibetan independence. After all, authorities on both sides must maintain a "hands off" policy regarding the others' "internal affairs." Neither side must allow the other to use its remarks for "internal consumption." Both must use "language appropriate to one's position." Otherwise, we are in no position to criticize Lee Teng-hui's remark that "No matter how big the Chinese Communists are, they can't be any bigger than my ****."
It takes two to Tango. if Beijing is unwilling to see a resurgence of pro-Taiwan independence sentiment, it must maintain a "Republic of China status quo." If Taipei hopes that cross-strait interaction will improve Taiwan's political and economic situation, it must not cling to the notion that "The mainland owes Taiwan." This is an opportunity for the two sides to improve relations. Authorities on both sides should avoid pointless controversy over political symbolism. First open up Three Links and Direct Flights. Establish a bridge. After all, the bridge is more important than its name.
Taiwan lifted martial law 20 years ago. In response to democracy, the mainland has undergone 30 years of liberalization and reform. It has returned to the grass roots. Authorities on both sides must recognize their responsibility to the people, the masters of the Chinese nation. If both sides fail to maintain the status quo, they will suffer the consequences. The music is playing. The world is watching. Let the cross-strait Tango begin.
2008.03.28 02:37 am