Monday, May 5, 2008

Different Situations: Ma Ying-jeou vs. Hu Jintao

Different Situations: Ma Ying-jeou vs. Hu Jintao
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
May 5, 2008

Last Monday, when Premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan announced that Lai Shin-yuan would head the Mainland Affairs Council, he poked a stick into a hornets' nest. All hell broke loose. The storm died down only on Wednesday, when Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office Chief Li Weiyi declared that "We will not comment on this cabinet appointment." The public on Taiwan immediately concluded that Lai Shin-yuan's appointment had met with Beijing acceptance.

This is an interesting situation. When Liu Chao-shiuan announced the appointment of Lai Shin-yuan, several KMT legislators worried that the July 4 direct charter flights would be in jeopardy. The implication was that Beijing would react negatively to such an appointment. That conclusion may have been premature. Had Beijing commented on Lai's appointment, or implied that direct charter flights might be in jeopardy, the consequences could have been disastrous. As we can see, Beijing remains capable of touching a sensitive nerve among both the ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan.

Does Beijing really have no opinion regarding Lai Shin-yuan's appointment? According to recent word of mouth from Beijing, the CCP is seriously concerned. But the CCP's reaction was not reflected in Li Weiyi's remarks to the press. He made light of the situation. "No comment. The charter flights will go on. Business as usual" This was tantamount to letting Ma Ying-jeou off the hook. The fact is until Li Weiyi opened his mouth, many on Taiwan were expecting a harsh reaction to Lai Shin-yuan's appointment.

Beijing's handling of cross-strait relations has clearly evolved. In the past, there was a great deal of bad blood between Beijing on the one hand, and Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian on the other. That was because neither Lee nor Chen could be trusted, and also because Beijing had threatened to attack Taiwan militarily. This led to a vicious cycle of reprisals. Today the situation is different. During his election campaign, Ma Ying-jeou said he "had not ruled out boycotting the Olympic Games." He even made personal attacks on Wen Jiabao. Yet Beijing said nothing. Had such incidents occurred during the Lee or Chen era, the reaction from Beijing would have been terrifying. Now that Ma Ying-jeou has appointed Lai Shin-yuan, Beijing has its own thoughts about the matter, but it is saying nothing, probably in an effort to make light of the matter. Hu's response reflects either new modes of thought or new strategic choices far more sophisticated than Beijing has displayed in the past.

This change in Beijing's attitude is the result of 20 years of painful cross-strait experiences. Beijing apparently realizes that Taipei's cross-strait rhetoric and policy are constrained by Taiwan's system of democracy. Therefore Beijing's cross-strait policy is not likely to be as ego-centric as it may have been in the past.

Therefore, when Ma Ying-jeou makes harsh comments about the Tibet incident, Beijing may take into consideration Ma Ying-jeou's reasons for appointing Lai Shin-yuan. Beijing may also take into consideration Ma Ying-jeou's problems with Blue vs. Green divisions. As a result, instead of engaging in tit-for-tat as it has in the past, Beijing has entered a new phase. Of course, we must lay the foundations for mutual trust. As Beijing becomes more self-confident, it may be less skeptical about Ma Ying-jeou.

The biggest difference between the two sides is that leaders like Ma Ying-jeou must operate within the context of a democratic and pluralistic system. Leaders on the mainland such as Hu Jintao by contrast, can operate within a more "centralized" political system.

Ma Ying-jeou must deal with universal suffrage and direct elections, opposition party checks and balances, Blue vs. Green partisan conflict, and an irrepressibly vocal media. Hu Jintao on the other hand, enjoys the advantage of a "centralized" system without these variables. That is why there is such a strong contrast between the two sides. Ma Ying-jeou appoints Lai Shin-yuan, and the island of Taiwan plunges into chaos. Meanwhile on the mainland, Li Weiyi (acting on behalf of Hu Jintao) need only utter a single word that makes light of the matter, and set the tone for future discussions.

After May 20, Ma and Hu must understand each other's circumstances. Hu Jintao must strive to understand how Ma Ying-jeou is constrained by the requirements of democracy. Ma Ying-jeou must strive to assist Hu Jintao in maintaining his policy of goodwill toward Taiwan. Ma Ying-jeou is not someone who wishes to play games with the ROC's democracy. Hu Jintao is not someone who wishes to play games with the PRC's central government. As long as Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao act responsibly and with restraint, the two sides will be able to make the 1992 Consensus and One China, Different Interpretations a workable, win/win scenario.

Did Beijing react negatively or positively to Lai Shin-yuan's appointment? Who really knows? But suppose Li Weiyi had uttered some choice words about Lai Shin-yuan's appointment and direct charter flights during last Wednesday's press conference? The atmosphere would no longer be breathable. It would be filled with toxic fumes.

2008.05.05 02:53 am


這 是一個頗堪玩味的場景。劉兆玄宣布賴幸媛的人事後,連國民黨的幾名立委都說,七月四日的直航包機可能跳票,話裡帶著且看北京會如何反彈的意味;這層思考或 許亦非過慮,北京萬一對賴的人事說幾句重話,或對直航包機發表幾句深淺難測的看法,後果也許就不好收拾了。從此一事例可以再次看出,台灣朝野有一條神經攥 在北京的手裡。

北京真的對賴幸媛的人事「沒有評論」嗎?從近日北京現場傳回的消息可知,中共高層也是驚疑不置。但是,這樣的情況卻未反映 在李維一的記者會上;「沒有評論/包機照常」,兩句話雲淡風輕,就將兩岸的政治氛圍定了調,也形同幫馬英九解了圍。其實,在李維一開口以前,台灣有多少人 正等著看北京對賴幸媛人事發表聲色俱厲的「評論」呢!

近幾年來,看北京操作兩岸關係,中共當局確實頗有長進。過去,李登輝與陳水扁與北京 之所以交惡,一方面是因李扁的人格不可信任,另一方面又因中共以文攻武嚇施加威脅羞辱;遂演成冤冤相報,惡性循環。如今則大有不同,馬英九在選季因西藏事 件說出「不排除抵制奧運」的重話,甚至對溫家寶人身攻擊,但北京至今仍是「沒有評論」;倘若此類事件換成在李扁時代發生,那恐怕不堪設想。現在,馬英九任 命賴幸媛,北京「心中有疑/嘴裡不說」,大概也是出於「以大事小」的同一道理。倘係如此,胡錦濤的表現,不論出自思維理念的調整,或出自政治謀略的選擇, 皆顯較過去的北京主事者大有精進。


因 此,當馬英九對西藏事件說出重話,北京當局也許會設身處地思考馬英九的選舉情境;當馬英九任命賴幸媛,北京當局也可能易地而處思考馬英九的藍綠難題。於 是,北京當局自能從過去那種針鋒相對、錙銖必較的思維,進入如今這種游刃有餘的境界。當然,其中必須鋪墊的基礎是:北京漸漸增加的自信,與北京認為馬英九 不致太不可信。


具 體而言,馬英九面對的是:全民直選、在野黨制衡、藍綠分裂、黨內傾軋,及一分一秒都不會住口的自由媒體……。相對而言,胡錦濤卻有「集中」的優勢,就幾乎 沒有這類變數。因此才會出現今日此種強烈的對照:馬英九任命賴幸媛,台灣島內鬧翻天;但在北京,李維一(當然背後是胡錦濤)一句話,輕描淡寫就定了調。

在 五二○後的未來新局中,兩岸當局馬胡二人必須深切體會彼此這種「民主/集中」的不同境遇。胡錦濤應努力體認馬英九所承受的「民主制約」,馬英九則應努力維 持胡錦濤所操持的「集中善意」。如今看來,馬英九不是玩弄「民主」者,胡錦濤亦非玩弄「集中」者;只要馬英九對「民主」負責,胡錦濤對「集中」節制,兩岸 就極有可能在「九二共識/一中各表」的基礎上,進入互惠雙贏的境域。


No comments: