Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Bridge and the Road: The Party and the Government

The Bridge and the Road: The Party and the Government
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 10, 2008

The cross-strait spectacle continues to unfold. The Hu Siew Meeting on April 12. The Lien Hu on April 29. The Wu Hu Meeting on May 28. The Chiang Chen Meeting on June 12, the day after tomorrow. The cross-strait express train has now been shunted from the "second track" to the "first track."

Ever since the Hu Siew Meeting at the Boao Forum, cross-strait relations have improved at a rate inconceivable during the eight years of the Chen Shui-bian regime. When the KMT was in the opposition, it established a "KMT/CCP Platform." After years of cultivation, it is now time for the harvest. Nevertheless, since the Ma administration took office, the KMT/CCP Platform for cross-strait contacts has been retired to the second track. Under such circumstances, how should the first track, involving the the SEF and ARATS, divide the labor with the second track, in order to promote the ROC's best interests? A basic understanding must be established as soon as possible. The Chiang Chen Meeting the day after tomorrow should be a new beginning.

The role of the KMT/CCP Platform must be clarified, mainly because of cross-strait political differences. Mainland China has a one party system. The party leaders' decisions are final. Taiwan has a multiparty democracy. Government decision-making is subject to constitutional procedures. These are not always identical to the preferences of the ruling party. Even though the KMT controls both the executive and legislative branches, it may not exceed its legal authority. This is why the SEF/ARATS Consultations are referred to as the first track, and the KMT/CCP Platform is merely the second track.

Compared to the mainland's one-track system, Taiwan's two-track system may seem constrained. But actually it has a kind of flexibility. If the first track is blocked, the second track may still be passable. if the the first track threatens to derail, the second track provides stability. For example, if Beijing lacks confidence in Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Lai Hsing-yuan, the problem can be resolved smoothly via the second track. As we can see the two-track system allows us to bypass bureaucratic constraints.

Put simply, the second track helps establish the proper atmosphere. It builds bridges over barriers. It is less constrained in what it may do. The first track, on the other hand, engages in constitutionally authorized road building. It is necessarily subject to severe constraints. If the SEF and ARATs are intermediaries, then the KMT/CCP Platform is "an intermediary for the intermediaries." The two complement each other. If the relationship between the two tracks is clearly defined, the two will not interfere with each other, but will instead complement each other.

We must remind the KMT, that the recent rapid melting of cross-strait ice is the result of a wide range of factors. It was not entirely due to the glow of the KMT/CCP Platform. For Taipei, the change in political parties ensured popular support for the unfreezing of eight years of cross-strait ice. Taiwan's economic development has become dependent upon Taiwan's re-integration with the mainland. The melting of ice will also enable Taipei to participate in the activities of the international community. For Beijing, the upcoming Olympic Games give Beijing a chance to show off its Peaceful Rise. An olive branch extended to Taipei may help Beijing shift attention away from the situation in Lhasa. How long will the honeymoon last? How much more negotiation is required? Until substantive consultations between the SEF and ARATS have taken place, it is too early for wishful thinking.

The current situation appears favorable. But if we compare the responses of the governments on the two sides of the strait, Beijing clearly has its act together, and knows where it is headed. By contrast, Taipei, from its March 22 Election Day victory onward, has alternately surged ahead and pulled back. It has been uncertain in its handling of contacts, causing the other side problems and creating internal confusion, adding to cross-strait uncertainty. Last month Wu Po-hsiung visited the mainland. Ma and Wu reached a number of agreements that would enable the party and the government to smoothly integrate the two tracks. How successful was this process? It enabled the KMT, with its diverse composition, to avoid any violent confrontations. It prevented any usurpation of government authority by the second track. All of this requires careful planning and trial runs.

Recently the DPP launched a major assault against the Wu Hu Meeting. It claimed the meeting would inflict "Five Major Harms to Taiwan's sovereignty and safety." Such criticisms are gross exaggerations. They merely confirm that the Chen Shui-bian regime has nothing to show for eight years in office. The Chen regime not only prevented first track consultations between the SEF and ARATS, it prevented people to people contacts. It even left the United States apoplectic. The DPP had the temerity to refer to cross-strait relations during its eight years in office as a "Cold Peace." Where the "peace" is to be found is anybody's guess.

The South Korean media has been watching the Wu Hu Meeting. It is alert to the rapid evolution of cross-strait relations. It has suggested that relations between the ROK and the ROC evolve correspondingly. Obviously the KMT/CCP Platform has attracted international attention. The curtain is about to go up on the Chiang Chen Meeting. Cross-strait interaction will probably switch from the second track to the first. As previously noted, a bridge has been erected. Now it time for road building. The bridge merely provides the connection. The road provides the direction.

2008.06.10 03:01 am










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