Monday, July 21, 2008

A Diplomatic Truce and the Cross-Strait Tango

A Diplomatic Truce and the Cross-Strait Tango
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 21, 2008

Any "diplomatic truce" must begin with a "cross-Strait truce." Without a cross-Strait truce, forget about a diplomatic truce.

A fresh breeze appears to be blowing through the realm of cross-Strait diplomacy. In August President Ma will transit the United States. What level of treatment will Ma Ying-jeou receive from Washington? Will the ROC be able to maintain diplomatic relations with Paraguay? In September the ROC will attempt to "join the UN," i.e., become a WHO member. Will it succeed? U.S. arms sales to the ROC remain complex and confusing. For the Ma administration, these are all unknown quantities. They may even be powerful, ticking time bombs.

A diplomatic truce is a choice for which there is no alternative. Consider the current crisis in Paraguay. Paraguay's new president Fernando Lugo has demanded 71 million USD to maintain diplomatic relations with the ROC. If Taipei knuckles under, it will merely inspire sundry extortionists to up their demands. Besides, public opinion on Taiwan will not tolerate this. If Taipei refuses, Paraguay could break off diplomatic relations at any moment. If such a crisis had occurred in the past, it would merely have provided more fodder for the media. Now the situation is different, because the Ma administration has already called for a diplomatic truce.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou said that Paraguay is our sole ally in South America. If it goes, the two sides will resume a diplomatic war. A public backlash on Taiwan is also a possibility. Although Lugo has been hinting to Beijing that Paraguay is open to a counteroffer, Beijing's response has been muted. Beijing knows if the situation degenerates to that level, the impact on cross-Strait relations will be damaging, both psychologically and substantively.

In the past, cross-Strait diplomatic struggles focused on restricting cross-Strait relations. But cross-Strait relations being what they are now, if diplomatic struggles escalate, they are bound to undermine still fragile mutual trust. Achieving today's cross-Strait relations was no easy task. If extortionate demands from Paraguay drive a wedge between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, it will be an unfunny joke. A less profitable deal cannot be imagined.

The improvement of cross-Strait relations involves more than just direct charter flights and mainland tourists visiting Taiwan. Economics, trade, culture, society, diplomacy, and the international community must be taken into account. A full range of integrated systems must be established. Peaceful, win-win, cross-Strait relations must be the highest goal. If Paraguay's attempt to drive a wedge between Taipei and Beijing harms cross-Strait relations, then we must treat cross-Strait relations as more important than diplomatic relations with Paraguay.

Such appeals are of course directed at the Beijing authorities. The Ma administration advocates a diplomatic truce. This is a risky policy, because it is something not entirely within our grasp. If the Ma administration encounters a major setback in its attempt to negotiate a diplomatic truce, for whatever reason, for example, being unwilling to submit to blackmail, it is bound to touch off a domestic political crisis. That in turn is bound to affect cross-Strait relations. That said, the deterioration of cross-Strait relations is not something the Beijing authorities welcome either.

Take the recent "zhong hua tai bei" vs. "zhong guo tai bei" dispute. In Beijing's eyes, the two terms may well be merely two translations into Chinese. But to the public on Taiwan, it could be seen as a breach of trust. After all, President Hu Jintao proposed "establishing mutual trust, shelving disputes, setting aside differences, creating a win/win situation."

Cross-Strait relations are developing rapidly. That is when they are the most fragile. We have repeatedly reminded Beijing that with regards cross-Strait relations, Taiwan's system of democracy must be granted central importance. The Beijing authorities must not merely grapple with the Taiwan authorities, they must dialogue directly with the public on Taiwan. If at at time when cross-Strait relations are improving, they steal away Paraguay, it will be a setback not only for the Taiwan authorities, it will also hurt the feelings of the public on Taiwan. The "zhong hua tai bei" vs. "zhong guo tai bei" problem is not just a problem for the Taiwan authorities. Beijing must also consider the traumatic impact on the public on Taiwan. Beijing is "pinning its hopes on the public on Taiwan." In that case, it ought to respond to the "aspirations of the public on Taiwan."

During the early stages of cross-Strait opening, authorities on both sides were groping for solutions. This cross-Strait Tango requires that both sides know the dance steps. Hu Jintao's aspirations for cross-Strait relations were expressed in his 16 character formulation. But if even the "zhong hua tai bei" vs. "zhong guo tai bei" controversy cannot be resolved. If cross-Strait relations can be manipulated by Paraguay, then the hard-won results of cross-Strait interaction will be significantly harmed. That would be a tragedy.

Only a cross-Strait truce will allow a diplomatic truce. Hu Jintao offered his 16 character formulation. If the Beijing authorities can walk the walk as well as talk the talk, then a cross-Strait truce is probable, and a diplomatic truce is possible. Conversely, if a diplomatic truce is not possible, then a cross-Strait truce will be be difficult at best. So will "establishing mutual trust, shelving disputes, setting aside differences, creating a win/win situation."

2008.07.21 04:25 am


兩 岸關係的外交領域,儼然出現了一股山雨欲來風滿樓的氛圍。八月馬英九總統過境美國的「規格」高下,與巴拉圭的邦交能否保住,九月「入聯」議題的動靜如何, 有否參與WHO的機會,及台美軍售問題的撲朔迷離等等;對馬政府而言,這些皆是未定之數,也可能皆是一顆強烈的不定時炸彈。

外交休兵是一 個無可奈何的選擇。即以眼前的巴拉圭危機而言,新總統魯戈對台灣開出七千一百萬美元的價碼;台灣若給他,只會使各方勒索者未來競相抬高行情,何況台灣輿論 亦不會答應;倘若不允,則隨時有斷交的可能。這類危機如果發生在過去,只不過是再增添一則複製的故事而已;但是,如今的時空情境卻已不同,因為馬政府已經 喊出了「外交休兵」的口號!

外交部長歐鴻鍊稱,巴拉圭是我在南美唯一友邦,倘若失守,兩岸必將再度掀起外交戰;這也恐是屆時面對國內政情 的必要反應。相對而言,雖然魯戈不斷向北京示好表態,但北京的態度卻似頗有保留;因為,北京亦知,情勢倘若發展到那個地步,對整體的兩岸關係,在心理上及 實質上,必將是一個嚴峻的衝擊。


兩 岸關係進展至今日地步,不能只看包機直航、陸客遊台;而是須將經濟、貿易、文化、社會、外交、國際社會皆納入考慮,設法建立一個全方位的整合體系,一切皆 以兩岸「和平雙贏」為最高目標。譬如說,巴拉圭的離間勒索對兩岸關係若是一個傷害,就應將兩岸關係放在高於巴拉圭的地位。

當然,這些話是 對北京當局說的。馬政府主張「外交休兵」,其實是一高風險的政策,因為情勢並非操之在我;可以預見,倘若馬政府在「外交休兵」上遭到重大挫敗,無論出自何 種理由(例如不願向勒索低頭),皆必將引爆國內政治危機,因此亦必然會影響到兩岸關係。然而,兩岸關係的倒退,應非北京當局所樂見。


兩 岸關係正值快速發展之時,這也卻是最為脆弱之際。我們多次提醒北京當局,在處理兩岸關係時,應將台灣的民主體制置於核心地位;北京當局不能只與台灣的政府 進行角力,而須與台灣的人民直接對話。例如,倘在今日兩岸關係改善之際,挖走巴拉圭;不僅是台灣政府的挫折,也是對台灣人民情感的傷害。又如,將「中華台 北」改成「中國台北」;也不只是給台灣政府出難題,亦是對台灣人民情感的衝擊。北京既「寄希望於台灣人民」,自當回應「台灣人民之所希望」。



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