One China, Different Interpretations: The Cup Theory and the Roof Theory
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 4, 2010
Deng Xiaoping invoked "one country, two systems," adroitly handling the problem of Hong Kong. One might say he turned in one of the best history test papers ever. Today, Hu Jintao is invoking the 2005 Lien/Hu Summit to promote "peaceful development" in cross-Strait relations. He might be outdo even Deng Xiaoping. That's because the test questions for Taiwan are far more difficult than those for Hong Kong.
Beijing initially saw "one country, two systems" as a panacea. Good for Hong Kong, therefore good for Taiwan. But the shoe clearly does not fit. After all, the "blue sky, white sun, and red earth" of the Republic of China flag is not the Bauhinia flag of Hong Kong. The Republic of China directly elects its president. In Hong Kong even the chief executive is not directly elected. Over the past two decades, a serious stalemate has frustrated cross-Strait interaction. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian's pro-independence moves were reasons. But Beijing has long attempted to ram "one country, two systems" and "peaceful reunification" down our throat. That is the main reason. The situation improved only when Hu Jintao put forth "peaceful development." Only then did the cross-Strait situation suddenly brighten. So-called "One Country, Two Systems" and "peaceful reunification" are goal oriented theories. On the other hand, "peaceful development" is a process oriented theory. The introduction of "peaceful development" has allowed the long stuck gears in cross-Strait relations to begin turning once again.
Beginning with the Jiang Zemin administration, Beijing gradually adopted a "status quo" theory. It now maintains that "the status quo means the status quo in Taiwan's existing regulations and documents." It argues that "Although the two sides have yet to be reunified, they are nevertheless part of one China." The arguments are evolving. The arguments for "peaceful reunification" have not vanished. But they are mentioned with much less frequency. Instead they have been replaced by Hu Jintao's "peaceful development." The concept of "peaceful development" emerged from the concept of "maintaining the status quo." We have now returned to the concept of "maintaining the status quo."
Beijing has not clarified what it means by the "status quo." But a necessary prerequisite for maintaining the status quo, is the maintenance of the Republic of China. Because the Republic of China is the status quo. No Republic of China. No status quo. Therefore the implicit premise of peaceful development is that we must maintain the status quo vis a vis both the PRC and the ROC. We must use peaceful means and ends while engaging in cross-Strait exchanges. This scenario is in fact "one China, different interpretations." It has merely remained implicit.
In the interest of brevity, let us jump from "maintaining the status quo" to "one China, different interpretations." For the Republic of China "maintaining the status quo" is impossible without "one China, different interpretations." For Beijing, "peaceful development" is impossible if it repudiates "one China, different interpretations." At this juncture, "one China, different interpretations" is a concept Taipei is striving for, and Beijing has not publicly repudiated. Without the implicit premise of "one China, different interpretations," the two sides would be missing an element essential in the framework for cross-Strait interaction.
As we see it, "One China, different interpretations" is consistent with the "cup theory" and the "roof theory." The cup theory is "one China, different interpretations." The roof theory is also "one China, different interpretations." Quoting our own editorial, "one China, different interpretations" is consistent with concept of "rational processes" and "modified goal orientation." Beijing is unwilling to explicitly recognize "one China, different interpretations." But it must not lightly repudiate it. One China, different interpretations is the concept most able to link processes with goals. Its operational costs are the smallest. Its possibility of success is the greatest.
Looking ahead, cross-Strait exchanges will require a "very long" process of competition and cooperation. In order to ensure that this "very long" process of competition and cooperation remains a "rational process," with the possibility of "modified goals," "one China, different interpretations" is the only viable strategy. One China, different interpretations is a way to eliminate differences and seek agreements. It is the chopsticks theory, i.e., the "one hand washes the other" theory. One China, different interpretations allows one to hold one's position or to advance. Holding one's position is the cup theory. Advancing is the roof theory. The two sides willingness to accept "one China, different interpretations" differs. Beijing acknowledged it only once, on the Bush/Hu Hotline. But for now and the forseeable future, the implicit understanding that will guide cross-Strait remains "one China, different interpretations." The so-called "92 Consensus," "peaceful development," or "maintaining the status quo" and "peaceful development," are all expressions of "one China, different interpretations" and "peaceful development."
Beijing is unwilling to explicitly adopt "One China, different interpretations" as official policy. But "one china, different interpretations" is already its implicit policy, one which manifests itself in practical matters. Expressions such as "maintaining the status quo," "peaceful development", "yet to be reunified, but nevertheless part of one China" can all be considered synonyms for "one China, different interpretations." The two sides have evolved from "liberate Taiwan," "counterattack the mainland," and "The Republic of China has been destroyed," to today's "win-win symbiosis." It will hardly be surprising if one day "one China, different interpretations" becomes the theme of some future summit.
The two sides have experienced 60 years of divided rule. History has confirmed that narrow ideology tends to become broader, and shallow thinking tends to become deeper. Ideology has changed. Thinking has changed. Peaceful development has jumpstarted communications. Hopefully the "1992 consensus" and "one China, different interpretations" will create a win-win situation.
2010.01.04 04:12 am