Monday, April 27, 2009

Mutual Non-Repudiation: The Basis of Cross-Strait Relations

Mutual Non-Repudiation: The Basis of Cross-Strait Relations
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 27, 2009

The Third Chiang/Chen Summit will be held in Nanjing. Rumor has it Taipei suggested the location, because Nanjing was the capital of the Republic of China, and Taipei wanted to underscore the institutional origins of the Chiang Pin-kung-led delegation. The mainland side was of course well aware of the implications of Taipei's proposal. But it made no attempt to evade it. The host was happy to accomodate the guest.

Chiang Ping-kun's plan to visit the "Republic of China Office of the President" however was canceled, allegedly for fear of arousing undue controversy. Too low a profile, and Taipei risks being written off as a relic of history. Too high a profile, and Taipei risks being suspected of creating "Two Chinas."

In Nanjing, the "Office of the President Republic of China" has already become an historical monument. That is an undeniable fact. But the Chiang Pin-kung delegation from Taipei was authorized by the Office of the President of the Republic of China. That is also an undeniable fact.

Mutual non-recognition, in combination with mutual non-repudiation -- this is the main reason cross-Strait relations have been able to develop to the extent they have today. If the two sides' position was "mutual recognition," they would have no need of proxies such as SEF and ARATS. The two sides' position is "mutual non-repudiation," meaning that the two sides do not deny each other's legitimacy. They recognize that the two sides do in fact exist. Hence the need for proxies such as SEF and ARATS. After all, if the two sides did not exist, why would they need proxies?

For Taipei, Chiang Ching-kuo's lifting of martial law and abolition of the Temporary Provisions during the Period of Communist Rebellion, were made in preparation of recognizing the People's Republic of China government. But Beijing was concerned about any departure from the "One China Principle," and refused to recognize the Republic of China. This is why the Beijing authorities are unwilling to recognize the ROC government. This is why legally speaking, the two sides refuse to recognize each other. They must maintain internal and external accountability and "reciprocity." But the two sides' reciprocity is not simply "mutual non-recognition." Although the two sides do not recognize each others' legitimacy legally, they cannot deny each others' actual existence physically. Therefore the two sides' reciprocity is actually "mutual non-recognition, plus mutual non-repudiation." Otherwise, how could the two sides talk about market access and mutual legal assistance?

It has been less than a year since the second change in ruling parties on Taiwan. From last year's Six Agreements to this year's Three Major Issues, plus ECFA, which may be addressed during the second half of the year, cross-Strait interaction has expanded rapidly. The more cross-Strait relations are elevated, deepened, and broadened, and the more prominent the role of the two sides' governments, then the more willing the two sides are to engage in "mutual non-repudiation." Take for example the choice of Nanjing as the venue for the Chiang/Chen Summit. Three items, including air transport, finance, and the administration of justice, require the establishment of a working window in a real world context. They will no longer be government proxies. Cross-Strait exchanges will inevitably be elevated, deepened, and broadened. If the two sides deny each other's legitimacy, how can they establish a government with legal jurisdiction? How can they even sbegin to discuss mutual legal assistance?

For the time being, the two sides neither recognize each other nor repudiate each other. This, according to Hu Jintao, is central to the "Framework for Peaceful cross-Strait Development." In other words, Beijing's policy toward Taipei cannot be be based on the premise that the "Republic of China has already perished." Without "mutual non-repudiation," cross-strait relations will be shattered and impossible to maintain. Without governments, how can one have government proxies?

If cross-Strait relations in 2008 are to return to the "1992 Consensus," the two sides must maintain a position of "mutual non-repudiation." Let us examine the two sides' rhetorical formulations. Taipei invariably brings up "confront reality by not repudiating each other." Beijing avoids responding directly, but substitutes "peaceful development, set a new course for the future." The current Chiang/Chen Summit is no exception. As long as Beijing does not formally repudiate Taipei's "confront reality by not repudiating each other," the two sides still have room to maneuver. In short, some things can be done, but cannot be talked about.

For example, President Ma interpreted "1992 Consensus" as "One China, Different Interpretations." Beijing did not respond directly, but neither did it repudiate it directly. This "mutual non-repudiation" is made possible by the "Different Interpretations" premise. It is essential to "peaceful cross-Strait development." It is the absolute minimum requirement.

The achievements of the three Chiang/Chen Summits over the past two years have been based on "mutual non-repudiation." The elevating, deepening, and broadening of cross-Strait relations will require increased "mutual non-repudiation." We hope the authorities on both sides will appreciate the importance of this tacit understanding, and not undermine it lightly. As we see it, it may be unfortunate that we cannot recognize each other, but at least we must not repudiate each other!

2009.04.27 05:45 am












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