Thursday, September 3, 2009

Beijing's Soft Landing for the Dalai Incident

Beijing's Soft Landing for the Dalai Incident
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
September 3, 2009

Beijing has closed the file on the Dalai incident. It has decided that enough is enough, and that it is best to bring the matter to a close.

News that the Dalai Lama would visit came out on the 26th of last month. The Dalai Lama leaves Taiwan tomorrow morning. The public on Taiwan has arrived at a clear and unmistakable consensus on the incident. It was wrong for the DPP to invite the Dalai Lama to Taiwan in order to undermine cross-Strait reconciliation. The public hopes the Dalai Lama's visit will not set back cross-Strait relations.

Beijing's response should not be to exact revenge upon the Ma administration or punish the Democratic Progressive Party. Instead it should acknowledge mainstream public opinion on Taiwan. Any overreaction on Beijing's part will merely provoke suspicion and anger among the public on Taiwan.

We have repeatedly reminded Beijing that Taiwan has a system of democracy. This is precisely why the Dalai Lam's visit turned into an incident. But it is also the reason the incident was resolved so swiftly. First, Taiwan is characterized by partisan politics. The DPP used the Dalai Lama as a weapon to attack President Ma. In response, President Ma was forced to fight back by resorting to populist political gestures. This is all part and parcel of democracy. Secondly, the ultimate arbiter in the struggle between the ruling and opposition parties is the public. The consensus on Taiwan was that the Dalai Lama's visit to the DPP, in flagrant disregard of the larger picture, was a malicious provocation. The public felt it would have been better not to allow the Dalai Lama to come. In partisan political struggles under democracy, the public is the court of final appeal. Thirdly, public sentiment during this incident shows that mainstream society considers cross-Straits reconciliation over the past year or so, a thing of considerable value. It has a clear understanding of both right vs. wrong, and benefits vs. costs. It has proven that a commitment to cross-Straits reconciliation is firmly rooted in the hearts and minds of the people. This is not something the Democratic Progressive Party can undermine by means of demagoguery. In sum, the Dalai incident may have been an inevitable consequence of partisan politics, but it was also resolved by means of democratic politics.

Beijing avoided any direct attack upon the Ma administration. It pointed the finger at "forces within the DPP." This strategy forced the Democratic Progressive Party to directly answer to the public on Taiwan. The public also arrived at a clear and unmistakable conclusion. The DPP fell into a trap of its own making. Beijing should ask itself whether current and future cross-strait relations will meet the expectations of the public. Will the people be accorded the dignity and benefits they desire? If the answer is yes, then rather than resort to revenge or punishment in response to the Dalai incident, it would be better to respond to mainstream society on Taiwan.

The Dalai incident lasted 10 days. During these 10 days, far more problems were solved than created. For example, the DPP's reckless decision to invite the Dalai Lama put the DPP's cross-Strait policies in an even more dubious light. The public on Taiwan now has an even more pragmatic and balanced understanding of Taiwan's relations with Tibet. Had President Ma evaded the problem, or forbidden the Dalai Lama to visit, Blue vs. Green infighting might have erupted. The public on Taiwan arrived at its own conclusions regarding cross-Strait reconciliation. Beijing witnessed this process with its own eyes. This may be hindsight, but it illustrates once again the miracle of Taiwan's democracy.

Therefore Beijing's response to the Dalai incident should end here. Enough is enough. It is best to leave well enough alone. The public's greatest fear about cross-Strait exchanges is that Beijing may be attempting to "deceive, support, bind, kill." The public is afraid that Beijing may engage in indiscriminate retaliation and punishment. It is afraid that any intentional disruption of substantive exchanges might suffocate Taiwan. Beijing is not so ignorant as to use the issue of the Dalai Lama as an excuse to engage in "deceive, support, bind, kill" against Taiwan. The Dalai incident was merely a tempest in a teapot. But if it provokes suspicion among the public on Taiwan regarding Beijing's intetions, the damage will be difficult to repair.

The Dalai incident has exploded and subsequently flamed out. The Ma administration experienced an accidental discharge. By some miracle the bullet hit the DPP. For the DPP the incident was a nightmare. For the Dalai Lama the trip was a costly mistake. For Beijing it was an opportunity to get a clearer understanding of the intricacies of cross-Strait relations. In the wake of this ordeal, cross-Straits relations actually rest on a firmer foundation than before. This may not have been anything anyone could have forseen in advance. But neither did it just happen. One of the key factors was democracy. The public on Taiwan has endured 20 years of internal and external political and economic upheaval. It understands the difference between right and wrong, benefits and costs, truth and falsehood, illusion and substance.

Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law and allowed cross-Strait exchanges. His purpose was to make the Republic of China's system of democracy a moderating factor in cross-Strait relations. During the Dalai incident, democracy on Taiwan was on full display. If Beijing has learned anything, it has learned that a soft landing for the Dalai incident is the right approach.

2009.09.03 03:39 am










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