Thursday, November 26, 2009

Maintaining the Status Quo: The Happy Medium for Taipei and Beijing

Maintaining the Status Quo: The Happy Medium for Taipei and Beijing
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 26, 2009

As Beijing interacts with Taipei, two factions have emerged, "reunification hawks" and "reunification doves."
Recent examples of doves include Zhang Nianchi, head of the Shanghai East Asia Research Institute. In an article in the "China Review" Zhang said, "Peaceful development ... will take a long time ... the mainland must not think in terms of quick fixes. It must not oversimplify matters or become impatient. It must not perform a few good deeds and expect an immediate reward. That would be a failure to understand the meaning of peaceful development." Zhang Nianchi said, "We must ... alter certain attitudes formed over the past six decades or even the past century." This is a "dove" speaking. Recent examples of hawks include PLA Major General Luo Yuan. Luo publicly stated that upon election Ma Ying-jeou has "sacrificed reunification for the sake of gradual secession." Luo said Ma's "no unification / no independence / no use of force" is in fact "peaceful secession." This is a "hawk" speaking. This shows that the other side has indeed held "certain attitudes" for the past sixty years.

The two may have their differences. But they appear to share the same opinion of President Ma Ying-jeou. As noted above, Luo Yuan interprets President Ma's "three no's" as "peaceful secession." His remarks expressed dissatisfaction. Actually, dove spokesman Zhang Nianchi was even more explicit. Zhang referred to Ma Ying-jeou as "Chiang Ching-kuo Redux." He concluded therefore that Ma would neither "sell out Taiwan" nor "achieve reunification."

Zhang and Luo shared the same assessment of public sentiment on Taiwan. Luo Yuan pointed out that the KMT may be in power, but that the DPP still has about 40% public support. The mainland has demonstrated a great deal of goodwill towards Taiwan. But support for reunification has not increased, and support for independence has not decreased. He said "Permanently maintaining the status quo amounts to peaceful secession." Zhang Nian-chi's view of public sentiment on Taiwan was that "Although rapid changes (in cross-Strait relations) is an historical necessity, it is perceived as happening too fast ... therefore those hoping to achieve independence feel despair, and those hoping to preserve the status quo feel panic."

Zhang and Luo have similar assessments of public sentiment on Taiwan. So why have two schools of thought emerged, the "hawks" and the "doves?" To borrow a phrase from Zhang Nianchi, it is because the hawks remain trapped in the "crisis management" mentality of the past. For them non-reunification constitutes a crisis. The doves on the other hand, have adopted an "opportunity management" mentality. For them peaceful development constitutes an opportunity.

Zhang says President Ma will not "achieve reunification." Luo says President Ma's "three noes" amounts to "peaceful secession." These are their assessments of President Ma. Based on their assessments of public sentiment on Taiwan, we know they understand President Ma's policies and thinking. In fact, given the system of democracy on Taiwan at this stage, such a position is unavoidable. No Republic of China leader can possibly ignore public opinion. Public sentiment makes the reappearance of another Taiwan independence demagogue such as Lee Teng-hui or Chen Shui-bian in the ROC impossible. Crisis Management has seen to that. On the other hand, the appearance of a president who advocates immediate reunification is also impossible. Opportunity Management on Taiwan has seen to that. Therefore, Beijing must realize that whether one is talking about "crisis management" or "opportunity management," the final arbiter of cross-Strait policy on Taiwan is mainstream public opinion. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian lost power when they lost popular support. Ma Ying-jeou too must march in lockstep with public opinion. If Beijing is able to realize that the final say rests in the hands of the public on Taiwan, it will arrive at its own conclusions about whether it should support the hawks or the doves.

Zhang Nianchi's statement reminds one of former ARATS chairman Wang Daohan. Twelve years ago, in 1997, Wang proclaimed that "we are now moving towards One China." He said "One China does not mean the People's Republic of China. Nor does it mean the Republic of China. It means a One China created by compatriots on both sides of the Strait." He pointed out that "This so-called one China, is a yet to be reunified China, but one which both sides are moving toward." Wang's reasoning was published the year after the missile crisis and presidential election. Today his "crisis management" would be referred to as "opportunity management." Today his so-called "China that has yet to be reunified, but which is still One China," or his "1992 Consensus / One China, Different Interpretations," or "maintaining the status quo," also represent different ways of transforming "crises" into "opportunities." That is why the United Daily News has long advocated "replacing goal orientation with process orientation." Doves want to change crises into opportunities. Hawks on the other hand, want to change opportunities into crises.

Cross-Strait relations have traveled a bumpy road with many detours. There have been gains and setbacks. Maintaining the status quo means maintaining opportunities and avoiding crises. As Zhang Nianchi noted, Taipei and Beijing must not oversimplify matters or act impetuously. They must not retreat in the face of setbacks. They must have the wisdom to "know when to hold," and the vigilance to "know when to fold."

2009.11.26 03:49 am









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