Hoping for a Rational Debate on Cross-Strait Peace
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 28, 2010
The Wang Wang Group and the China Times Media Group sponsored a "We demand peace! We demand a Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law." Yesterday the multimedia debate took place without incident. The participants included honorary UMC chairman Robert Tsao, Chinese Integration Association Director Chang Ya-chung, and former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui. The debate explored the feasibility of a "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law." The participants presented their positions, took part in a Question and Answer period, and debated the issues. Sparks flew. Sensitive issues were dealt with by means of constructive dialogue. The participants did not reach any consensus. But their differences were not as great as imagined. Most importantly the debate established a model for rational discussion of this sensitive topic.
The debate originated with UMC Chairman Robert Tsao several months ago, when he purchased newspaper ads promoting a "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law." Tsao thinks that such a law could defuse internal disputes over reunification and independence, and might enable long term peaceful cross-Strait coexistence. But as his proposal immediately triggered a wide range of reactions, pro and con. Some consider his proposal highly creative. Others disagree. For example, Chinese Integration Association director Chang Ya-chung expressed skepticism about Tsao's proposal five times. The Green Camp argued that Tsao's version of a "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law" excluded any referendum on independence, making it unacceptable to them. This suggests that considerable differences remain over the advantages and disadvantages and feasibility of the "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law." Will we continue to sit back and watch as both sides talk past each other? Or will we try to allow parties holding different views to engage in dialogue? The answer shjuld be clear. The Republic of China has undergone two changes in ruling parties. It should be mature enough to permit the rational discussion of sensitive issues. It should not remain permantly trapped in feeble-minded name-calling.
During yesterday's debate the participants disagreed. It was inevitable that they would challenge each other and engage in a war of words. But both the live audience and readers who pored over the transcript of the debate afterwards, would probably agree. All three parties were pursuing the best interests of the public on Taiwan and attempting to maintain cross-Strait peace. The only real disagreements between the three parties were over the feasibility and consequences of Tsao's initiative.
For example, Robert Tsao's "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law" emphasizes "procedural justice." It allows the public on Taiwan to decide whether to reunify. It allows the public on Taiwan to decide whether it wants reunification or independence, instead of allowing Blue and Green camp politicians to demagogue the issue. Chang Ya-chung however, thought that if the two sides failed to reach a certain degree of mutual trust, the "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law" would probably be subject to political manipulation. It would ultimately become a "Cross-Strait Peaceful Secession Law." The so-called "Referendum on Reunification" might well turn into a "Referendum against Reunification." Lin Cho-shui considered the "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law" well intentioned but infeasible. It might well turn into another "Defensive Referendum," originally intended to diminish acute identity issues on Taiwan, but actually counter-productive.
Regardless which of the three parties' views was most persuasive, we can at least agree that sensitive cross-Strait issues should be discussed in just such a manner. Honorary UMC Chairman Robert Tsao is attempting to engage in rational thinking about cross-Strait disputes. He put forth his "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law." He believes it can resolve internal disputes on Taiwan and cross-Strait disputes between Taipei and Beijing. But both Chinese Integration Society Director Chang Ya-chung and former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui opposed his initiative, albeit from different perspectives. They felt his intitiative was not particularly feasible. Just how feasible is the "Cross-Strait Peaceful Coexistence Law?" Which of the three parties' take on this controversial initiative is the most reasonable? The best way to clarify controversial issues is to debate them, and see whose ideas are the most feasible. We may not arrive at a final consensus. But at least the initiative has undergone rational debate. At least we have had an opportunity to point out the advantages and disadvantages,s as well as the blind spots. Any cross-strait initiative can be subjected to the same such dialogue. Blue and Green camp politicians will no longer hold a monopoly on the discussion of cross-Strait issues. Everyone will be able to participate in the discussion of public issues.
More importantly, this debate can ensure a rational atmosphere for future discussions. No one used harsh language to defame others during this debate. No one resorted to name-calling or conspiracy theories. We have long looked forward to the advent of rational dialogue. This debate was a real life example of rational dialogue.