One China, Different Interpretations: A Breeding Ground for Taiwan Independence?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 25, 2010
Toward the end of last year the United Daily News published a series of six editorials entitled, "Thoughts on the 99th Year of the Founding of the Republic of China." They received considerable attention from people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. We do not necessarily believe the arguments presented in our editorial series are unassailable. We wrote them merely to stimulate discussion and encourage brainstorming.
Cross-Strait issues are troublesome. They provoke intense disagreement. We are gratified that many people agree with our "Six New Years Day Editorials." But we also respect those who disagree. But if our editorials have been misunderstood or misinterpreted, we would like to clarify our position, to avoid conveying any misleading impressions.
Chang Ya-chung, Hsieh Ta-ning, and Huang Kuang-kuo are three scholars. They have published an article entitled "Six Questions for the United Daily News." They maintain that the "One China, Different Interpretations" argument advanced in our Six New Years Day Editorials is equivalent to Taiwan independence, that it provides a breeding ground for Taiwan independence. This is a misunderstanding. This is also a distortion. [Translator's note: unable to ascertain the proper translation for "我們有不能已於言者"]
These three scholars have long been concerned about cross-Strait issues. They have made a number of in-depth investigations. They have offered many creative suggestions. They have inspired widespread admiration. But their recently published Six Questions touts their own theory of "One China, Same Interpretation," "One China, Three Constitutions," and "Cross-Strait Reunification," which they characterize as the "Strategic Cornerstone for Cross-Strait Peaceful Development." It refers to "One China, Different Interpretations" as illogical, infeasible, and inconsistent with the interests of the concerned parties. It even equates "One China, Different Interpretations" with hardline Taiwan independence, with creeping Taiwan independence, with a breeding ground for Taiwan independence, with shielding Taiwan independence, and with an independent Taiwan. To say that "One China, Different Interpretations" is infeasible is to express an opinion. But to suggest that "One China, Different interpretations" is the equivalent of Taiwan independence, or a breeding ground for Taiwan independence, is neither here nor there.
In fact, we see no clear-cut difference between their Six Questions and our Six Editorials. A detailed discussion will take time. But our two positions have at least two things in common.
First. Both advocate a Big Roof Theory. Our Six Editorials stress a process oriented theory for peaceful development. We hope to moderate, soften, transform, and improve upon the goal oriented theories for reunification and independence. Because we emphasize process orientation, we advocate a Chopsticks Theory involving neither reunification nor independence, and a Cup Theory which preserves the Constitution of the Republic of China and the status quo. Stressing process orientation does not mean evading the issue of goals. Therefore we also advocate a Big Roof Theory to deal with the issue of long term objectives. For example, the two sides could set up a confederation. The Six Questions seem to imply that "One China, Different Interpretations" fails to explain the meaning of "One China." But our Six Editorials make it clear that the "One China" in "One China, Different Interpretations" is a Big Roof, a Third Concept, a higher level concept. For example, setting up a confederation would involve a Third Constitution. It would be no different from their Six Questions. When it comes to "Different Interpretations," their Six Questions and our Six Editorials both champion a One China Constitution. We differ even less on this issue. Their Six Questions assert that accepting One China does not mean we must accept Beijing as the central government, and Taipei as a local government. But isn't that a kind of "Different Interpretation?" After all, their Six Questions do not accept the premise that "One China means the PRC." How different is that from our assertion that "One China" ought to refer to a Third Concept or Third Constitution? In fact, their Six Questions say that a peace agreement should be the first document to establish cross-Strait political mutual trust. That was also our proposal. So what's the difference?
Their Six Questions equates "One China, Different Interpretations" with Taiwan independence and a breeding ground for Taiwan independence. They even say it poses an embryonic threat. This distorts the facts. What champion of Taiwan independence would advocate a One China Constitution? What person attempting to establish a breeding ground for Taiwan independence would urge the two sides to return to the starting point, to Sun Yat-sen's 1911 Revolution? What person attempting to establish a breeding ground for Taiwan independence would advocate a rational process to clarify long term objectives?" The three scholars may have ambitious goals for a Greater China. But is it necessary to characterize others as having a waif mentality?
In fact, our Six Editorials proposes breaking cross-Straits relations into many parts. Their Six Questions proposes combining many parts into one. But without the parts how can one have the whole? Without the whole, how can the parts have any order? Processes and goals are mutually complementary. They need not be mutually contradictory.
Secondly, Beijing is the main variable. Their Six Questions characterize our Six Editorials as wishful thinking. They may have a point. But their Six Questions also unwittingly engage in wishful thinking. Their Six Questions point out that substantive power in cross-Strait relations is asymmetrical. But their Six Questions and our Six Editorials face the same problem. Their Six Questions pose a powerful challenge to our Six Editorials. They ask why Beijing would accept "One China, Different Interpretations." Their six lengthy articles point out that Beijing's repeated rejection of "One China, Different Interpretations" amounts to opposition. But aren't they afraid that people will say the same thing about their Six Questions? Why would Beijing accept "One China, Three Constitutions?"
Beijing's opposition is not cast in stone. We do not oppose "One China, Three Constitutions." We think that "One China, Different Interpretations" and "One China, Three Constitutions" are essentially the same thing. If Beijing can accept "One China, Three Constitutions," it has no reason not to accept "One China, Different Interpretations." Since both of them advocate the Big Cup Theory and Big Roof Theory. But it makes no sense to badmouth "One China, Different Interpretations" in order to advance "One China, Three Constitutions."
In order to resolve the cross-Strait impasse, political and civic leaders on both sides have proposed innumerable policy prescriptions. All of them have encountered the same problem -- rejection by Beijing, or rejection by Taipei. This is the same problem faced by "One China, Three Constitutions" and the "One China, Different Interpretations." Nevertheless, debates rage on both sides, because what is unacceptable isn't cast in stone. Creativity requires the breaking of molds. As their Six Questions noted, the Grundlagenvertragbasic, or Basic Treaty between East and West Germany and the European Union's Helsinki Final Act were repeatedly rejected before they were finally adopted. By the same token, the two sides have moved away from the rhetoric of "Liberate Taiwan!" and "Counterattack the mainland!" They have arrived at today's theme: peaceful development. Did they not succeed in breaking through the unacceptable? We hope the two sides can accept "One China, Different Interpretations." We hope the two sides can accept "One China, Three Constitutions." We do not care whose theories become the official basis for cross-Strait negotiations. We are concerned only about adopting a rational process for the formulation of cross-Strait objectives.
Because we stress process, we do not think that our assertion that Taiwan's future should be decided by 23 million people is a deviant position. We believe the ultimate resolution of cross-Strait issues must resolve the issue of Taiwan independence. Taiwan independence can only be transformed. It cannot be eradicated. In particular, "One China, Different Interpretations," Lee Teng-hui's "Two States," and the DPP's Taiwan independence are not one and the same. Why the accusation that we are birds of a feather? Are the three scholars merely seeking targets for their arrows?
Finally, we solemnly declare that our Six New Years Day Editorials have nothing to do with the Ma administration. Nothing whatsoever. In fact, "One China, Different Interpretations" is a concept still in development. During the Lee Teng-hui era we advocated "One China, Different Interpretations." We are not worried about whether the Ma administration's "One China, Different Interpretations" differs. We merely wish to make some small effort on behalf of "One China, Different Interpretations." We welcome the creative thinking behind "One China, Three Constitutions." But we hope "One China, Different Interpretations" will not be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Soliciting a wide range of opinions cannot be a bad thing.
2010.01.25 04:09 am