Beijing Must Rethink Its Cross-Strait Relations Map
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 21, 2010
Yesterday former premier Liu Chao-hsuan spoke at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He pointed out that cross-strait relations should contribute to human civilization. For example, England's Industrial Revolution introduced the rule of law and human rights. America's independence and founding brought about popular rule.
The last time the two sides of the Taiwan Strait clashed then merged, was during the Ming dynasty, when Koxinga and the Qing court clashed. In the end, Shi Lang resolved the issue by means of military force. The Qing dynasty, a large absolute monarchy, swallowed up the Ming dynasty Koxinga regime, a small absolute monarchy. That cross-Strait merger expanded the Qing empire's territory. But otherwise it contributed nothing to human civilization. Subsequently, in 1894, the Qing court ceded Taiwan to Japan.
Since 1949, the separation of the two sides has made a significant contribution to world civilization. On Taiwan, the Republic of China government became a model for the political and economic development of emerging nations. On the mainland meanwhile, the People's Republic of China government rose to its feet following a "Thirty Year Long Catastrophe." The world's attention is focused on the miracle of "China's Rise." Today the two sides have moved from life or death struggle to "peaceful development." This remarkable cross-Strait interaction no longer poses the question of "who will swallow up whom" faced by the Ming dynasty Koxinga regime and the Qing Court. Instead, it has the potential to make a significant contribution human civilization.
The mainland has a responsibility toward Taiwan. The mainland is big. Taiwan is small. Taiwan has a liberal democratic society. It occupies the moral and civilizational high ground. The mainland has no reason to drag Taiwan down. If in the end the matter is settled by means of military force, on the basis of "who swallows up whom," that would be intolerable to human civilization.
Fortunately, there is reason for optimism amidst pessimism. [Mainland] China's "peaceful rise" is already contributing to world civilization. Historically the "rise of great nations" has always been based on military invasions and economic exploitation. The Industrial Revolution was followed by eighteenth and nineteenth-century imperialism. The major powers used their powerful navies to aid and abet greedy and bloodthirsty capitalists in their plunder. The working classes within these major powers however, did not benefit. They too were exploited. But this time, the rise of [mainland] China is based on the exchange of meager profits between cheap labor and powerful capitalists. Sweatshop laborers have become the prime movers and first wave of beneficiaries in this rise. This is the first time in history that sweatshops instigated the rise of a great power from the bottom-up. In fact, it is the only time in history that a great nation has ever risen peacefully. During the nineteenth century, the great powers rose, then forced China to cede territory and pay reparations. Today, China has been reborn. It has become the US's largest creditor. The Beijing authorities must take pride in this example of a "peaceful rise" created by sweatshops. It must not relinquish this honor lightly.
At the macro level, this "peaceful rise" is beneficial to cross-Strait "peaceful development." It is also why the two sides have no choice but to engage in "peaceful development." Today mainland China is closely intertwined with the global economy. That is why politically it cannot afford to have its rise called into question. If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait cannot engage in "peaceful development," if Beijing hopes to swallow up Taipei by force, that would offer grounds to reject [mainland] China's rise. Beijing's situation would be far more embarrassing than Washington's during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It would surely be a disaster.
In fact, the two sides already have a basic framework for "peaceful development." That framework is the "1992 Consensus" and "One China, Different Interpretations." The Beijing authorities should rethink their cross-Strait relations road map. They must not make "who swallows up whom" the ultimate goal in cross-Strait relations. Such a goal could turn into a trap for Beijing, one from which it could not extricate itself.
Beijing has long relied on fanatical nationalism to justify its Taiwan policy. In fact this has mired the Beijing authorities in an unwanted quagmire. The public on the mainland may favor getting tough with Taipei, and this sentiment can be exploited. But if Beijing swallows up the liberal democratic Republic of China by force, it would constitute a blow to world civilization and the Chinese people that the Beijing authorities could not withstand. But if we can change course, in a positive direction, we can arrive at a consensus with the mainland that contributes to world civilization. Cross-Strait relations has enormous opportunities for positive development. Therefore, the Beijing authorities should rethink their map for cross-Strait relations. It should not paint itself into a corner with self-imposed commitments. Cross-Strait relations must be allowed greater leeway. If the two sides cannot engage in "peaceful development," then the internal and external repercussions will make it impossible for [mainland] China to continue its "peaceful rise."
In fact, [mainland] China's "peaceful rise" and cross-Strait "peaceful development" are already off to a positive start. Cross-Strait coopetition offers an opportunity to make a significant contribution to world civilization. Do not forsake this precious opportunity. Moving towards "One China, Different Interpretations" is a path Beijing should consider.
The current framework, established by Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao, has already reached its profit-taking and stop-loss points. This is a one time opportunity. If we miss the peak, if Beijing fails to rethink its road map, the impact on cross-Strait "peaceful development" will be difficult to predict. The risk to [mainland] China's "peaceful rise" is sure to increase.
2010.05.21 02:21 am