Friday, August 20, 2010

Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao: Mutual Affirmation

Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao: Mutual AffirmationUnited Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 20, 2010

Taipei and Singapore have announced the intention to sign an economic agreement. The Presidential Office clarified, saying that Beijing respects Taipei's move to sign an economic agreement with Singapore. It has not attempted to block the move. Its pragmatic approach is consistent with Taiwan's interests, and "We aprove."

We hope future cross-Strait exchanges will be more like this. Cross-Strait interaction is undergoing change. If the two sides affirm what the other is doing more often, such mutual encouragement can promote "peaceful development."

Over the past two years, cross-Strait coopetition has undergone dramatic change. One might even refer it as a "change in the course of heaven and earth." Future historians will note that these two years were critical, and that Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao were the key figures. They have not betrayed their responsibilities. They have seized this precious opportunity. For that, they deserve affirmation.

A few years ago, such an opportunity would not have arisen. Back then, the setbacks the two sides had endured were not serious enough. The price the two sides had paid was not heavy enough. The soul-searching the two sides had undertaken was not thorough enough. That is why a few years ago such an opportunity would never have arisen. But now the setbacks endured have been serious enough, and the price paid has been heavy enough. The soul-searching was thorough enough. Otherwise we would not have wound up with Hu and Ma. This precious opportunity would have been lost. That is why Ma and Hu should each affirm what the other has done. Needless to say, Lien Chan's courageous and historic "ice-breaking journey" must also be given the credit it deserves.

Deng Xiaoping's "reform and liberalization" rescued the Mainland. His "one country, two systems" rescued the Mainland and Hong Kong. Hu Jintao's historical legacy will be that he, Lien Chan, and Ma Ying-jeou introduced "peaceful development," and allowed the two sides to enter an era of peaceful coopetition.

Hu Jintao's "peaceful development" overrode "one country, two systems" and "peaceful reunification." He did not of course forsake peaceful reunification per se. He merely framed it in a different manner. He and George W. Bush committed to "One China, Different Interpretations" on the Hotline. He modified the "One China Principle," and reframed it as "Although the two sides have yet to be reunified, they are nevertheless both parts of One China." He affirmed that "the status quo manifests itself in the current status of Taiwan's existing regulations and documents." His "Hu Six Points" repeatedly affirmed a "people-oriented" perspective. He made major concessions regarding ECFA. He refrained from obstructing an economic agreement between Taipei and Singapore. Through a Mainland Defense Ministry spokesman, he announced a willingness to discuss the withdrawal of missiles. These actions show that Hu Jintao has refrained from using force. He has refrained from inciting civil unrest on Taiwan. Instead he has attempted to dialogue with the public on Taiwan and to promote cross-Strait "peaceful development." To be fair, such an opportunity was hardly inevitable. This path is not necessarily one that another leader in Beijing could have managed. President Hu Jintao's individual temperament and intellect may well have been a decisive factor.

The two sides are moving toward "peaceful development." This is often interpreted as "Beijing believes it can use economics to control Taiwan, while Taipei realizes it cannot economically separate itself from the Mainland." Some interpret the current cross-Strait economic situation as the anomalous result of economic pressure. Is this in fact the case? The answer will be an important determinant in the final evaluation of Hu Jintao's cross-Strait path. Everyone agrees that cross-Strait relations is a case of "the powerful must be benevolent when dealing with the weak." In other words, Beijing is powerful. It must not resort to trickery to achieve victory. So-called "benevolence" means seeing cross-Strait relations as a moral and civilizational enterprise. It must not be reduced to a case of "Who gobbles up whom?"

Deng Xiaoping had a moral vision for Hong Kong. Although the Mainland could not be made as free and democratic as Hong Kong in the near term, the Mainland would not destroy Hong Kong by imposing "One Country, One System" on Hong Kong. Today, when confronting Taiwan, Hu Jintao and his successors can hardly do less than Deng Xiaoping. Otherwise they would be turning the clock back. Not only would it be heartless, it would be unwise.

Therefore, Hu Jintao's "peaceful development" deserves affirmation. But its final success or failure must not depend on economic appeasement. It must not depend on political trickery. It must depend upon a moral vision of human civilization shared by the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait. Therefore Hu Jintao's record so far deserves affirmation. But difficult challenges remain ahead of him.

Ma Ying-jeou's record on cross-Strait relations can perhaps be best described using his own words, "silent courage." It is said that "the weak must be resourceful when dealing with the powerful." But the fact remains the weaker one is, the less room for resourcefulness one has. Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian can testify to this. Therefore the Republic of China's survival may well depend upon the aforementioned principle, "the powerful must be benevolent when dealing with the weak." Benevolence is the practical expression of morality and civility. The morality and civility of the Republic of China's liberal democracy is its greatest strength. If Ma Ying-jeou can take advantage of this strength, he and the public on Taiwan can inspire the public on the Mainland and around the world. He can ensure that cross-Strait relations do not turn back from "peaceful development."

The two sides must be benevolent when dealing with each other. Being benevolent means being "people-oriented." It means pursuing a moral vision of human civilization shared by the Chinese people on both sides of the Strait. It means the two sides affirming each other, not hesitating to encourage one another, It means steady progress towards a win-win symbiosis.

2010.08.20 02:32 am











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