Monday, September 20, 2010

Reconnection: Cross-Strait Face-Saver and Road to Prosperity

Reconnection: Cross-Strait Face-Saver and Road to Prosperity
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
September 20, 2010

This article concludes the editorial series, "From Reunification to Reconnection." It argues that "Reconnection" is a face saving measure that could break the cross-Strait impasse. It is also the cross-Strait road to prosperity.

As pointed out in our previous editorial, reunification is the toughest and riskiest alternative. Demanding "reunification" may mire Beijing in a "commitment trap." Beijing might find itself unable to retreat because it has overcommitted itself. Cross-Strait relations is a paradox. Demanding "reunification" effectively prolongs "separation." From the ruling CCP's perspective, leaving reunification unresolved sets hawks and doves at each others' throats, and creates a ticking time bomb. It makes it difficult for Beijing to answer to a public which has been led to expect "reunification no matter what."

The implosion of the Soviet Union had many causes, both remote and proximate. But a major cause was Moscow's "overcommitment" to the three Baltic states, which mired it in a "commitment trap." Suppose earlier that year Moscow had relaxed its commitment to the three Baltic states? Suppose it had engaged in timely "policy innovation," and chosen to deal with the three Baltic states differently than the other republics? Had it done so, these tiny states might not have been the dominoes that led to the Soviet Union's collapse. Cross-Strait relations are of course very different from the relationship between the Soviet Union and the three Baltic states. But this example illustrates the consequences of improper goals. Therefore, we must avoid becoming mired in a "commitment trap" when establishing new goals.

In fact, the Beijing authorities have been aware of the problem for some time. Its "yet to be reunified, but still part of one China" phraseology attempts to resolve this impasse and stabilize cross-Strait relations "prior to reunification." This is why we must seek goals besides "reunification." We must think instead about "reconnecting," in order to establish an "in progress form of One China."

From Taipei's perspective, consider this newspaper's "2010 Cross-Strait Relations Survey." If we simplify the results of the survey on "Taiwan's Future," we get three results. Advocates of immediate or eventual independence total 31%. Advocates of maintaining the statusq quo in perpetuity total 51%. Advocates of immediate or eventual reunification total 14%. As we can see, for some time into the future, "reunification" will not constitute "the will of the people." The same survey shows that the public hopes that cross-Strait relations can be improved and stabilized. The public wants to "reconnect" with the other side, without "substantially changing the status quo." The thinking behind "reconnecting" was proposed by this newspaper in its "glass theory." According to the glass theory, Taiwan is the water, the Republic of China is the glass. As long as the glass remains, the water remains. Once the glass is shattered however, the water is lost. By contrast, the goal of "reunification" [from Beijing's perspective] is to shatter the glass.

Cross-Strait relations require process-oriented "peaceful development." They require goal-oriented "peaceful resolutions." This newspaper's "Six New Year's Day Editorials" proposed "setting new goals, predicated upon rational processes." Process-orientation and goal-orientation are mutually complementary alternatives. Here are the four conclusions previously cited.

Since reunification is difficult, why not reconnect first? If reconnection is successful, reunification may be unnecessary. If reconnection is successful, , the result may be better than reunification. Once reconnection is successful, reunification is also a possibility.

These four conclusions are the theme of this article. In other words, reconnection is a face saving measure that could break the cross-Strait impasse. It is also the road to cross-Strait prosperity.

After World War II, four divided countries emerged. North and South Vietnam fought a bitter civil war, underwent regime change, but has yet to resolve its national difficulties. North and South Korea have arranged meetings between their heads of state. But bureaucratic obstacles still stand in the way of talks. East and West Germany were once separated by a wall. But their abruptly reunification left everyone unprepared. By comparison, Taiwan and the Mainland are blessed. We can take incremental steps to improve and stabilize relations. We may be able to find an "historic solution" that will serve as a model for divided countries around the world. China, which has also been divided into two parts, is different from the three other divided countries. The biggest difference is that we can use "reconnection" as a face saving measure and the road to prosperity.

Taipei and Beijing have a responsibility to make good use this face saving measure and road to prosperity. Especially Beijing. Taiwan has adopted democracy. Any high-level "connection," such as a peace agreement or a confederation, will require Beijing's initiative. Otherwise, allegations of "pandering to [Mainland] China and selling out Taiwan" will fly. But if Beijing were to promote a gradual scheme for "reconnecting," it could bypass partisan political struggles on Taiwan. It could appeal directly to the public on Taiwan. It could offer a proposal, similar to ECFA, that would immediately appeal the public on Taiwan. Taipei and Beijing would have a fait accompli on their hands. Of course, for Beijing to move from "reunification" to "reconnection," is easier said than done. After all, it has already found itself mired in a "commitment trap" for some time.

Both sides of the Taiwan Strait know perfectly well that the past few years constitute a fleeting historical opportunity. If the overall situation undergoes further change, perhaps even "reconnection" will no longer be an option. This would once again plunge the two sides into a "commitment trap." Therefore, we propose that Mainland authorities encourage free discussion of "reconnection" by Mainland think-tanks. This will reduce the impasse. After all, one's ideas determine one's behavior. One's vision determines one's horizons.

2010.09.20 04:10 am












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