Three Concepts Explaining the ROC and PRC:
The Roof, the Glass, and Chopsticks
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 5, 2010
Some time ago, this newspaper devised a theoretical framework to explain the relationship between the Republic of China government in Taipei (ROC) and the Peoples Republic of China government in Beijing (PRC). We called it the Roof Theory, the Glass Theory, and the Chopsticks Theory. Now that ECFA has been signed, cross-Strait relations have taken another step toward this framework, which could be summed up as "A Glass and a Pair of Chopsticks under a Roof."
Let's start with the Chopsticks Theory. This is one of the suggestions we put forth over ten years ago, while the Lee Teng-hui administration was flip-flopping back and forth on cross-Strait policy. The Chopsticks Theory likens the Mainland and Taiwan to a pair of chopsticks. They cannot be bound together, i.e., reunified (in the near term), nor can they be separated, i.e., made independent. They need to be like a pair of chopsticks, as they are normally used. They must touch at certain points, but not at others. Only then they pick up food and scoop up rice. Only then can they fulfill their normal function as chopsticks. Back then, Beijing's main theme was "peaceful reunification" and "One Country, Two Systems." But it added "verbal attacks and military intimidation." On the Taipei side the mantra was "Avoid Haste, Be Patient." Taipei gradually entered the post-Lee Teng-hui era. The Chen Shui-bian regime gradually adopted a Taiwan independence line. Beijing would like to bind this pair of chopsticks together. Lee and Chen would like to separate them entirely. Both approaches prevent the chopsticks from functioning normally. Now however, we have entered the post-ECFA era. The main theme now is "peaceful development." Economically speaking, cross-Strait legal agreements enable this pair of chopsticks to function better. Politically speaking, the "1992 Consensus" and "One China, Two Interpretations" also enable this pair of chopsticks to function better. Cross-Strait relations are able to function like a pair of chopsticks. Some parts touch, others parts remain separate and are allowed to move about freely.
The Chopsticks Theory is premised upon the Glass Theory. The general thrust of the Glass Theory is that Taiwan is the water. while the Republic of China is the glass. As long as glass remains, the water remains. As soon as the glass is shattered, the water is scattered. Beijing once tried to eliminate the Republic of China. Meanwhile, the primary justification cited by the Taiwan independence movement for overthrowing the Republic of China was that Beijing would not tolerate the Republic of China's continued existence. Its argument was that since the Republic of China glass was no longer viable, it must be replaced with a "Nation of Taiwan" glass. We have now entered the post-ECFA era. The biggest change in cross-Strait relations is that Beijing has gradually changed its policy from "destroy the Republic of China" to "do not repudiate the Republic of China." Obviously it has realized that without the Republic of China glass it will not be able to hang on to Taiwan, and the cross-Strait situation will spiral out of control. Beijing has gone from denying the 1992 Consensus to accepting it. It has also refrained from publicly denying Taipei's "One China, Different Interpretations" argument. This can be considered progress toward the Glass Theory. With the Glass Theory, the Republic of China's primacy has been upheld. We can talk about the Chopsticks Theory later.
Finally, we have the Big Roof Theory. The Chopsticks Theory encompasses both integration and separation. The Glass Theory tends toward separation. By preserving the primacy of the Republic of China. the Roof Theory tends toward integration. While proposing cross-Strait integration, we spoke of three kinds of roofs. The first is a hard roof. This is a political roof, and encompasses such terms as "reunification" and proposals for a "Chinese confederation." The second is a soft roof. This encompasses such terms as "the Chinese people" and "the two sides of the Strait are one family." The third is a resilient roof. It is not as hard as the hard roof. Nor is it as soft as the soft roof. It is neither hard nor soft, but somewhere in the middle. This resilient roof is ECFA. ECFA has legally reinforced the hard links between the two sides. But the primacy of the Republic of China is unlikely to be harmed. The glass remains. Also, we have significantly improved soft interaction between the two sides. The chopsticks work more efficiently. This resilient roof is better than both the hard roof and the soft roof.
The primary theme of the post-ECFA era is "peaceful development." This was the theme of the 2005 Lien Hu Summit. Permit us to quote this newspaper's comments on what cross-Strait relations ought to be in the post-ECFa era. We should de-emphasize goal orientation, which stresses reunification or independence. We should emphasize instead process orientation, which stresses synergy and a win/win scenario. The common goal of both sides should be to improve our mutually-shared goal through of a rational process.
ECFA is a resilient roof. It reduces the urgency of political solutions to cross-Strait problems. The key factor is that the Glass Theory has become an implicit cross-Strait understanding. Beijing has already changed its rhetoric from "The Republic of China is already defunct" to "Although the two sides have yet to be reunified, they are still party of one China." This is another way of saying "One China, Different Interpretations." Cross-Strait interaction has been successfully institutionalized. Therefore it may become a nimble and responsive pair of synergistic, win/win chopsticks.
The Glass Theory is the core concept. The glass is a room under the roof of the Roof Theory. It is a single chopstick in the Chopstick Theory. Without the Glass Theory there can be no Roof Theory or Chopsticks Theory to speak of.
Cross-Strait relations today are like the glass or the chopsticks under the resilient roof. The authorities and public on both sides must cherish the new opportunities the post-ECFA era offers. For the sake of world civilization, human history, and cross-Strait relations, they must develop a model for "peaceful development." They must use a rational process to discover a better goal.
2010.07.05 01:53 am