Conditions and Timing for a Ma/Hu Summit
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 25, 2010
Do we want a "Ma/Hu Summit?" If so, when would it be held? Consider last weekend's controversy over the Tokyo Film Festival, and the answers to these questions should be clear.
In response to talk of a Ma/Hu Summit, President Ma said, "If we fail to do our homework, it would be better not to have a summit at all." Premier Wu Den-yih said, "The conditions have not been met, and the timing is not right." Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi said, "Let nature take its course. When the time is ripe, things will happen of their own accord."
In our opinion the real obstacle to a Ma/Hu Summit is the inability of the two sides to define their political status in a pragmatic and equitable manner. In other words, in what capacity should Ma and Hu, or any other future cross-Strait heads of state meet? Surely they cannot meet as "Mr. Ma" and "Mr. Hu." Nor can they meet in their capacity as "KMT Chairman" and "Communist Party General Secretary." Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung have already done that. The expressions, "the leader of Taiwan" and "the leader of the Mainland" were coined by the Mainland media. They are not titles specified in the Constitution of the ROC and the Constitution of the PRC. Therefore, as long as we cannot refer to things by their proper names, we will inevitably find it difficult to get things done.
A Ma/Hu Summit is difficult not merely because Ma and Hu have been unable to reach an agreement regarding their political status as individuals. It is difficult due to other issues related to political identity, including "Taiwan vs. the Mainland," or "the Republic of China vs. the Peoples Republic of China." The Tokyo International Film Festival issue is the Ma/Hu Summit issue. When Chen Yunlin met Ma Ying-jeou, he could only address Ma as "you." If Ma and Hu meet under the same circumstances, why bother? How could they meet in the first place? How the two sides address each other may appear to be a superficial matter. In fact it encapsulates one of the most fundamental problems in cross-Strait relations. It is not merely a matter of nomenclature, but a matter of substance.
If cross-Strait relations are to reach new heights, the two heads of state must meet. People are well aware that significant progress has been made in cross-Strait relations, for example, with ECFA. But the Big Picture remains deadlocked over the issue of political identity, with no way out. A solution will require policy goals and conscious planning. One cannot simply "Let nature take its course" in the hope that "When the time is ripe, things will happen of their own accord." Even the Tokyo Film Festival ended in deadlock. One can only imagine what might happen with a Ma/Hu Summit.
We need "liberation of thinking" and "policy innovation." For example, Beijing says the cross-Strait status quo is the legacy of civil war. It has used this as a basis for the "One China Principle." It agrees that the civil war led to "divided rule within the same nation." In this case, perhaps we can use the "legacy of civil war" premise to establish a political framework for cross-Strait relations. It is difficult to imagine the President of the Republic of China meeting with the President of the Peoples Republic of China as "Taiwan's leader." Unless this obstacle can be overcome, it really would be better not to meet at all.
In the event a Ma/Hu Summit is held, Ma Ying-jeou says he has no problem addressing Hu Jintao as "Chairman Hu." The question is whether Hu Jintao would have a problem addressing Ma Ying-jeou as "President Ma." A deeper problem is whether the two sides can find a way to adhere to the "One China Principle" even as Ma and Hu address each other as "Chairman Hu" and "President Ma." This is why we have repeatedly called for the two sides to seek a solution through an "in progress form of One China." Such thinking is hardly unreasonable. After all, East and West Germany, South and North Vietnam in the past, and South and North Korea in the present, never referred to each other as "German Berlin," i.e., "Chinese Taipei." They referred to each other as "President Kim" rather than "the leader of Taiwan." Yet they were able to adhere to a One Germany, One Vietnam, or One Korea principle. Why shouldn't the two sides of the Taiwan Strait be able to do the same?
The Hu/Wen regime is already preparing for the transfer of power. The transfer of power includes two important items. First, political reforms. Second, cross-Strait issues. First, allow us to address the former. In terms of reform and liberalization, Hu and Wen's achievements have been brillant. Add to them the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo, and Hu and Wen's historical legacy is assured. But on the eve of the handover, Wen Jiabao seems unwilling to remain silent. He has loudly called for "political reform." Apparently Hu and Wen are deeply aware of the risks that loom, and are concerned about their successors. That is why they have spoken so bluntly. They are paving the way for future generations of political reformers. After all, these things are better broached by Hu and Wen, rather than left for future generations. In fact, Hu and Wen could do the same with cross-Strait policy.
Hu and Wen's policy of "peaceful development" coincides with the rare opportunity presented by Ma Ying-jeou's election as president in 2008. This has made cross-Strait relations the best they have been in 60 years. This can be considered an achievement of the Hu/Wen regime. However no significant progress has been made in establishing an "in progress form of One China" or defining the two sides' political status. Hu and Wen are about to consolidate their historical legacy. If at this moment they could make a major breakthrough regarding the status of the Republic of China, they would clear the way for cross-Strait relations in a hundred different ways. That would be the finest legacy they could leave their successors.
If that is possible, then the preconditions for a Ma/Hu Summit will have been met.