Before Signing Any Peace Agreement, First Identify the Signatories
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 15, 2011
Every now and again officials will talk about how they "look forward to strengthening cross-Strait political dialogue." The recent Obama/Hu Summit was no exception. Taipei's response was the same. "First economics, then politics. First the easy, then the hard." Everyone on both sides of the Strait knows that political dialogue cannot be avoided in the long run. The problem is that no one on either side knows where to begin. This newspaper suggests that the two sides should begin by concluding a "peace agreement," ending the civil war.
The concept of a cross-Strait peace agreement is an old one. Even Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian have suggested it. Lee sent secret emissary Su Chih-cheng to Beijing to propose the signing of a peace agreement. Beijing refused because Lee insisted that the agreement be on a nation to nation basis. Subsequently, American scholar Kenneth Lieberthal proposed an interim agreement, in which Taipei would not declare independence, and Beijing would refrain from using force. This provoked many lively discussions. In 2005, Lien Chan met with Hu Jintao. They cited a peace agreement as one of their five main hopes for the future. Ma Ying-jeou made a peace agreement part of his presidential campaign platform. During his 2009 Chinese New Year's speech, Hu Jintao spoke at length of an "end to hostilities, and the reaching of a peace agreement."
Hu Jintao said "Since 1949, the Mainland and Taiwan have yet to be reunified, but this does not mean that China's territory and sovereignty have been divided. It merely means that since the late 1940s, the Chinese Civil War has resulted in continued political confrontation." Based on such an understanding, Hu Jintao called for "an end to hostilities, and the reaching of a peace agreement."
His reasoning accords with historical fact as well as with logic. In other words, the cross-Strait status quo is the legacy and continuation of the Chinese Civil War. Therefore it is necessary to sign a peace agreement, The Chinese Civil War of the previous century lasted from 1927 to 1949. It continued in fits and starts for 22 years. During the eight year long War of Resistance Against Japan, the Civil War was officially on hold, but in practice it went on regardless. The warring parties were the National Revolutionary Army of the Central Government, and the People's Liberation Army of the Chinese Communist Party. This evolved into cross-Strait confrontation between the Republic of China government on one side, and the People's Republic of China government on the other. As a result of the Civil War, the two sides refused to recognize each other. They sought to destroy each other. A peace agreement would end the Civil War. The two sides would agree not to destroy each other. They would recognize each other, both as belligerents, and as peacemakers. In other words, if one wishes to sign a peace agreement one must first affirm the status of the two warring governments. Without first doing so, how can one possibly sign a peace agreement?
Such thinking inspired Hu's Chinese New Year's Eve speech. Hu mentioned "China" twice during his speech. But the China he mentioned was the China of 1949, prior to internal division by the Chinese Civil War. A peace agreement would address the "legacy and continuation" of this internal division. It would reconstruct a future China, a Third Concept of Chjina, and provide a framework for mutual interaction.
Talking about a peace agreement today, "post 2008," is especially meaningful. Talk of a peace agreement often provokes conflict between the two sides. But the cross-Strait situation is already peaceful. Civil War hostilities have already ended. Talk of a peace agreement now can only help consolidate the peace.
In recent years, Beijing has made a genuine effort to promote "mutual non-denial." For this, it deserves recognition. It should now pick up the pace, and move toward "mutual recognition." Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi said, "Peaceful reunification is not the Mainland annexing Taiwan. Nor is it Taiwan annexing the Mainland." This is a concrete expression of Deng Xiaoping's "It is not about you gobbling me up, or me gobbling you up." What exactly does "ending the Civil War, and reaching a peace agreement" mean? What it means is that the Republic of China will not annex the Peoples Republic of China, and the Peoples Republic of China will not annex the Republic of China. This is the only way to correctly identify the participants in the conflict, as well as the participants in any peace agreement.
Actually, the KMT and the CCP once signed a peace agreement, back in April 1949. At the time, the CCP had a military advantage. The CCP's proposed agreement called for the "abolition of the [ROC's] ersatz constitution and legal system." Talks broke down. Communist forces crossed the Yangtze River the very next day. The peace agreement was all about eliminating one's opponent. It was different from today's peace agreement.
Today, the two sides are "already peaceful." This is mainly because the two sides "do not repudiate each other, and are not annexing each other." The main reason for a peace agreement in an already peaceful environment, is to further consolidate the peace. It is to make that agreement explicit. It is to "put it in writing." Therefore we must acknowledge that we are dealing with the "legacy and continuation of the Civil War." We must identify the warring parties, and by extension, the parties that would be making peace. That is why we need a consensus on the "cessation of Civil War hostilities, and the reaching of a peace agreement." Only then can we establish a phased framework for a peace agreement. Only then can we make the proposition that "although the two sides have yet to be reunified, they are nevertheless still part of one China," a matter of established law.
Most people on Taiwan consider the Civil War a political cross they must bear, But we believe that citing the Civil War in order to promote a peace agreement can be a clever way to break the deadlock.
Beijing is aware of course that it cannot sign a peace agreement while simultaneously denying that the ROC government was one of the warring parties, and therefore one of the signatories of any peace agreement. Therefore, Beijing must overcome its resistance to "mutual recognition." It must see the peace agreement as a way to cut the Gordian Knot. This accords with historical fact. It also accords with logic.
2011.02.15 03:15 am