Promote Cross-Strait Peace, Increase Public Welfare
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 18, 2011
Summary:In his "Golden Decade, National Vision" press conference, President Ma Ying-jeou set forth his proposal for a cross-Strait peace agreement, to be signed some time in the coming decade. A decade seems far away. But establishing a foundation for peaceful cross-Strait coexistence is a vast and difficult undertaking. We have a responsibility to the nation's future and to the public welfare. Therefore we must begin thinking seriously about how we can make it happen.
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In his "Golden Decade, National Vision" press conference, President Ma Ying-jeou set forth his proposal for a cross-Strait peace agreement, to be signed some time in the coming decade. A decade seems far away. But establishing a foundation for peaceful cross-Strait coexistence is a vast and difficult undertaking. We have a responsibility to the nation's future and to the public welfare. Therefore we must begin thinking seriously about how we can make it happen.
President Ma proposed a peace agreement. He also listed three prerequisites: a high degree of public support, a pressing national need, and legislative oversight. These three prerequisites are essential in any democracy. The Republic of China is a democratic republic, Any policy must be endorsed by the public. It must be subject to legislative oversight. This goes without saying. President Ma said the government's approach to any cross-Strait peace agreement would be "gradual, prudent, and discrete." He said it would not sign for the sake of signing, and that it has no timetable. A peace agreement is not the government's highest priority item at the moment. But by raising the subject, he has effectively linked cross-Strait policy to the presidential election. He has encouraged voters to choose between progress toward a cross-Strait peace agreement or inaction, uncertainty, and the continued possibility of a cross-Strait war.
Most people on Taiwan support peaceful cross-Strait exchanges. But when it comes to a peace agreement, many still lack confidence in Beijing. A peace agreement affects national security. It requires mutual trust. President Ma Ying-jeou was willing to advance his vision before the election. This required considerable courage. The Green Camp is certain to accuse him of "selling out Taiwan." But President Ma Ying-jeou believes no leader elected by a democratic system of government may be slandered in such a fashion. This election will be a test of Taiwan society. It will reveal whether Taiwan society has transcended its bigotry vis a vis provincial origins.
History continues to advance. Society continues to evolve. This is true on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Before the two sides can sign a peace agreement, they must overcome numerous obstacles. They must clarify their goals. They must come to terms with each other's sovereignty. Their military forces must be willing to forsake the use of force. They must agree on how negotiations will be conducted. On the surface, Taipei wants peace, Beijing wants reunification. But at a deeper level both sides what both sides need is a peaceful and stable environment that permits shared development, that permits their children and grandchildren to grow up in an atmosphere of harmony and happiness. What both sides need is a vibrant and progressive civil society for the Chinese nation as a whole.
Therefore a peace agreement must be more than a quid pro quo. It must be more than a Machievellian power struggle. The two sides must share a commitment to a better future. If the two sides continue to engage in a battle of wits, then the basic conditions for a peace agreement do not exist. Signing a peace agreement is not the most important thing. The most important thing is creating an environment in which a peace agreement is possible. The hard part is creating the benign environment necessary for a peace agreement. Once such a benign environment has been created, a peace agreement is a forgone conclusion. Even without a peace agreement, peace would already be a reality.
When will such a day arrive? This should not be perceived as a problem. It should be perceived as a goal. How do we make such a day possible? Changing the nation's future is an important matter. To treat it as something unknowable, to sit back and allow the situation to evolve on its own, is not merely wrong, but irresponsible.
Given existing cross-Strait relations, such a goal seems impossible. But given the progress made in cross-Strait relations, and the liberalization taking place on the Chinese mainland, significant changes will take place, internally and across the Strait over the coming decade.
President Ma said that over the next decade, the government must continue affirming the sovereignty of the Republic of China, It must continue increasing its strength. It must encourage healthy cross-Strait relations. It must build long-term peace and stability. The two sides may not recognize each other's sovereignty. But they must not deny each other's jurisdiction. We hope the government will establish cross-Strait administrative mechanisms. We hope it will promote the Republic of China's core values: freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We hope that interactions between officials and civilians on both sides of the Strait gradually move toward consensus.
A stable and peaceful environment will enable the two sides to continue vigorous exchanges. Such exchanges will showcase Taiwan as an alternative model for the development of the Chinese nation. It will inspire the public on the Chinese mainland. Militarily Taipei cannot to prevail against Beijing. But morally, Taipei has greater respect for the human individual, therefore much to be proud of. The longer peaceful cross-Strait exchanges continue, the more benign society on the Chinese mainland will become. This is an opportunity for Taiwan. It is also an opportunity for the Mainland, It is an opportunity for the Chinese nation as a whole.
Ensuring the welfare of the people is the foremost responsibility of both governments. Both sides must promote peace and mutually beneficial exchanges. They must set aside matters of political conflict and address matters of public welfare. They must demonstrate wisdom and courage. They must join hands to create a peaceful and prosperous future for the public on both sides of the Strait.