Boao Forum: Why Put on an Act?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 2, 2012
Summary: If cross-Strait relations really do not entail "you annexing me or me annexing you," why must we persist in this practice of mutual repudiation? The Boao Forum acknowledges that Fredrick Chien was former GIO Chief and CEPD committee member. This is a small step in the right direction. The leaders of the two governments, "Mr. Ma" and "Mr. Xi," ought to have the guts to take a giant leap in the right direction. If we do not refer to things by their proper name, our words will not reflect reality. If our words do not reflect reality, what needs to be done will not be done.
Full Text below:
Why put on an act? Why not face reality? Why not not seek truth from facts?
Yesterday morning the Wu/Li Meeting convened. The meeting was important because Wu Den-yih will become Republic of China Vice President in May, and Li Keqiang will become Premier of the People's Republic of China in the fall. Both men occupy important positions within in their respective governments. Yet when the meeting convened they addressed each other as "Mr." This greatly undercut the significance of the meeting.
During the 2008 Boao Forum, Vice President-elect Vincent Siew was already a member of the Boao Forum. But upon being elected, he immediately applied for membership yet again. The Beijing authorities immediately approved his application. This led to the Siew/Hu Meeting, and to the two leaders' "16 word proclamations." This intriguing cross-Strait interaction paved the way for the new breakthroughs in 2008. It laid the foundation for the next four years of "peaceful development".
Now take the current Boao Forum for Asia. Wu Den-yih is also participating as Vice President-elect. This shows that the two sides are still communicating with each other at the same level. But it also shows that the novelty has worn off. Wu Den-yih proposed a "new 16 word proclamation." Li Keqiang told an interviewer, "Ah, also 16 words!" He went through the motions. The symbolic significance was greater than the actual significance.
Every milestone in cross-Strait relations holds out the promise of new cross-Strait heights. The clearest symbolf of this is the way the two sides address each other. When Wu and Li meet, Wu could address Li as Vice Premier Li. Wu currently holds no public office. Therefore Li addressed him as "Mr. Wu." But if Li had congratulated Wu on being elected Vice President, the atmosphere would have been very different. Given the current atmosphere, everyone assumes this is impossible. But it is not impossible. Here is why.
Take Wu Den-yih. After the Ma administration took office in 2008. Wu visited the Mainland, as KMT Secretary-General. He addressed Hu Jintao as General Secretary. Hu Jintao clarified, saying he was "Secretary-General." Later, however, once Wu Den-yih became Premier, he could no longer visit the Mainland. Now he has been elected Vice President. He has resigned his position as Premier. He is attending the Boao Forum as Vice President-elect. Li addressed him as "Mr. Wu." Wu did not address Li as "Vice Premier" either. Had Wu addressed Li as "Political Bureau Standing Committee Member," it would have been even more awkward. All Wu could do is address Li as "Mr. Li." Of course when Wu becomes Vice President, he will no longer be able to visit the Mainland.
Amidst these cross-Strait exchanges, the same Wu Den-yih is treated differently, depending upon his elective position or party position. This has its own logic. Beijing acknowledged that Wu Den-yih was the Secretary-General of the ruling party of the Republic of China. But Beijing did not acknowledge that he was the Premier of the Republic of China. It did not acknowledge that he was the Vice President-elect of the Republic of China. Isn't this self-delusion?
In fact, the Secretariat of the Boao Forum appears to have a new frame of reference for the government of the Republic of China. Its manual describes former delegation leader Fredrick Chien as "Taiwan region Government Information Office Chief, CEPD committee member, and the head of both elective and monitoring bodies." As we can see, the Boao Forum authorities have already acknowledged such titles as "Government Information Office Chief" and "CEPD committee member." Beijing once referred to him as the "head of the CEPD." But Beijing deliberately omitted Chien Fu's experience as former Minister of Foreign Affairs. They did not refer to him as Speaker of the National Assembly, They referred to him instead as the "head of an elective body." They did not refer to him as the President of the Control Yuan. They referred to him instead as the "head of a monitoring body." When they introduced Chiu Cheng-hsiung, they referred to him as "the head of the Ma Ying-jeou authorities' administrative agency." They did not refer to him as the "Vice Premier."
And so it goes. This is considered taboo. That is considered taboo. Beijing has already acknowledged that Chien was Government Information Office Chief, and a CEPD committee member. Why deny that he was Minister of Foreign Affairs? Why not accept that he was Vice Premier, National Assembly Speaker, and Control Yuan President? Don't these titles come from the same Republic of China political framework? This reminds one of the scare quotes the Mainland media persists in adding to "legislators" from the ROC. Adding the scare quotes may express a disparaging attitude. But it does not change the facts.
Things should be referred to by their proper name. The two sides have many problems with names. This reflects the many obstacles and blind spots in the framework for cross-Strait interaction. For example, the Wu/Hu Summit ten days ago made clear reference to "the two sides' existing constitutions." But this was demoted to the level of "the two sides' existing provisions." Li Keqiang knows perfectly well that Wu Den-yih is the Republic of China's Vice President-elect. But he refrains from offering him congratulations or best wishes. Nor does Wu refer to Li as "Vice Premier." In order to repudiate the ROC Constitution, Beijing is forced to repudiate its own constitution. Because its own vice president-elect has been repudiated, Taipei is forced to repudiate the PRC Vice Premier. At best this is putting on an act. At worst this is is self-delusion. The fact is government officials on both sides long ceased using middlemen. They have personally participated in cross-Strait wrangling at the negotiating table.
If cross-Strait relations really do not entail "you annexing me or me annexing you," why must we persist in this practice of mutual repudiation? The Boao Forum acknowledges that Fredrick Chien was former GIO Chief and CEPD committee member. This is a small step in the right direction. The leaders of the two governments, "Mr. Ma" and "Mr. Xi," ought to have the guts to take a giant leap in the right direction.
If we do not refer to things by their proper name, our words will not reflect reality. If our words do not reflect reality, what needs to be done will not be done.