Wu Den-yih Strengthens Cross-Strait Trust at Boao
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 5, 2012
Summary: Vice President-elect Wu Den-yih has returned home from his three day visit to the Boao Forum, The most important item on his agenda was of course his meeting with Li Keqiang, Beijing's Vice Premier, who is expected to become Beijing's next Premier. A new generation of cross-Strait leaders are becoming familiar with each other. Four years ago, Vice President-elect Vincent Siew attended. He transited Hong Kong, then boarded a charter flight. This time Wu Den-yih took a direct flight to the meeting. This underscores the changes that have taken place in cross-Strait relations over the past four years. Once stagnation relations have now blossomed.
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Vice President-elect Wu Den-yih has returned home from his three day visit to the Boao Forum, The most important item on his agenda was of course his meeting with Li Keqiang, Beijing's Vice Premier, who is expected to become Beijing's next Premier. A new generation of cross-Strait leaders are becoming familiar with each other. Four years ago, Vice President-elect Vincent Siew attended. He transited Hong Kong, then boarded a charter flight. This time Wu Den-yih took a direct flight to the meeting. This underscores the changes that have taken place in cross-Strait relations over the past four years. Once stagnation relations have now blossomed.
The Boao Forum for Asia is unlike the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference. Beijing hopes to use the Boao Forum to play a leading role in the regional economy. Several years of development have taken place. The international economic situation has changed. Beijing now has a better sense of what is important and what is not. Six years ago, Vincent Siew founded the Cross-Strait Economic and Trade Forum. He established a platform for cross-Strait exchanges. The current event has set new records for the number of delegates and their rank. The Boao Forum has become the foremost platform for cross-Strait economic exchanges. Its importance cannot be overstated. More importantly, two vice presidents-elect have attended the forum. They have practically established a tradition. Four years later, will the forum carry on this tradition? This is something the ruling and opposition parties should ponder and prepare for.
Four years ago, Vincent Siew, Chairman of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, became a full-fledged member of the Boao Forum, and was invited to attend. Siew was already Vice President-elect when the forum convened. Therefore he initiatlly hesitated, wondering whether he ought to attend. But President Ma Ying-jeou gave him the green light. Soon afterwards, he chose to attend. President Hu Jintao attended on behalf of Beijing. The two men participated in the high profile Siew/Hu Meeting. This was the highest-level quasi-official contact so far between the two sides.
Do not assume that the meeting between the two leaders was mere pro forma ritual. The Siew/Hu Meeting addressed many issues, including Mainland tourists coming to Taiwan. cross-Strait direct flights. and economic and trade cooperation. It was one of the Ma administration's most important first term achievements.
The Wu/Li Meeting during the current Boao Forum is promoting cross-Strait peaceful development, the peoples livelihood, and a consensus that economics must be given priority. Wu Den-yih is also attempting to persuade Beijing to respect the Taiwan public's "strong desire" for greater international participation and greater international space. This includes participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Convention on Climate Change, and other NGOs. Li Keqiang responded positively to Wu Den-yih's requests. He said that a solution enabling Taiwan's participation in international activities can be found during consultations as equals. As long as cross-Strait relations remain stable and peaceful, the two sides have sufficient wisdom to find the answers.
Wu and Li also discussed the most pressing cross-Strait economic and trade issues. Li Keqiang said, "Compatriots on both sides of the Strait are part of the Chinese people, The cross-Strait economy is part of the Chinese peoples economy." He did not mention the 1992 Consensus. Instead he led with the concept of "The Chinese people" as the basis for stronger cross-Strait economic cooperation. This concept would strengthen cross-Strait economic cooperation and increase cross-Strait economic prosperity. It would benefit compatriots on both sides of the Strait. Wu Den-yih spoke of "seeking common ground while shelving differences, cross-Strait peace, building trust and good relations, and putting the livelihood of the people first." He stressed the people's livelihood. The main objective of cross-Strait relations is to increase the people's livelihood and well-being. This is reflected in our current cross-Strait economic and trade-policies.
In sum, Wu and Li concluded that the two sides should be more aggressive about improving cross-Strait relations. Beijing has no reason to oppose Taipei's participation in international economic activities. It should encourage this participation, even help it along. Taiwan can become the advance guard for the "Chinese peoples economy." Taipei and Beijing have signed ECFA, gradually consolidating their relationship. Taipei will promote international economic cooperation. It will share the benefits with Beijing. The two sides can be more open. They can do more to benefit the public on both sides of the Strait.
Before Wu Den-yih departed, the Green Camp demanded that Wu uphold the Republic of China, that he not say or do anything to undermine the sovereignty and dignity of the nation. In retrospect Green Camp concerns were baseless.
When Vincent Siew attended the Boao Forum, one Beijing economic and trade minister mispoke. He said that acknowledging One China was a precondition for attendance. Beijing immediately apologized and corrected the minister's error. This time no such missteps occurred. Wu and Li were equal in status. Each referred to the other as "Mr." to avoid embarrassment over their official titles. During talks with Taiwan business people, Wu Den-yih told local Pingtung businessmen that Beijing was already referring to their neighbor Tseng Yung-chuan as "Secretary-General to the Office of the President." Taiwan business people referred to Wu as "Vice President" three times during the forum. Beijing's State Council Taiwan Affairs Office officials were present. But they kept a low profile and did nothing to stop them.
Wu Den-yih's visit shows that cross-Strait political dialogue has three prerequisites. The time is clearly not quite ripe for cross-Strait political dialogue. Wu Den-yih's three conditions include: The accumulation of sufficient goodwill and sincerity, greater consensus and public support on Taiwan, and adherence to the democratic process. Frankly, cross-Strait relations must adopt a "first economics, then politics, first easy, then hard" approach. Steady as we go, will get us to our destination. Wu Den-yih's comportment at the Boao Forum was steady. We can now look forward to reaching our destination over the next four years.