Beijing's Response to President Ma's May 20 Speech
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 31, 2012
Summary: President Ma Ying-jeou delivered his inaugural speech ten days ago. Yesterday Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office finally made a formal response. Spokesman Yang Yi was asked about President Ma's "One Republic of China, Two Regions" comment. Yang said that this was Mr. Ma's long held policy position regarding the Mainland. We are not the least bit surprised. Yang was asked whether President Ma's speech would affect follow-up consultations between the two sides. Yang Yi replied bluntly, "It will not."
Full Text below:
President Ma Ying-jeou delivered his inaugural speech ten days ago. Yesterday Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office finally made a formal response. Spokesman Yang Yi was asked about President Ma's "One Republic of China, Two Regions" comment. Yang said that this was Mr. Ma's long held policy position regarding the Mainland. We are not the least bit surprised. Yang was asked whether President Ma's speech would affect follow-up consultations between the two sides. Yang Yi replied bluntly, "It will not."
Yang Yi's remarks were comparatively piecemeal. But a comparison between them and the language of the Wu/Hu Meeting in Beijing, back in March, may give us a clearer picture. One. Beijing opposes Taiwan independence. It recognizes the 1992 consensus. Two. The Ma administration handles cross-Strait relations according to the constitutional framework of the Republic of China. Beijing has not responded to this fact directly. But it has acknowledged that it is the Ma administration's "long held policy regarding the Mainland." It has acknowledged that it "has never voiced any objections in the past." Beijing is clearly "seeking common ground while shelving disagreements."
During the March Wu/Hu Meeting Hu Jintao said, "We affirm that (both the Mainland and Taiwan are part of one China). This is consistent with the two sides' legal provisions. It is something the two sides can agree upon." The "two sides' legal provisions" refers of course to the two sides' constitutions. In fact Hu Jintao told the Taiwan side, "Actually this is what your Republic of China Constitution stipulates. This is what you should abide by."
Meanwhile, Wu Poh-hsiung said, "According to the two sides' current systems and relevant legal provisions, the two sides maintain that they are both part of one China." Wu Poh-hsiung then proposed a "one country, two regions" perspective. He qualified his remarks by adding that under the Republic of China Constitution. "one China" has "different interpetations."
This is the first time the two sides have attempted to build political trust at the constitutional level, by referring to their current systems and legal provisions. The Beijing authorities have clearly acknowledged this. Something akin to a peace agreement may be difficult to achieve. Until then the sole basis for stable cross-Strait relations is the Republic of China Constitution, e.g. the "one China Constitution."
Consider President Ma's cross-Strait policy, including his "one Republic of China, two regions" phrasing. Its premise is the constitutional framework of the Republic of China. The 1992 consensus and one China, different interpretations is similarly rooted in the constitutional framework of the Republic of China.
Beijing's response to Taipei's May 20 policy statement can be summed up in two ways. One. Its guiding principle is opposition to Taiwan independence. Opposing Taiwan independence takes precedence over promoting Chinese reunification. As the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office often says, "As long as everyone recognizes one China, all other issues are negotiable." Two. Beijng considers Taipei's cross-Strait policy acceptable. The bottom line is adherence to the Republic of China Constitution, since "this is what Taiwan ought to abide by."
The above analysis is somewhat loose. After all, Beijing did not state its position in quite so explicit terms. But it catches Beijing's drift. It offers new meaning for the three parties on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. One. Beijing now acknowledges that the Republic of China Constitution stabilizes cross-Strait relations. This is a huge step. Two. The Ma administration included the phrases "one China means the Republic of China," and "one Republic of China, two regions" in Ma's inaugural speech. In short, Ma expressed support for one China, different interpetations "under the constitutional framework of the Republic of China." Beijing does not consider his an obstacle to cross-Strait peaceful development. This represents significant progress in cross-Strait interaction. Three. Yesterday Yang Yi repudiated the DPP's "one country on each side" rhetoric. The DPP can choose to return to its "rectification of names" policy. It can choose to have a showdown with Beijing. Or it can do the smart thing and choose to reaffirm the Republic of China Constitution.
The UDN News uses the "glass theory" to describe the situation. The Republic of China Constitution is the glass. Taiwan is the water. As long as the glass remains, the water is contained within. But once the glass is broken, the water is lost.
Therefore, absent further breakthroughs in cross-Strait relations, the Republic of China Constitution remains the bottom line for the three-parties on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. On the one hand, the DPP's "rectification of names" is impossible. It cannot ignore the Republic of China Constitution. It must contend with the Republic of China Constitution, as well as objections from Beijing. It must defend Taiwan by defending the Republic of China Constitution. Conversely, Taiwan approaches cross-Strait relations from the constitutional framework of the Republic of China. Beijing must accept this. It must accept that for Taiwan "one China, different interpretations" is rooted in the Republic of China Constitution. This too is a line that cannot be easily crossed.
The Taiwan Affairs Office responded to President Ma's May 5 speech. Its response was both aggressive and passive. It was aggressive when it treated the Republic of China Constitution as the bottom line in cross-Strait relations. It was aggressive when it insisted it was "not the least bit surprised" that the Taiwan side predicated its "one China, different interpretations" argument on the Republic of China Constitution, It was aggressive when it adopted a pragmatic stance. It was passive when it avoided referring to the Republic of China Constitution. It was passivve when it avoided calling a spade a spade, and the constitution the constitution. It was not quite willing to say what it was thinking. This may be something we can anticipate in the future.
2012.05.31 01:54 am