May 20 Speech and Cross-Strait Three Party Interaction
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 21, 2012
Summary: The two sides have fallen back on "existing systems and legal provisions," i.e., their constitutions, to define the cross-Strait relationship. But this does not resolve all problems pertaining to "one China." This is why President Ma has yet to utter the words, "both sides are part of one China." Instead, he says that people on both sides are part of the Chinese nation. That is because "one China" still requires "different interpretations." If the two sides wish to proceed, they should reach an "interim agreement" based on a "big roof."
Full Text below:
President Ma Ying-jeou's second term inaugural speech contained about 6000 words. The portion addressing cross-Strait issues was based on a "national security iron triangle" and contained over 2000 words. It was the most anticipated part of the speech. It was the portion on which he expended the most ink.
President Ma's position on cross-Strait issues remains largely unchanged from what it was in 2008, when he delivered his first term inaugural speech. As we can see, his framework is right and it works. But certain addenda have already resulted in fresh controversies.
For four years, one thing has been consistent. As Ma noted, "Ying-jeou solemnly points out that the Constitution of the Republic of China is the government's final arbiter vis a vis cross-Strait relations. Cross-strait policy must adhere to the framework of the ROC Constitution. It must maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, i.e., "no [immediate] reunification, no independence, and no use of force." It must be based on the 1992 consensus and one China, different interpretations, It must promote cross-Strait peace and development." This framework has become a three-way understanding between Taipei, Washington, and Beijing. It withstood the acid test of the 2012 presidential election. It is right and it works.
The addenda states that "According to the constitution, the territorial sovereignty of the Republic of China includes both Taiwan and the Mainland. The government's current jurisdiction however, covers only Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu." In other words, for the past two decades the constitution's position vis a vis the cross-Strait situation is "one Republic of China, two regions." Over the past two months the portion pertaining to "one country, two regions" became a point of contention. The public also wondered whether President Ma would say "both sides are part of one China." Instead, President Ma said "People on both sides of the Strait are part of the Chinese nation." But this too became a point of contention.
The source of the controversy was the "Wu-Hu meeting" in March. Hu Jintao said, "We affirm that (the Mainland and Taiwan are both part of one China). This is consistent with existing legal provisions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. This is something both sides consider doable." Wu Poh-hsiung said, "The two sides' existing systems and legal provisions affirm that they are both "part of one China." Wu Poh-hsiung said, "Taiwan's existing legal provisions (i.e., the Statute Governing Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Region and the Mainland Region) is the legal basis for "one country, two regions." The relationship between the two sides is not a state-to-state relation. It is a special type of relationship."
Did President Ma's inaugural speech have any connection to the Wu Hu Meeting? That remains unknown. It is possible Beijing saw the cross-Strait situation as volatile and unpredictable. It wanted a to characterize the cross-Strait relationship in a new way. it wanted to say, "Both two sides are part of one China." But the Ma administration may have been wary of the "one China" portion. It responded by "reaffirming the Constitution of the Republic of China," It reaffirmed that "one country, two regions" was part of the Constitution of the Republic of China.
The Ma administration's response was reasonable. Article 11 of the Amended Constitution "responds to the need for national unity." It refers to the "Free Region" and the "Mainland Region." It refers to the "Statute Governing Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Region and the Mainland Region." It renames the regions the "Taiwan Region" and the "Mainland Region." Without such a legal basis, we could not have "Taiwan Compatriot Permits" and "Mainland Compatriot Permits." The two sides would have no basis by which to interact. President Ma said "For two decades the constitution has defined the cross-Strait situation as "one Republic of China, two regions," We have elected three presidents during that time. But that legal provision has never changed." This is absolutely correct.
But three political parties on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are competing for power. This "new framework" could have either positive or negative consequences. Consider one negative consequence. Actually this "new framework" is part of the old legal framework. The 1992 consensus and one China, different interpretations is well established. It is a stable and workable framework. Adding "one country, two regions" to it is gilding the lily. It could lead to new disputes. The past two months confirm this.
Now consider a positive consequence. As mentioned above, the Wu Hu Meeting said both sides were part of "one China." The basis for this was the two sides' "existing systems and legal provisions." The "existing systems and legal provisions" are the two sides' ' constitutions. Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi said, "One country, two regions is the underlying legal basis for cross-Strait relations, one that both sides have long supported." Can Beijing support the Republic of China's "one China Constitution?" Can it lean this way? Can it modify its "one China, different interpretations" policy? If it can, we anticipate positive consequences.
The DPP must handle this situation carefully. Four years ago it mindlessly opposed ECFA. Ultimately it merely painted itself into a corner. This is a matter of record. Today the DPP is apparently licking its chops over "one country, two regions." Apparently it thinks this provides an escape clause from the 1992 consensus. It has latched onto "one country, two regions" and refuses to let go. But "one country, two regions" merely revisits the debate over the constitution. Frank Hsieh is itching to pontificate about the "constitutional consensus" and "different constitutional interpretations." But if one repudiates "one country, two regions" how can one maintain the constitutional framework for the "Taiwan Compatriot Permits" and "Mainlander Compatriot Permits?" No wonder Su Tseng-chang ridiculed Frank Hsieh's theory, calling it a "Kuomintang knock-off." Su said they must conduct themselves as a "genuine Democratic Progressive Party." But how can the DPP hide behind the Constitution of the Republic of China? After all, they want to dismember the Constitution of the Republic of China. How can this possibly offer them a way out?
As we see it, "one country, two regions" is merely another way to reaffirm the constitutional basis for "one China, different interpretations." But the more one reaffirms this constitutional basis, the more one ratchets up social and psychological pressure, and the more likely one will have to confront the problem. One country, two regions means reaffirming the Constitution of the Republic of China. It means using it to define the cross-Strait relationship. This of course is much better that allowing Beijing to define it unilaterally. Hence the reaffirmation of the constitution and "one country, two regions." Agreement concerning the constitution may facilitate mutual trust. The DPP should capitalize on the trend, and not proceed down a blind alley.
The DPP hopes to repudiate "one country, two regions." This is nothing less than repudiating the constitution. Beijing calls it "mulish Taiwan independence." The DPP opposes US beef imports. Washington could choose to see this as a vendetta. The DPP should remember its painful experience with ECFA. It condemned it as "selling out Taiwan and pandering to [Mainland] China." But eventually it was compelled to "accept it in toto." The DPP should not seek short term advantage, only to find itself in a blind alley.
The two sides have fallen back on "existing systems and legal provisions," i.e., their constitutions. to define the cross-Strait relationship. But this does not resolve all problems pertaining to "one China." This is why President Ma has yet to utter the words, "both sides are part of one China." Instead, he says that people on both sides are part of the Chinese nation. That is because "one China" still requires "different interpretations." If the two sides wish to proceed, they should reach an "interim agreement" based on a "big roof."