Three Points in Time: Changes in Beijing's Policy Toward Taipei
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 17, 2012
Summary: DPP leader Frank Hsieh visited the Chinese mainland as Chairman of the Taiwan Restoration Foundation. He met with important figures responsible for Taiwan policy, including Wang Yi, Chen Yunlin, and Dai Bingguo. This broke new ground for public meetings between Beijing officialdom and DPP leaders. Have the DPP and CCP begun initiated a new mode of interaction? Will it affect the three way dynamics between the KMT, DPP, and CCP? Will it impact Taiwan policy following the 18th National Congress?
Full Text below:
Beijing has celebrated its long October 1st National Day holiday and is counting down to its 18th National Congress. For the CCP, this is an important moment. DPP leader Frank Hsieh visited the Chinese mainland as Chairman of the Taiwan Restoration Foundation. He met with important figures responsible for Taiwan policy, including Wang Yi, Chen Yunlin, and Dai Bingguo. This broke new ground for public meetings between Beijing officialdom and DPP leaders. Have the DPP and CCP begun initiated a new mode of interaction? Will it affect the three way dynamics between the KMT, DPP, and CCP? Will it impact Taiwan policy following the 18th National Congress? Everyone is asking these questions.
This is a critical moment for the Mainland authorities. They allowed Frank Hsieh to attend the International Bartenders Association as a private citizen. That has a number of implications for its Taiwan policy.
One. It shows how confident the Mainland authorities are about their Taiwan policy. Beijing officials responsible for Taiwan policy know that a vast chasm separates the DPP and CCP on matters of politics and sovereignty. The long National Day holiday and upcoming 18th National Congress make this a politically sensitive moment. Nevertheless they allowed a DPP leader to visit. They gave him the red carpet treatment. They extended him every courtesy. This shows that the two parties have an understanding. Beijing is using the occasion to underscore its growing confidence in its Taiwan policy. It does not think the visit will result in nasty surprises that someone will have to answer for.
Two. This shows the Mainland authorities' resolve regarding its Taiwan policy. Beijing insists that cross-Strait party to party exchanges must be predicated upon the 1992 consensus and opposition to Taiwan independence. Hsieh entered through Xiamen. He was greeted at the airport, whisked off to Beijing, where he met with officials responsible for Taiwan policy. During his visit Beijing treated him like a government official and not like a private citizen. They never mentioned either party's offiical titles. They never mentioned that he might meet with Jia Qinglin, a Standing Member of the Political Bureau.
Beijing has taken a firm stand on inter-party interaction. But it also knows it must offer hope to the public on Taiwan. It knows it cannot avoid the 40% of voters who support the DPP. It knows the ruling party on Taiwan could change. Four years ago, the "Hu Six Points" noted that "Those who once advocated, enaged in, and followed Taiwan independence, are welcome to return to the fold, move in the right direction, and promote the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations." Contrast this with the first three generations of CCP leaders. During Hu Jintao's term of office the two sides established direct cross-Strait links. They established a dialogue between the KMT and CCP. Now interaction between the CCP and Green camp politicians has begun. This can only be characterized as a milestone.
Three. This underscores the Mainland authorities' flexibility regarding Taiwan policy. The DPP and CCP share no common ground on the one China principle. Beijing considers Frank Hsieh's "two constitutions, different interpretations" unacceptable. But it is willing to set aside Point Four of the Hu Six Points. It is attempting to divide the Green camp by courting "progressive elements." It has long been impatient with the KMT's hesitancy on cross-Strait political issues. It used Frank Hsieh's visit to the Mainland. It gave him VIP treatment. It used the occasion to underscore increasing flexibility in its Taiwan policy. Consider Beijing's Taiwan policy. What Beijing objects to most vehemently is the DPP's repeated attempts to promote de-Sinicization, cultural Taiwan independence, and de jure Taiwan independence. Frank Hsieh's first stop was Fujian, where he paid his respects to his forebears. He revealed how he felt. He stressed that "[The two sides] cannot merely seek common ground while shelving differences. They must address and transcend their differences. This will require patience and mutual trust." Hsieh even advocated "two constitutions, different interpretations." To some extent he echoed Jia Qinglin's "The two sides are honoring existing provisions." This being the case, the two sides may have established some degree of trust and understanding.
Frank Hsieh met with Wang Yi, Chen Yunlin, and Dai Bingguo. What they talked about is not that important. After all, this was not a formal talk. This was not a party-to-party dialogue. Outside observers focused on how the DPP and CCP related to each other. Will this continue? Will this develop into something more? Will it affect the three way dynamic between the KMT, DPP, and CCP? These are all worthwhile questions.
Fourth and finally, the Chinese Communist Party is about to convene its 18th National Congress. What will its policy toward Taiwan be? Everyone on Taiwan should be concerned. First of all, the 18th Party Congress Political Report represents the Party's direction and principles. Thousands of words will be devoted to Taiwan policy. Will the 1992 consensus appear in this year's government work report and political report? Secondly, two sessions will be held in the spring of next year. The CCP's highest Taiwan policy body is the Central Government's Taiwan Affairs Leadership Group. The group leader is Xi Jinping. He is both deputy chief and a group member. These and other Taiwan policy positions are currently being determined. When they are, Beijing's policy toward Taiwan will become clear. Thirdly, Xi Jinping will soon assume power. On the one hand, he will follow Hu Jintao's established practices and guidelines. On the other hand, he must change with the times and find his own style of decision making. Xi Jinping will soon assume power. He will review the results of current Taiwan policy. The results of the 2016 general election will be an important criterion in his decision. In 2017 the CCP will convene its 19th National Congress. What will the outcome of the 2016 general election on Taiwan be? Regardless of what it is, the CCP will want to ensure cross-Strait peace. This will naturally become the top priority for new and old Taiwan policy makers alike. Beijing gave Frank Hsieh the red carpet treatment during his visit to the Chinese mainland. The CPP 18th National Congress will focus on the above as it determines the Mainland's policy toward Taiwan.