Washington: Returning to My Home vs. Returning to My Brother's Home
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 18, 2012
Summary: Washington has expressed enthusiastic approval of Frank Hsieh's visit to
the Mainland. But it seems unsure about future developments. The
"differences" Frank Hsieh spoke of are the differences between the two
side of the Taiwan Strait. These cross-Strait differences must be dealt
with. Hsieh must undergo an acid test. He must deal with internal
dissent within the DPP. He must deal with differences between the DPP
and KMT. This will be a key indicator as Washington monitors the
repercussions of Frank Hsieh's visit to the Mainland.
Full Text below:
Former Premier Frank Hsieh wiped away tears during his visit to his ancestors' graves on Xiamen's Dongshan Island. He met with Beijing's State Council for Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi, ARATS chairman Chen Yunlin, and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. On the surface at least, Washington was delighted with what it saw.
But US government officials had feelings they were not at liberty to express. These are often expressed on their behalf by US think tank scholars. These scholars include Director Richard Bush of the Brookings Institute Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, and senior researcher Kenneth Lieberthal. Former Premier Frank Hsieh visited the Chinese mainland. In their opinion, Frank Hsieh's visit was a good thing, both for Washington and for Beijing. It contributed to mutual understanding among political parties across the Taiwan Strait.
Frank Hsieh has spun his visit to the Chinese mainland as a case of "despite countless obstacles, I shall persevere." But as Washington sees it, Frank Hsieh's visit the Chinese mainland means just one thing. A great debate within the DPP regarding the party's view of the Chinese mainland is about to begin.
In this great debate US scholars believe that to achieve victory in the upcoming elections, different voices will make themselves heard within the DPP. These voices must subject themselves to scrutiny by the Taiwan public. For the DPP, the emergence of different opinions will bolster Taiwan's party politics. Washington has long been highly supportive of democracy on Taiwan. But Chen Shui-bian's eight years in office raise concerns about another ruling party change on Taiwan. Will the DPP's policy toward "China" and other nations once again provoke Beijing? Will it make waves in the currently calm waters of cross-Strait relations? Frank Hsieh's visit to the Mainland has touched off a massive debate regarding the DPP's attitude toward Mainland China. Naturally the United States welcomes this.
This is why the American Institute in Taiwan Taipei Office Chief Christopher J. Marut welcomed Frank Hsieh's visit to the Chinese mainland. During the 2012 Republic of China presidential election, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed that the ROC is an important security partner and economic partner. Washington sent senior officials to Taiwan. They announced that the ROC was a candidate for the US visa waiver program. They showed goodwill towards the Ma Ying-jeou administration. Conversely, U.S. National Security adviser Thomas E. Donilon, when interviewed by the London Financial Times, questioned DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen's ability to handle cross-Strait affairs. As a result DPP relations with Washington reached a new low. It is easy to see that Washington is deeply concerned about the ability of political parties on Taiwan to deal with cross-Strait relations. This is something the Democratic Progressive Party, which longs to return to power, cannot ignore.
The CCP understands the situation. The goal of its negotiations is to lock in a peace agreement and lock in the political status of Taiwan. This will be a long, drawn out process. Relying exclusively on the KMT is not enough. It must also obtain the support of the DPP. Washington's response to these developments is not yet clear. US officials have commented on certain subtle differences. When former Vice President Lien Chan first arrived on the Chinese mainland, he spoke of "returning home." When Frank Hsieh arrived on the Chinese mainland he spoke of "returning to my brother's home." The fact that US officials are noticing such fine distinctions reveals their deep concern about the impact of Frank Hsieh's visit to the Mainland.
Beijing allowed Frank Hsieh to visit the Mainland without preconditions. Washington has concluded that Beijing has a deeper understanding of Taiwan's internal affairs. It has concluded from Beijing's policies that it has greater ambitions toward Taiwan. These powerful ambitions are reflected in Beijing's desire to establish a channel of communication with DPP in the event it returns to power. The KMT and the CCP have already established channels for communication. But Beijing knows that changes in the ruling party are the norm on Taiwan. That is why it has decided to increase exchanges with the DPP. Conversely, even if the KMT remains in power long term, Beijing does not want the DPP enagaging in obstructionism whenever it attempts to communicate with the KMT. Risk management is the best way to establish an effective channel of communication with the DPP.
Scholars in the US are generally in agreement. The CCP is gradually learning how to deal with the major political parties on Taiwan. For example, Kenneth Lieberthal thinks Beijing wants to better understand democratic politics on Taiwan. That is why it has decided to establish relations with a wide range of political forces on Taiwan. Political parties on both sides of the Strait must seek mutual understanding. This will enable the Mainland to better grasp the political ecology on Taiwan. This will lead to more effective policies toward Taiwan.
When Frank Hsieh was on the Mainland, he said both sides must "confront their differences, deal with their differences, and transcend their differences." Hsieh met with State Council Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi. Hsieh said he did not think that the term "1992 consensus" was ever used. He proposed alternatives, either "different constitutions, different interpretations," or "constitutional consensus." These remarks disturbed Su Tseng-chang. The KMT was also dissatisfied. No wonder Su Tseng-chang insisted that Hsieh's visit to the Mainland was merely a private visit, and not an official DPP/CCP event. Consider the Kuomintang's perspective. The "1992 consensus" has undergone trial by fire -- the election process. Beijing has long emphasized actual strength. Will Hsieh be able to rally the troops on Taiwan? One can be sure it has made its own assessments.
So far, Washington has expressed enthusiastic approval of Frank Hsieh's visit to the Mainland. But it seems unsure about future developments. The "differences" Frank Hsieh spoke of are the differences between the two side of the Taiwan Strait. These cross-Strait differences must be dealt with. Hsieh must undergo an acid test. He must deal with internal dissent within the DPP. He must deal with differences between the DPP and KMT. This will be a key indicator as Washington monitors the repercussions of Frank Hsieh's visit to the Mainland.
這也正是美國在台協會（AIT）台北辦事處長馬啟思為何對謝長廷訪陸表示歡迎的主要原因。華府在二○一二年中華民國總統大選期間透過國務卿希拉蕊強調台灣是美國「重要安全與經濟夥伴」、派遣高級官員訪台、宣布台灣為「免簽證計畫」候選國，對馬英九政府展現善意，另一方面，美國國安顧問多尼隆（Thomas E. Donilon）又透過倫敦《金融時報》質疑民進黨總統候選人蔡英文處理兩岸事務的能力，讓民進黨與美國的關係一時間跌入谷底。不難看出美國對台灣政黨處理兩岸關係的能力高度關注，這是有意再度執政的民進黨不能視而不見的。