Eliminate the Middleman: Promote Cross-Strait Visits by Wang Yu Qi and Zhang Zhijun
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 19, 2013
Summary: For the past five years, Wang Yi has been Beijing's Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. He has left a good impression on the people of Taiwan. On Sunday he announced that he was retiring. He said he regretted never being able to visit Taiwan during his term in office. But if we can conduct cross-Strait relations under the Big Roof Concept of China, even Foreign Minister Wang Yi visiting Taiwan is conceivable.
Full Text below:
For the past five years, Wang Yi has been Beijing's Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. He has left a good impression on the people of Taiwan. On Sunday he announced that he was retiring. He said he regretted never being able to visit Taiwan during his term in office.
The Directorship of the Central Committee Taiwan Task Office is a party post. The holder of the post also serves as Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Wang's successor Zhang Zhijun said, "The time is ripe for a visit to Taiwan." We hope that Zhang Zhijun can visit Taiwan as soon as possible.
Wang Yi is an old hand. One might say that with a single word he eliminated the bottleneck in current cross-Strait relations. The two sides still use ARATS and SEF as "white gloves," i.e., a middleman. This is the primary legal obstacle in the way of exchange visits by officials of the Taiwan Affairs Office and the MAC. The Taiwan Affairs Office and the MAC are "administrative authorities." Alas, administrative authority is rooted in sovereignty. The two parties do not recognize each other's administrative authority. Therefore they cannot recognize the Taiwan Affairs Office and Mainland Affairs Council. ARATS officials may be able to visit Mainland Affairs Council officials. MAC officials may be able to visit Taiwan Affairs Office officials. But such visits are all handled through "white gloves." Will Taiwan Affairs Office and Mainland Affairs Council officials be able to exchange visits and have personal contacts? If they can, it means the legal obstacles have been cleared away. They will then be able to shake hands without white gloves. The white gloves will have fulfilled their purpose.
The day Wang Yi retired he said, "The time is ripe for the Director of the Taiwan Task Office to visit Taiwan." He hoped that Zhang Zhijun, his successor, could make the trip as soon as possible. This was right on the mark. The Mainland Affairs Council responded positively. It said that time, personnel, and conditions permitting, it welcomed a cross-Strait visit. Since both sides are willing, Zhang Zhijun and Wang Yu Qi should visit each other as soon as possible.
Wang Yi said that over eight million cross-Strait visits are made each year. Over the past five years over 1500 provincial level delegations from the Mainland have visited Taiwan. Logically speaking, our side should be able to reciprocate. That is only reasonable. But Wang Yi knows that the most serious legal obstacle is the status quo. As Wang Yi noted, eight million people make cross-Strait visits a year. Over the past five years, over 1500 provincial level delegations have visited Taiwan. If the Taiwan Affairs Office and the MAC still cannot remove their "white gloves," then they are clearly being unreasonable. They are clearly engaging in posturing and deception.
Therefore, if Beijing wants Zhang Zhijun to visit to Taiwan, it must first remove the existing cross-Strait legal obstacles. This is something the two sides' administrative authorities must clear away before visits are possible. If visits ensue, it will be a major achievement in cross-Strait legal relations. It is only reasonable.
But Wang Yi appeared to hold back. He seemed to be saying that Zhang Zhijun could visit Taiwan only as a party official, as Director of the Taiwan Task Office. He seemed to be making a distinction between it and the Taiwan Affairs Office. Such distinctions are totally unnecessary. But if such distinctions enable Zhang Zhijun to visit as soon as possible, then the two sides should seize the opportunity, and not become mired in word games.
The Ma administration should be happy to see officials from the Taiwan Affairs Office visit. It would undoubtedly be a major breakthrough in cross-Strait legal principles and cross-Strait realpolitik. If officials from the Taiwan Affairs Office can come here, then officials from the Mainland Affairs Council can of course go there.
The Ma administration's main concern is public reaction. In 2008 ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin came to Taiwan. The Taipei street scenes are still fresh in memories. But times have changed. Five years have gone by. The Democratic Progressive Party probably cannot get away with treating Zhang Zhijun the way they did Chen Yunlin. Zhang Zhijun coming here and Wang Yu Qi going there could mark a new era in cross-Strait relations. The DPP's cross-Strait policy must change with the times.
Wang Yi thinks that the time is ripe for the Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, or Taiwan Task Office, as the case may be, to visit Taiwan. Zhang Zhijun is using this framework in his planning for cross-Strait offices. He is being cautious. The cross-Strait offices will be upgraded agencies of the Taiwan Affairs Office and Mainland Affairs Council. The role of the Taiwan Affairs Office and Mainland Affairs Council will be downgraded. In other words, he is moving to take off the white gloves.
On January 16, this newspaper published an editorial entitled "Cross-Strait Offices Should Take Off the White Gloves." It addressed just this issue. We hope the authorities on both sides will reread it. Here are some excerpts.
Our recommendations are as follows. When Beijing establishes its cross-Strait offices, it should refer to the 18th National Congress Political Report. The report urged "exploring of cross-strait political relations under special circumstances in which the two sides have yet to be reunified, and making fair and reasonable arrangements." The Ma administration can refer to the Preface of the Constitution as amended. The preface includes the phrase, "in response to the nation's need prior to reunification." Therefore the establishment of the cross-Strait offices should reflect four conditions. 1. The nation has yet to be reunified. 2. Special circumstances prevail. 3. The two sides are establishing political relations. 4. They will make fair and reasonable arrangements.
In other words, Taiwan Affairs Office and Mainland Affairs Council officials will exchange visits. The two sides will establish offices. They should "explore cross-Strait political relations under special circumstances in which the two sides have yet to be reunified, and make fair and reasonable arrangements." In essence, they should remove the white gloves.
Wang Yi was a highly qualified Director for the Taiwan Affairs Office. His greatest achievement was "exploring cross-Strait political relations under special circumstances in which the two sides have yet to be reunified, and making fair and reasonable arrangements." This was his policy innovation. Today he is proposing that the Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office visit Taiwan. This too is part of his thinking. We hope his successor Zhang Zhijun will follow up on his initiatives.
On the evening before Wang Yi became Foreign Minister, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing issued some critical remarks about Taiwan-related aspects of the Tokyo March 11 memorial service and the election of the new Pope. Wang Yi said that although he had left the Taiwan Affairs Office, regardless of where he went (He went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) he would always worry about the people of Taiwan and feel a sense of responsibility toward them. These words are how we choose to remember Wang Yi's five years in office.
If we can conduct cross-Strait relations under the Big Roof Concept of China, even Foreign Minister Wang Yi visiting Taiwan is conceivable.
2013.03.19 04:12 am