Rationality is not Weakness, Present a United Front
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 17, 2013
Summary: President Ma has "institutionalized cross-Strait reconciliation." He sees it as the "first line of defense" in our national security strategy. The Philippines provocation showed that threats to our security do not come only from the Mainland, as many would imagine. Mainland policy and foreign policy complement each other. The Ma administration must continue to reconcile with the Mainland. It must cash in on the cross-Strait "peace dividend." It must use it to strengthen our hand in foreign diplomatic negotiations and foreign military conflicts.
Full Text below:
For shooting up a Taiwanese fishing vessel and killing a Taiwanese fisherman, President Ma Ying-jeou issued the Philippines an ultimatum. Seventy-two hours later, the Philippines attitude noticeably softened. It dispatched an envoy to Taiwan to confer. He appeared alongside a presidential spokesman, and read aloud a statement of "regret and apology." But the statement lacked sincerity. Therefore the Ma administration decided to impose additional sanctions on the Philippines. It imposed a freeze on Filipino workers applying for work on Taiwan. First it recalled its representative to the Philippines. Then it demanded that the Philippines representatives leave Taiwan. It then imposed additional sanctions. We support the government's position. We believe the government's decision was the result of a rational decision-making process.
Being rational does not mean showing weakness. The label of "cowardly" was attached to the Ma administration by its critics, because amidst seething mob sentiment, the Ma administration delayed "getting tough."
War and peace are major issues in the life of a nation. Should a government get tough or remain pliable? Should it declare war or seek accomodation? The criterion must be the interests of the nation as a whole. The Republic of China is in a difficult situation. The incident showed us how hard it is to make a living from the sea. It also reflected the frustration of the general public over the Republic of China's continually shrinking breathing space. Think about it. The Philippines government had the temerity to harass our fishing vessels. During this incident it behaved even more high-handedly. We were "easy pickings." The Philppines saw that "weak states have no diplomacy." Such is realpolitik.
The Ma administration's crisis management during this incident was far from perfect. But it was passable. As Mao Zedong put it, "Unless one has conducted an investigation, one has no right to speak." The government decided to take action only after it conducted a comprehensive analysis of the situation. It arrived at judgments about the facts, values, and consequences, only after a rational decision-making process. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was nearly struck by a stray bullet. We should offer it encouragement. Diplomacy is the art of negotiation. Until all hope is lost, never give up on peace. The ministry staff burned the midnight oil to avoid escalating the conflict.
The public demonstrated solidarity during the incident. It too should give itself a pat on the back. As Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said a few days ago, "This incident concerned national security and national dignity. One must remain non-partisan and of one mind. One must support the central government in its political, economic, and other sanctions against the Philippines."
We hope this incident will transform a crisis into an opportunity. We hope it will promote a sense of shared destiny. We hope the unity it inspired will become the cornerstone of a "Taiwan consensus."
The "Taiwan consensus" was an important plank in former DPP Chairman Tsai Ing-wen's presidential campaign platform. Her hope was it would displace the KMT Ma Wu camp's "1992 Consensus." But as we all know, the "Taiwan consensus" and the "1992 Consensus" are not comparable. They cannot replace each other. Tsai Ing-wen lost. That does not invalidate what she said. We must not neglect the need for a "Taiwan consensus." The Taiwan Region of the Republic of China has long lacked an internal consensus regarding its core values and the national interest. As a result internal politics have not become an asset when the government implements foreign policy. It has become instead a liability, and the nation's prime source of internal friction. Professor Samuel P. Huntington once noted that "National interests derive from national identity." This national identity crisis is an Achilles heel that erodes the the vitality of the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China.
The Philippines committed an act of foreign aggression. We hope this external threat will transform a long-hidden internal problem. Before others can humiliate an individual, an individual must humiliate himself. Before others can destroy a family, a family must first destroy itself. Does anyone really think the Philippines failed to perceive our internal weakness?
Finally, the government must learn from its mistakes. It must learn to be more aggressive in order to make a difference. President Ma says he "does not think the current conflict is a state of war." We respect his judgment. But in The Art of War, Sunzi wrote, "Do not hope that the enemy will not come. Instead, be ready to receive him." Those in power must ask themselves whether they wish to be prepared for danger in times of peace. If so, they must prepare for the possibility of military conflict. President Ma sees himself as a peacemaker. His "East China Sea Peace Initiative" has been affirmed by the international community. It has also secured the interests of our own fishermen at home. But real world power is the basis of peaceful negotiation. The fruits of peace must sometimes be won at the price of war.
East China Sea issues remain unresolved. South China Sea issues have also flared up. The Philippines departed from civilized behavior. Is it even possible to "set aside differences in order to jointly develop the region's resources?" This is a question worth pondering.
In response to the conflict, the government should conduct a comprehensieve review of its perimeter security. It should make the appropriate strategic policy decisions. President Ma has "institutionalized cross-Strait reconciliation." He sees it as the "first line of defense" in our national security strategy. The Philippines provocation showed that threats to our security do not come only from the Mainland, as many would imagine. Mainland policy and foreign policy complement each other. The Ma administration must continue to reconcile with the Mainland. It must cash in on the cross-Strait "peace dividend." It must use it to strengthen our hand in foreign diplomatic negotiations and foreign military conflicts.
「台灣共識」是民進黨前主席蔡英文在去年總統大選時提出的重要政見，用意在取代國民黨馬吳陣營主張的「九二共識」。但眾所周知，「台灣共識」與「九二共識」內涵不同，無法相提並論，甚至取而代之。蔡英文最後雖然敗選，但我們不能因人廢言，忽視建立「台灣共識」的重要性。例如，台灣內部長久以來，即對國家利益的核心價值，嚴重缺乏共識。影響所及，內政不但不能成為政府實施對外政策的資產，反而變成導致國家不斷內耗的負債。杭庭頓（Samuel P. Huntington）教授曾經指出：「國家利益源自於國家認同」。而國家認同危機正是台灣內部的一個「阿奇里斯的足踝」，它不斷地在腐蝕台灣的生命力。