Taipei-Beijing Joint Participation in Regional Cooperation
China Times News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 22, 2013
Summary: We have entered the post-Cold War era. The threat of global thermo-nuclear conflict has diminished. Regional conflicts however continue unabated in the Asian-Pacific region, in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and on the Korean Peninsula. These have long been seen as three of the most dangerous powder kegs. Cross-Strait reconciliation has eased the situation in the Taiwan Strait. But the situation in the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula remain tense, and the threat of war looms.
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We have entered the post-Cold War era. The threat of global thermo-nuclear conflict has diminished. Regional conflicts however continue unabated in the Asian-Pacific region, in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and on the Korean Peninsula. These have long been seen as three of the most dangerous powder kegs. Cross-Strait reconciliation has eased the situation in the Taiwan Strait. But the situation in the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula remain tense, and the threat of war looms.
The Chinese people love peace. Chinese culture emphasizes "yi de fu ren," i.e., "persuasion through moral example," rather than "yi li fu ren," i.e., "persuasion through physical coercion." Beijing Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited the ASEAN countries earlier this month. He said Beijing would work to make the South China Sea a "sea of peace, a sea of friendship, and a sea of co-operation." This proposal coincides with Taipei's "South China Sea Peace Initiative." Unfortunately not aggressing against others does not guarantee that others will not aggress against you. The Philippines murdered a Taiwanese fisherman in cold blood. Its behavior in the wake of the incident was outrageous. This reminds us that peace is not manna from heaven. It will not fall out of the sky and into our laps. It is something we must fight for, with both the carrot and the stick. through negotiations and through strength.
The two sides of the Strait have abided by the principle of "first economics, then politics." They have made the normalization of economic and trade relations a priority. Interaction between the two sides in the international arena touch on sensitive political issues. This has long mired the two sides in the "different interpretations" stage. But reality has underscored a simple fact. Cross-strait reconciliation has given the Ma administration's "flexible diplomacy" a boost. It has made it the first line of defense in our national security. Take relations with Japan. In President Ma Ying-jeou's eyes, Taipei-Tokyo relations are "the best they have been in 40 years." Cross-strait reconciliation played a major role in making that possible. There is no denying that Taiwan and Japan have a peculiar history. Polls show that many people on both sides feel good about the other. Many on Taiwan provided massive aid for Japanese earthquake victims. The Japanese people expressed heart-felt appreciation. But the Japanese government is not about to sacrifice its national interests to reciprocate. Japan, under pressure from realpolitik, has been running to "catch the bus." For example, Tokyo established diplomatic relations with Beijing before Washington. Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008. Taipei-Tokyo relations have yielded significant results. But Tokyo felt it could not fall behind cross-strait reconciliation. To avoid that eventuality, it became more willing to reach out to Taipei.
Compared to Japan, the Philippines has misjudged the situation. It failed to accurately assess the repercussions of cross-strait reconciliation. The Philippines attempted to use the one China policy to undermine Taipei's legitimacy and weaken its bargaining position. But Beijing was hardly that gullible. Soon after the incident, Beijing strictly condemned the Philippines' barbaric act. It also strongly urged Manila to issue Taipei an apology. The international community sided almost unanimously with the Philippines. This expression of solidarity with Taiwan from the other side of the Strait, gave the people on Taiwan a shot in the arm.
Recently the Taipei-Manila diplomatic conflict and the North Korea crisis have heated up. This underscores the need for Taipei and Beijing to cooperate on regional issues, and engage in serious discussions.
With regards regional economic cooperation, the Doha Round multilateral trade negotiations have stalled. Regional economic integration has become the focus of every nation's trade policies. This is especially true of the East Asian region. The integrated ASEAN+N and bilateral free trade agreements model has accelerated economic cooperation. Among these, the ASEAN countries' regional economic partnerships (RCEP) and the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are the most striking. Once integrated, this region will become the world's largest free trade zone, and will have the greatest impact on the global economic recovery.
Taiwan's experience with economic development should have become an asset to Asian regional economic integration. Unfortunately, being subject to the constraints of cross-Strait political relations, Taiwan failed to participate fully. Former Vice President Vincent Siew heads the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation at the Boao Forum. Siew suggested that the two sides strengthen policy coordination and discuss economic strategies. He looks forward to joint participation in regional economic integration. He wants the two sides "to work together to their mutual benefit, common prosperity, and economic revitalization."
Siew's suggestion has received a positive response from CCP leaders. CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, also in attendence, said, "The two sides can participate in timely and pragmatic discussions to promote shared economic development. They can seek appropriate and feasible means of achieving regional economic cooperation." Xi Jinping emphasized that "As long as the two sides consider the larger interests of the Chinese nation, we can overcome all difficulties and obstacles on the road ahead. We can continue to promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, and continue to achieve new goals."
Regarding cooperation over regional security, the situation in the Asian-Pacific region is rapidly changing. Security has become an important issue for all parties. All want the establishment of regional cooperative security mechanisms rooted in "common security" and "cooperative security." From either a geopolitical or geo-economic point of view, Taipei cannot remain outside the regional security cooperation process. Security includes traditional and non-traditional security. Both sides are already working together in the fight against crime, vaccinations, environmental protection, and other non-traditional security issues. Cooperation has yielded remarkable results. In the future they should also be able to take on traditional security issues, and test out different possibilities for cooperation.