Wang Zhang Meeting: Creating the Conditions for a Ma Xi Meeting
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
February 10, 2014
Summary: Following the Wang Zhang meeting, Director Zhang Zhijun will visit Taiwan later this year. Taiwan will be in the grip of election fever. The two sides have much to do. Where there is a will, there is a way. The two sides must take full advantage of creative thinking and strategic ambiguity. The authorities on both sides must consider the big picture. They must consider long term development from a strategic and national perspective. They must continue their efforts to make a Ma Xi meeting a reality in November.
Full text below:
MAC Chairman Wang Yu-chi departed today. He will arrive on the Mainland for a 4-day visit. He will hold talks with the Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun. The two sides of the Strait have been ruled separately for over 60 years. The SEF and ARATS have interacted with each other through "white gloves," or middlemen. This is the first time top officials from the two sides' cross-strait affairs agencies have held formal talks. The political significance cannot be overstated, and has become the focus of public concern.
Some are calling this a major breakthrough in cross-strait relations. Some regard it as a major milestone. Cross-strait relations are developing in a healthy, positive, and forward looking way. But this newspaper has greater expectations. We hope that from this day forth, the two sides can enjoy a more mature, stable, and rational relationship, one that is irreversible and not subject to manipulation, one that is stable and immune to changes in the ruling party. Once such a mechanism for interaction is established, it will be a blessing not only for Taiwan, but for both sides. It will also benefit regional security and stability. It should be welcomed by all.
Before Wang and Zhang formally meet, the two sides will communicate and coordinate behind the scenes. Taiwan has its concerns. The Mainland has its requirements. Where the two sides will meet, when they will meet, what issues they will discuss, what the object of the meeting will be, which agencies will participate, what speeches will be delivered, and what protocol will be followed, will all be planned in advance. How can we express our position in a manner that is neither obsequious nor provocative? That is a question that will require careful consideration. Both sides are "feeling the stones while crossing the river." They are carefully performing cost benefit analysis. They will have to undergo a period of trial and error. If the meeting finally materializes, it will mean representatives from both sides demonstrated goodwill, sincerity, and flexibility. It will mean they were able to respect each other and compromise with each other. It will surely merit recognition.
As Taipei officials said, the Wang Zhang meeting requires equality, dignity and mutual trust. The host may follow the guest's lead. Or the guest may follow the host's lead. For now, all that is required is that observers not draw the wrong conclusions, or internal politics upset the apple cart. Apparently neither side wants to make life difficult for the other, provoke suspicions in the other, or set a trap for the other. Neither side wants to appear smug. Both want to accomodate the other side's reasonable requests. This is the only way the two sides can overcome the odds and fulfill their original intention of having the two men meet. This is helpful to the healthy development of cross-strait relations. The authorities on both sides have demonstrated a healthy attitude, one that is rational and pragmatic. They must continue doing so.
The current Wang Zhang meeting is indeed an historic step . It means that the peaceful development of cross-strait relations has progressed. It is now undergoing consolidation and institutionalization. In the real world, developments may or may not follow a straight line. Not everything can be plain sailing. Occasionally there will be ups and downs, even shake ups. But as the saying goes, "He who wins the hearts of the people, wins the world." As long as we go with the flow, popular initiatives will usually develop naturally, on their own. They will not be affected by the subjective whims of a tiny minority. As long as the authorities on both sides ride the momentum, and keep pace with the times, they will create the atmosphere and conditions needed. People will be able to look forward to improved cross-strait relations.
This is the eve of the Wang Zhang meeting. The Legislature passed a resolution making all sorts of issues taboo. The DPP clings rigidly to its separatist stance. It persists in undermining cross-strait relations. It persists in exaggerating the differences between the two sides. But the pursuit of peace, economic development, and stability is the national consensus. It is an inexorable trend and an indisputable fact. Artificial and malicious obstruction may delay the process, but it cannot reverse the course of history. This newspaper has long argued that genuine love for Taiwan must be rooted in reason. A "Taiwan consciousness" may safeguard the interests of Taiwan. We absolute support good faith efforts to do so. But we urge the DPP to see the error of its ways. Taiwan independence is a blind alley.
As we all know, cross-strait interactions have been going on for many years. The two sides agreed to put economics first and politics last, to tackle easy problems first and difficult problems last, to deal with practical matters first and talk policy last, to confront political problems last, and to move ahead gradually. This is fully consistent with the spirit of the National Unification Guidelines. The two agencies are quasi-offical bodies. Basically they deal with exchanges resulting from routine business. Their future roles may need to be modified. But in the short term they will remain the same. The two agencies are still necessary. They may be needed on a rainy day.
The current Wang Zhang meeting means that the two sides have already begun official direct contacts. It will further build cross-strait trust under the ageis of institutional exchanges. Obviously this differs somewhat from the work of the two agencies. The emphasis should be placed on future policy issues. The ultimate political issues should be left for Ma and Xi to deal with when they meet. Can Ma Ying-jeou successfully meet with Xi Jinping in November at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference? If he can, this will be the culmination of cross-strait relations. It will be worth the wait and the effort.
This newspaper would like to issue a reminder. Following the Wang Zhang meeting, Director Zhang Zhijun will visit Taiwan later this year. Taiwan will be in the grip of election fever. The two sides have much to do. Where there is a will, there is a way. The two sides must take full advantage of creative thinking and strategic ambiguity. The authorities on both sides must consider the big picture. They must consider long term development from a strategic and national perspective. They must continue their efforts to make a Ma Xi meeting a reality in November.