Tsai Ing-wen's Declaration of War
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 11, 2014
Summary: Cross-Strait relations have become mired in quicksand. But some leverage is still available. The authorities on both sides can keep Zhang Zhijun's visit to Taiwan simple. They can refrain from overly politicizing it. They can refrain from making too many petty calculations. They can cooperate with each other in order to establish a positive atmosphere. They can create the conditions needed to make it happen. This may be a case of "Mission Impossible." But it is worth a try.
Full Text below:
Life is unpredictable. Late last year discussions concerning cross-Strait relations focused on the likelihood of a Ma Xi meeting at this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. They focused on whether the STA and MTA would help Taiwan's economy. They focused on whether the establishment of cross-strait representative offices would strengthen political relations. Shortly after the Spring Festival, Mainland Affairs Council Chairperson Wang Yu-chi and Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun met successfully in Nanjing. This raised expectations for cross-Strait peaceful development. No one foresaw the mass protests against the STA in March of this year. Since then, all progress in cross-Strait relations has remained stalled. This was followed by James Soong's trip to the Mainland. Xi Jinping used the opportunity to send an important message to Taiwan. This was followed by the "broad one China declaration" transcending blue vs. green partisanship. Tsai Ing-wen suddenly declared her willingness to meet with Zhang Zhijun at DPP Headquarters when he came to Taiwan, providing there were no preconditions. And finally, Lai Ching-teh, Mayor of Tainan City and a Taiwan independence advocate, visited Shanghai. Events have occurred faster than the eye can follow. Peoples' plans can no longer keep up with the changes.
Among these swift changes however, some things remain as immovable as mountains. For example, the Mainland's Taiwan policy. The central theme of Mainland Taiwan policy is peaceful development. The basis for Xi Jinping era Taiwan policy is that "The two sides of the Strait are one family." No matter how much Taiwan has changed, the Mainland's Taiwan policy has not budged. Time is on the Mainland's side. As long as Taiwan does not cross the line, Beijing will not jump to any conclusions, or change its approach to winning over the public on Taiwan. It will not be affected by momentary frustrations or some random politician's rantings. Objective evidence suggests that public opinion on Taiwan is increasingly alienated from the Mainland. Some even interpret Mainland goodwill as a sign of weakness. The public sees CCP concessions to Taiwan as reunification ploys. The DPP rejects both the carrot and the stick. The rhetoric may change. But the substance remains the same. Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen ordered the DPP to block Ma administration cross-Strait policy at all costs. That much is clear.
Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen expressed a willingness to meet with Director Zhang Zhijun. This is one link in the DPP's 2016 strategy chain. First disrupt Ma Ying-jeou's cross-Strait relations. Prevent a Xi Ma meeting from taking place. Wait until Ma Ying-jeou has become a lame duck. Then promote reconciliation, including reconciliation with the Mainland. Establish DPP/CCP dialogue. Finally, freeze the Taiwan independence party platform. This is what DPP legislative caucus chief convener Ker Chien-ming told outsiders.
The DPP is indulging in wishful thinking. On the one hand, it is making a show of goodwill toward Mainland China. On the other hand, it is lashing out at the Kuomintang. It wants the public on Taiwan to conclude that the DPP is capable of managing cross-Strait relations, and that the KMT does have an exclusive franchise on cross-Strait affairs. It wants reassure the international community that the DPP is capable of changing with the times, that it is not reactionary, and that it does not oppose change out of sheer obstinacy. The DPP of course believes that this strategy will succeed.
But consider this. The DPP may be willing to reconcile with the Mainland. Tsai Ing-wen may welcome a visit by Zhang Zhijun. But have the DPP and Tsai actually changed their policy path? Or have they merely changed their public relations strategy? Tsai Ing-wen said she was willing to meet with Zhang Zhijun -- without preconditions. But what was her stipulation, other than a precondition? Zhang Zhijun visiting the Democratic Progressive Party is tantamount to party to party exchanges with the Chinese Communist Party. Unless the DPP forsakes Taiwan independence, such an exchange is impossible. Anyone with any shred of common sense knows this.
The Taipei Declaration, initiated by Shih Ming-teh, addressed sovereignty, jurisdiction, and even national identity. It was unavoidable. It was similar to the interim agreement advocated by Kenneth Lieberthal and Harry Harding. First the two sides proposed a closed interim agreement with the ultimate goal of reunification. Taipei was the first to reject this. The Mainland refused to respond. Later they offered an improved, open interim agreement without reunification as a goal. Chen Shui-bian was probably willing to accept it. But Beijing naturally rejected it. In the end it all came to nothing. Within the "broad one China framework," the "one China" is virtual, the "two countries" is real. As a result the authorities on both sides have reverted to long held official positions. Beijing reaffirms that cross-Strait relations are not state to state relations. Taipei reaffirms the 1992 Consensus.
For the time being, the STA has no hope of passage. The MTA and other trade negotiations have also been suspended. Polls conducted on Taiwan indicate declining Identification with China. The Chinese mainland is deeply frustated with the cross-Strait status quo. The key obstacle to improved cross-Strait relations is internal politics on Taiwan. The DPP has made clear that it will not allow the STA to pass. Tsai Ing-wen has said she will wage full scale war in the Legislative Yuan over the STA, the cross-strait oversight regulations, and free trade zones. The Ma administration will probably find it difficult to improve cross-Strait relations.
Cross-Strait relations have become mired in quicksand. But some leverage is still available. The authorities on both sides can keep Zhang Zhijun's visit to Taiwan simple. They can refrain from overly politicizing it. They can refrain from making too many petty calculations. They can cooperate with each other in order to establish a positive atmosphere. They can create the conditions needed to make it happen. This may be a case of "Mission Impossible." But it is worth a try.