Has Ma deviated from the Path of Peaceful Cross-Strait Development?
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 27, 2014
Executive Summary: Objectively speaking, the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations
is a process that is irreversible. But cross-Strait relations cannot be
expected to move forward at high-speed all the way. We are currently in
a consolidation phase. As long as the direction does not change, it an
begin anew following a smooth adjustment. If cross-Strait relations
stagnate or retreat,then problems will emerge one by one. President Ma
Ying-jeou has many things he must do. This will not change. He must stay
on track. He must lay the foundations for the next leader and overcome
all difficulties. He must advance cross-Strait relations on the existing
foundation. Then when the time comes, the two sides can begin political
dialogue, negotiations, and even discuss a peace agreement, This is
President Ma Ying-jeou's true place in history.
Full Text Below:
Xi Jinping spoke to visiting pro-unification groups from Taiwan about "peaceful reunification" and "one country, two systems." Observers at home and abroad offered different interpretations of Xi's remarks. Officials in Taipei have their own preconceptions. They made clear they can never accept such conditions. In President Ma Ying-jeou's Double Ten National Day speech, he spoke of his understanding and support of the Hong Kong people's aspirations for democracy He looked forward to the implementation of democratic constitutionalism on the Mainland, and the chance for some of the Chinese people to enjoy the fruits of democracy. Mainland officials reacted to President Ma's remarks swiftlly and decisively. They said the Taiwan authorities should not make irresponsible remarks. Cross-Strait relations appear to be undergoing subtle changes.
From Taipei's perspective, Ma Ying-jeou was merely stating the obvious. The government on Taiwan certainly has no desire to increase tensions and expand conflicts. But neither does it fear CCP disapproval. Somethings cannot be said. Expressing hope that the Mainland will adopt democracy is not necessarily an accusation that the Mainland is undemocratic. But from Beijing's perspective, the remarks amounted to deliberate provocation and irresponsible meddling. The Ma government later realized that Beijing may have misunderstood his intent, and that they might lead to unnecessary complications. The KMT's Mainland Affairs Director came forward to explain. He reminded the Mainland that Ma Ying-jeou also said the two sides were descendants of China's legendary founders. They are both part of the Chinese people, and should cooperate and seek agreement on their terminology.
In fact, after Xi Jinping met with visitors from Taiwan, Beijing coordinated with important scholars and the Xinhua News Agency. Guo Taiwen of the Taiwan Affairs Office published an article to ensure that everyone understood Xi Jinping's remarks. Beijing stressed that peaceful development is still the guiding policy, along with the pursuit of national unity, opposition to Taiwan separatism, and the realization of the Chinese national unity along with the Chinese Dream. Beijing seeks to bolster pro-reunification sentiment on Taiwan. Such positions are understandable. Simply put, the focus of Xi's remarks was not "one country, two systems," but three considerations, peaceful development, support for reunification, a meeting of the minds, and oppositon to Taiwan independence.
Later, people on the Mainland concluded Ma Ying-jeou was frustrated because the the hoped for Ma Xi meetng in Beijing at this year's APEC conference came to naught. They concluded that Ma was responding to Xi's remarks on September 26. Mainland editorials accused Ma of emotionalism. We do not believe the Ma administration would handle national affairs in such a frivolous manner. We do not believe it would be affected by personal emotions. But only senior government officials can know for sure. What matters is the future of cross-Strait relations, at least for the year and a half remaining in President Ma's second and final term. Where does he intend to go from here? Do the two sides really intend to change their policy and adopt a confrontational approach to their problems?
Consider the matter fron the Mainalnd perspective. President Ma Ying-jeou's Double Ten remarks contained obvious contradictions. He was critical of Taiwan's 3/18 Sunflower Student Movement, yet expressed understanding and support for the protests in Hong Kong. That said, some scholars in Beijing thought that the Mainland authorities' charge that Ma was making irresponsible remarks may have been a tad heavy-handed, After all, if both sides of the Strait are part of one country, then it is entirely reasonable for people on Taiwan to express their views on Hong Kong affairs. These words issued directly from the lips of President Ma. Had they issued from the MAC, the Mainland might not have responded so vehemently. The Mainland side is quite accomodating towards the Ma Ying-jeou government.
Beijing is concerned that in response to the abortive Ma Xi meeting, the Ma Ying-jeou government might turn to the international community, the United States, and Japan. Beijing is concerned that Ma might express a willingness to cooperate with them In the East China Sea and South China Sea. Taipei wants greater participation in regional economic organizations such as the RCEP and TPP. It hopes to increase the Taiwan's international space. Recent rumors about the Dalai Lama visiting Taiwan will only increase Beijing's suspicions. Regarding Taiwan's international space, Beijing has consistently adopted a reactive posture. Peaceful development and Taiwan's international space tend to move in step with each other. Cross-Strait relations are not a panacea. But absent stable cross-Strait relations, nothing is possible. A confrontational approach will only leave Taiwan at a disadvantage. Taiwan cannot afford to be reckless.
If our understanding is correct, Beijing's Taiwan policy can be summarized as follows: Consolidate existing achievements. Improve bilateral relations. Take the initiative. Seize every opportunity. Control the rhythm. Wait for breakthroughs. The Wang Zhang meeting was the first official contact between the two sides. It was of historic importance. The Wang Zhang meeting allowed the CCP to reclaim the strategic initiative, making cross-Strait relations sustainable. Now consider the issues to be discussed at the third Wang Zhang meeting, at APEC in November. Consider the year and a half remaining in Ma's term. The two sides must get things done. Only that has any meaning. The Taipei side in particular, must make careful plans. If the meeting is reduced to pro forma ritual, it won't mean a thing.
Objectively speaking, the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations is a process that is irreversible. But cross-Strait relations cannot be expected to move forward at high-speed all the way. We are currently in a consolidation phase. As long as the direction does not change, it an begin anew following a smooth adjustment. If cross-Strait relations stagnate or retreat,then problems will emerge one by one. President Ma Ying-jeou has many things he must do. This will not change. He must stay on track. He must lay the foundations for the next leader and overcome all difficulties. He must advance cross-Strait relations on the existing foundation. Then when the time comes, the two sides can begin political dialogue, negotiations, and even discuss a peace agreement, This is President Ma Ying-jeou's true place in history.