Improved Cross-Strait Relations Brings Opportunities
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, China)
January 9, 2015
Executive Summary: The Mainland is actively discussing cross-Strait policy. The blue and green parties lag behind. Both sides face a new situation. Three way red, blue, and green dialogue and consensus is all the more essential. Only this can ensure the long term peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
Full Text Below:
What will happen to cross-Strait relations in the wake of the Sunflower Student Movement and the nine in one elections? That is a question many people are asking. Some form of National Affairs Conference in the first half of this year seems like a foregone conclusion. Cross-Strait relations is an important issue. Given the upcoming presidential election, cross-Strait relations is something neither the DPP nor the KMT can avoid. The Mainland faces a changing situation on Taiwan. It too must consider how to respond. One might say that a "cross-Strait new normal" is taking shape over the Taiwan Strait.
The "cross-Strait new normal" began on February 25. CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping met with KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan. Together they announced the "Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation and the China Dream" as a common point of departure. They included the "Both sides of the Strait are one family" thesis. This was perhaps the most important thesis on cross-Strait relations since Xi came to power. Zhang Nianchi, a veteran Taiwan expert from the Mainland, said the “national unity” currently advocated by the Mainland authorities is very different from past conceptions of national unity. It has morphed from conquest to "peaceful reintegration." This fundamentally alters Taiwan's status from "being reunified" to something else entirely. Several times during his speech, Xi Jinping referred to this sort of reunification, aka peaceful reintegration, as the "fulfillment of the Chinese Dream" and the "shared rejuvenation of the Chinese people".
In Xi Jinping's address on cross-Strait relations, Chinese reunification was not a matter of who swallows up whom, but rather the joint creation of a new and better China. It was a process of "joint creation". In this "joint creation" process, Taiwan and the Mainland are one. Their relationship is one of equals. Unfortunately, Xi's "two sides of the Strait are one family" thesis was not treated seriously in Taiwan political circles or among the public. It was not fully discussed or evaluated. The public on Taiwan has long been guilty of kneejerk reactions in response to cross-Strait issues. When faced with changes in the external situation, it refuses to reassess the situation, draw new conclusions, or adopt new policies. Shortly after Xi Jinping delivered his "two sides of the Strait are one family" speech, the Sunflower Student Movement erupted on Taiwan. All of a sudden, anti-[Mainland] China and anti-Ma sentiment left no room for rational discussion.
The public believes the DPP may well return to power in 2016. The DPP leadership has acted humble and cautious following the election. Alas, this is superficial political posturing. It does not mean the DPP has laid out its cards as a future ruling party. It does not mean the DPP has entertained the idea of new cross-Strait relations, or transformed its party line. The DPP's smug complacency is rooted in its belief in "ballot determinism." Tsai made clear that "The biggest challenge for the DPP, is the nine in one elections. It must succeed. If it does, even [Mainland] China will alter its policy to accommodate the DPP." If the DPP wins in 2016, Tsai believe that “The Mainland will automatically change its policy," and that once “[Mainland] China changes its policy, the Americans will have no reason to object."
Tsai Ing-wen's remarks reflect deeply embedded DPP thinking. But they have alarmed the Mainland. Zhang Nianchi, who belongs to the pragmatic faction, believes that the DPP has not engaged in self-reflection, has not undergone transformation, and remains an anti-China party. If such a DPP returns to power, "It will be nothing less than a catastrophe for both sides, For Taiwan it will be an unprecedented disaster." Zhang Nianchi raised other critical questions. "If the DPP refuses to recognize the 1992 consensus, and only favors peaceful development," "If the DPP insists on one country each side," but attempts to “reap all the benefits the Mainland has bestowed upon Taiwan over the past six years," how should the Mainland authorities respond? Zhang Nianchi thinks the Mainland "needs to arrive at a new consensus, one that will provide a compass for cross-Strait relations no matter how the Taiwan Strait situation changes." "The two sides must now go one step beyond the 1992 consensus in order to deal with the new situation in cross-Strait relations."
Zhang Nianchi's proposal is something the blue and green parties must take seriously. Knowledgeable parties within the blue and green parties surely must see the big picture. First of all, the Mainland authorities will never budge in their opposition to Taiwan independence, or their support for one country, two systems, and peaceful development. Secondly, under the "one country" premise, the two sides can "co-create" a new China. Under this framework, Taiwanese consciousness can expand and become more inclusive. Thirdly, after two turbulent ruling party changes over the past decade or so, the blue and green camps have a real opportunity at symbiosis and reconciliation. After all, real growth for Taiwan can no longer be delayed. The public on Taiwan should put an end to confrontation and wheel-spinning.
To cope with the new situation in cross-Strait relations, the DPP should abandon its naive "ballot determinism," and "regime determinism." It should earnestly confront Mainland China's peaceful rise, Mainland public opposition to Taiwan independence, and Taiwan's developmental niche. It must embark upon creative destruction, and demonstrate the commitment and responsibility befitting a ruling party. The Kuomintang meanwhile, must cease consoling itself, saying "Our path was not wrong." Nor should it follow the crowd and repudiate its core beliefs as a party. On the one hand, it should review past mistakes. On the other hand, it should formulate a consensus for the future that will win the support of voters. After all, a sound and pragmatic cross-Strait policy is still one of the KMT's most valuable assets.
The Mainland is actively discussing cross-Strait policy. The blue and green parties lag behind. Both sides face a new situation. Three way red, blue, and green dialogue and consensus is all the more essential. Only this can ensure the long term peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.