Wang Zhang Meeting: Cross-Strait New Normal
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 5, 2015
Executive Summary: Beijing is not the only one that must adjust to the "new normal". Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP may be feeling smug. But they too must abandon the old normal. They must disabuse themselves of their delusions. They must cease their -deception. They must forsake their pipe dream of Taiwan independence. That will reduce the labor pains associated with the new normal. Only then can we look forward to a "new normal".
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Mainland GDP has plummeted. The Beijing regime refers to it as the "new normal". By the same token, cross-Strait relations following the Kuomintang defeat can also be described as a "new normal".
The KMT suffered a major defeat in the nine in one local elections. But Beijing did not miss a step. It still allowed Chen Deming to visit Taiwan. The Cross-Strait Entrepreneurs Summit will still be held, on schedule. STA Technical Consultations will still take place in Beijing, as previously planned. Two months after the election, Zhang Zhijun and Wang Yu-chi will meet this weekend on Kinmen to reminisce. The CCP undoubtedly understands the new reality. This is the "new normal". These changes in cross-Strait relations must be acknowledged.
The “old normal" maintained that Ma Ying-jeou's landslide victory meant that most voters supported cross-Strait reconciliation. It meant that most voters supported closer political and economic ties between the two sides. Wave upon wave of “two states theory” and “one nation rhetoric on each side led to historic changes. New opportunities arose. Cross-Strait direct flights and ECFA clarified the Taiwan public's understanding, and eliminated calls for Taiwan independence. Over the past six or seven years the physical basis for cross-Strait relations has indeed been reinforced. But the emotional basis has been repeatedly weakened. The Mainland authorities adhere to reductive materialism. They believe in the materialistic old normal. They assumed that concessions, agreements, and procurements would provide prosperity, and melt the hearts of the public on Taiwan. But paradoxically during last year's election campaign, the Sunflower Student Movement obdurately rejected the STA despite all its concessions, bringing the "old normal" to an abrupt end.
The first Wang Zhang meeting was held one month before the outbreak of the Sunflower Student Movement. This was during the last stages of the "old normal". But in the wake of the Sunflower Student Movement, Zhang Zhijun's visit to Taiwan will address the "san zhong yi qing” or “three medium/middles one young” problem. This foretells the advent of the "new normal". The current Wang Zhang meeting in Kinmen will debut after the Kuomintang's recent defeat. It marks the beginning of an even longer term "new normal".
What will the "new normal" entail? It is likely to entail greater long term momentum for Taiwan independence. The KMT is not necessarily down and out. But it may once again find itself in the opposition after 2016. How long will it remain out of power? No one knows. Under Democratic Progressive Party rule, cross-Strait relations will surely be difficult and filled with conflict. Eventually the DPP will come to realize that cross-Strait reintegration is inevitable. But before that, it must investigate the possibility of a cross-Strait political agreement. That will be a long process. But it truly will be the new normal.
The third Wang Zhang meeting is seen as the start of the “new normal". Why? Because it constitutes the highest level contacts yet between cross-Strait officialdom. It is being convened a mere two months after the defeat of the Kuomintang. The CCP is probably psychologically prepared for the policy consequences. This action may be an attempt by Xi Jinping to gauge public sentiment on Taiwan. Last September he spoke of a "meeting of minds”. The CCP may need to prepare itself for a "new normal" definition of a “meeting of minds”. It may no longer be able to focus exclusively on materialism. Reintegration may need to include both emotional and material appeals. These may be the identifying characteristics of the new normal.
Consider the problems with the "old normal". The CCP offered Taiwan only economic concessions. It totally ignored emotional factors. For example, the public on Taiwan still feels hemmed in. Ma Ying-jeou has been in office over six years. But he has yet to join a single international organization. Ma Ying-jeou hoped to attend APEC in Beijing. But Xi Jinping promptly put a damper on that hope. Beijing may have allowed direct official contacts across the Strait. It may have addressed Wang Yu-chi by his official title. But it refused to allow the two sides' agencies to interact on an equal footing. Such practices inevitably undermined the old normal. They prevented it from gaining currency among the public on Taiwan.
Therefore we need a more rational "new normal" policy, one that grants Taiwan greater dignity in cross-Strait interaction. One that allows Taiwan to breathe instead choke. After last last year's election, Beijing hawks began urging a harder line on the 1992 consensus. That is precisely the wrong approach. The "new normal" should soften the 1992 consensus. It should encourage the DPP and the Green Camp to change their thinking. It should reward them if they respond by making changes. Beijing should not adopt a tougher policy in a fit of anger.
During the Kinmen talks Zhang Zhijun and Wang Yu-chi will discuss trade issues. But the two sides joining the "Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement" (RCEP) is the most important issue of all. It is not simply an "economic issue". It is an emotional issue involving international breathing space. When Beijing allows Taipei to participate in comprehensive RCEP negotiations, that will be the first act under the "new normal".
Beijing is not the only one that must adjust to the "new normal". Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP may be feeling smug. But they too must abandon the old normal. They must disabuse themselves of their delusions. They must cease their -deception. They must forsake their pipe dream of Taiwan independence. That will reduce the labor pains associated with the new normal. Only then can we look forward to a "new normal".
2015-02-05 02:06:53 聯合報 社論