Will the Mainland Change to Accommodate the DPP?
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 26, 2015
Executive Summary: Since 2008, cross-Strait interaction has increased. Tourism, business deals, and cultural and educational exchanges have created a boom unseen over the past half century. During the Spring Festival in particular, many Mainland tourists choose to spend the New Year on Taiwan. Many on Taiwan watch Mainland shows via satellite networks. Six or seven years ago, such a scenario was unimaginable. This peaceful scene was achieved with great difficulty. Who is willing to return to the former standoff, or even precipitate a war?
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Since 2008, cross-Strait interaction has increased. Tourism, business deals, and cultural and educational exchanges have created a boom unseen over the past half century. During the Spring Festival in particular, many Mainland tourists choose to spend the New Year on Taiwan. Many on Taiwan watch Mainland shows via satellite networks. Six or seven years ago, such a scenario was unimaginable. This peaceful scene was achieved with great difficulty. Who is willing to return to the former standoff, or even precipitate a war?
This peace however, was never a godsend. It was not something we should take for granted. It was the result of great wisdom and foresight. Think of how many people sought peace but failed to achieve it. Many people have forgotten this merely because we are on the eve of an election. Or they have blanked out of awareness the difficulty with which this peace was achieved. Today, as we enjoy the fruits of peace, we must remain vigilant. If we allow a reaction to set in, the fruits of peace we now take for granted may well evaporate.
In a previous “Genuine Love for Taiwan” editorial this newspaper noted that the main obstacle standing in the way of cross-Strait peace is anti-(Mainland) China mob sentiment, incited by certain politicians and activists. Last March the Sunflower Student Movement captured a beachhead when it opposed the STA. It then obstructed all cross-Strait bills in the legislature. These reactionaries are now taking advantage of the low prestige of the Ma government. They are advancing the specious argument that as long as the DPP wins office, Beijing will change to accommodate them. In other words, many pro-Taiwan independence politicians are convinced that if the DPP becomes the ruling party in 2016, they need not bother making any changes in cross-Strait policy. Put simply, they intend to force the Mainland to change to accommodate them.
Taiwan is not the Center of the World
This argument implies that no matter which political party comes to power, Beijing has no choice but to maintain peaceful cross-Strait relations. Therefore, the DPP need not make any adjustments to its cross-Strait policy. For example, it need not recognize the 1992 consensus. As long as the DPP comes to power, Beijing will automatically change to accommodate the DPP, and Taiwan will continue to enjoy the peace dividend. This sort of thinking assumes that we are the center of the universe, and that the world revolves around us. But anyone with any understanding about global politics knows otherwise. What makes Taiwan think it can impose its own arbitrary and subjective whims on the rest of the world?
First Vilify, then Benefit?
The DPP assumes that the Mainland will change to accommodate the DPP in the event it returns to power. The DPP clings to another strategic assumption as well. It assumes that it can continue to incite anti-(Mainland) China hatred, and demonize any political parties or politicians who seek cross-Strait peace as "pro-China traitors to Taiwan”. It assumes that upon winning, it can get a free ride merely by "unconditionally accepting the policies of the previous administration”, then sit back and enjoy the fruits of cross-Strait exchanges. Put simply, many green camp politicians today chant anti-(Mainland) China slogans. They smear their opponents as “Com-symps”. Meanwhile however, they or their relatives frantically make investments on the Mainland. How many people benefit from generous Mainland concessions, yet still vote for the DPP? They invoke "Com-symp" and "selling out Taiwan" rhetoric as weapons against their opponents, while confidently enjoying the dividends from cross-Strait exchanges. But where did these dividends originate, if not from the harshly ridiculed KMT and Ma Ying-jeou? We must note of course that this is a simplistic linear thinking. It ignores the dynamic changes, mutual suspicions, and risk/reward calculations made by the CCP and DPP. The Green Camp is not simple-minded, but it is deceiving simple-minded voters.
The DPP has been out of power for the past six or seven years. But its theory and practice regarding cross-Strait relations has not kept pace with the times. Back then the two sides could not fly airliners directly at each other. Back then there was no tourism, no Mainland concessions, no crowds of Mainland tourists at Sun Moon Lake, Alishan and the National Palace Museum, no pandas in the local zoo, no Mainland students walking about on local college campuses, no flattering comments in the Mainland press about how "Taiwan's chief attraction is its people”. Back then there was only political demagoguery, only the incitement of cross-Strait hatred for personal political ambition. Such maneuvers led to the embarrassment of Beijing and Washington “jointly disciplining” an unruly Taipei. Now all this has been forgotten. But think about it. Without a ruling party change in 2008, where would cross-Strait relations be today?
Lest we forget, the prosperity that accompanied cross-Strait exchanges were rooted in mutual recognition of the 1992 consensus. What if this premise no longer existed? Would the prosperity still exist? Set aside Beijing official declarations for the moment. A political party that refuses to recognize the 1992 consensus, and even refuses to abandon Taiwan independence, returns to power. If Beijing makes no changes in its Taiwan policy, Communist leaders will be subject to severe criticism from within. Furthermore, if any of the parties running for office in 2016 engage in anti-(Mainland) China demagoguery, Beijing officials who continue to offer concessions to Taiwan are sure to be run out of office.
The Mainland Will Not Make Concessions on Basic Principles
Moreover, President Xi Jinping is now in power. His governing style is significantly different from that of previous leaders. Internally, he is responding to an overheated economy. He is waging an anti-corruption campaign in order to impose bureaucratic discipline. Externally, he is trumpeting an all-encompassing "dream of a great nation". He is no longer taking a low-keyed approach on core issues of territory, territorial waters, and other issues relating to sovereignty. He has more chips to play and is playing them with greater confidence. The numbers show that, as of 2015 the Chinese mainland, long since ceased being a "rising great power". It has already attained the status of a global economic, technological, and military power. When such a great power deals with cross-Strait affairs, it may be pragmatic and flexible. But it will never make concessions on matters of fundamental principle.
Under the 1992 consensus, it took six or seven years to create our current peace and prosperity. If that consensus is rejected by either side, making this boom evaporate before our very eyes will not be difficult. The Democratic Progressive Party and Tsai Ing-wen believe the DPP is likely to become the ruling party. If so, they must be wise about cross-Strait policy. They must throw open the doors and take the high road.
We would like to believe that no matter which party is in power in 2016, it will be reluctant to take blame for sabotaging cross-Strait peace. We would like to believe that if the DPP returns to power, it will not be stupid enough to revert to trumpeting Taiwan independence. But will DPP leaders continue to incite anti-(Mainland) China sentiment, while expecting the other side to change to accommodate them? If so, conflict is likely to erupt, and Taiwan is likely to revert to its previous state of self-incarceration. Therefore the DPP must give up its hatred, opposition, and rejection of the Mainland. It must continue the policy of cross-Strait peace and synergistic cross-Strait economic cooperation. It must narrow the psychological distance between people on the two sides. It must promote the social integration of the two sides. Otherwise, voters must open their eyes, and choose accordingly.