The AIIB: Beijing should be Understanding, Taiwan should be Pragmatic
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 30, 2015
Executive Summary: Should Taipei join the Mainland China sponsored Asian Infrastructure
Investment Bank (AIIB)? If so, how? Questions such as these have become
the focus of attention at the Boao Forum. Before the meeting, President
Ma, Premier Mao, and the MAC expressed Taipei's desire to join the AIIB.
Once the government authorized Taipei's membership, former Vice
President Vincent Siew told Xi Jinping that Taipei was willing to become
an active participant. Xi nodded understanding. Taiwan Affairs Office
Director Zhang Zhijun then said Taipei is welcome to join. Foreign
Minister Wang Yi, who is in charge of foreign affairs, pointed out that
the AIIB is a multilateral bank. Taipei's membership is subject to
consultation. Even the name must be handled according to international
Full Text Below:
Should Taipei join the Mainland China sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)? If so, how? Questions such as these have become the focus of attention at the Boao Forum. Before the meeting, President Ma, Premier Mao, and the MAC expressed Taipei's desire to join the AIIB. Once the government authorized Taipei's membership, former Vice President Vincent Siew told Xi Jinping that Taipei was willing to become an active participant. Xi nodded understanding. Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun then said Taipei is welcome to join. Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is in charge of foreign affairs, pointed out that the AIIB is a multilateral bank. Taipei's membership is subject to consultation. Even the name must be handled according to international conventions.
The Mainland and Taiwan have made their positions and attitudes abundantly clear. Taipei has expressed a willingness to join, provided of course it is treated as an equal. Beijing has told Taipei it is welcome, but that the details need to be negotiated. The case is complex, involving many levels. Obviously they cannot be resolved immediately. But the exchange was positive. The two sides have gotten oft to a good start. They must now remember the big picture. They must maintain an historical and strategic perspective, engage in dialogue, negotiation, consultation, and put themselves in the other's place. They must succeed against all odds, make the impossible possible, and ensure its implementation, as soon as possible. If successful, both Taiwan and the Mainland will be winners.
Can Taiwan join international organizations? If so, how? For years the two sides fought bitterly over national identity, the name of the nation, and timing. They fought over terms such as Chinese Taipei, China Taipei, and Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu Customs Territory. , They fought over every comma and every period, often dispensing with decorum. For both sides, the matter involves national dignity, national sovereignty, political stance, and face saving. Many ordinary people on both sides, and even foreign governments, do not understand the complexities of the issue. To them the two sides are merely playing word games or quibbling over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The arguments are often incomprehensible. Decades later, many remain baffled. The authorities on both sides, as well as the public, must now free up their thinking, and keep pace with the times.
Past experience with the Asian Development Bank, the International Olympic Committee, and the WTO, have shown Beijing to be firm, principled, and consistent. But on some matters it has been flexible and willing to work around problems. Taiwan has also been firm. It has tried to both save face and get what it wants. It has not always been happy with the results. But it has been able to live with them. It protests, but participates nonetheless. This rational and pragmatic approach is the correct one. After all, substantive benefits are more important than saving face. Taipei's participation in the AIIB should be handled in the same spirit and same fashion.
Regarding international conventions and the name issue, we agree with the Mainland on the one-China principle. We should insist on the one China concept or one China policy. Taipei wants meaningful participation in international organizations and activities. But it has absolutely no intention to create two Chinas, one China, one Taiwan, or Taiwan independence. It ruled this possibility out long ago. Knowing this, the Mainland may be able to deal with such issues with greater tolerance and patience. Using the Hong Kong or Macao model to deal with Taipei's membership in the AIIB is probably not the best approach. Xi spoke to Taiwan last year about his “three requirements”, including understanding, care, and respect for the status and interests of the people on Taiwan. Taiwan, after all, is not Hong Kong or Macau. A future "one country, two systems" on Taiwan would also be different. The Mainland should abide by the spirit of Xi Jinping's talk, and not engage in exaggeration.
Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties must set aside their differences. They must consider Taiwan's long term interests. They must not resort to trickery. They must not allow themselves to be hijacked by a minority of extremists and politicians concerned only about myopic political or personal advantage. After all, in the international community, power is the most important consideration. Dignity does not to come from begging. Having both the name and the game is best of course. But if one cannot have both, substantive benefits are what most people prefer. Central Bank CEO Perng Huai-nan said that all proposals must be pragmatic or submitted for public consideration. The current ruling party has expressed just such a willingness. We expect the DPP to offer concrete proposals for public consideration.
We understand that the Mainland has many concerns. One. Beijing is far more powerful today then it was back then. Even EU nations ignore the United States' recommendations and objections in order to join. Does Beijing intend to dictate the conditions of Taiwan's entry because it can? Or does it have other considerations? Two. The KMT was defeated in last year's election. This suggests that Taiwan may undergo yet another change in ruling parties in 2016. Beijing and the KMT enjoy mutual trust, rooted in the 1992 consensus. Beijing is willing to be lenient about Taiwan's membership in the AIIB. If next year the DPP returns to power however, this could turn into a serious problem. Academics and government officials in Beijing will experience headaches. We however must not exceed our brief by worrying about this problem on Beijing's behalf.