Tsai Ing-wen Puts the Elephant in the Refrigerator
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 17, 2015
Executive Summary: A riddle that has been circulating asks "How does one put an elephant in
a refrigerator?" The answer comes in four parts. First, one opens the
refrigerator door. Next, one finds an elephant. Next, one puts the
elephant in the refrigerator. And lastly, one closes the refrigerator
door. This may be a joke. But it is an apt metaphor for Tsai Ing-wen's
new mantra about "maintaining the status quo".
Full Text Below:
A riddle that has been circulating asks "How does one put an elephant in a refrigerator?" The answer comes in four parts. First, one opens the refrigerator door. Next, one finds an elephant. Next, one puts the elephant in the refrigerator. And lastly, one closes the refrigerator door. This may be a joke. But it is an apt metaphor for Tsai Ing-wen's new mantra about "maintaining the status quo".
Cross-Strait disagreement is an elephant that can trample cross-Strait peace. The first concern of leaders on both sides must be to shelve disputes, seek a win-win solution, and put the elephant in the refrigerator. The DPP has long allowed the elephant to run amok and undermine cross-Strait harmony. Tsai Ing-wen recently proposed "maintaining the status quo". She has opened the refrigerator door. But this is merely the first step in shelving disputes. Resolving cross-Strait disagreements requires three more steps. Defining the elephant, putting the elephant in the refrigerator, and closing the refrigerator door. The last three steps are more difficult than the first.
The 2016 election is fast approaching. Tsai Ing-wen will soon have less and less room for ambiguity in cross-Strait policy. Everyone on Taiwan, including those inside the DPP, will be asking questions. The United States will express concern. The Mainland will look on with a cold eye, as the United States, the Mainland, and even the public on Taiwan increase the pressure. Tsai Ing-wen recently declared that "maintaining the cross-Strait status quo is the DPP's basic principle for handling cross-Strait relations". This is indeed an improvement over the hollow statements of the past. It is indeed more concrete and more constructive. But DPP cross-Strait policy has long been capricious. The United States, the Mainland, and the public on Taiwan, are still wary of the DPP's attachment to Taiwan independence. Tsai Ing-wen's declaration merely sprinkled a few drops of water on the cracked earth. It was not enough to relieve the drought.
A substantial impact requires taking the second step. One must define the elephant. Tsai Ing-wen must define the status quo. Just what is it? In May 2004, when Tsai Ing-wen was Chairperson for the Mainland Affairs Council, she said "Taiwan, the US, and the Mainland each have a different understanding of the status quo. This determines whether one feels compelled to define the status quo." Her remark was dead on. If the various parties still cling to their own definition of the "status quo", disputes will never end, and Tsai Ing-wen will never be able to resolve the doubts in the minds of people on Taiwan, the Mainland and the US. The refrigerator door will never even open.
The status quo has already been successfully defined. One example is "no [immediate] reunification, no Taiwan independence, no use of force." Ma Ying-jeou's three noes is imperfect. It lacks aggressiveness. It may not be enough to cope with cross-Strait relations under Eric Chu's KMT. But for the past eight years, it was a compromise that most on Taiwan could accept. Even the United States accepted it. The Mainland was willing to remain silent about it and not voice open opposition. Tsai Ing-wen has no objections to "no reunification" and "no use of force," Her only objection is to "no Taiwan independence". On this, Tsai Ing-wen is subject to Taiwan independence pressure. But "no Taiwan independence" can be redefined to give her some wriggle room. For example, Hung Chi-chang has proposed defining "no Taiwan independence" as "no pursuit of de jure Taiwan independence". This would put Tsai Ing-wen and Ma Ying-jeou on the same footing regarding the "three noes". It would continue Ma Ying-jeou's established definition of the status quo.
These two interpretations of the three noes even differ in substance, especially when it comes to "no Taiwan independence". The three noes are old wine in new bottles. But they at least show that Tsai Ing-wen has the courage to take a step in the direction of cross-Strait peace. The blue camp agrees. The US is optimistic. The Mainland remains silent. The only obstacle Tsai faces is a deep green Taiwan independence backlash. She can however, still win the support of Hung Chi-chang and other green camp moderates. She would not be alone. If she lacks the courage to make a concession this small, how can she possibly lead Taiwan? How can she maintain the status quo? How can she maintain cross-Strait relations and ensure steady growth? Can she bring herself to utter these words? If not, she must tell us how her "maintaining the status quo" differs from Ma's "no reunification, no independence, no use of force".
Once the elephant has been found, the third step is to move the elephant into the refrigerator, thereby shelving controversy. Tsai Ing-wen should incorporate "maintaining the status quo" into her campaign literature and even the DPP party platform. On this, she must do more than talk the talk. She must walk the walk. Tsai Ing-wen must show that she has the elevated perspective befitting a ruler. She must encourage cooperation between DPP and KMT legislators. She must enable the "cross-strait agreement oversight regulations" and other bills currently blocked by the DPP to pass as soon as possible. She must allow stalled cross-Strait negotiations to continue. She must allow Taiwan to cease spinning its wheels.
The final step is to close the refrigerator door, and freeze the the status quo, so that the two sides can shelve disputes long term. This means that Tsai Ing-wen must break with Lin Yi-hsiung, Chen Shui-bian, Huang Kuo-chang, Lin Fei-fan, and other idealistic or opportunistic Taiwan independence advocates. She must not allow them to hijack the party and turn back the clock. Only this consitutes a meaningful, sustainable understanding of "maintaining the status quo."
The easiest of the four steps is opening the refrigerator door. But the second, third, and fourth steps are the key. For Tsai Ing-wen future steps will be increasingly difficult. This is a test of Tsai Ing-wen's leadership. We are happy to see Tsai Ing-wen propose "maintaining the status quo". But if she thinks that once the refrigerator door is open, the elephant will automatically walk in, then she is either stupid or naive.
2015年04月17日 04:10 主筆室