Cross-Strait Relations Following the Ma Xi Summit
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 13, 2015
Executive Summary: The Ma Xi summit surprised the entire world. The summit may not have
that much impact on the upcoming election. But leaders from the two
sides have met and established a high-level framework. Top officials
from both sides have initiated cross-Strait political dialogue. This is
sure to have far-reaching implications for cross-Strait relations after
the general election.
Full Text Below:
The Ma Xi summit surprised the entire world. The summit may not have that much impact on the upcoming election. But leaders from the two sides have met and established a high-level framework. Top officials from both sides have initiated cross-Strait political dialogue. This is sure to have far-reaching implications for cross-Strait relations after the general election.
Taiwan's chief expectations in cross-Strait relations are geopolitical security, political dignity, and economic benefits. The Ma Xi summit revealed a shift in Mainland cross-Strait policy, heretofore dominated by economic concessions. During the Ma Xi summit, the two sides met in a setting consistent with public calls for dignity and equality. The Mainland made concessions to "Taiwan consciousness". The usual, abnormal pattern of "heavy on economics but light on politics" changed.
In fact, the public on Taiwan wants to maintain close economic and trade cooperation and private sector interaction, under conditions of equality. This is why both Ma and Xi stressed "pragmatic cooperation, private sector exchanges". Xi Jinping said "The Mainland is willing to share its economic growth". Ma Ying-jeou said that what the public on Taiwan wants most from cross-Strait peace, is "to change the destiny of the people". Manifesting this consensus is the essence of the Ma Xi summit.
The first key to cross-Strait relations in the wake of the Ma Xi summit, is the survival of the Ma Xi summit agenda. The consultation mechanisms for the two sides' leaders should be firmed up. But if the green camp takes office, how will the two sides maintain the status quo? That is the bottom line in cross-Strait political relations. Xi Jinping said, "If the foundation is not secure, the earth will move and the mountains will shake". During the Ma Xi summit he said, "No matter which party takes office, no matter what their past positions, as long as they recognize the historical fact of the 1992 consensus, we are willing to deal with them". The Mainland may have a clear bottom line. But it is also willing to be flexible. If Tsai Ing-wen wins the election, she will be subject to intense pressure, both internally and externally. The slightest mistake, and all could be lost. The preservation and consolidation of high-level cross-Strait communication channels is crucial.
The second key is whether the Ma Xi summit can substantively boost Taiwan's economy. This point is crucial. Can cross-Strait economic cooperation and the opportunity to share in the Mainland's economic prosperity touch the hearts of the public on Taiwan? That is the most important question of all. The two sides must resolve their political differences. Economic exchanges must be freed from political interference. Taiwan must implement systemic changes. The economic benefits conferred upon Taiwan must no longer be monopolized by Big Government and Big Business, rather than the general public.
Beijing has been making economic concessions to Taiwan for some time now. So why have the results been so disappointing? The reason is that not everyone on Taiwan has benefited equally from its concessions. This is not entirely Beijing's fault. One key is whether Taiwan is honestly cooperating with the Mainland. Tsai Ing-wen recently proposed a "New Southern Policy" that reorients Taiwan's political and economic strategy toward the Southeast Asian countries and away from the Mainland.
The original "Southern Policy" was first proposed in 1996. The Southeast Asian financial crisis led to its failure. Taiwan's economy then became dependent on the Mainland. This dependency cannot be changed. The New Southern Policy flagrantly ignores the region's objective economic status. Politically it is vague. Geopolitically it depends on distant resources. Economically, it is penny wise and pound foolish. As one can well imagine, this sort of strategic mindset will only worsen cross-Strait relations.
We must also consider another factor. Is Taiwan's own distribution of wealth mechanism the problem? For example, the main reason the STA has stalled is that it negatively impacts certain sectors of the industry, and has therefore provoked intense opposition. But with any trade liberalization, trade shocks are inevitable. The government must not erect barriers. Instead it must use public funding, industry subsidies, and tax policies to create a buffer period, reducing the impact on industry, and ensuring internal balance.
The Mainland has been making generous economic concessions. But the public on Taiwan remains indifferent. This, coupled with weak economic growth, psychological anxiety, and political unrest, spawned the Sunflower Student Movement. Wealthy conglomerates have monopolized the benefits from Mainland economic concessions. How can this be changed? How can the benefits be conferred upon ordinary members of the public? That is something Taiwan must do. Not long ago, the Mainland's “ten three five plan” emphasized the benefits of "three middles and one young". The Mainland understands this. Can Taiwan respond? That must wait until after the general election.
The third key is whether the Ma Xi summit can preserve the economic benefits of Ma Ying-jeou's cross-Strait peace. Here the key is public opinion. The nine in one KMT election debacle and the Sunflower Student Movement show that the new generation presents a challenge for the Kuomintang. Taiwan and Mainland authorities alike cannot ignore the young people's expectations for their own lives. Many in Taiwan find it difficult to identify with the Mainland. To a large extent this is the result of a lack of understanding. Exchanges among young people will become an important part of cross-Strait exchanges.
The general election on Taiwan is likely to result in changes. Cross-Strait relations may feel a chill. But economically, the two sides are inseparable. Can either side sever this link, merely because of a change in ruling parties? The Mainland can. Taiwan cannot. If political relations chill, non-governmental exchanges will be even more important. Cooperation among business people, meetings between representatives from commercial enterprises, forums, and other private channels will have to fill the vacuum.
For Taiwan, cross-Strait relations cannot be ignored, never mind severed, no matter which political party is in power. The public on both sides must become directly involved in decision-making. The economic benefits of cross-Strait peace must be felt and appreciated by the general public. Only that can ensure a normal, stable, sustainable, win-win cross-Strait relationship. This is the most important matter for authorities on both sides of the Strait, especially the new president and ruling party on Taiwan.
2015年11月13日 04:10 主筆室