Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Unsaid Was More Important than the Said

The Unsaid Was More Important than the Said
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
December 2, 2015

Executive Summary: The Ma Xi summit spanned six decades. What was not said during the summit was far more exciting, far more critical, and far more important, than what was said. It also symbolizes Taiwan's turbulent political evolution.

Full Text Below:

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been separated since 1949, when the Chinese civil war ended. The Ma Xi summit was the first time leaders from the two sides have met in 66 years. Few question its historic significance or its contribution to cross-Strait peace. Criticisms focus mainly on protocol, transparency, and the details of the dialogue. The sharpest criticisms have been directed at Ma for not mentioning “different interpretations” during his opening statement, but instead mentioning it only later, during closed-door talks. These critics characterize Ma's action as backing down, and cite it to repudiate the value of the Ma Xi summit in toto.

Set aside for the moment the question of whether the Ma Xi summit gave Taiwan greater international prominence, contributed to cross-Strait peace, or defined cross-Strait relations for the DPP in the event it returns to power. Narrow the focus, and zoom in on the content. Forget for the moment what Ma Ying-jeou refrained from saying during his opening remarks. Focus instead on what other participants refrained from saying during the summit. Only then will one gain a true appreciation for the significance of the Ma Xi summit. Ma Ying-jeou was hardly the only person who refrained from saying something during his opening remarks. At least two other persons refrained from saying something. What they refrained from saying, far outweighs what they did say. especially Xi Jinping.

Some critics of the Ma Xi summit argue that Xi Jinping said nothing groundbreaking, therefore the summit was more symbol than substance. This criticism fails to understand the importance of symbolic events. Many substantive processes have been driven by symbolic events. As former American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Richard Bush noted, the Ma Xi summit had considerable symbolic significance, and the symbolism may well generate substance. Did Xi Jinping really say nothing new? Those who make this claim focus only on what Xi said. They fail to appreciate the importance of what Xi Jinping refrained from saying. Try this experiment. Search "Xi Jinping" and "Taiwan" and see what keywords emerge.

The answer is: "one country, two systems", "opposition to Taiwan independence", and "belong to one China". Did anyone notice these keywords were not in Xi Jinping's opening remarks? These things that Xi refrained from saying are the Mainland's chief innovation in Taiwan policy. These things. left unsaid, are the Mainland's way of showing respect for the feelings of the public on Taiwan. These constitute an important goodwill gesture. What Xi Jinping refrained from saying during his opening remarks explains why Ma Ying-jeou refrained from saying certain things during his opening remarks, and why Ma underscored “different interpretations” only later, behind closed doors.

This is why The Economist's Banyan Park Forum noted that the summit between ROC President Ma Ying-jeou and PRC President Xi Jinping, represents the most significant concession any Mainland leader has made on the core issue of sovereignty in recent years. After all, for the two sides to sit down to talk as “leaders” is in itself, an acknowledgement of the other party's jurisdiction. These things, which remained unsaid, were far more important than what Ma and Xi said aloud. They, far more than what was said, represent goodwill and progress.

Next, consider what Tsai Ing-wen refrained from saying. Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP blasted the Ma Xi summit afterwards. They said it would "undermine Taiwan's democracy". They said it would "box in the public on Taiwan, and limit their options". These criticisms were serious. But such criticisms aside, what Tsai Ing-wen refrained from saying is even more interesting.

The first thing Tsai Ing-wen refrained from saying, was anything negative about Xi Jinping. She blasted Ma, but never once mentioned Xi. This shows she hopes to retain the option of dealing with Xi following the election. She does not want bilateral relations to deteriorate. Therefore she exercised self-restraint. The next thing Tsai Ing-wen refrained from saying, would have have gone unnoticed, except that the Eric Chu vs. Tsai Ing-wen side show drew attention. Following the Ma Xi summit, Eric Chu wrote to the Washington Times and said that Tsai Ing-wen had no way to maintain the status quo. He said Tsai Ing-wen has habitually accused the KMT of "selling out Taiwan". The Tsai camp did not respond directly to Eric Chu's accusation. Instead, it solemnly stated that "The DPP did not accuse President Ma of selling out Taiwan during the Ma Xi summit".

In 2008, when Chen Yunlin visited Taiwan, the green camp stage a bloody siege. Tsai Ing-wen blasted President Ma, saying "He has no right to sell out Taiwan's sovereignty". She did not hesitate to red bait President Ma. Other DPP politicians have red baited the KMT relentlessly over the past decade. This time however, the DPP issued a solemn declaration saying it refrained from accusing President Ma of selling out Taiwan during the Ma Xi summit. This is significant. It amounts to an implicit DPP apology for years of accusing the Ma Ying-jeou and the KMT for selling out Taiwan. This constitutes an improvement of sorts. It means that politics on Taiwan has a chance to move toward the center.

The Ma Xi summit spanned six decades. What was not said during the summit was far more exciting, far more critical, and far more important, than what was said. It also symbolizes Taiwan's turbulent political evolution.




No comments: