Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beijing Should Rethink Its Taiwan Policy

Beijing Should Rethink Its Taiwan Policy
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 8, 2016

Executive Summary: The result of the election is pretty much a forgone conclusion. The KMT will probably lose the presidency. The blue camp will probably lose, for the first time ever, its legislative majority. The KMT in particular, is likely to lose many seats. Any attempt to emulate Chen Shui-bian era legislative checks and balances will be difficult. This means that Beijing must also rethink its Taiwan policy.

Full Text Below:

The result of the election is pretty much a forgone conclusion. The KMT will probably lose the presidency. The blue camp will probably lose, for the first time ever, its legislative majority. The KMT in particular, is likely to lose many seats. Any attempt to emulate Chen Shui-bian era legislative checks and balances will be difficult. This means that Beijing must also rethink its Taiwan policy.

This does not mean that Beijing's past Taiwan policy was a failure. Over the past eight years, cross-Strait relations have improved dramatically. This change cannot be undone. According to most polls, nearly half of all young people are willing to go to the Mainland to work, study, even marry. An Academia Sinica survey showed that 49.7% of the public on Taiwan believes the two sides "will eventually be reunified". This shows that cross-Strait people to people relations are good. In the past, Beijing dealt mainly with the KMT. Once the KMT loses power, the importance of KMT-CCP links will decline. Beijing will have to deal directly with the public on Taiwan, and develop people to people relations.

Beijing has long advocated pinning its hopes on the Taiwan public. Over the past two years it has underscored the importance of “San Zhong Yi Qing”, or “Three Middles One Young” policy. This policy reaches out to small and medium enterprises, middle and low-income people, people in central and southern Taiwan, and Taiwan youth. As long as the KMT was in power, Beijing relied on the KMT's organizational structure and contacts. Now a change in ruling parties is imminent. Beijing has the opportunity to conduct a thorough review of its Taiwan policy, to think about how to reach hearts and minds on Taiwan, to think about how to win  public support within Taiwan.

Consider the public relations perspective. Beijing has long used the "China Taiwan Network" and other such media to reach Taiwan. Stars from Taiwan are invited to appear on Mainland television shows. Unfortunately the focus is usually on the Mainland. As a result the impact on Taiwan leaves much to be desired. After all, these programs are propaganda permeated with Mainland thinking. They are one-way communications. That makes identification with it difficult for people from Taiwan. That makes it difficult to encourage dialogue. Prejudice may even result in people from Taiwan rejecting Mainland media content out of hand, for purely emotional reasons. That does not mean the Mainland media is uncompetitive. Mainland television dramas and variety shows are extremely popular on Taiwan. They demonstrate just how competitive the Mainland's cultural and creative industries can be.

Beijing must realize the importance of news broadcasting and cultural dissemination. It must make cross-Strait cultural exchanges more convenient. It must form cross-Strait strategic TV news alliances, even cross-Strait strategic media alliances. It must enable media workers, directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors from Taiwan to incorporate Taiwan elements into media content. It must provide greater opportunities for people from Taiwan to accept Mainland soft power. Doing so will also enable people from the Mainland to better understand the real Taiwan. Over the long term, this will improve cross-Strait understanding among the general public.

Beijing must gain a greater appreciation of Mainland students and Mainland business travelers. President Ma governed for eight years. Mainland tour groups flocked to Taiwan in an unending stream. Official visits often made headlines. But for the general public, such exchanges were irrelevant. Their itineraries made authentic interaction with ordinary people difficult. The number of Mainland tourists increased year to year. But most joined “If It's Tuesday This must be Belgium” style tour groups. They had little chance to interact with ordinary people on Taiwan. Under these circumstances, people to people exchanges can hardly be expected to increase mutual understanding.

Based on current group visits, communications between Mainland students and Mainland business travelers with people on Taiwan have been the most effective. Only these two groups can change public perception of the Mainland. Only these two groups can foster goodwill toward the Mainland. Many Taiwan students support Mainland students on many issues. This proves that. The main reason for this is that Mainland students live on Taiwan long term. They remain in close communication with Taiwan students. Much of the discrimination and hostility arising from misunderstandings can be dispelled by such long term exchanges.

Business travelers have had a similar effect. Many of them shuttle back and forth between the two sides. They work alongside colleagues on Taiwan. They achieve tacit understanding and trust with each other. They gradually change the impression of Taiwan office workers have of the Mainland. That is why Beijing must understand the importance of non-governmental forces. Taiwan may undergo a change in ruling parties. Nevertheless Beijing should expand, not shrink cross-Strait exchanges among students and business people.

Beijing must pay attention to the importance of market forces and civil society. On today's Taiwan, a close relationship between government and business often raises concerns. By contrast, seeking to enter Taiwan for purely market-based reasons seldom provokes strong opposition. This is why Alipay and Taobao, which have allowed online shopping from Taiwan, have experienced positive results. We must allow Taiwan industry to collaborate with Mainland industry, based on supply and demand. In fact, this sort of win/win cross-Strait cooperation is most helpful to SMEs.

At the same time, the Mainland must promote cross-Strait interaction among civic organizations. For people on Taiwan, their daily lives are not about political parties, but rather public interest or shared interest groups. The Mainland has a thriving civil society. People from the Mainland and Taiwan are fully capable of interacting with each other on their own. It is not difficult for them to organize sports events, cultural exhibits, and seminars. If the Mainland expands cross-Strait interaction to include civic organizations, it can better reach the people of Taiwan.

20160108 中國時報











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