Mainland Tourists Transit Taiwan:
Red and Green Face Off over the Chessboard
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 3, 2016
Executive Summary: Eight mainland tourists have finally been allowed to transit Taoyuan
Airport. This is a happy event. Yet Beijing failed to give Taipei prior
notification. This failure can be interpreted in many ways. It shows
that Tsai Ing-wen coming to power no longer worries Beijing. Beijing is
very sure of itself, and unconcerned about whether it must be hard or
soft on new regime. Xi Jinping knows full well a
new era has begun, one in which cross-Strait relations do not involve
the KMT. Red and green now face each other across the chess board. Last
year's M503 airline route and smart card format MTPs were previews of
coming attractions. Mainland passengers transiting Taiwan means Xi
Jinping is ready to make his move.
Full Text Below:
Eight mainland tourists have finally been allowed to transit Taoyuan Airport. This is a happy event. Yet Beijing failed to give Taipei prior notification. This failure can be interpreted in many ways. It shows that Tsai Ing-wen coming to power no longer worries Beijing. Beijing is very sure of itself, and unconcerned about whether it must be hard or soft on new regime.
Mainland tourists transiting through Taiwan is a fruit of the Ma Xi summit. Xi Jinping delinked it from route optimization. Beijing no longer quibbles over the details every step of the way. Once the Gordian Knot was cut, the result was a forgone conclusion. The commencement however, was sparsely attended. It was accompanied by little fanfare. Scant effort was made to spread the word. The Mainland media reported it several days ago, but in a deliberately low-key manner. As a result, the entire affair feels odd.
Beijing's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) recently underwent reorganization. Observers think the Taiwan Affairs Office is under review because of the Taiwan election. The media reported the arrival of Mainland tourists. But the day before, the MAC and the SEF had yet to receive confirmation. As a result speculation ran wild. The Taiwan Affairs Office may deny it, but it definitely appears to have fallen down on the job.
During the recent election, the KMT lost by a landslide. For Beijing, this was more than the decline and fall of the Kuomintang. It was a major setback for its Taiwan Policy. Beijing may complain that the Taiwan Affairs Office did not have its finger on the pulse of Taiwan public opinion. But it at least noticed an anti-Mainland trend within Taiwan, especially among the younger generation. A single spark was all that was necessary to touch off a prairie fire.
Three days after the ROC general election, Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Director Gong Qinggai was subjected to serious disciplinary action. This too is seen as a sign that past conduct will be reviewed. Xi Jinping obviously could not understand why years of generous concessions to Taiwan failed to benefit the people, and was instead interpreted as comprador collusion. Does a comprador class even exist? If so, what brought it into existence?
Did eight years of generous concessions paradoxically lose the hearts and minds of people on Taiwan? If it did, that is downright embarrassing. Beijing's failure to win over the public on Taiwan, can be attributed to the KMT's inability to make its case. Xi Jinping must now clean up the mess. He must reorganize and transform Taiwan policy. He must cure this incurable disease. He must go head to head with Tsai Ing-wen's so-called "natural independence".
Xi Jinping has few remaining options. He can continue past Beijing's "warm sun strategy". If so, he must correct past mistakes. He must embark upon thorough and painstaking identification of friend and foe, and deal with them one level at a time. On the other hand, he can switch to a "north wind strategy". He can conclude that it is already too late to win over the public on Taiwan. He can conclude that peaceful relations paradoxically lead to disaster, and that taking a hammer to the problem might just wake "natural Taiwan independence" from its pipe dream. Last March Xi Jinping twice mentioned that "the earth will move and the mountains will shake". During the November Ma Xi summit, he spoke of "terrifying waves". A "north wind strategy" is apparently already an option. If Tsai Ing-wen crosses the line, Xi will did not hesitate to end peaceful relations, and the two sides will sail straight into the storm.
The DPP has officially taken control of the legislature. Xi Jinping nevertheless allowed eight Mainland tourists to transit Taiwan. This was a subtle message. It was a feather gently drifting across the Strait. It was a last gesture of peace and friendship. It wsa an attempt to nudge the DPP in the direction of the 1992 Consensus. It was also an expression of iron determination. Beijing will leave no stone unturned in its fight against separatism.
By allowing Mainland tourists to transit Taiwan, Xi Jinping revealed a third option. This is neither the warm sun strategy, nor the north wind strategy, but a blend of both. For the sake of Taiwan's economy and the livelihood of its people, Beijing wants to retain its warm sun strategy. As a result, Mainland tourists may still come, albeit in reduced numbers. Direct airline flights may continue as before. With transits through Taiwan, they may even increase in number. But the DPP, which refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus, must brace itself against the bitter cold of the north wind, against an avalanche of severed diplomatic relations, aainst mounting international pressure, and even against military intimidation. All of these are on Beijing's menu.
Mainland tourists are transiting Taiwan. Xi Jinping knows full well a new era has begun, one in which cross-Strait relations do not involve the KMT. Red and green now face each other across the chess board. Last year's M503 airline route and smart card format MTPs were previews of coming attractions. Mainland passengers transiting Taiwan means Xi Jinping is ready to make his move.