Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cross-Strait Relationship: A Non State to State Relationship within One Family

Cross-Strait Relationship: A Non State to State Relationship within One Family
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 20, 2016

Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen and the Mainland each have their own bottom lines. But a cessation of cross-Strait interaction would exact too high a price on both sides. Therefore both sides should demonstrate wisdom and flexibility. They should seek a new foundation for cross-Strait interaction acceptable to both sides.

Full Text Below:

As soon as Tsai Ing-wen won the election, the Mainland began pressure testing her. But Tsai Ing-wen has obstinately refused to recognize either the 1992 Consensus or affirm the One China Principle. DPP Legislative Yuan Speaker Su Chia-chuan even declared that "People on Taiwan and the Mainland belong to different countries", totally undermining Tsai Ing-wen's commitments. Mainland pressure testing has slowly changed. What was a temporary measure has become a fixed guideline, in the hope that Tsai Ing-wen's new government will realize that refusal to recognize the 1992 Consensus or affirm the One China Principle, will have devastating long-term consequences.

Obviously, the price paid will not benefit people on either side. The Ma government has been in office eight years. It obtained increased breathing space for Taiwan. It made a fundamental breakthrough in cross-Strait private sector interaction. People to people exchanges in particular, became the cross-Strait norm. Far too many people have become part of the same circle. They now share the same destiny. If conflict erupts between the two sides, they will be the victims. More and more people enjoy the fruits of improved cross-Strait relations. Peaceful cross-Strait interaction is like the air we breath. We fail to appreciate its existence and importance until it is lost, by which time our daily lives and routines have been affected. Consider the tourism industry. Business owners' find themselves under a dark cloud. This offers us a taste of the pessimism that permeates society today. Some may rejoice. Fewer Mainland tourists mean smaller crowds at tourist spots, and a better experience for themselves. But they fail to realize these “benefits” mean plummeting tourism industry income and even bankruptcy.

Based on individual claims or perceptions, the general public may remain blindly optimistic. But as president, Tsai Ing-wen cannot afford such myopia. She must take a broader view of the problems facing Taiwan. She must consider the welfare of the public, and even the welfare of citizens on the other side of the Strait. She must rethink her view of the cross-Strait political foundation. She must seek solutions to ensure that cross-Strait relations develop peacefully. Obviously this is related to the Mainland's insistence on the 1992 Consensus. In other words, Tsai Ing-wen must put the welfare of people on both sides of the Strait above all else.

Naturally, given the DPP's history and culture, one cannot expect the DPP to accept the 1992 Consensus outright. Nor can one expect her to utter the words "One China". But the DPP must realize that unless it sorts out cross-Strait relations, the Tsai Ing-wen government will fail in its attempt to govern the nation. Tsai Ing-wen should draw from past experience and attempt to make a breakthrough. When Chen Shui-bian delivered his inaugural speech years ago, he may not have explicitly recognized the 1992 Consensus, or affirmed the one China principle. But he publicly acknowledged that people on both sides share common descent, history, and culture. This hardly satisfied the Mainland. But at least it enabled them to let out a breath of air. Chen had at least retained a link between the two sides.

Ko Wen-je's rhetoric is more advanced. He visited Shanghai and declared that he “has no two Chinas problem". He said he had no objection to “both sides of the Strait being part of one family”. Clearly the Mainland is flexible regarding cross-Strait rhetoric from Taiwan. Ko's reference to "both sides of the Strait being part of one family” echoed President Xi Jinping wording, and implied a special relationship between the two sides. Of course for Tsai Ing-wen to affirm that "both sides of the Strait are part of one family” may be difficult. Therefore she may wish to draw on the experience of Chen Shui-bian and Ko Wen-je. She can indirectly imply that the two sides are part of one family. In particular, she can underscore how under the Republic of China's constitutional framework, cross-Strait relations are special, but they are not relations between two independent countries. She may wish to make clear that the two sides are not two independent countries, and that people on the two sides are fellow countrymen, thereby clarifying the relationship between the two political entities. Meanwhile, during future discussions of cross-Strait relations, she may wish to underscore the connection between people across the Strait, and declare that the new government will not treat Mainlanders as foreigners, but will continue to treat Mainlanders as fellow countrymen under the cross-Strait framework.

The Mainland must understand that according to Academia Sinica polls, 49.7% of the public on Taiwan believes that Taiwan will eventually "be reunified [by the Mainland]”. They may fear or resist the prospect. But reunification remains well within the realm of possibility. Sad to say, the KMT government has long been fearful of ridicule and slander when promoting cross-Strait policy. It has lacked the courage to throw open the doors and to make bold decisions. Such considerations need not weigh on the DPP. If the time and conditions are right, it can afford to push cross-Strait relations into new territory. If Tsai Ing-wen acts on behalf of the public welfare, and advances cross-Strait relations into new territory, the Mainland should adopt a forward looking attitude. The Mainland need not compromise on matters of principle. But if under the DPP cross-Strait relations can continue to develop peacefully, the Mainland should remain confident.

Tsai Ing-wen and the Mainland each have their own bottom lines. But a cessation of cross-Strait interaction would exact too high a price on both sides. Therefore both sides should demonstrate wisdom and flexibility. They should seek a new foundation for cross-Strait interaction acceptable to both sides.

20160420 中國時報








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