United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 31, 2016
Executive Summary: Chen Shui-bian rejected the 1992 Consensus. That was when his troubles and loss of political support began. Tsai Ing-wen must not repeat the same mistake. She has already acknowledged the historical fact that an agreement was reached in 1992. So why persist in self-deception and blank out the historical fact of the 1992 Communique? Tsai Ing-wen is billing herself as a "problem solver". So why not hold high the communique, acknowledge the existence of the communique, and allow Beijing to withdraw its ultimatum?
Full Text Below:
The Taiwan Affairs Office and ARATS have both declared that without the 1992 Consensus, they can no longer conduct with business as usual, therefore cross-Strait communication and negotiation channels have now been suspended. This state of affairs, if ignored, will inevitably render the channels null and void. Once that happens, mutual suspicions arising from insufficient information will make saving the nation ever more difficult. Tsai Ing-wen will spend her term of office in an atmosphere of paranoia. Does Tsai Ing-wen really want matters to come to this? If not, she had better think twice.
A festive inauguration ceremony may be able to project a false image of calm. Tsai Ing-wen may think her 1992 Consensus double talk will allow business as usual, and allow her to plan her next move at leisure. She may think she will be able to turn in a respectable report card at the end of her four-year term. But the current situation is truly bizzare. Tsai Ing-wen appears to have made up her mind. No matter which way the wind blows, she has apparently decided to ignore Beijing's ultimatum regarding the 1992 Consensus.
But the new government is overplaying its hand. Taiwan's economy cannot withstand further turmoil. In any political confrontation, the loser will inevitably be the DPP, and the people of Taiwan will be the ones who pay the price.
Two days before Tsai Ing-wen's inauguration, the Mainland Ministry of Commerce announced its first quarter cross-Strait trade data. Taiwan exports to the Mainland fell by 11.7%. The bad news did not begin now. Last year Taiwan exports to the Mainland declined by 12.4% over the previous year. By contrast, the Mainland's total exports last year declined by only 1.8% over the previous year. Over the past year, Taiwan's exports to the Mainland have suffered a double-digit decline. The main reason is that the Mainland's red supply chain has gradually taken shape. Past projects on the Mainland relied on imports from Taiwan. Today the Mainland relies on its own industrial capacity.
Tsai Ing-wen wallows in Schadenfreude. She pictures herself taking advantage of this trend to end dependence on the Mainland. She yearns to for US and European markets, and hopes to implement her New Southern Strategy. Last year Taiwan's exports to the ten countries of ASEAN declined 14.2%, even more than exports to the Mainland. Exports to Europe declined 10.9%. Taiwan's economic problems, which the DPP wrongly attributes to “over-reliance on the Mainland”, are actually due to Taiwan's inadequate innovation and competitiveness.
The very first question that Tsai Ing-wen should ask is: If cross-Strait political trust is lost, and Taiwan's largest trading partner imposes economic sanctions in retaliation, can Taiwan really reverse its perilous decline?
Beijing's ultimatum, and the subsequent press conferences are revealing. If Tsai Ing-wen remains arrogant and continues to ignore Beijing, all cross-Strait communications and negotiation channels will be shut down. All official contacts, even hotlines, will be shut down. The cessation of communications and negotiations will not be limited to the two major associations. The Economic Cooperation Meetings under ECFA, along with over 20 other agreements will be null and void, and other minor associations will probably close up shop.
If this happens, Taiwan's "orphaned island syndrome" will immediately kick in. Six years ago, when Tsai Ing-wen debated Ma Ying-jeou, she proposed "connecting with the world before connecting with China [the Mainland]”. But today's China is not yesterday's China. Refusing to recognize the 1992 Consensus does more than ignore the Mainland. It also ignores the RCEP, which impacts Tsai's New Southern Strategy. As for the TPP, the presidential candidates of the two major parties in the United States have stated their opposition. The TPP's prospects are not bright. In time Tsai Ing-wen may regret not pragmatically accepting the 1992 Consensus. But by then it will be too late.
Tsai Ing-wen trotted out her ROC Constitution double talk. Yet less than 24 hours later, Beijing issued its ultimatum. Clearly it has no hesitation about allowing a new freeze in cross-Strait relations. This of course is a reflection of Xi Jinping's tough style. Eight years of generous concessions, and all Beijing got for its trouble was a rising tide of Taiwan independence sentiment. Beijing is now resentful and wary. It would just as soon dig in its heels, and is in no mood to make further concessions.
Beijing's ultimatum is actually nostalgia for the past. Xi Jinping went to Singapore and met with Ma Ying-jeou, all for the sake of the 1992 Consensus. He did not do this to oppose Tsai Ing-wen. The precondition was that the two sides' political foundation must be sufficiently sound. From that perspective, the ultimatum may loom, but it is clearly well-intentioned.
Chen Shui-bian rejected the 1992 Consensus. That was when his troubles and loss of political support began. Tsai Ing-wen must not repeat the same mistake. She has already acknowledged the historical fact that an agreement was reached in 1992. So why persist in self-deception and blank out the historical fact of the 1992 Communique? Tsai Ing-wen is billing herself as a "problem solver". So why not hold high the communique, acknowledge the existence of the communique, and allow Beijing to withdraw its ultimatum?
2016-05-31 01:23 聯合報 聯合報社論