China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 24, 2016
Executive Summary: The clash over the 1992 Consensus has led to an impasse. The two sides should immediately begin the above outlined four-stage process. It should enable them to reach a consensus. In fact, the above process is how the two sides were able to achieve consensus in 1992. That is a valuable experience the two sides' current ruling parties can draw from.
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The Mainland has responded to Tsai Ing-wen's May 20 inaugural address. It has underscored the importance of the 1992 Consensus. The new government has explicitly promised to act in good faith. Will the result be an impasse? Will the impasse lead to confrontation?
That would obviously not a blessing for people on either side of the Strait. The last eight years of hard work would go down the drain. That would not be a rational choice for authorities on either side of the Strait. The current impasse must be reevaluated from a larger, more strategic perspective by both sides in order to arrive at a new solution.
Taiwan must understand a number of realities about its relationship to the Mainland. The first reality is the balance of power. The Mainland is unquestionably more powerful than Taiwan, especially militarily. Taiwan is simply no match for the Mainland. Taiwan's limited retaliatory capacity is probably not a adequate deterrent. In any event direct conflict is obviously not conducive to the well-being of either side. That should not be considered an option.
The second reality is economics. The Mainland is in the middle of an economic downturn. But its leaders are imbued with revolutionary will. Its economic fundamentals pose no major problem. They will not lead to significant short-term fluctuations. On Taiwan by contrast, neither GDP nor exports are likely to grown over the next two years. Income growth will be limited. The new government plans to open up new markets. But in the short-term these will have no effect. The pressures it faces are clearly much greater than those faced by the Mainland. Taiwan's economy cannot reverse its dependence on the Mainland any time soon.
The third reality is the America factor. The balance of power between the Mainland and the US has changed. During the 1995 Taiwan Strait crisis the United States sent aircraft carriers to defend Taiwan. But during the South China Sea dispute, American influence diminished. The protection it provides Taiwan is primarily political. Also, it practices “joint management” of Taiwan with the Mainland. It opposes either side unilaterally changing the status quo. The United States hopes the two sides will not provoke a crisis that changes the status quo. Tsai Ing-wen relies on the United States to counter the Mainland. But she must fully understand US policy, lest excessive dependence result in policy misjudgments.
The fourth reality is differences in the two sides' systems and values. Public sentiment on Taiwan is the main reason for Mainland skepticism toward Taiwan. It is also Tsai Ing-wen's most important source of support. Most people on Taiwan want to maintain the status quo. After Tsai Ing-wen delivered her inaugural address, most people agreed with her. Public support for Tsai Ing-wen exceeded 50%. Even the KMT had no objection. After all, Tsai Ing-wen pledged to deal with cross-Strait affairs on the basis of the Republic of China Constitution and the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. This is probably the area of greatest consenuse on Taiwan today. The Mainland must pay closer attention to this, and realize how the public on Taiwan thinks.
Clearly, the Tsai regime faces a difficult situation. It needs to do more to prove it is sincere, and not being provocative. At the same time, the Mainland must understand why the public on Taiwan remains leery. It must resort less to tough talk and tough action. It must minimize the public backlash. Authorities on both sides must of course adhere to their own principles. But they must not clash head on, let alone resort to reunification by military means. There is still room for negotiation. It all depends on the two sides' political wisdom.
The Mainland is deeply skeptical about the DPP, since it has long advocated Taiwan independence. DPP interpolation and governance reeks of cultural Taiwan independence and de jure Taiwan independence tendencies. Therefore the Mainland can never fully trust it. The DPP harbors many prejudices. It frequently spews anti-Mainland hate speech. The result is an utter lack of trust between the two sides. This, along with the lack of communication channels, renders communication between the two parties difficult, and reconciliation between them impossible.
The new DPP government must improve cross-Strait relations. Both sides must be willing to establish communication channels and know each other better. Tsai Ing-wen has called on the two sides to set aside historical grievances and increase dialogue. The official consultative mechanism has temporarily been suspended. Therefore communications should be reestablished through representatives from the two political parties. The two parties should attempt to understand each other and seek solutions. This cannot be achieved by talking past each other.
Communications can enable the two sides to find where their interests overlap, increasing cooperation to the point where the two sides may benefit each other. The two sides each have internal problems that must be addressed. Cooperation will help them achieve a win-win situation, and help them out of their economic predicaments. Only when the ruling parties on both sides seek common interests and profit from their initial cooperation, will further cooperation be possible.
On such a basis, the two sides may move toward mutual understanding. As the two sides find more in common, they will be able to examine their differences more rationally. Only then will they be able to limit them or even resolve them. Only then will they be able carry on a win/win relationship.
The two ruling parties must come to know each other, benefit each other, and understand each other. Only then will they be able to trust each other. Only then can they enter a new stage of cooperation. Only then can the two sides engage in cross-Strait consultations over major differences and find solutions.
The clash over the 1992 Consensus has led to an impasse. The two sides should immediately begin the above outlined four-stage process. It should enable them to reach a consensus. In fact, the above process is how the two sides were able to achieve consensus in 1992. That is a valuable experience the two sides' current ruling parties can draw from.