Cross-Strait Crisis Management during Cold Confrontation
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 6, 2016
Executive Summary: President Tsai Ing-wen avoided any clear statement on the 1992 Consensus in her inaugural address. Everyone now expects the two sides of the Strait to enter an era of "Cold Peace". The first wave of DPP personnel appointments and policy moves have the Mainland wondering whether the new government is engaged in “stealth Taiwan independence” under the cover of the “Republic of China". As a result it has stepped up its criticism. Through official channels such as the Taiwan Affairs Office, ARATS, and the People's Daily, it has demanded that Tsai Ing-wen recognize the 1992 Consensus.
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President Tsai Ing-wen avoided any clear statement on the 1992 Consensus in her inaugural address. Everyone now expects the two sides of the Strait to enter an era of "Cold Peace". The first wave of DPP personnel appointments and policy moves have the Mainland wondering whether the new government is engaged in “stealth Taiwan independence” under the cover of the “Republic of China". As a result it has stepped up its criticism. Through official channels such as the Taiwan Affairs Office, ARATS, and the People's Daily, it has demanded that Tsai Ing-wen recognize the 1992 Consensus.
That is not all. The Mainland has also interrupted cross-Strait exchanges and official communications. ARATS and the Taiwan Affairs Office no longer respond to MAC and SEF fax communications. It has taken concrete action to show the new government that it is serious. Mainland provincial delegations have ceased coming to Taiwan. Mainland group and corporate incentive group tours have also been suspended. Mainland inspections and quarantines of fruit imports from Taiwan have been tightened. Produce is frequently returned to Taiwan, provoking industry concern.
In other words, the cross-Strait situation is worse than the “Cold Peace" widely predicted. It has gone directly to "Cold Confrontation". Cross-Strait tensions are high, especially on the Mainland. Official declarations issued through various channels, have essentially left the Mainland "riding a tiger, and unable to dismount". There is no room for compromise or change whatsoever, unless Tsai is willing to compromise. Otherwise the Mainland authorities cannot back down.
If Tsai Ing-wen refuses to do so, then the cross-Strait "Cold Confrontation" will probably continue for a very long time. If the crux of the disagreement is not resolved, if conflict and stress escalates to a certain level, we could go from "Cold Confrontation" directly to "Hot Confrontation". Cross-Strait relations would then revert to what they were during the Chen era. This is something people on both sides cannot evade.
The Mainland is too big, and Taiwan is too small. The cross-Strait imbalance in power has increased. Tsai Ing-wen must actively seek solutions to problems. She cannot react passively. She cannot assume that as long as she offers no provocations, and makes no trouble, the Mainland will remain helpless. On the 1992 Consensus, the Mainland can make no concessions. If Tsai Ing-wen refuses to recognize it explicitly, she must offer an alternative, and seek consensus with the Mainland.
The key to the cross-Strait dispute is the nature of cross-Strait relations. Just what is the relationship between the two sides? The Mainland considers it a state of civil war within one China. The current DPP government's traditional position has been that it is “one nation on each side”. The DPP government has not repudiated its “one nation on each side” position. It has declared that it will handle cross-Strait affairs according to the Republic of China Constitution and
the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. The implication is that cross-Strait relations are relations between the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China. But what is the relationship between these two? Tsai Ing-wen declared that she would preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of China. But within the international community, the People's Republic of China is commonly perceived as “China”. So is their sovereignty overlapping, or unrelated?
During the Ma Ying-jeou era, the 1992 Consensus left significant room for “different interpretations”. But the Tsai government rejects the 1992 Consensus. Therefore there is no longer any room for different interpretations. On the third of this month, the Mainland Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared its sovereignty over Taiping Island, for the very first time. It said "China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters, including Taiping Island”. It clearly asserted People's Republic of China sovereignty over Taiping Island, and repudiated Republic of China sovereignty. This was unheard of during the Ma Ying-jeou era. The Mainland Ministry of Foreign Affairs implied that the two sides might well revert to the “Hot Confrontation” diplomatic war of the Chen Shui-bian era.
The DPP government is dependent upon the Republic of China. The best way to cope is to go beyond the sovereignty dispute, and expand Taipei's claim of sovereignty to include the whole of China. It should declare that relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China and not relations between independent nations, but rather betweeen two governments within a single nation. Tsai Ing-wen should also affirm that "People on both sides of the Strait are members of the same family". She must not perceive people on the Mainland as “The Other”. She must also make a genuine effort to help people know each other, understand each other, benefit each other, and trust each other.
The new government must learn from Lee Teng-ui era experience. Premier Lin Chuan could make the above two points in the legislature. He could lead the way for the government's handling of cross-Strait relations and cross-Strait policy. President Tsai could endorse Lin Chuan's statement through a spokesperson. That way the Mainland would no longer have any reason to continue pressuring Taiwan. Instead it would have to deal with the new government on practical matters. This would alleviate the cross-Strait crisis.
Next, it should consider how the Mainland can restore cross-Strait consultations communication channels. In any case, the cross-Strait "Cold Confrontation" would be eased. It would not develop into a “Hot Confrontation”. It would revert to the status of "Cold Peace", or even “peaceful exchange”.
Appointing an SEF chairman is urgent. Tsai government national security personnel appointments, including its MAC chairman, have all been one-sidedly pro-American. This will increase cross-Strait instability. A timely chairmanship appointment acceptable to the Mainland would undoubtedly help the Tsai government ease cross-Strait hostility.