Cross-Strait Relations and the Economy: President Tsai Must Face Reality
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 28, 2016
Executive Summary: The new government must seek consensus on cross-Strait relations. It must cease viewing the Mainland as its imagined enemy. It must change its military strategy and legal framework. It must view peace in the Taiwan Strait as its highest priority. Only then cross-Strait relations get back on track. Ony then can Taiwan's economic momentum be restored.
Full Text Below:
President Tsai has been in office 100 days. Her approval ratings now resemble a death sentence. Swing voters are deserting in droves. This newspaper's own survey shows that over half the people oppose joining with the US and Japan to oppose the Mainland. They want the Tsai government to improve the economy and improve cross-Strait relations. President Tsai brushed away such concerns with the comment, "It's not that bad”. But approval ratings reflect current public sentiment. Tsai Ing-wen's approval ratings have nose-dived. They have fallen faster over the same period than her three predecessors'. Her approval ratings and the speed with which they have fallen, cannot be taken lightly. She cannot afford to inhabit a fool's paradise.
Every poll shows what the public wants. It desperately wants Pesident Tsai to deal with cross-Strait and economic matters, each of which affects the other. The Tsai government assumes that Beijing will eventually change its mind, decide that Tsai Ing-wen's May 20 inaugural address is acceptable, and maintain the diplomatic status quo. But the Hsiung Feng III missile launch fiasco, Tsai Ing-wen's callous indifference to the Mainland tourists burned to death in the tour bus fire, and the Presidential Office's remarks about “elephants and ants”, have undermined President Tsai's prestige. They have revealed her appointees' abysmally poor qualifications, and their lack of vision and professionalism. The Mainland has seen through her. They know she is incompetent. They know she lacks strategic vision and governing ability. Why should they compromise and bend over backwards for her? Why not sit back and watch Taiwan wither on the vine? After all, reunification is already at hand.
Taiwan has already undergone three ruling party changes. Democracy has already taken root. The public expects cross-Strait peace. It expects increased participation in international activities. Most people on Taiwan want to maintain the democratic status quo. Most people think neither reunification nor independence are feasible at the moment. So why not maintain a free and democratic way of life, and improve cross-Strait relations? That is why most people oppose the new government's sabotaging of cross-Strait and foreign relations. They oppose the undermining of economically beneficial cross-Strait exchanges. They oppose the new government's reversion to diplomatic war and checkbook diplomacy, which have diminished Taiwan's participation in international activities.
DPP Chairman Tsai is also ROC President Tsai. The Constitution of the Republic of China and the DPP's Taiwan Independence Party Platform flat out contradict each other. Just exactly what does she want to be? President of the Republic of China? Chairman of the DPP? Or President of an independent “Republic of Taiwan”? Even she seems to be undecided. During her inaugural address, she refused to refer to her own nation by name, but referred to it instead as “this nation”.
During the 100 days since the inauguration, the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, and the DPP, along with deep green pressure groups, have frequently clashed over policy. President Tsai has attempted to mediate. This has confused the public as well as the Mainland. If President Tsai colludes with DPP legislators who promote "cultural Taiwan independence", and with deep green pressure groups who promote "de-Sinicization" Beijing will conclude that she is two-faced. That will undermine cross-Strait relations. Mainland tourists may stop coming altogether. The economy will stagnate. Our international participation will diminish. Unemployment will skyrocket. Antagonisms between the rich and the poor will intensify. Diplomatic isolation will increase. Taiwan's development will stall. International participation and cross-Strait relations go hand in hand. They must be our strategic goal.
The public does not buy the Tsai government's policy of joining with the US and Japan in order to oppose the Mainland. They realize Taiwan is likely to suffer the consequences long before it derives any benefit from such a policy. They fear that once cross-Strait relations deteriorate, the United States and Japan will sell out Taiwan. Investor confidence in Taiwan will plummet. Capital, technology, and talent will take flight. President Tsai longs to reduce economic dependence on the Mainland. To some extent this makes sense. But she must be honest with the people. The "New Southern Strategy" may be an attempt to diversity Taiwan's economy. But Taiwan cannot survive economically without the Mainland. It cannot depend on foreign nations alone.
Former American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Richard Bush recently warned President Tsai. He said Beijing may lose patience with Taiwan's persistent refusal to negotiate. If overall US strategy changes, or US-China military confrontation in East Asia changes, the US may reconsider its security commitments to Taiwan. Also, the Democratic Progressive Party now enjoys “total government” on Taiwan. The US may resort to "dual deterrence". It may use the carrot and the stick against Taipei as well as Beijing. What Taiwan itself chooses to do in the Taiwan Strait, will determine whether it enjoys peace and stability. In other words, long-term US policy will be one of strategic ambiguity. The US may not be able to maintain its current East Asian and cross-Strait posture. The Tsai government must beware.
Taiwan independence was the result of KMT failure to properly deal with the 2/28 Incident. Taiwan and the Mainland have no historical grievances. The current misunderstanding and conflict between Taiwan and the Mainland is the result of long-term separation and confrontation caused by clashes between two political authorities. The new government has recognized and accepted the constitutional system of the Republic of China. It has largely dispensed with the possibility of de jure independence. The new government must offer an interpretation of "one China". It must clarify the nature of relations between the Republic of China and the Peoples Republic of China. It must reaffirm that "people on both sides of the Strait are part of the Chinese nation". The resumption of constructive relations is not difficult. Simply straighten out cross-Strait relations. Only then can Taiwan's economic growth resume. Only then can Taiwan find a way out.
The new government must seek consensus on cross-Strait relations. It must cease viewing the Mainland as its imagined enemy. It must change its military strategy and legal framework. It must view peace in the Taiwan Strait as its highest priority. Only then cross-Strait relations get back on track. Ony then can Taiwan's economic momentum be restored.
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2016/8/28 下午 08:08:07 主筆室