China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 22, 2016
Executive Summary: Does President Tsai want to avoid Chen Shui-bian's old mistakes? If she does, she must make a genuine effort to improve cross-Strait relations. Trust between the CCP and the DPP is in short supply. Endless pro forma lip service will not reassure the Mainland. In fact, the Tsai government no longer even bothers with that. The Tsai government has restrained only internal de-Sinicization. Externally, it is using the US and Japan to counter the Mainland. Just what is the nature of cross-Strait relations? The Tsai government must respond to Mainland concerns in a clearer manner. Only then can she narrow the distance between the two sides and enable the resumption of official cross-Strait interaction.
Full Text Below:
President Tsai recently reiterated her intention to maintain the status quo and to conduct cross-Strait relations based on the existing constitutional framework. She volunteered the opinion that both sides share responsibility for cross-Strait dialogue and exchanges. She appeared to be challenging the Mainland's claim that Taiwan alone was responsible for the breakdown in cross-Strait communication. But when a reporter asked her whether there was a 1992 Consensus, President Tsai invoked her 5/20 speech, and implied that she had done everything in her power to bring the two sides closer.
This is the heart of the problem. The Mainland has never stopped working toward cross-Strait peace. It considers President Tsai's inaugural address an improvement, because it made reference to "on the basis of the Constitution's Regulations Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland China Area”. But the Mainland also noted that President Tsai equivocated on the core meaning of the 1992 Consensus. Therefore her response to the Mainland was incomplete. It hoped that President Tsai would continue to move forward, until both sides met in the middle.
The Mainland refrained from taking tough measures immediately following Tsai's 5/20 address. Feeling responsible, it was reluctant to set back bilateral goodwill. Anyone who pays attention to public opinion on the Mainland, will find more and more people advocating reunification by means of military force. Mainland netizens are increasingly hostile toward Taiwan. They are increasingly filled with resentment. This was not the case a few years ago. Taiwan's ruling and opposition parties, as well as the general public, must pay attention. In spite of this negative atmosphere, the Mainland government has yet to take hostile action against Taiwan in the name of "public opinion". The Mainland response has been restrained, even to the Hsiung Feng III missile launch fiasco and the tour bus fire tragedy. It has done everything in its power to minimize public hostility toward Taiwan. The Tsai government ought to acknowledge this, and respond with goodwill.
Alas, it clearly has not. President Tsai's actions since taking office have provoked deep concern. The Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education have taken giant steps backwards. They have "de-Sinicized" Taiwan repeatedly. The new government has used "transitional justice" as a pretext to liquidate Kuomintang Party assets. The public has witnessed DPP hatred for the KMT in action. Even more, it has seen the DPP's underlying motive – de-Sinicization. Everything the KMT did in the past to promote cross-Strait peace, is now being stigmatized as “pandering to China [sic], and selling out Taiwan”. The peace dividend the KMT painstakingly created for Taiwan, has been obliterated by the new government. Internationally, the Tsai government has cozied up to United States and Japan. It even prosecuted Taiwan fishermen who sailed to Taiping Island to reaffirm our sovereignty, then claimed it was “merely enforcing the law”. In fact, it has been struggling to prove to the United States and Japan that it is not working with the Mainland to defend Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea. This has sent a chill through patriots within Taiwan. Mainland compatriates consider this as an even more hostile act.
Former SEF Vice Chairman Ma Shao-chang referred to this approach in his new book. He characterized Chen era cross-Strait policy as a two pronged strategy of "stabilization plus differentiation". The stabilization part proved Chen's ability to manage cross-Strait relations. The differentiation part included a wide range of policies. Initial stabilization enabled the creation of increasingly prominent differentiations. The important point was that the stabilization part was mere show. Only the differentiation part was real. The guise of stabilization provided cover for actual differentiation. President Tsai's approach is similar. She uses misleading appearances to hide her true intent. Her show of sensitivity toward Mainland concerns is merely a delaying tactic. Meanwhile, her real world actions move Taiwan farther and farther away from the Mainland. Hung Chi-chang recently expressed concern about President Tsai going down Chen Shui-bian's old path. People who follow cross-Strait relations are clearly concerned about this problem.
President Tsai said both sides share responsibility for cross-Strait communication and interaction. In fact, only the Mainland has acted in a responsible manner. President Tsai has evaded all responsibility. She has not as she alleges, done everything within her ability. The fact is cross-Strait problems cannot be postponed indefinitely. Public opinion on the Mainland is boiling over. It could easily affect Mainland government decision-making. The Mainland's current restraint could yield to public sentiment. That would not be a blessing for cross-Strait relations. President Tsai has been deliberately equivocal and ambiguous. But she may be painting herself into a corner. Refusal to make clear her cross-Strait policy intentions, enables Taiwan independence extremists to force her to openly adopt a Taiwan independence path. The Taiwan Solidarity Union or New Power Party may oppose her merely out of sheer spite. Pressure groups may renew pressure to “Join the United Nations under the name of Taiwan”. If President Tsai fails to make a decision, she will face greater pressures from within, and lose any room to maneuver.
Does President Tsai want to avoid Chen Shui-bian's old mistakes? If she does, she must make a genuine effort to improve cross-Strait relations. Trust between the CCP and the DPP is in short supply. Endless pro forma lip service will not reassure the Mainland. In fact, the Tsai government no longer even bothers with that. The Tsai government has restrained only internal de-Sinicization. Externally, it is using the US and Japan to counter the Mainland. Just what is the nature of cross-Strait relations? The Tsai government must respond to Mainland concerns in a clearer manner. Only then can she narrow the distance between the two sides and enable the resumption of official cross-Strait interaction.